The very pretty village of Hartington is situated towards the south of the Peak District National Park, at the edge of Dovedale, and is surrounded by the most stunning countryside. It has everything you could hope for from a Peak District village: houses of mellow stone on twisty lanes, great country pubs, a duck pond … even a famous cheese shop!
Hartington has been recognised as an important village since the 13th Century, when it was granted a market charter and became a centre for rural trading for the surrounding villages. Although there is no longer a market held in the village, Hartington’s past high status is still evident from the graceful buildings clustered around its village square.
Hartington was first mentioned in the Doomsday Book as belonging to Henry de Ferrers and being worth 40 shillings! Hartington had 4 townships, known as Town Quarter, Nether Quarter, Middle Quarter and Upper Quarter, which are now all separate parishes in their own right.
The village gained a market charter from King John in 1203, one of the earliest such charters in the area, and evidently prospered.
The church is the only medieval building remaining and is probably not the first on the site. It has some sections which date from the 12th century, but most of the building dates from the 13th and 14th centuries. The tower and the porch entrance were added in the late 14th century and the whole building was restored quite sensitively in the 19th century.
The lovely Jacobean building of Hartington Hall constructed in 1611 is now a Youth Hostel. Shortly after the Hall was constructed, Charles Cotton took possession of Beresford Hall, just outside the village. Here he hosted his friend, author and fellow fisherman Izaak Walton, and the result was the ‘Compleat Angler’. Cotton was a spendthrift who lost several fortunes and he soon lost Beresford Hall, which has now almost completely disappeared, with only a Tudor ‘Prospect’ tower remaining.
The local economy was boosted by the development of the copper mines at nearby Ecton Hill, which were phenomenally productive in the late 18th century.
The wealth and standing of Hartington at this time can be best judged by the fine old Town Hall building, which is now the general store.
Cheese making was for centuries and important local industry, and since 1900 Hartington has been a centre for making Stilton Cheese.
Today the village is a wonderful place to while away a few hours, with a number of lovely gift shops to browse around, and no shortage of great places to eat and drink.
The famous Hartington cheese shop is well worth visiting. It was founded by the Duke of Devonshire from Chatsworth House in the 1870s, and produced a number of its own local cheeses unique to the area.
Although the original cheese creamery closed in 2009, there is still an associated shop on the site and it sells a fabulous array of artisan cheeses, as well as other local produce.
The beautiful church of St Giles is also worth exploring. It dates back to the 13th Century and, unusually for this area, it is built of local sandstone.
The area around Hartington is a walker’s paradise. The village is located close to the Tissington Trail, a 13 mile long walking/cycling trail from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne that runs through the most spectacular White Peak countryside. Hartington is also within easy reach of the stunning Beresford Dale, Wolfscote Dale and Dovedale, all fabulous locations for walking.
Those with an interest in history should also visit Arbor Low, a magnificent Neolithic stone circle, which lies just outside the village.
Keen anglers who come to the area to fish along the River Dove will also be interested to follow in the footsteps of Charles Cotton, a local man, born at nearby Beresford Hall. Charles Cotton was responsible for introducing Izaak Walton to the Peak District, and the pair wrote the famous fisherman’s ‘bible’, The Compleat Angler, written in 1653. There is a pub named after Charles Cotton in the village square in Hartington.
Walking in Hartington
To explore this beautiful part of the Peak District for yourself, why not try out the Let’s Go Peak District Hartington Dales Walk (5.4 miles)? From Hartington village it takes you over fields and through beautiful woodland into Beresford Dale and onwards into Wolfscote Dale, where the path runs beside the crystal-clear River Dove that marks the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire. The route then returns through the steep-sided Biggin Dale and back into Hartington on quiet lanes with superb views.
Cycling from Hartington
The easy accessibility of the Tissington Trail and the stunning scenery along the route makes it a favourite with cyclists, and it is also suitable for wheelchair users. The surface is made up of crushed limestone and it is relatively flat and level, with easy access at many points on the way.
There are cycle hire facilities at both ends of the Trail. The Peak District National Park Visitor Information Centre at Parsley Hay offers cycle hire, along with refreshments and a small gift shop. A similar facility can be found in Ashbourne, at Mapleton Lane.
The Tissington Trail passes through or close to a number of beautiful villages on its route, including Thorpe, Tissington (from which it takes its name), Alsop, Hartington and Parsley Hay. It also passes very close to Dovedale, the picturesque limestone ravine with its famous stepping stones.