With its winding cobbled streets, welcoming Market Place and handsome Tudor and Georgian heritage, picturesque Ashbourne is known as 'The Gateway to Dovedale'.
While there's no doubt that it's the perfect base if you want to explore the spectacular limestone landscapes of the southern White Peak, it also pays to take a leisurely walking tour around town to immerse yourself in its fascinating history and architecture.
With more than 200 listed buildings - including historic almshouses, fine coaching inns and genteel town houses - it's a visual feast for the discerning visitor. Don't miss the splendid facade of the Grade I listed Old Grammar School, the 'longest inn sign in the world' at The Greenman public house on St John Street; or the beautiful St Oswald's Parish Church with its striking 212 feet high spire, described by classic author George Eliot as the 'finest single spire in England'.
Another highlight is the 17th century mansion, once home to the 'King of Ashbourne', Dr. John Taylor, where Lichfield-born Dr. Samuel Johnson, author of the first-ever English dictionary, was a frequent visitor in the 1700s.
Ashbourne also has some fascinating foodie links. The original recipe for Ashbourne Gingerbread was acquired from French prisoners of war - in particular the personal chef of a captured French general - who were kept in the town during the Napoleonic wars (1799-1815).
The timber-framed Gingerbread Shop - now a Birds Bakery - can still be seen in St John Street and the Original Ashbourne Gingerbread can be purchased locally.
Shopping is pure pleasure thanks to its plethora of small, family-run businesses and weekly open-air market. Browse for fine antiques, quality food and drink, designer fashion and much more, then relax over morning coffee, lunch or afternoon tea in a selection of cafés, inns and tea rooms.
Ashbourne is also famous for its ancient tradition of Royal Shrovetide Football - 'turned up', or started, by such famous figures as Prince Charles, Sir Stanley Matthews and The Duke of Devonshire. Played each Shrovetide Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, it's a unique and unruly event that bears little resemblance to the modern game!
Walkers, cyclists and horse riders will appreciate the fact that the town also sits at the start of the traffic-free Tissington Trail - a green gateway to Dovedale and the Pennine Bridleway, linking up further north with the popular High Peak Trail.