Ashbourne is a historic town mentioned in the Domesday Book as Essiburn, meaning ‘stream with many ash trees’. Often known as the gateway to the Peak, Ashbourne lies on the boundary of the red sandstone of Southern Derbyshire & the limestone of the White Peak. Weekly markets have been held in the square since 1296, and now take place every Saturday.

Originally, the town lay only to the north of the Henmore, with the tiny hamlet of Compton to the south. However, by the 13th century trade prospered in Compton as taxes could be avoided by trading on that side of the Henmore. Ashbourne itself being Crown Property had to pay taxes to the King. Both are now joined together, though the old village street retains the name of Compton.

A further most important distinction remains in that those who live north of the Henmore Brook are referred to as the ‘Up’ards’, and those to the south as the ‘Down’ards’. This decides the sides for the famous Royal Shrovetide football games, which take place on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday every year. The goals are three miles apart and traditionally the game is played without rules, although one ancient rule is that you must not murder your opponent, to which one or two others have been added.

The game starts at 2 pm at Shaw Croft, after the singing of the National Anthem. The ball is ‘turned up’, usually by some well known celebrity who throws the ball to the assembled crowd. In 1928, HRH the Prince of Wales turned up the ball and ever since then the title of the game has had the ‘Royal’ prefix. The game used to start in the market place, but was moved to try to avoid unnecessary damage from the roughhouse that follows. If a goal is not scored by nightfall, the game is ended.

Almost certainly the game has been played since medieval times by rival villages. There are even claims that it has pagan origins when a human head was substituted for the ball. And although several attempts have been made to stop it, because of the trouble it has created, it still survives in Ashbourne.

Look out for the Green Man and Black’s Head Royal Hotel. The inn sign stretches over the busy St John’s Street & was erected when the Blackamoor Inn joined with the Green Man in 1825. Though the Blackamoor is no more, the sign remains & claims to be the longest hotel name in the country. A young princess Victoria once stayed here & it was also one of Dr Johnson’s favourite places. He visited the town many times between 1737 & 1784 and he even had a favourite chair with his name on, which can still be seen at the Green Man.

When horse drawn transport began to be replaced by the railway, Ashbourne failed to get main line status, only being allowed a branch line to Uttoxeter. This restricted the development of the town as a major industrial centre, but did have the effect of enabling it to preserve its identity.

Described by George Eliot as ‘the finest parish church in England’ St Oswald’s Church has a lovely slender spire, 212 feet in height. Inside there is a large collection of impressive statues, the sculpture of Penelope Boothby, in pure white carrara, being nationally famous. The church was also mentioned in the Domesday Book, though most of what stands today dates to the 13th century.

Bull bating at one time took place in Ashbourne’s handsome, cobbled market place and just in front of the Wright Memorial was the ring to which the unfortunate beast was tethered. The memorial was erected in memory of Francis Wright a benefactor to the town, but not universally popular. His action in putting a stop to the annual fair, of which he disapproved, and his efforts to stop Shrovetide football did not go down well with many of the inhabitants.

In December 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie proclaimed his father as King James III, in Ashbourne Market Place, at the height of the Jacobite rebellion. He didn’t get much further in his advance northwards however, retreating after reaching nearby Swarkstone Bridge.

Arts and Crafts

Specialist art galleries and shops selling pictures, crafts, sculptures and pottery make the town an ideal place to visit if you are looking for an unusual gift. You can even watch craftsmen making glass wear at the crystal workshops in the town. The Tourist Information Centre on the market place is another place to find locally produced goods and other souvenirs.

Keep up to date

Join Our Email List
For Email Marketing you can trust

Support Peak Tours

Our Partners

SunVelo Training Camps derby and derbyshire economic partnership

This business was partly financed by the New Environmental Economy Programme, a grant scheme funded by the Derby and Derbyshire Economic Partnership and managed by the Peak District National Park Authority.


New 10 Day LEJOG

We are pleased to announce that we have a new 10 day Lands End to John o'Groats tour. with an average of nearly 100 miles per day this tour is not for the faint hearted!

10 Day LEJOG

Dover to Cape Wrath

After two great tours in 2013 we are running two more Dover to Cape Wrath tours in 2014. We have changed a few days routes from last year by improving some of the sections through Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

Dover to Cape Wrath


This is a truly superb tour. a four day coast to coast passing through some amazing scenery and without the crowds. Photo's from the September 2013 tour can be viewed hereSeptember 2013 Way of the Roses

Way of the Roses

Coast to coast

Well done to all of those that completed the Coast to coast in 2013. Dates are now available for 2014.

Coast to coast

September 2013 LEJOG

Well done to everyone that completed the September 2013 LEJOG

Sept 2013 LEJOG

Moselle to Mozart

We are really looking forward to getting out and cycling our first two tours across Southern Germany and Austria. We cover 800 miles in 2 weeks which is a more leisurely pace than our LEJOG or Dover to Cape Wrath tours.

Moselle to Mozart

Photos from Germany

Photo's from the September 2014 Moselle to Mozart tour.

Photos from Germany

What our customers say

Thoroughly enjoyable and physically challenging! We liked the fact that much of the route had very limited traffic. Would be happy to stay at any of the accommodation again.

Tim Towler, August 2014

Overall, excellent.fantastic routes, very good value.

Caroline Turk & Simon Brooks, August 2014

Great couple of days walking. Easy to follow directions. Would highly recommend and will use Peak Tours again.

JP & Kate Michaelski, August 2014

Thank you for a lovely holiday. Very well organised. very friendly service - would book another tour.

Julie Molyneux, August 2014

An excellent tour. A big thank you to Stan for organising the transfers.

Julie & John Bowtell, July 2014