12 hours in Melbourne, Derbyshire

Not quite Melbourne, Australia – Melbourne, Derbyshire is located in the middle of England. It’s much, much older than its more famous namesake having been around since around 1120. It might not have sunshine, surf and beaches but it does have history, rolling English countryside and grand buildings.

As England starts to open up for local travel and staycations, I’ve been making an effort to get out and about. First on the list once indoor meetings were allowed was to to visit my parents, who live around 1.5 hours from me and I hadn’t seen properly since Christmas! They live not too far from the Derbyshire countryside, so we decided to spend a day exploring the area.


1. Melbourne town centre

We parked in the centre of Melbourne (managing to get some free car parking!), and firstly explored the town itself. The history of Melbourne dates back to the 1100s, and in 1311, Melbourne Castle was started but never completed. However it was used to detain prisoners taken at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, and was meant to be used to imprison Mary, Queen of Scots in the 1500s but fell in to a state of disrepair.

Now, the castle no longer exists, but Melbourne Hall and Gardens, constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries still stand. Melbourne Hall was originally the rectory house for the Bishop of Carlisle and is open for the public to visit every August.

Also worth seeing is the Melbourne Parish Church which was built in about 1120, and most of the original masonry is intact. Also just strolling around the town, enjoying the shops and having a drink is an enjoyable way to spend some time here, before moving on to discover more of the area.

2. Swarkestone

From Melbourne, we chose to walk to Swarkestone – this route takes you across the River Trent and along the canal to do so. Swarkestone is famous for its Jacobean grandstand called ‘The Pavillion’ where rumour has it they used to run bull fights. Interestingly, it’s now maintained by the Landmark Trust and you can rent it to stay in. There are also plenty of other pretty houses to discover in the village.

Swarkestone is also home to a famous bridge, built in the 13th century to cross the river and its surrounding marshes. It was financed by the two sisters who had both become engaged but whose fiances tried to cross the river on horseback – but were swept away and drowned.  The sisters commissioned the bridge so that no one else would suffer the same tragedy; neither sister married again and both died in poverty having spent their fortune on building the bridge. It is now rumoured that their spirits haunt the bridge!

Swarkestone Bridge

Swarkestone bridge is three quarters of a mile long and has 17 arches. It is the longest stone bridge in England, and is also the furthest point south that Bonnie Prince Charlie and his troops got in an attempt to reclaim the British Throne in 1745.

3. Stanton by Bridge

At the other end of the Bridge is Stanton. It’s a tiny village home to around 200 people, and its main feature is its beautiful Norman church complete with visible bells.

We walked from Melbourne to Swarkestone to Stanton and back to Melbourne. You can find the full walking route HERE if you are interested in following the same trail, which is around 7 miles long and takes around 3-4 hours depending on your pace and number of photo stops.

4. Staunton Harold

Around 1 mile outside of Melbourne lies Staunton Harold. Again you could chose to do a circular walk from Melbourne, or you could drive and park on site. Staunton Harold is home to Staunton Harold Hall, a beautiful building which is actually still a family home (!), a stunning chapel, rolling fields, a large reservoir and also a number of independent galleries, craft and other shops which are good for a peruse.

Staunton Harold Estate church and hall from across the reservoir

The hall itself is one of the highlights – for 500 years it was home to the Shirley family, who have had a chequered history. Sir Robert Shirley was an ardent royalist, and built the church here in defiance of Cromwell.  He was imprisoned six times, and died in the Tower of London, aged 27.  Then in 1760, the head of the family shot and killed his steward.  For this he was tried by his peers in the House of Lords and condemned to death, the last peer to be hanged.  The title passed to his brother who, over twenty years, demolished most of the old Hall and rebuilt it as you see now.

Since then the Hall has been sold multiple times and has even been used as a Sue Ryder Hospice – but it’s now privately owned and run as a family home again! What a place to call home.

5. Calke Abbey

Whilst at Staunton Harold, it’s worth making the 45 minute walk to visit Calke Abbey, the final stop on a day in and around Melbourne. You can find this route as a National Trust walk HERE.

Calke Abbey is a Grade I listed house, owned by the National Trust. The site was an Augustinian priory from the 12th century until its dissolution by Henry VIII. The present building, named Calke Abbey in 1808, was never actually an abbey – it’s a Baroque mansion built in the early 1700s. It was owned by the Harpur family for nearly 300 years but passed to the National Trust in 1985. The house is open to the public and the rooms maintained in the state of decline they were inherited in.

View of Calke Abbey

After all of that, you will definitely be ready for wine and dinner! There is a lot of walking here, so another great idea is to stay the night in Melbourne and spread the walks out over a long, relaxed weekend in the English countryside.

Thank you so much for reading – I hope you’ve found the sites and history of Melbourne and its surrounds interesting. If you’re in the UK and looking for good walks or places to visit off the tourist trail, this is a great option.

Oh and if you’re wondering what the link to the other Melbourne is – Melbourne, Australia is named after Viscount Melbourne, who was Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister and lived at Melbourne Hall in Derbyshire, pictured above.

Stay safe and happy travelling.

32 Comments

  1. Such pretty little villages Hannah to explore on foot. I’m unfamiliar with Derbyshire but did once spend a weekend in Baslow but that was quite a long time ago so I’m overdue a return visit. It must have been so nice to have been reunited with your parents again. I enjoyed lunch with a friend today and when I saw her last time she brought me apples from her garden – so many months ago! Hopefully I’ll get to follow in your footsteps around Derbyshire at some point too. Marion

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    1. Yes I think Derbyshire is underrated, I’m actually returning there again in a few weeks’ time so I will have to write some posts on some other parts of it as well to share πŸ™‚ Yes it was wonderful to see my parents again properly, it feels so nice to see friends and family again! I bet seeing your friend was great too. Thanks for reading and commenting and have a good day.

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  2. Lovely to see spring in full bloom and such beautiful English countryside. Happy that things are finally going back to normal and that you can go and explore a bit. Must have been emotional to see your parents after all this time. I will try and fit Derbyshire somewhere into my itinerary once back in the UK.

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    1. Yes it’s nice even in the rain!!! The weather here is awful at the moment, last summer was a scorcher but now it’s just stormy and rainy. But yes it all feels fine when we can actually go out and do things and see loved ones again! I hope you get to visit Derbyshire one day πŸ™‚

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  3. I love the scenery and architectures, very historic and calming! I would want to walk around! ❀ Are there residents around or it's an isolated place?

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    1. Ah thank you so much Kat, that’s so kind of you. It’s actually full of people, the village is very residential and it’s quite popular for day trip visitors as well. It was quiet when we visited though as it was raining and a bit cold πŸ™‚ Thanks so much for reading, have a good day.

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  4. We live on the Mornington Peninsula, about 75kms south of the β€˜more famousβ€˜ Melbourne in Australia so it was interesting to read about the more historic Melbourne and surrounds.
    Lovely photos. Cheers, Mark

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    1. Oh wowwww! I am so so envious of your location, the Mornington Peninsula and its beaches look absolutely incredible. I’m glad you enjoyed reading about a different Melborune though – here in rainy old England. Thanks so much for commenting Mark and have a nice day πŸ™‚

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  5. I shouldn’t be surprised that the famous Australian city was named after its UK counterpart, but I still was while reading your post! The cooler, overcast skies of UK’s Melbourne starkly contrast with the sunny, hot Australian version, that’s for sure! But plenty of beautiful, quaint buildings to check out, that’s for sure!

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  6. It must have been great to see your parents again and what a wonderful way of ‘celebrating’ this day!
    I find the history behind all these old buildings fascinating – especially the one behind the old bridge. And it’s wonderful to see spring trying to show its beautiful colours (even on a grey day) 🌸.

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    1. Ahh it really was so lovely to see them again. And yes, it was so nice to learn about all the history and enjoy the springtime – even if it was grey and on/off raining as always in England!! Thanks for reading and have a lovely day πŸ™‚

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  7. I am not familiar with Derbyshire, Melbourne sure looks like a wonderful place to explore for a few hours. I always prefer to visit small towns with a strong community spirit, where locals shop at thriving independent traders and meet regularly at the many traditional pubs. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to your next post. Aiva πŸ™‚ xxx

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    1. Derbyshire is such a beautiful part of England, it’s definitely underrated; I’m visiting again in a few weeks so hopefully I can share some more beautiful parts of it on here in the weeks to come πŸ™‚ I totally agree about smaller towns and getting a feel for the community and people which make it. Thanks so much for reading Aiva, have a good day xx

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  8. Gorgeous! I have also loved seeing all of your pictures and stories on Instagram – these are such cute towns with beautiful houses! I don’t know when I’ll be able to visit the UK again, but in the meantime I am surely travelling to all of these pretty villages with you, so thanks for sharing 😊

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  9. Beautiful historic buildings and grounds to explore πŸ‘ Looks like a splendid locale to visit, dear Hannah ~ thanks for sharing 😊

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