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Visit Derby

Derby’s one of the more beautiful Midlands cities, and a real emblem of the area. Once a tiny market town enjoying a riverside location, the city swelled to behemoth status in less than 50 years at the start of the Industrial Revolution. Derby became famous for silk and china – and as the march of recent history continued, it shed its looms and began producing some of the most important machinery in the country.

Derby remains a key figure in modern industry – one of the few left in the UK. Derby still produces Rolls Royce aircraft engines, and is the home of train manufacturing in Britain.

The city is constantly regenerating itself: after a brief hiatus during the 80s, when – like most of the towns in the Midlands – the shock of having industry sold out from under it caused a significant wobble, Derby began to reinvent itself as a cultural and touristic location.

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Top Attractions in Derby

Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Visit Derby and you have to stop at the Derby Museum and Art Gallery. The Museum and Art Gallery’s...

Derby Museum and Art Gallery

Westfield Shopping Centre

Derby’s link in the Westfield shopping centre chain is open every day for shopping in over 230 stores...

Westfield Shopping Centre

Derby Guildhall Theatre

The Derby Guildhall Theatre is small and perfectly formed: an intimate space inside a Grade II listed venue...

Derby Guildhall Theatre

Derby Cathedral

Derby Cathedral was originally built in the AD 900s: the building standing on its site today bears no...

Derby Cathedral
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The Peak District by Kyle Taylor
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Derby Market Halls by Tom Bastin
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Download Festival by Alistair McMillan

Derby’s perfectly located for visitors to the Peak District’s nearby attraction towns of Bakewell and Buxton. Within city limits, it’s well stocked with historic buildings and places of interest – including the Cathedral, whose bell tower is home to one of the UK’s breeding pairs of Peregrine falcons. The Derby Arboretum is recommended as a superior external space: it’s also the first public park in Britain.

Architecture

The town architecture spans Victorian and Georgian in the main. The Derby Market Hall is one of the city’s gems, a wrought iron masterwork completed in the late 19th century and now Grade II listed. Pickfords House, in Friargate, contains notable reconstructions of Georgian rooms.

Festivals

The Financial Times called Derby the “City of Festivals”, and Metro claims it’s the “real ale capital of Britain”. Check out Download and Bearded Theory for the best that music and the arts have to offer, or go hard rocking with Bloodstock - Britain’s biggest metal festival!

Local Legend

According to local legend, Derby is the second most haunted town in the country. Derby Gaol, appropriately one of the town’s most notorious haunted locations, was visited by the crew of Britain’s Most Haunted in 2002. Other haunted places include the Derby Black Friary, the Fishmarket and the tunnels under the Guildhall, which are supposedly haunted by the shadow of a small boy.

Cathedral Quarter

Fans of the boulevard lifestyle should visit the Cathedral Quarter, which convincingly combines olde English streets and buildings with European style restaurants and bars. You’ll be able to chill on the street with the Cathedral in the background, shop in boutique independent places and get a beer or a glass of something in some of the prettiest surroundings in the northwest.

Development

Derby’s done an outstanding job of reinventing itself after the economic slump experienced by industrial towns in the 1980s. One of the most impressive improvements to the town has been the development of the riverfront areas. The county council’s “Our City, Our River” initiative has put in place a master plan for transforming the edges of the Derwent into places for living, working and tourism. Wander from the Cathedral Quarter down to the river and experience the Derby of the future.

Both East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport are close to Derby: East Midlands is geographically closer, but Birmingham may receive more flights from more European locations. You can also connect with Derby from international locations via Manchester Airport.

By train

As a central location in the UK, Derby is well served by rail links. You can get in and out of the city via London, Sheffield, Leicester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Stoke on Trent, and Matlock.

Most of the local train services are operated by East Midlands Trains, as are the national services connecting Derby to London and stations north. The local services run by East Midlands Trains have no option to buy first class tickets.

By car

Road wise, Derby’s connected to the rest of the country via the M1, which is linked to the city on the A52. Derby is also linked to the A38, which runs all the way down to Cornwall, and the A6.

By bus

Internal transport in Derby is best done on the bus, with two services running concurrently from in and out of the city centre. For central to central buses, take Arriva vehicles. For buses from outside the centre going in and out, you’ll need to look for Trent Barton vehicles. Most buses arrive and depart from the large central station, which also handles national bus services.

On foot

Derby’s pleasant city centre is easy to walk around. Apparently the 2nd most haunted town in the UK, you can see some of its spookier sights at night on a ghost walk! There are some wonderful walks along the river Derwent, and you’ll find plenty of historic streets and buildings just by ambling around.

Park and Ride

There’s a pair of Park and Ride services operating from outside Derby city centre: one goes from Pride Park and one goes from the Meteor Centre. Take either to avoid parking hassle in the city centre.

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Derby Mill by Tim Whitemore

Derby has Roman history: there are remains of a Roman camp at Chester Green.

Origin

Locals believe that the modern name Derby comes not from the name of the Roan camp (which was “Dervenio”) but from an Anglo Saxon word for deer, referring to the lush forests around the encampment. The Peak District and nearby Sherwood remind the modern visitor what Derby must have been like, pre-industrialisation: idyllic, surrounded by lush landscapes, and barely aware of the tide of industry that was about to hit.

Silk Mill

In the early 18th century, Derby became the location of the country’s first silk mill powered by water. One of the mill’s founders, John Lombe, was allegedly poisoned by angry Italians only four years after the wheel started turning: the local legend is that Lombe stole the secret methods of silk manufacture from Piedmont.

Industrial Revolution

Next in line for the industrial treatment were stockings and hose, which were revolutionised when Jedediah Strutt created a framework attachment for Lee’s Knitting Machine. By the late 18th century, Derby was seen as one of the founding cities of the Industrial Revolution, and a hotbed of mechanised activity. Its first cotton mills opened their doors in 1775.

By the time the first quarter of the 19th century had elapsed, Derby had gone from being a nationally important centre for cotton and spinning, to an internationally recognised industrial titan. The town exported high quality goods all over the world thanks to its ever-growing roster of factories.

Railways

Industrial success turned to transport manufacturing success with the advent of the railways. The Midland Railway company (an amalgam of earlier companies North Midland Railway, Birmingham and Derby Junction Railway, and Midland Counties Railway) had its headquarters in Derby – and by 1905, the city had diversified to develop motor vehicles and aeroplanes. Its Rolls Royce company remains one of the most famous in the world, still manufacturing aircraft engines in the city today.

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