Attractions in the Derwent Valley
Whether you’re visiting for half a day, taking a weekend break, or having a well-deserved extended vacation, there are many attractions in the Derwent Valley Mills to stimulate your interest. Unlike some World Heritage Sites, ours is a place where people live and work and the majority of it is free and open for everyone to enjoy.
You can wander around the communities which were built up around the Mills by the wealthy millowners to house and provide for their workers. Cromford, Belper, Milford and Darley Abbey are the best places to discover these. They feature grand millowners’ houses and gardens, humble millworker cottages, allotments and parks, chapels and churches, schools and transport infrastructure. Remember, though, that people still live in these houses, and we would ask you to be respectful of that.
Of course, we have many Mills for you to choose from to visit, all with their own stories to tell. Read about those that are open to the public and find out about all they have to offer below.
What’s more, for those of you who love nothing more than walking in breathtaking countryside, the Derwent Valley is the perfect place to visit. Much of the 18th century rural landscape setting of the mills has survived, as the industry expanded away from our beautiful valley. Discover trails to follow, walking leaflets to show the way, and countless guided walks throughout the year.
In addition, we’ve included some other fascinating attractions near to the World Heritage Site. Since Derbyshire is so rich in heritage, and many are related to our story, we think you might enjoy visiting these as well.
Visit Peak District and Derbyshire:
Visit Amber Valley:
Visit Derbyshire Dales:
Unfortunately, Masson Mills remains closed to the public, due to the economic effects of the pandemic.
The world's first successful water-powered cotton spinning mills, built by Sir Richard Arkwright between 1771 and 1791. Discover the birthplace of the factory system - where innovation and enterprise changed the world. Enjoy guided tours, exhibitions, refreshments and gift shops.
The northern stretch of the canal lies within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and is an attractive visitor destination, with five miles to explore along the towpath.
Birdswood Boat Trips
Come and enjoy a peaceful journey along the Cromford Canal on Birdswood and get up close to the fabulous wildlife and take in the amazing scenery.
High Peak Junction Visitor Centre
High Peak Junction was the hub of transport activity and is now a true haven of heritage and wildlife. It's literally the junction of the Cromford Canal and the High Peak Trail.
Leawood Pump and Leawood aqueduct are scheduled monuments and well worth a visit, they are a short walk from High Peak Junction.
John Smedley's Lea Mills
Visit John Smedley's factory shop for a wide range of products including their exclusive Sea Island cotton and Merino wool ranges
Aqueduct Cottage is one of Derbyshire’s hidden gems. Located on the Cromford Canal, it was originally built as a “lengthman’s cottage” in 1802 by Peter Nightingale, Florence’s great uncle.
The Belper Mills complex lies at the northern entrance to the town on the A6. Belper North Mill now houses a museum ‘Strutt’s North Mill’, and a visitor centre serving the Derwent Valley. Tours of the museum and the town itself are available from here.
Belper River Gardens
Belper River Gardens have been described as Amber Valley’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ and are an attractive setting for events throughout the summer months.
Within walking distance of the city centre, Darley Park, given to the city by the Evans family, offers fine views of Derby.
The Museum of Making at the Silk Mill
Derby Silk Mill - widely regarded as the site of the world's first modern factory - has been reborn as the new Museum of Making and showcases 300 years of innovation, design and manufacturing in Derby.
Derby Museum and Art Gallery
Derby Museum and Art Gallery have an exciting programme of events and national and international exhibitions throughout the year.
Pickford's House Derby
Pickford's House museum in Derby City, family home of Georgian architect Joseph Pickford, illustrates domestic life from 18th and 19th century
Heage Windmill, with views to the Derwent Valley, offers guided tours, group and school visits, with extra special events, and flour sales
Other Nearby Attractions
Want to explore some of our nearby heritage attractions? Take a look here at some of what Derbyshire has to offer close to the World Heritage Site.