Whether you are 6 years old or 60 years old, a visit to the Heights of Abraham is great day out. From the second you arrive and take your seat in the cable cars you know this is an attraction with something a little bit special about it – if you like heights and caves!!!
Those who are not lovers of heights, beware! The only other way up is a long climb up a steep hill. If you can close your eyes and pray that no one rocks the cable car it’s the quickest way up! Oh, it’s the best way to take pictures too.
Parking for your Heights of Abraham visit.
Findng parking for your visit to the Heights of Abraham is easy. There’s a large car park, just off of the main through road, that doubles up as the train station car park. It is a pay and display car park and there are restrictions about sizes of vehicles. Louise managed to park Chewy (I was too scared to try) as we found a spot at the end where we could overhang the grass and still be inside a bay!
A short walk to the ticket office later and we had our tickets for the cable car. They advertise that this cable car ticket get you into all of the attractions once at the top. It may seem a little steep (the ticket price and the hill) £18 for an adult and £12 for a child. They do have family tickets and senior tickets too. Our advice is to book in advance online and save a small amount. (They do also do a season ticket if you don’t manage to see it all in a day).
Louise and I had both been here when we were children and remember it fondly. It’s strange to think that not much has changed in that time. That said, the attraction is still fresh and up to date. Originally the site opened in the Victorian times, thanks mainly to the development of the railways. Victorians had a passion to travel and desired to be entertained. The owners of this site saw a goldmine (well a lead mine at least) that could couple up as a tourist attraction. Displays here that show you how the caves transformed from working mines to the attractions you see today.
The heights of Abraham visit is synonymous with its cable cars. It was only when we were half way up on the cable car, that it slowed down. Louise remembered her dislike of being stuck half way up a gorge suspended by a cable car not going anywhere fast. I can’t say I was much happier about it. The views were stunning and you get a good spot for some aerial photography. There are 4 cable cars working when you visit the Height of Abraham and they do slow down. This is so that guests can get on and off. It does mean that the cars will slow down half way up so that the opposing carriages can change guests. It is normal and nothing to worry about.
Once you reach the top, a journey of just a few minutes on the cable car, the attraction really starts to reveal itself.
Victoria Prospect Tower
A tower built in 1884 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s reign takes you higher for panoramic views of the Derwent Valley. The steps are narrow with only a handrail on the outer wall. If you have your sensible shoes on then you should be ok. It is amazing how much difference those extra 50 or so steps makes!
During your visit to the Heights of Abraham there are 2 different cave systems accessible to enter. Masson and Rutland caverns. Included in your ticket price are guided tours that run periodically through the day. These tours tell you about the history of the mines, how women and children also worked here and not just men.
There are 160 ish steps in this cave system. We gave up counting at that point! The only good thing is that 7 of them were down – the rest were up! Descending into the cave and adjusting to the light, the guide tells us about the mining that took place here. We move through the dimly lit caves, with the sound of water dripping gently through the rocks. Narrow and dark, we begin to understand how hard it must have been to be a miner.
The guide moves us on to another large cavern where he begins to tell us of the early tourism trade. The Victorians loved a good show and also loved their ‘curiosities’. They didn’t have all of the mod cons and technology that we have now. We had great light shows, lasers and a host of video projection. The Victorians did it as good as they could. Often, orchestras were brought down to play their instruments to entertain guests. Chandeliers were hung from the ceiling to provide ‘amazing’ light shows. The last part of our trip has the most amount of step out of the cave. Around 80 steps bring you out just below Tinkers Shaft.
Tinkers shaft is an old mine shaft with a huge vertical drop into the Masson cavern below. This would have been used for raising the excavated lead, by women using a hand winch, in all weathers. Nowadays, there is a viewing platform with allows further views and photos to be taken of the valley. After your climb out of the cave this is a picturesque and welcome spot for a short rest.
This cavern is lower down the hillside on the attraction and is a fair walk down some steep paths. This cave is smaller than Masson cavern but does feature a day in the life of a 17th century lead mining family. It is very interesting to find out also that the phrase “looking a bit peaky” originated in this area. Being underground and working with the lead, the miners would often look quite pale and sick. It was coined ‘Peaky’ due to being in the Peak District!
Picnic and Play
Walking back down the path through some woodland you rejoin the attraction near where the cave entrance was. It is a good time here to mention that there are picnic spots around the site including a children’s play area. This seemed quite popular with the kids on our visit and they were having loads of fun swinging like monkeys and making up their own games.
If you need a rest but the kids are still full of it, this is a great place to keep an eye on them whilst letting them burn off some energy!
Food and drink
With a terrace cafe, a bar, restaurant and a tavern, there are options for food and drink. Just one little note, the terrace cafe is directly under the bar and restaurant. If you are not savvy you may think they are the same place. We had intended to have a light snack but ended up in the restaurant where our eyes were bigger than our bellies! Look at the size of this Burger!!!
Fossil factory and Rock Shop
A visit to the Heights of Abraham is not complete without a trip around the fossil factory. With interesting facts on fossils and local rocks the kids will be educated! The may even enjoy the film about how the landscape and caverns were formed over millions of years. The highlight has to be the fossilised remains of a giant Ichthyosaur, alive at the same time as the dinosaurs. Coming in at 3 metres long it is one fossil you won’t want to miss!
The rock shop has some beautiful rocks and crystals that you can purchase either for yourself or for a gift. Decorative stones to Jewellery and from Geodes to minerals. We could have spent hours looking at the shiny crystals and picked up a little present for a friend here. If crystal’s don’t grab your attention like a magpie, you can also check out treetops gift shop for other treasures to take home!
We really loved our day out here and after visiting the Rutland cavern we decided to walk down the hill rather than take the cable car! It took maybe half an hour/ 45 minutes as a slow ramble and was quite easy to navigate. We can guarantee we wouldn’t have made the walk up!!!
Matlock Bath is just as quirky as the Victorians. With a high street that should really be on a beach promenade! From amusement arcades to chip shops it’s no surprise that this was one of the first developed tourist destinations. In 1698 warm springs were discovered here and a bath house was built. Since then a steady increase in tourism has seen the quaint riverside town bloom into what we see today – a quaint riverside town! No high rises and high street chains will be found on this road, but a throwback to a time where women wore long dresses and carried umbrellas to shield them from the sun and men wore top hats and opened the doors for women!
Today you are more likely to bump into a group of watersports fanatics who kayak in the river rapids or motorbike enthusiasts who gather here most Sundays and sunny evenings. Nothing quite beats a steady amble along the River Derwent followed by a cold pint and a portion of fish and chips.
We loved that we could reminisce about our visit to the Heights of Abraham as kids and now as adults how things have changed.
Things to do in the area
Not far from here are loads of other attractions worth a visit if you are staying here for a few days.
Stunning Chatsworth House
Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. Complete with its 150 acre gardens and over 30 rooms in the house to explore, full of artwork and history. You can easily spend a day here imagining what life would be like to live here and mosey about on the lawn in a ball gown!
Known best for its pudding and the possibility that Jane Austen visited here whilst writing Pride and Prejudice. Bakewell is a photogenic town of honey coloured houses. Monday is market day here, following a long tradition and a medium sized cattle market also takes place in the town – however a larger agricultural centre with a larger cattle market has been built across the road.
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If you have visited the Heights of Abraham, drop us a comment below and tell us what you thought of it, share your pictures with us on Insta #vanlifediary and share with your friends!
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