Dovedale Stepping Stones, Peak District – visiting information

As part of our camping trip to the Peak District, we visited the famous Dovedale stepping stones – a popular and beautiful location to visit with the family.

The beautiful stepping stones across the River Dove
The beautiful stepping stones across the River Dove

After sharing some of our photos on social media, I had a few questions about what to expect when visiting the Dovedale Stepping Stones, so I thought I’d share some bits of information to help you when you visit.

If you have any other questions, please let me know, but I hope this helps 🙂

Where do you park?

You can park at Dovedale carpark itself or a mile away at Ilam Park.

How much is parking? Is it free for National Trust members?

Parking is now £5 for 4 hours or £7 all day (updated April 2023) and is not free for National Trust members.

National Trust members can park for free at Ilam Park, but not at the Dovedale carpark. If you are not a National Trust member, parking at Ilam Park is also pay & display.

The stepping stones are half a mile from the Dovedale car park
The stepping stones are half a mile from the Dovedale car park

Can you pay by card at Dovedale carpark?

I’d advise taking coins with you for parking. You can pay at the kiosk by card, however there was no kiosk when we arrived!

Do you need to book online to visit? Is it free to visit?

Dovedale is free to visit and you do not need to book online – you just pay for parking or walk from wherever you are walking from! It is also not necessary to book to visit Ilam Park, although they are experiencing increased demand this summer.

What time is best to visit?

Dovedale is extremely popular and many people have told me they have had to queue to get onto the stones themselves. We visited around 9am on a Tuesday morning in July and had the place near to ourselves. By the time we came back, around 10.30am, be carpark was busy and there were many people heading for the stones. There is no real good answer to when to visit, but I do suggest weekdays, offpeak and as early as possible!

How far are the stepping stones from Dovedale carpark?

The carpark is 0.5 miles from the stepping stones or about 1 mile from Ilam Park. You can also cross farmland from Ilam Park, which is a 1.5 mile walk.

What else is there to do?

Although the highlight for many is the stepping stones, there are some beautiful walks around. You can head up to the stunning views at Thorpe Cloud by either crossing the stones and following the marked trail, or by crossing the little bridge about half way along the path and following the trail from there.

There are some lovely walks along the River Dove

You can also make your visit longer by visiting Ilam Park, where you can find even more beautiful walks, facilities and a tearoom too. There can be queues around the stepping stones at peak times, so you may wish to have a plan B by exploring some of the other beautiful areas.

Are there toilets available?

There are public toilets in the Dovedale carpark that are 20p to use. There are also toilets at Ilam Park. Disabled toilets are available at Dovedale with a RADAR key and and Ilam Park, where they are also currently working to upgrade the park with a Changing Places facility.

Can you get refreshments?

A kiosk at Dovedale car park sells hot and cold drinks and snacks throughout the day, although it was not there when we arrived. Following lockdown, they encourage contactless payment. You can, however, visit the tea room at Ilam park for hot and cold food, drinks and snacks, or take a picnic. BBQs are not allowed.

The stepping stones can get very busy so we'd recommend getting there early!
The stepping stones can get very busy so we’d recommend getting there early to avoid queues!

What are the opening hours?

Dovedale car park is open from 9am – 7pm daily. Ilam Park is open from 9am – 7pm, with the tearoom open from 10am – 4pm. (Times correct as of July 2020)

What is the postcode of the carpark?

Dovedale car park (not National Trust) – DE6 2AY

Ilam Park car park – DE6 2AZ

Is it accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs?

The stepping stones or the bridge (which includes steps) are not accessible to cross the river, and the Thorpe Cloud route is steep, so not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs. The path is gravel along the side of the river, so pushchairs or wheelchairs could follow the path. There is also a disabled toilet in the Dovedale carpark, which can be accessed with a RADAR key.

The team at Ilam Park are also upgrading their facilities to improve accessibility.

For more information about visiting Dovedale and Ilam Park, click here.

The path leading up behind Lily leads you to Thorpe Cloud
The path leading up behind Lily leads you to Thorpe Cloud

We visited Dovedale as part of one of our camping trips. Check out our reviews of Upper Hurst Farm and Middlehills Farm here if you’re looking for great Peak District campsites.

Further helpful visitor information and updates from National Trust (June 2021)

Parking and arrival

Due to a lack of signal infrastructures in the Dovedale and Ilam Park areas, we can only accept cash for car parking so please being the correct change with you, £3.50 for up to 4 hours and £5 for all day. National Trust members park for free but please remember to bring your cards with you to scan at the machines or show to a member of staff at Dovedale car park and then display a ticket in your car window.

There is no need to book your car parking space but please be aware that spaces become very limited on weekends, bank holidays and school holidays by 9am. Please park safely and responsibly and only park in designated car park spaces and not on roads or grass verges. All access points and roads must be kept clear for farm tenants, local communities and the emergency services. 

(National Trust) Ilam Park car park is open from 8:30am until dusk – no overnight car parking allowed. £3.50 FOR UP TO 4 HOURS AND £5 FOR ALL DAY. NT MEMBERS PARK FREE WITH PROOF OF MEMBERSHIP CARD.

(National Trust) Dovedale car park is open from 9am until 7:30pm – no overnight car parking allowed. £3.50 FOR UP TO 4 HOURS AND £5 FOR ALL DAY. NT MEMBERS PARK FREE WITH PROOF OF MEMBERSHIP CARD.

If you find that an area is very busy, please have an alternative place to visit planned and do not be tempted to park or queue on narrow roads or grass verges. 

The vital funds raised in National Trust car parks help to directly support their conservation work across the Peak District, from planting trees that help to tackle climate change, to increasing the diversity in wildflower meadows. For more FAQs around parking across National Trust sites, please visit their central page here

The toilets in Dovedale are looked after by the Peak District National Park Authority and have a charge of 20p, so please bring change with you. 

For the love of Dovedale

National Nature Reserves are open to the public, and we welcome our visitors to enjoy them freely whilst looking after this special place that you love to escape to.

If you love Dovedale then please follow our guidance for a visit that is enjoyable but respectful of the landscape at the same time: 

  • BBQs/campfires/outdoor cooking equipment (stoves/free standing BBQs) are not allowed anywhere in the Peak District National Park as they are a severe health and safety risk to the landscape and to people. If you see a fire get to a safe place and dial 999 and give location details. 
  • ‘Wild camping’ (anywhere outside of designated camp sites) is only allowed with landowner permission, and the majority of landowners in the Peak District do not allow this. There’s also no wild camping allowed on National Park Authority land or National Trust land. To avoid disappointment, we encourage anyone wanting to camp, to plan ahead and book in at a campsite. To book in at a campsite you can visit the Pitchup website which lists all the different campsites across the UK. 
  • Dogs on leads at all times is required when exploring any National Nature Reserve. This helps to protect the wildlife that lives there from disturbance and also is safest for you, your dog and other people exploring the area. 
  • Take all the litter that you brought with you home. Issues of access, emptying and servicing make the provision of bins extremely costly and our charitable resources, as well as staff and volunteer time is very limited. We have some incredible staff and volunteers who are picking up litter each day across our different Peak District sites. You can help look after the places you love to visit, by taking all your litter home when bins aren’t available. This includes dog mess, tissues, wipes, nappies, shoes, picnic blankets etc. Fly-tipping is against the law and you can face hefty fines for doing so. 
  • It is safest for you and for nature that you stick to footpaths as you could easily disturb the home of animals that live in these areas, as well as delicate wildflowers, vegetation, insects and amphibians. 

Thank you for being #peakdistrictproud and helping to look after the places we all love.

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