Matlock is a bustling town, strung out along the narrow valley of the River Derwent, and is the administrative centre of Derbyshire. In addition, it is a busy tourist centre bordering the wooded hills that rise up to the Peak District National Park, a very popular attraction with visitors.
It is not recorded whether the Romans discovered the hot springs at Matlock Bath, but by the late 17th cent the waters were being used for medicinal purposes; the Old Bath Hotel was built in this period. Like other spa towns in England, it was during the Regency period that Matlock Bath reached its height of popularity; the town became famous for its thermal water, which wells up from underground at a constant 20 degrees cent. As well as offering cures for a number of ailments, by 1818 Matlock and its nearby countryside was being described as a favourite summer resort. The spa town was compared to Switzerland by Byron, much admired by the Scottish philosopher Dr Thomas Chalmers, Rushkin stayed at the New Bath Hotel in 1829 and the young Victoria visited Matlock before succeeding to the throne.
Modern day Matlock is essentially a holiday resort that manages to retain an air of Victorian grace; this is evident in the Matlock Bath Hydro, established in 1833. The original splendour of the Bath Hydro can still be seen in the fine stone staircase and the huge roofless pool; here it was that the water temperature remained constant and was daily used by rheumatic patients taking ‘the cure'. Today, the pool is occupied by The Aquarium, with its variety of fish and the Hologram Gallery with its exhibition of three-dimensional pictures. The old Pavilion now houses the Peak District Mining Museum, relating the history of lead mining in the local region from Roman times to the 20th century. A popular feature of the museum are the climbing shafts and tunnels, which permit visitors to experience something of daily life for a lead miner. Adjacent to the museum is the restored workings of Temple Mine. The Church of the Holy Trinity is a splendid early Victorian structure, but of greater architectural merit is the Chapel of St John the Baptist, built in 1897 - inside on display are the faded and preserved funeral garlands once common throughout Derbyshire.
North of Matlock is Matlock Dale, sandwiched between the formidable height of High Tor at about 380ft in height and the towering Heights of Abraham, 750ft at its summit. The latter is so named after their likeness to the cliffs scaled by General Wolfe to capture Quebec in 1759. Both high points provide breathtaking views of the surrounding Derbyshire countryside, and can be approached by either the gentle nature trails or the more demanding rocky crags. Rearing -up high on the hill behind Matlock is the brooding ruin of Riber Castle. Built between 1862/8 by local manufacturer John Smedley, Riber's four tall corner towers remain a distinctive landmark. Today the castle and surrounding grounds are utilised as a wildlife park for rare breeds and endangered species; the park has been particularly successful at breeding lynx.
The nearby Rowter Rocks contain caves carved out in the 17th cent; living space, tables, chairs and alcoves are all carved from living rock to create a retreat for the local vicar, the Rev.Thomas Eyre. Earlier caves, reputedly used by Druids, lack such creature comforts. Also in the area is the site of an Iron Age hill fort known as Castle Ring; the Earl Grey's Tower, a folly built in 1832 to commemorate the reform of Parliament; an ancient Bronze Age stone circle known as the Nine Ladies, and accompanied by numerous burial mounds.