Located at the southern end of the stunning Pennines, the Peak District is the UK’s oldest national park. It’s also Europe’s busiest thanks to breath-taking countryside walks, scenic cycling trails, and quaint country villages. With its close proximity to Manchester and Sheffield, it’s also probably the most accessible National Park in the country too. But with such an array of scenic views and gorgeous pit-stops, it can be hard to know what’s essential. With that in mind, here’s our travel guide to Derbyshire and the Peak District.
Places to Stay in the Peak District
The last or first stop on the celebrated Pennine Way walk, Edale is set in the charming and unspoiled Vale of Edale. In the centre of the High Peak and surrounded by lush, green rolling hills wherever you look, Edale makes a great base if you’re into your walking, climbing or cycling thanks to its close proximity to the likes of Mam Tor and Kinder Scout. If you’re planning on Edale, we’d wholeheartedly recommend a stay at the stunning Losehill Hotel & Spa. Picture-perfectly framed by Derbyshire’s hard-to-beat surroundings, the historic hotel has been redeveloped with modern convenience and features full spa facilities (including treatments and an outdoor terrace hot-tub), as well as a highly acclaimed fine-dining restaurant for some serious indulgence after a day’s hiking. Read our full Losehill review here.
But if you’re after a real hub of activity, Sheffield is much closer to the Peaks than many realise, with many of its numerous suburbs even located within the Peak District. Naturally, the UK’s fifth largest city has everything you’d want, whether you’re planning a flying visit or you’re looking for a longer stay, including events, museums, galleries and theatres, as well as exquisite boutique hotels and excellent shopping opportunities.
Said by many to be the heart of the Peak District, Bakewell has everything you’d want from a stay in Derbyshire. Heritage, history and beautiful riverside walks, Bakewell is best for those who want a few more amenities than just the village pub. There’s a wide range of independent shops, hotels, art galleries, restaurants and cafés, and it is the only place to sample the town’s signature delicacy, Bakewell Pudding.
For something smaller is scale, Baslow packs all the wistfulness of a quant English country village but still has plenty going on so you never feel secluded. Popular due its close distance to Chatsworth Estate, Baslow is situated in the Derwent Valley and features some of the Dark Peak’s most dramatic scenery. There are several hotels, pubs and cafés to fill your days, and there’s also a Michelin-starred restaurant, Fischers Baslow Hall. If you want to stay in the picturesque surroundings without paying the price for it, the Chatsworth campsite is always a good bet.
Sights to See in the Peak District
Home of the Cavendish family since the 1550s, Chatsworth House is the Peak District’s most popular attraction. With over 30 rooms to explore, from the magnificent Painted Hall, to the family-used chapel, regal State Rooms and beautiful Sculpture Gallery, as well as 105 acres of stunning gardens, it’s a must visit even if stately homes aren’t your cup of tea. But if you really don’t want to pay the entry fee, the grounds are well worth an afternoon wander.
The 12th Century Haddon Hall is also well worth a stop. With stunning Elizabethan terrace gardens overlooking the River Wye, it’s no great surprise that Haddon Hall has had film-makers flocking to its grounds for year. Jane Eyre, Elizabeth, Pride & Prejudice, The Other Boleyn Girl and The Princess Bride have all had days of shooting here.
For the more adventurous, we’d definitely recommend you head to the beautiful village of Castleton and head to one of their many Caves and Caverns. Famed for the production of the super rare Blue John stone, there are a few different tours to choose from but we’d recommend Treak Cliff Cavern, which is arguably the most dramatic of them all. Alternatively, Speedwell Cavern is perfect if you’ve got youngsters as it does include a short boat ride into the caves. Castleton itself is worth an afternoon spent regardless, with inns, cafés and jewellery shops for anyone in search of the local speciality which is usually made into jewellery.
Another Castleton resident, the imposing ruins of Peveril Castle stand high above the pretty village. Mentioned in the Domesday survey, Peveril Castle is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. Built by Henry II in 1176, a climb to the castle isn’t the easiest, but the views over Hope Valley are worth the effort alone.
Best Walks in the Peak District
Mam Tor is arguably the Peak’s most famed ‘peak’. Dating back as far as the Bronze Age, the tor offers the area’s most stunning views and is an absolute must for any hiker. There are plenty of walks you can do which involve Mam Tor but we’d recommend the 10 mile Edale > Losehill > Mam Tor > Castleton > Hope walk. It’s not the easiest and does take 4 hours or so, but it’s the best way to see everything the area has to offer in one go.
Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve is perfect for any wildlife lovers. With an array of woodland and wading birds to see, depending on the time of year, the public bridleway from the Ladybower Inn takes you up to and through the reserve. Be warned, the terrain can be tricky at times, so visitors are advised to keep to the Bridleway.
Curbar Edge provides probably the most breath-taking sights in the whole of the Peak District. From the elevated rock formation on Curbar Edge you’ll get to experience the magnificent views over the Eastern Moors. There are plenty of walking routes around the area which can take anything from an hour to the whole day, but if you just want the catch the view, there is a car park right by the Edge.
If you’re looking for a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll, Dovedale couldn’t really be more ideal. With only a slight gradient, the 2.5 mile walk takes you from Ilam Wood to the impressive Dovedale gorge. It should only take an hour max which means it perfect if you’ve got little ones tagging along.
Find out more at the Peak District Website.