Visit Cromford in the Derwent Valley
This is a place of natural beauty and calm, where pioneering industrial buildings nestle in a dramatic landscape – its river and resources were once harnessed to create mills, railways, canals and new communities. Industries have come and gone, but their structures remain as testimony to the visions of Arkwright and his 18th century contemporaries who led the world with their innovations.
It is a place of contrasts – of dramatic river gorge and wider valley, of natural light and factory darkness, of owner’s mansions and mill workers’ cottages, of old and new ways of labour, and of the different lives of master and worker. Where ancient industries flourished, new ideas and technologies now thrive, alongside 21st century makers and creators.
Quietly, nature has reclaimed its presence amongst the iron and stone – providing havens for wildlife and for generations of people to find peace and tranquillity amongst the imprints of the past.
Visit Cromford in the Derwent Valley, a great destination in your exploration of the World Heritage Site. Cromford, a village on the southern edge of the Peak District, is well known through its connection with Sir Richard Arkwright, who established his first water powered cotton spinning mill here in 1771. Set in a valley, carved by the River Derwent, it is surrounded by glorious wooded hills and dramatic cliffs.
Cromford is a charismatic village, with a pretty village pond and delicious surprises around every corner. Here you can discover some of the oldest purpose-built industrial housing in the world, as well as traditional shops and pubs and school, built by the Arkwright family, for the millworkers. Look out for the Old Lock Up which used to be the jailhouse, but is now a contemporary art gallery.
As you wander around the village, you will notice the most distinguished building in architectural style is The Greyhound Inn, now a hotel and restaurant. Built by Richard Arkwright in the 18th century, it provided luxury accommodation for his business associates and important visitors.
In the Market Place, to the side of The Greyhound, you will see the authentic Georgian Shambles. They still contain small shop units for local independents which are well worth exploring.
Why not saunter up Scarthin, to the rear of The Shambles, for a wonderful view of the Greyhound pond? Whilst there, you can also drop into the famous Scarthin Bookshop to browse this treasure trove of books, old and new.
The village has a vibrant community and events diary too. With independent shops, art galleries, pubs and cafes, you’re sure to find something unique here.
Across the A6 you will find Arkwright’s Cromford Mill. This houses the Visitor Gateway for the World Heritage Site and the Arkwright Experience. With daily guided tours, a packed programme of activities, events and exhibitions, Cromford Mill has plenty to keep you, your friends and family absorbed any day of the year (except Christmas day!).
Towering over the mill yard is Scarthin Rock, from where you can get a marvellous view of the surrounding area.
Beyond the mill walls, you will happen upon the new wooden sculpture trail and picnic area by the River Derwent. You might also notice St Mary’s Church, founded by Sir Richard Arkwright, peeping out from its curtain of yew trees. Some of the Arkwright family are buried in its small cemetery behind the church. Follow the riverside walk for a scenic shortcut to Sir Richard Arkwright’s showcase Masson Mill, set between the A6 and the mighty River Derwent, just into Matlock Bath. On the way, you will also get some fabulous views of the splendid Willersley Castle, built for Sir Richard Arkwright. Unfortunately, Sir Richard died before he could move in, but it became home to his son, Richard Arkwright Junior, said to be the richest commoner in Europe.
The Cromford Canal begins across the road from Cromford Mill and the wharf contains a fascinating group of buildings: the Gothic Warehouse, Wheatcroft’s Wharf Cafe and The Counting House Coffee Stop. Wander along the canal, or take a boat trip on the historic canal boat, Birdswood, watching out for its wonderful wildlife in this Site of Special Scientific Interest.
About a mile along the canal, you will come across High Peak Junction Workshops. Imagine the noise and bustle of a bygone age in some of the oldest surviving railway workshops in the world. Just past the Wharf Shed discover another hidden gem, the impressive Leawood Pumphouse.
Further along, a magnificent view of the River Derwent appears as you cross over it on the aqueduct. From there, you will notice ‘Aqueduct’ Cottage, where the lengthman once lived. The lengthman looked after this length of canal.
At the cottage, the canal divides, so you can either follow the canal onto Whatstandwell and Ambergate. Or you can follow the Nightingale Arm to Lea Mills. Here you will discover John Smedley’s, Britain’s oldest working textile mill, still owned by his descendants. Pop into the factory shop to browse for bargains of its high quality knitwear, usually sold in its fashionable Jermyn Street store in London. Notice the little row of millworkers’ houses, which have recently been beautifully restored.
Cromford Railway Station
Following Mill Road back towards Cromford Mill, you should take a diversion to see the quaintest Railway Station imaginable. If you’re a fan of Oasis, you might recognise the beautiful station house, used as the cover for their single ‘Some Might Say’.
With so much to do and see, you are sure to have a fantastic time when you visit Cromford, whatever the time of year.