A few hours in Heights of Abraham, Peak District Review
We were in a huge rush when we visited the well reviewed Remarkable Hare restaurant in Matlock to line our stomaches before visiting the Heights of Abraham; a popular tourist attraction on a hilltop.
The Remarkable Hare
Entering the handsome building I didn’t have time to enjoy a slow meal since the Heights of Abraham was closing in two hours. So we ordered takeout and bamboozled out of there.
I ordered a Brasserie 77 club sandwich (£9) consisting of smoked chicken and streaky bacon, whilst my partner ordered the Croque monsieur with cheese and ham (£8). Both came with a choice or white, brown or gluten free bread as well as skin on fries.
With our takeaways procured we jumped in the car and parked in the Matlock Bath Train Station car park close to the Heights of Abraham 15 minutes down the road. Apparently parking can get quite difficult in this area but since we came near closing time this wasn’t a problem.
There we started munching on our meal and it was the best sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. The slightly toasted bread, neatly arranged layers and deliciously generous cuts of meat tasted like perfection. Maybe my deep hunger at the time really affected me, but this was a genuinely good sandwich.
The chips were…fine, but I’m not really a potato kind of person and abandoned most of it. I would have happily returned to the Remarkable Hare if I hadn’t already pre-booked all our meals.
Suitable satiated we followed the dedicated path towards the Heights of Abraham ticket office. Here we collected our tickets which allowed us a return trip on the cable cars to the hilltop park and entry into all the exhibits there. It’s also possible to hike up the hill for free and to purchase a cheaper ticket for the exhibits instead.
Due to the Covid 19 pandemic we had to pre-book all tickets and there was a makeshift hand washing station nearby.
The cable cars have been running since 1984 and runs a length of 568 m and up a height of 169 m; offering views of the Derwent Valley and surrounding Peak District.
I’m really bad with anything that includes height and speed combined and so was a bit nervous as we waited for our ride in a socially distanced manner. Due to the pandemic there was no sharing of a pod between different groups.
Fortunately the cable car wasn’t too fast. Unfortunately it had a tendency to shake a little which was unnerving. Perhaps it was a bad idea to face the ground instead of the hilltop.
We passed the cable cars going the other way.
It was a shame that the drizzly rain and grey sky ruined the view.
My stomach did a few somersaults so I was glad to finally stand on firm land at the top.
The whole area was decked out in Halloween decor since it was that time of year, so there were plenty of pumpkins and skulls around.
We were on a mission to visit the two caves in the park before they closed, so didn’t stop for too long to admire the surrounding fruit.
The Great Masson Cavern
The closest cave is the Great Masson Cavern. Tours took place every 15 minutes up to an hour depending on the time of year, so we quickly stood in line for one of the final tours of the day.
Our tour guide was very enthusiastic and doggedly talked through the screaming of a persistent child. This same child pretty much hollered through the whole tour, so maybe taking toddlers down dark and cold caves is a bad idea.
The tour took Tours around around 35 minutes and involve several steps. Our pace was very brisk, perhaps to avoid the crying child, and my photos were very blurry. The corridors were quite narrow and so we rushed through in a single file without hard hats.
The caverns were formed over 350 million years ago and both caves were mined for Lead ore and Fluorspar beginning from Roman times.
These products were used to produce make-up (dangerous!), sweeten wine (still dangerous!) and whiten bread (very dangerous!); as well as being used as roofing.
Mining peaked in the 17th century with the ore rapidly running out. The miners then quickly switched careers into tour guides and took rich tourists down the Great Masson Cavern to see the highlight of the tour: a lit chandelier.
Nowadays they also introduced modern lighting to enhance the experience.
The guide took his time explaining the history of the cavern and patiently took our questions.
Afterwards we exited from the other end of the cave into bright sunlight.
From here we could see Hardwick Hall in the distance.
A handsome Elizabethan building, Hardwick Hall is constructed in the 16th century for Elizabeth, Dowager Countess of Shrewsbury. This woman gained power and wealth through marriage to four husbands and this building was built to show off this wealth.
Lastly we clambered up the hill to arrive at Tinker’s shaft; this was once the main access point to the Great Masson Cavern but is now safely capped for us to visit as a viewpoint.
Great Rutland Cavern
Our next cave was the Great Rutland Cavern located much further away; it took us around 15 minutes of solid power walking to arrive for the last tour.
We had a bit of time and popped into the shop next door. It was mainly full of rocks.
The second cave was a much shorter experience at around 20 minutes with far fewer steps.
The guide this time was much younger with a lot more jokes and he showed us an example of the ore mined from this cave.
There was a creaky animatronic performance from John the miner, but with the thick accent I only understood every one word in three. In addition I’m kind of petrified of anything resembling puppets and so wasn’t looking too closely.
An interesting fact that I’d learnt was that the women in mining families generally died young in their 30s here because of all the manual work. There was a case of a miner who married 16 times and died in his 90s!
After the second cavern we no longer had to rush around to a tight schedule and so we took our time exploring the natural surroundings.
It was as grey as ever, but the greenery was lush and vivid.
Victoria Prospect Tower
We ended up stumbling onto the Victoria Prospect Tower which was built in 1844 and restored in 1978.
The spiral stairs inside were tight and I appreciated the cameras at the entrance which allowed us to climb to the roof in a socially distanced manner.
There wasn’t a lot of space on top either, but the panoramic view of the Derbyshire county was nice in spite of the persistent rain.
Our last visit was to the Long View building which was connected to the Fossil Factory and its gift shop.
The Long View has a permanent exhibition dedicated to the Heights of Abraham’s 230 year long history from when it opened in 1787.
We had already heard most of this history in the caverns and so rushed through it to arrive at the Fossil Factory where we stared at the rocks and learnt the fossil history of Matlock.
The shop assistant was very friendly and recommended us to purchase some Blue John Jewellery during our trip. This mineral is unique to Derbyshire and locally mined in Castleton nearby. I was keen but the jewellery styles available in the shop were a bit too old fashioned for my tastes and priced on the higher side.
We felt like the last people in the park by the time we got out and we had to gently jog to the exit before the cable cars stopped running. I was not keen on hiking in the dark! The ride down was much better than our earlier trip since I was facing upwards.
I missed out on several exhibits and viewpoints since we’d arrived at the Heights of Abraham far too late. Despite our rushed experience I’m glad we managed to visit both caverns and a significant section of the park. There’s lots to do here and I recommend that you allocate around 5 hours to fully explore the place and to choose to visit during good weather.
Heights of Abraham
Address: Heights of Abraham, Dale Rd, Matlock DE4 3NT
Opening hours: 10:00 – 16:30
5 to 15 years: £13.00
Seniors (over 60): £16.00
Family (2 adults and 2 children): £60.00
Senior Family (2 seniors and 2 children): £55.00
The Remarkable Hare
Address: Remarkable Hare, 77 Dale Rd, Matlock DE4 3LT
Opening hours: 09:00 – 23:00 (Mon – Thu), 09:00 – 24:00 (Fri – Sat), 11:00 – 23:00 (Sun)
Matlock Bath Train Station Car Park
Address: DE4 3NT
Opening hours: 24 hours
From 8:00 – 18:00:
0-1 hrs – £1.50
1-2 hours – £2.50
2-3 hours – £3.80
3-4 hours – £5.00
All Day (up to 8:00) – £6.00
From 18:00 to 08:00
Up to 14 hours – £1.00