Peak DistrictKnown for its pioneering role in industry, the county of Derbyshire is seen as the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. The 18th and 19th-century cotton mills of the Derwent Valley, one of the earliest examples of a modern industrial town, are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Derbyshire’s other main attraction is the Peak District National Park, three-quarters of which lie within the county. This park has the honour of being the first national park established in Britain, in 1951. Derby, although officially a unitary authority area, remains the county’s main city, with an attractive combination of culture, architecture and parkland. 


Points Of Interest

1. Derwent Reservoirs

2. Edale

3. Castletown 

4. Eyam

5. Haddon Hall

6. Chatsworth House

7. Matlock Bath

8. Kedleston Hall

9. Calke Abbey 


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Church of Saint Mary and All Saints flickr greywulfChesterfield (pop. 70,300) is one of the largest towns in Derbyshire. Its importance as a market town has been evident for centuries – the Victorian Market Hall in the heart of the town is still open every day. The town is most famous for its crooked church spire (see Sights). 

Church of Saint Mary and All Saints [+44 1246 206506] The parish church of Chesterfield goes by the self-explanatory nickname of the “Church of the Crooked Spire.” This amazing spire can be seen from trains going past the town. Built in the 14th century, the spire only began to twist and lean to one side several centuries later. Today it is leaning about 3 metres off centre, believed to be caused by the use of unseasoned timber to build the spire.

Market Chesterfield’s market days are Monday, Friday and Saturday. With over 250 stalls, the town boasts one of the largest open-air markets in Britain.  This bustling open-air market spreads around the Market Hall in the centre of town, and can’t be missed.


Matlock Bath George Hotel 	flickr -Duncan-One of the gateways to the Peak District National Park, Matlock Bath (pop. 2,460) is situated near its southeastern border, just south of Matlock (the two towns are not to be confused). Matlock Bath is often seen as something of a seaside resort away from the sea – with its fish and chip shops, popcorn, and amusement park attractions, it isn’t hard to see why.

The town’s potential for tourism had been unlocked back in 1698, when thermal springs at a constant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius were discovered and a bath house built. Over the 19th century, the town flourished as a tourist destination, as did the many other spa towns in England, aided by the opening of rail connections which made Matlock Bath accessible to the regular day tourist. The town also attracted a host of high-profile tourists and literary folk, including then-Princess Victoria in 1831, and writers Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, John Ruskin and Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Today Matlock Bath is extremely popular with motorcyclists, especially on weekends. Unsurprisingly as well, the town tends to get very crowded during the summer months – the presence of several amusement parks makes it an especially popular choice for visitors with children.  At the same time, the town’s status as a conservation area along the Derwent River guards against aggressive promotion and helps to protect the natural beauty of the surrounding area.

Matlock Bath’s main street is divided into North and South Parade, along which are concentrated the majority of seaside-resort-style shops and eateries. The town is nestled in the hills of the Derwent Valley, with High Tor dominating the landscape.

Heights of Abraham [+44 1629 582365, ad/ch £11.50/8.50].   For a family day out, you cannot really go wrong with the Heights of Abraham, which claims to be the oldest attraction in the Peak District. Once a lead mining location, this has since been converted to an all-in-one attraction for the public. The entrance ticket includes a cable car ride across the Derwent Valley. Once on the summit, visitors can enjoy interactive exhibitions, woodland trails, tours through show caverns, an adventure playground, picnic areas, shops and restaurants, all with a stunning view of the Derwent Valley below.

Gulliver’s Kingdom [+44 1629580540, ad/ch £12.50/12.50] Another attraction for the young ones, this theme park is also built into the slopes of the Derwent Valley, making for a change from your regular theme park. Opened in 1978, this is the oldest of the Gulliver’s chain of parks across the UK, designed for children from 2 to 13. The young ones will be delighted with rides divided into several themed sections, and the antics of Gully and Gilly Mouse, the park’s mascots.  

Mining Museum
[The Pavilion, ad/+44 1629 58383ch £3/2] Here you can discover the history of the lead mining industry so central to the Peak District. Well-presented displays take you through various aspects such as geology, mining processes, and the people involved in the industry. You can also climb the mine shafts and tunnels, getting a feel of the daily working lives of miners in the past. The museum is located in the Pavilion at the foot of High Tor, where you will also find the tourist office.  Just next door is the Temple Mine, where you can take a self-guided tour and try your hand at panning for gold.

Masson Mills  flickr alexliivetMasson Mills Working Textile Museum [Derby Rd, +44 1629581001, ad/ch £2.50,/1.50, Concession: £2.00] Built in 1783, this was one of the pioneering Derwent Valley mills that was a technological wonder in its time. Part of the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site, this mill is today a working museum, where visitors can learn all about weaving and textiles. If that wears you out, the prospect of indulging in four floors of shopping for clothing brand names should soon get you re-energised. The museum is located half a mile south of Matlock Bath along the A6.

Matlock Bath Illuminations.   If you happen to be in the area in late September to October, you’ll be in time to catch the Illuminations, originally held in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Decorated and illuminated Venetian boats are floated on the river, and the river banks and cliff sides also come to life with charming lights. If you’re lucky you might also catch fireworks on certain nights during the illumination season. 

Although geographically located within the county of Derbyshire, Derby (pop. 222,000) is a unitary authority, which governs itself – while the rest of Derbyshire is governed from Matlock. The Industrial Revolution played an important part in the fortunes of Derby. During the height of the Industrial Revolution, the city was an important producer of silk, china, railways and aircraft engines. Still a key manufacturing centre, the city has two major employers, Rolls-Royce and Toyota. The city itself probably holds limited attraction to most tourists, but it can serve as a good base for exploring the rest of Derbyshire.

Derby Cathedral interiorDerby Cathedral [18 Iron Gate, +44 1332 341201].  The Cathedral of All Saints (Derby Cathedral) was founded in the 10th century, but the current building dates from the 14th century. Its impressive 65m-tall tower is a sight in its own right, and has been used in the past two years for an abseil challenge to raise funds for charity. The tower has also been home to a family of peregrine falcons since 2006, and their progress can be followed on a blog and webcams dedicated to the peregrines.

Quad [Market Place, Cathedral Quarter, +44 1332 285444].  Opened in 2008, Quad is a new organisation housed in a new building, with a gallery, cinema, café bar and arts workshop. It hosts various exhibitions and events, and is the first location outside London to house an archive of the British Film Institute. 

Derby Museum of Industry and History [Full Street, +44) 1332 255308,, Free].   Located along the River Derwent on the site of Britain’s first mill, a silk mill built between 1717 and 1721, this museum traces the city’s industrial heritage and the story of Derby’s hardworking people. Railway and airplane buffs will be especially entertained by the detailed sections on the railway industry and Rolls-Royce aero engines.

Royal Crown Derby [194 Osmaston Rd, +44 1332712833 , Tours £4.95].  One of the most famous producers of high quality bone china in England, Royal Crown Derby runs its visitor centre close to Derby. Here you will find a factory shop, coffee shop and museum with demonstrations open to the public.

Ghost Tours Derby has appeared several times on Living TV’s Most Haunted, and is apparently the most haunted city in the UK. Those so inclined can get their spooky fix on a choice of Ghost Walks, overnight vigils, “Ghost Breaks” and Halloween events. More information can be obtained from the tourist information centre on Derby’s main square.


Ashbourne (pop. 10,500) , sitting at the southern tip of the Peak District, is a pleasant market town.  As with much of Derbyshire, the centuries-old town was already well established in Saxon times, and was granted its royal charter for a market in the 13th century.  The town centres around Market Square, and has numerous shops and pubs should you decide to make it your base for exploring the southern White Peak.   

Tissington Trail  flickr eamoncurry123Tissington Trail (See also Peak District) Ashbourne is probably visited most for the Tissington Trail, a popular hiking and cycle path. The trail’s southern end is just outside Ashbourne at Mapleton Lane, from where it goes north to Buxton. Along Mapleton Lane you can also find a bike hire with free leaflets indicating cycle routes with cafes and pubs conveniently marked out.     

This centuries-old tradition is not for the faint-hearted!  Every year on Shrove Tuesday, the town of Ashbourne comes together for a game of Shrovetide Football, in which half the town (the ‘Uppards’) plays the other half (the ‘Downards’), and the goals are 3 miles apart. Very few rules govern the game, which invariably goes on for two days all over town, the valley, and even the river bed. The violent nature of the game has led to various attempts to ban it, but for now the tradition endures, and visitors continue coming to Ashbourne to satisfy their curiosity about the event.


Keddleston Hall flickr -Duncan-Owned by the Curzon family, who has resided here since the 12th century, Kedleston Hall [near Quarndon, Derby, +44 1332 842191, ad/ch £8.60/4.30] as it stands today was built in the 1760’s. At that point, the peasants of nearby Kedleston village supposedly had to be relocated further down the road because they obstructed the view from Kedleston Hall. Today Kedleston Hall stands amidst painstakingly landscaped parkland, in the fashion of an 18th century pleasure ground, covering 820 acres. The park contains five lakes and includes two walking trails. Tours of the boat houses and fishing pavilion are also available.  

The Neoclassical mansion was designed by architect Robert Adam, and is considered one of the best examples of his work. Visitors will be awed by the Marble Hall, especially since it remains almost untouched from the time it was constructed, with very little alteration. The impressive state rooms are home to a collection of fine paintings and original furniture. The Eastern Museum contains treasures amassed by Lord George Curzon during his appointment as Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.

Although the park and pleasure grounds are open all year round, the house itself, shop and restaurant have different opening hours and days during different times of the year. It is thus best to check the website before visiting. Kedleston Hall is located about 8km northwest of Derby.


Not actually an abbey despite its name, Calke Abbey [Ticknall, +44 1332 863822, ad/ch £7.60/3.90] is actually a Baroque mansion built between 1701 and 1704.  It does, however, sit on the site of an Augustinian priory founded in the 12th century, and dissolved in the 16th century by Henry VIII.      

Not your usual glittering, elaborately restored state mansion, Calke Abbey has been deliberately left, for the most part, in the languishing state in which it was when passed over to the National Trust. Visitors can therefore get an intriguingly surreal sense of a country house in decline in the late 19th century. Wandering along secret corridors, stumbling across rooms full of dusty family heirlooms, or walking around the potting sheds in the garden, you feel as if the family had only packed up and left the day before. The eccentricity of the family who lived here is also apparent, especially in the house’s main attraction – an unused and unassembled state bed with Chinese silk hangings, still presented in the condition in which it arrived!    

The house is not open on all days throughout the year, so it’s a good idea to check the website before visiting. Calke Abbey can be found 16km south of Derby, off the A514. If driving, enter via the main entrance at Ticknall.