As we searched for new bucket list things to try in the UK, we came across the Heights of Abraham. Now it originally sounded like another hill walk, which we generally don’t mind. But as we began our research, we realised this was more than a walk and is something you wouldn’t expect to find in the middle of the Peak District.
What is the Heights of Abraham?
So, what exactly is the Heights of Abraham and why is it worth your money and time?
We’ll begin by saying it’s a number of elements rolled into one neat little package, but it starts off with a cable car journey across the beautiful Derwent Valley. You can enjoy views of the town of Matlock below as you climb to the summit at a height of 554 ft. As you travel up you’ll find there is so much to see, but it’s not just the journey up that brings the fun because there’s plenty to do once you reach the top.
The Heights of Abraham is a 60-acre park which opened in 1787. It brought interesting tales of the history of the area to the public and how that impacted the people who lived there. Because it offers a 230-year-old story you can discover how the mining industry in the area influenced the industrial revolution and helped rebuild London after the great fire in 1666.
You have various ways of learning about the heritage of the heights, including a self-guided audio tour through your mobile phone. They also offer underground tours of two caverns which provide information on the history of the area, geology, and some of the tales from the miners.
If being deep underground isn’t your idea of fun, then there’s plenty of open space to walk around so you can take in the Derbyshire scenery. For kids you have the adventure playgrounds and for adults there are lots of walking trails with exciting sights along the way.
The blend of natural environment with modern technology makes this a wonderful place to visit. Now we’ve given you a brief overview, lets delve a little deeper into what you can enjoy when you’re there.
The Cable Cars
When we saw these impressive cable cars at the Heights of Abraham, we knew we wanted to visit. Soaring over Derwent Valley to the top of Masson Hill is merely the start of your day, but what an awesome way to begin.
We have already mentioned that the height of the summit is 554 ft or 169 metres, but the journey isn’t straight up. Instead, you work across the valley, heading up to the summit and passing over 5 towers. The ride was only about five to ten minutes long and was incredibly smooth, with only a slight swing as it moved. During both our trip to the top and the bottom the cable car slowed and stopped, but we’ve since discovered that this is normal and only for a short time. If it’s any longer then it’s simply to let people with disabilities such as wheelchairs or pushchairs on or off.
The cable car continues to move as you step on and off at both ends of the trip. If you have any concerns about stability then make sure you speak to a member of staff, but generally the cars are quite slow so it’s not a problem for most people.
Abraham Heights Cavern Tours
Once you reach the top, you’ll find plenty of buildings around you, but we thought it was best to start with the main attractions at Heights of Abraham and they are the cavern tours. There are two guided tours through caverns which were formed over 350 million years ago, and they each bring interesting tales. The tours are included within the price of the cable car ticket, so if you choose to walk up then you wouldn’t be able to access them.
The first tour we visited was close to the base of the Heights of Abraham and it’s called ‘The Great Rutland Cavern Tour’. During this tour you will walk through a long entrance to a spacious cavern and listen to a little history of the family who worked there. It does get dark for a period of time (8 to 10 minutes), but you will be warned and there are some lights in the distance for anyone who feels anxious. You then move onto another cavern space and up a few steps to see the original entrance to the shaft. Once it’s over you will then retrace your steps back to the front and through the Tavern.
If you enjoyed the Rutland tour then you will love ‘The Great Masson Cavern Tour’. This is a much bigger tour and as such you will be taken deep into the mine. Although you start the tour around the entrance area, you actually end up at the highest point of the Heights of Abraham by Tinker’s Shaft. This means you will be walking up a lot of steps, so it’s recommended that anyone with physical disabilities don’t continue. There is an option to see the cavern for anyone who doesn’t want to go in, which we will tell you about further in the article.
Alike the other tour, you will walk through a long windy entrance into a large cavern and it’s here you will learn about the history of the area and the geology of the rocks present. You will then take a long walk through to the largest cavern and enjoy a small light show. Finally, lots of steps up to the final area and then through to the outside viewpoint which is pretty beautiful.
Both the tours have expert guides leading you through the caverns, who provide you with lots of facts and history of the area, plus answer any questions you may have. The tours are at regular intervals through the day, and you will find there are clocks indicating the time for the next one. The Masson Cavern takes about 35 minutes, and the Rutland Cavern is about 20 minutes.
Two important things to mention before you do the tours, one mind your head, because there are lots of low areas so you will need to bend down and be careful. Secondly make sure you have a jacket with you because the average temperature is 4 degrees, no matter the weather outside. It could be 15 degrees or 30 degrees outside, but it will still be 4 in the cavern, so it will feel a little cold. Also, because water can find its way into the cavern the floor can be wet, so having good waterproof footwear is advisable. We didn’t know this and wore light coloured material trainers, which did get a little dirty and wet, but nothing too awful.
High Falls Film Theatre
For those of you looking for more knowledge about the caverns and how they were formed, or you want to discover how the cable cars were built, then head to the High Falls Film Theatre. This is also ideal for those of you who cannot go into the caverns but would like to see what is in there; the theatre is wheelchair accessible.
The Long View Exhibition
Next to the theatre is the Long View Exhibition which covers the story of the 230 years which led up to the Heights of Abraham. This includes the reasons why people came to Matlock, some famous faces to the area and how the heights became an attraction.
It’s the perfect all rounder as to why the place has become so popular and a great way to start your day, so that you have the information before you visit the caverns and other spots.
Masson Pavilion Exhibition Hall
Within the Masson Pavilion there is a wonderful costume exhibition on what people over the centuries would wear on their trip to Derbyshire. There are reproductions of period costumes worn during the Georgian, Regency, Victorian and Edwardian era for people who would have visited the area. The exhibits provide information on the social and working conditions of each period. They even had reproductions of the clothes that would have been worn by the miners of the caverns which you will walk through.
Butterfly and Nature Trail
For those who love their nature, then make sure you follow the Butterfly Trail and see how many butterflies you can spot in the trees. The trail will teach you about the life of a butterfly and their migration patterns.
This is the highest point of the hilltop and is close to the exit of the Great Masson Cavern tour. You will have discovered about Tinker during the tour, so take a look at what was once the main access point to the cavern in the 17th Century. When you realise how high up it is, you have even greater respect for the miners. Because it’s the highest point, you will enjoy spectacular views across the valley, so it’s the perfect moment to take a break and watch the world go by.
Victoria Prospect Tower
As you ascend on the cable car you will see the Prospect Tower which was built in 1844 in honour of Her Majesty’s reign. The tower is open to the public, so you can climb to the top and experience the 360-degree views from another spot on this incredible hilltop.
There’s plenty for kids to do at the Heights of Abraham, including two adventure playgrounds. Next to the summit of the cable car is the Explorer’s Challenge play area which is a mini assault course. A little further down is the Woodland Adventure which has exciting steep slides.
Close to the Explorers play area is the Heights of Abraham Amphitheatre, which is a seating area designed for visitors to take a moment from a busy day and enjoy the scenery. You can picnic there and have a break from the kids as they run around the play area.
Heritage Estate and Walks at Abraham Heights
Because this is a 60-acre estate, there is plenty of space for you to walk around. There are lots of windy paths around the hilltop which were originally built for Georgian tourists. The route down to the tavern can be pretty steep, so you have the choice of steps or slope. We took the slope down and steps back up, but either way it can be challenging to get back to the summit. There are seats along the route, so take your time, especially on warmer days.
Shops and Facilities
To start with we’ll focus on the most important facility and that is the toilets. There are three sets of toilets when you reach the summit of the Heights of Abraham. We did look at the bottom but couldn’t find any before the cable car. One set is next to the Great Masson Cavern Tour, the next is in the Vista bar and restaurant, and finally there are toilets at the Tavern.
As with many top attractions there is a visitor centre gift shop (Treetops Gift Shop) which offers a range of souvenirs and locally handmade gifts. Because of the geological aspect of the area, there is a RockShop within the Long View exhibition centre. You can purchase rock and mineral themed gifts as well as fossil specimens. Finally, there is a souvenir shop within the Tavern which has a number of gifts available connected to mining and the cavern.
Cable Car Ticket Price
Considering everything you will get to see and enjoy on the Heights; we didn’t think the cost was too bad. We paid £23 each online (July 2022) which is the advance cost, but its only a pound more to book on the day. Be aware that they restrict how many people can go up to the summit and as such there are limited spots. So, if you turn up on the day, you may not be allowed to buy tickets. By booking online you have ensured that you have a spot on the cable car.
To book you simply head to the site www.heightsofabraham.com and click the link to purchase tickets. Choose what date you want to visit and then the time slot (this will be for one hour and is the time you should aim to travel on the cable car). Once you have chosen the types of tickets you want and how many, then you can head to the checkout and provide your bank details.
The Heights of Abraham do offer an annual pass which is currently £48, and it means you can go back as many times as you want during the season.
Heights of Abraham Opening and Closing Times
You can visit the Heights of Abraham every day from March 25th until November 6th, between 10am and 4.30pm, with the last cable car going up to the summit half an hour before closing. It is worth double checking the weather before you book your tickets because this isn’t the kind of attraction you would want to visit if its raining and cold. Mainly because it’s in the open and quite high up, also the cable car ride wouldn’t be as enjoyable in poor visibility.
How Long Does a Visit Take?
It is recommended to give yourself 3 to 4 hours to ensure you see everything at the Heights of Abraham. This was about the amount of time we spent there, and it was more than enough to cover the exhibits, caverns, and walking trails.
Parking at the Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham doesn’t have a car park, so it can be a little confusing when you arrive. We drove around a carpark twice thinking it was just for the train station, but it’s actually for both. You have to pay for the car park and spaces are quite limited, but we managed to get a spot in the overflow. You can either buy your parking ticket as you normally would (at a machine) or download the mobile parking app and pay online. There is still a couple of minutes’ walk from the car park to the ticket office of the Heights of Abraham, simply follow the signs.
If the train station parking is full, then you can head to.
- Temple Road- DE4 3NR,
- Pavilion- DE4 3NR,
- Artist’s Corner- DE4 3PS.
During peak periods the area of Matlock can get very busy, so make sure you get there early. You are given a time slot to arrive at the cable car, and because of roadworks we panicked we would be late and would miss our spot. But they are very accommodating and if you’re a little late they’ll fit you in because the cable cars run continuously.
Food and Drink
You’d expect being at the top of a hill there would be very little options when it comes to food and drink. But don’t worry because the Heights of Abraham have a number of spots where you can fuel up. Whether you fancy a full sit-down meal, a little snack or a couple of cheeky pints, then you will find it all there.
This sit-down restaurant has the best views of the Derwent Valley and is the perfect way to top off a beautiful day. As you can imagine it’s called the Vista restaurant because of the spectacular scenery, where you can see for miles even when it’s raining. There’s a great combination of indoor and outdoor seating, so the choice is yours.
When it comes to menu options, there is quite a good range including vegetarian and vegan. You can view the menu on their website, but they do have a daily specials board. Dishes vary from burgers, salads, pies, and curries, so there’s something for everyone.
If you’re looking for something a little more casual then head to the Terrace Café, which offers snacks and lighter options. You can also takeaway food and find a beautiful spot to have a picnic. The café has a great range of baked goods, sandwiches, and snack boxes for the kids. Alike the restaurant they cater for gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan visitors.
Matlock Meadows Ice Cream
Days out are always better with ice cream, so why not head over to the Matlock Meadows ice cream hut. You will see it when you arrive at the top of the hill, because it is close to the cable car and restaurants. There is a variety of flavours which should keep even the fussiest of kids happy.
Interestingly the Tavern on the Heights of Abraham has the oldest beer licence in the Matlock area. It is found on the lower section of the hilltop by the Great Rutland Cavern, but you can still enjoy stunning views with a glass in your hand.
The history of the Tavern goes back to the 1800s when the Upper Towers which is a white castellated building, would serve beer to ex miners from a window. Due to popularity the Tavern was built as a replacement and was merely a hut selling beers and bar snacks. This then became a timber structure and finally the building that can be visited today. It’s more of a shop than a bar, but the views outside are a great spot to rest and recharge the batteries before the walk back up the steep steps.
You can find local ales, wine, and cider, plus a range of soft drinks, hot drinks and snacks. There’s even a little gifts section to grab those souvenirs for friends and family.
You don’t have to buy food when you’re there, you can pack your own little picnic and find the perfect spot to relax and enjoy it. The Heights of Abraham have lots of little areas where you can settle down. If you don’t want the hassle of dragging food with you, then grab something from the café.
As well as outdoor areas they also have lots of sheltered benches for the wetter weather. You will find Georgian inspired Pergolas at the summit and within the woodland corner.
Should I Visit the Heights of Abraham?
We’ve waited a while to visit this attraction because we wanted to make sure the weather was ideal. Sadly, the day we booked our tickets, the weather turned, and it rained all morning. But in the end, it was completely fine, though we’d still recommend aiming for a dry day to get the most out of it.
The Heights of Abraham turned out to be more than we expected, because we didn’t realise there were cavern tours. The tours were both informative and exciting, as you walked through areas which have such geological history and significance. But again as a reminder, take a thin jacket with you because no matter the temperature outside, its cold in the cavern.
Obviously, the best part is the cable car and that alone is worth the money, because not only is it fun to ride, but the views are incredible. We found the whole process of getting on and off the cable cars incredible easy, even though they moved continuously.
If you like wandering in natural beauty, whilst learning about local history then you will probably enjoy this. There’s plenty to do for adults and kids alike, so it’s the perfect addition to your UK bucket list! The Heights of Abraham are also close to Eyam Plague village, so you can fill your day with stunning views and learn about Peak District history.