PEAK DISTRICT NATIONAL PARK


Derbyshire Peak District National ParkThe Peak District National Park, the first national park to be established in Britain, is also one of the largest and most well loved. The area owes its charm to its quaint villages, stately mansions, and picturesque hills, moors and valleys. The name “Peak District” is something of a misnomer, as apart from its highest point on Kinder Scout (635m), the landscape is ironically marked by a lack of sharp peaks. The national park’s proximity to major cities such as Manchester and Sheffield, as well as good transport connections and a range of accommodation choices that can be booked online, make it extremely popular with visitors. Some estimates claim it to be the second-most visited national park in the world, after Japan’s Mount Fuji, although this is doubtful.

Layout

The national park’s area extends 555 square miles, most of which lies within Derbyshire, but also includes five other counties: Cheshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire. Geologically the park is usually divided into two distinct areas – the Dark Peak to the north, with its moorlands and gritstone cliffs; and the more populated White Peak which lies to the south, characterised by gentler green fields and underlying limestone geology. The park is elongated in shape, extending further in a north-south direction than east-west. The A62 road brushes against the northern limits of the park, and the A52 goes past its southern limits, while the A6 highway runs through a part of the park roughly east to west. The town of Ashbourne lies just outside the park’s southern border, Derby about 23km southeast, and Chesterfield about 8km to the east. Many towns also lie within the park, most of which are clustered in its southeastern part. Walking trails traverse the park generally in a north-south direction.

 

 

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 

10. Kinder Scout

11. Mam Tor

 

Javascript is required to view this map.

 

 


Kinder ScoutThe highest point in the Peak District and in Derbyshire lies on Kinder Scout, a moorland plateau which soars all of 635m above sea level. This extremely popular hiking location is along the Pennine Way, and can be accessed from the villages of Hayfield and Edale. The tallest waterfall in the national park, Kinder Downfall, is part of the River Kinder on Kinder Scout. Adverse weather conditions in 2009 and 2010, however, have made access to the waterfall unsafe.

Another landmark in the Peak District, Mam Tor (515m) is also highly popular and offers a vast array of outdoor activities for visitors. Situated in between Edale and Castleton, erosion is continually at work on Mam Tor, one face of which is slowly creeping towards Castleton. On the top of the hill can be found the remains of an Iron Age Fort, and the views of the surrounding landscape are spectacular – on clear days, you can even see Manchester city centre.

Pennine WayOne of the most well known walking trails in the UK, the Pennine Way stretches 429km from Edale all the way to Scotland. Extremely popular, the route sees an estimated 12,000 long-distance walkers and 250,000 day-walkers per year. Short day walks can be enjoyed starting from Edale, and for those who would like something a little more challenging, a pleasant hike to Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire would take about three days. As the Pennine Way is for the most part a dedicated walking trail, the Pennine Bridleway was developed running alongside the Pennine Way, for cyclists and horseback riders. The Pennine Bridleway starts further south than the Pennine Way, overlapping with the High Peak Trail. Bikes can be rented at several locations within the Peak District, and a leaflet listing all bike rental outlets can be obtained from tourist offices.

Limestone WayThis 74km-long walking trail runs from Castleton across the White Peak to Rochester in Staffordshire. It takes you past beautiful scenery and several pastoral villages. Along the route lie numerous food and beverage options as well as hotels, hostels and B&Bs, so tackling the route over several days can be achieved quite comfortably.

The High Peak Trail is a 28km-long trail utilised by walkers, cyclists and horse riders, winding through scenic views of the White Peak landscape. The trail follows a disused railway line, the former Cromford and High Peak Railway, an early industrial railway built between 1825 and 1830. As such, apart from a section of steep incline at Cromford, the trail is mostly flat, making for an easy, relaxing cycle.

Like the High Peak Trail, the 21km-long Tissington Trail
 is also part of a converted former railway line that ran from Ashbourne to Buxton. It connects with the High Peak Trail at a small town called Parsley Hay, from where the High Peak Trail continues north towards Buxton. A nice option is to make a circular route combining both trails and parts of the small lanes through Brassington and Bradbourne. More information can be found from tourist offices or the leaflet at the link above.

Bolsover Castle [Castle Street, Bolsover, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S44 6PR; +44 1246 822844, ad/ch £7.40/3.70] Built by Sir Charles Cavendish in 1612 and inherited by his son William who completed its construction, Bolsover Castle serves as an example of a wealthy noble’s recreational property in the 17th century. Beautifully restored rooms, splendid carvings and panellings, the gardens, and an indoor riding school are all part of what you can feast your eyes on, while children will be kept entertained by medieval jousts and other special activities. The castle is located just outside Chesterfield and directions towards it are marked by brown signposts.

 


Edale flickr polandezeEdale (pop. 316) is a charming little village in the north of Derbyshire, about 24km west of Sheffield. Nestled calmly in a valley in the heart of the Peak District National Park, the village of Edale has Kinder Scout, the highest point in Derbyshire, as its backdrop. It is perhaps best known as the start of the Pennine Way, one of the longest and most loved walking trails in the UK, which ends just across the Scottish border. Walkers might want to start out at the information centre in Edale to get equipped with maps and guides for their journey. The Pennine Way is not only for serious walkers, though – recreational visitors can also enjoy short day or evening walks in the beautiful countryside around Edale. Short sections of the trail can be easily accomplished, with access points at approximately every kilometre.

Edale lies along the railway line between Sheffield and Manchester, which, when built back in 1894, greatly increased tourism in the area. Rail connections to the village are relatively frequent considering its small size. For food and drink, head to one of Edale’s two pubs, the Ramblers or the Old Nag’s Head, formerly the village blacksmith and now the official start of the Pennine Way, as proclaimed by a sign on the exterior. Edale’s quaint old buildings are marvels in their own right: the Old Nag’s Head dates back to 1577, the village school, built in 1819, is still in use, and the Edale Church was built in 1885.

Hotels
Edale YHA [Rowland Cote, Nether Booth, Edale, Hope Valley, +44 845 371 9514, from £16.00 for shared hostel room] Beautiful location at the foot of Kinder Scout and ideal base for walking and hiking in the area. Book in advance, though, especially during peak seasons, as this place tends to get extremely busy. Family rooms are available if you are travelling in a group.

The Rambler Country House Hotel [Lane Head Green, +44 1433 670268, £38-£45 per person] Within walking distance of Edale railway station, the Rambler is also a pub, which offers simple accommodation for a relatively low price. However, although its location is excellent, the staff is reputed to be unwelcoming.

Taylor’s Croft [Taylors' Croft, Skinners Hall, Hope Road, Edale, +44 1433 670281, £375-£500 per week, £300 for 2-4 nights] This is a self-catering cottage for two people, with stunning views of the surrounding Peak District National Park scenery. Rentals are charged weekly except for during low season when shorter stays are accepted – however, this works out to a pretty good deal for such a well maintained and furnished cottage. It is located one mile from Edale village, and pick-up from the train station can be arranged.

 


Perevil Castle flickr: publicenergySitting astride the Dark and White Peaks in the Peak District, Castleton (pop. 649)  is a typical honeypot village that attracts many tourists in the summer months. Its nickname, “Gem of the Peaks,” is well deserved, with its rich history, quaint rural atmosphere, and beautiful setting amidst the hilly landscape of the Peak District. The popularity of the town comes as no surprise – close proximity to the beautiful Peak District, its own 11th century castle, four show caves, and a range of shopping, eating and accommodation choices – all make Castleton a perfect base for exploring the Peak District. Come during quieter periods for the perfect tranquil experience, a unique combination of small-town hospitality and immersion in great natural beauty.

Layout
Castleton sits at the western end of the Hope Valley, surrounded on three sides by steep hills, one of which is the Great Ridge containing the famous Mam Tor. Peakshole Water, the village river, is a tributary of the River Noe. The main road from Castleton leads towards Edale, across the dramatic scenery of the Winnats Pass. Most tourist needs – pubs, cafes, shops, accommodation, and the tourist office – can be found on Cross Street, the village’s main street.

Sights
Peveril Castle
[Market Place, Castleton, Hope Valley, +44 1433 620613, ad/ch £4.20/2.10, Concession: £3.60] This castle, built in 1080 by William Peveril, the son of William the Conqueror, is one of the earliest Norman castles in England. The castle’s importance can be seen in the fact that the town of Castletown is actually named after the castle. Built after the Norman conquest as part of a chain of castles across the country, the castle’s fascinating history has seen it change hands numerous times over the centuries. Now managed by English Heritage, the castle offers visitors to Castleton a chance to experience this rich history coupled with spectacular views over the Peak District. Access to the castle is via a very steep climb from the town, so be prepared for some exercise!

In the vicinity of Castleton lie several undergrounds caves, four of which are open to visitors. Peak Cavern [Peak cavern Walk, +44 1433 620285, ad/ch £7.75/5.75, Concession: £6.75], the most easily accessible, is just west of Peveril Castle. It has also earned the moniker of “Devil’s Arse,” due to interesting sounds heard by the locals coming from within. Peak Cavern has the largest natural cave entrance in Britain, and remains of its ropemaking heritage can be seen in the cave today. Speedwell Cavern [Winnats Pass, +44 1433 620512, ad/ch £8.25/6.25, Concession: £7.25] is the next closest to Castleton, about 1km away at the foot of Winnats Pass. This cave can only be explored via a boat ride through a flooded mineshaft. Treak Cliff Cavern [Buxton Road, +44 1433 620571, ad/ch £7.95/4.00, Concession: £6.95], although a short walk (or shuttle bus ride) away from Castleton, is highly recommended for its beautiful formations with evocative names like Witches’ Cave, Aladdin’s Cave and Fairyland. It is recognised as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the mineral Blue John Stone is still mined in Treak Cliff in areas not accessible to the public. Finally, Blue John Cavern [Castleton, Hope Valley,  +44 1433 620638, ad/ch £8.00/4.00] is another beautiful cave where Blue John Stone deposits can be found and are still mined. The awe-inspiring formations are well-lit by electric lighting. Access to the cave is by the closed section of the Mam Tor road.

A historic tradition, Oak Apple Day was once celebrated throughout England on 29 May every year, but is now only observed in a few towns, including Castleton. The day marks the restoration of Charles II to the throne in May 1660 after a period of rule by the Cromwells. On this much-anticipated day, people dress in Stuart costumes, choosing a King and Queen for the day, who lead a pageant through the town with the King wearing a heavy traditional garland. Morris dancing and singing complete the festivities in the town at the market place.

Hotels
Causeway House
[Back Street, Castleton, Hope Valley, +44 1433 623291, £33 - £65].   This 15th century cottage, soaking in history, will delight with its quaint charm and comfortable furnishings. Of the five rooms available, three are ensuite and two have shared facilities.

Four Seasons B&B [Spital House, How Lane, +44 1433 620655, £45 - £70].    Located in a pleasant, recently renovated Victorian house, this B&B is open all year round, and has a range of rooms catering to different group sizes. The B&B also provides pickup from Hope train station if given advance notice.

Ye Olde Nag’s Head Hotel
[Cross Street, +44 1433 620248, from £50].    Located right on Cross Street, this 17th century coaching inn has 10 rooms, all of which are ensuite, some with four-poster beds and the most luxurious containing a Jacuzzi. The pub/restaurant downstairs serves good food as well.

Bulls Head Inn [Cross Street, +44 1433 620256, from £65]    A family run inn also located on Cross Street, this easily accessible inn has 5 well-maintained rooms. The owners also operate a self-catering cottage nearby, suitable for visitors staying for a longer period.



Eyam tombstone  flickr ~Duncan~The little village of Eyam (pop. 926) has a poignant story to tell. Dubbed the “plague village,” it fell victim to the notorious bubonic plague from 1665 to 1666. The plague first entered the village when a bale of cloth infested with fleas was delivered from London to the village tailor George Viccars, who died within a week. Persuaded by their rector William Mompesson, the villagers agreed to quarantine themselves in their town, rather than flee to nearby villages and risk spreading the disease further to the north of England, which had remained relatively safe from the plague thus far. Due to their noble decision, most of the surrounding villages escaped the brunt of the plague, while more than half of Eyam’s population was wiped out in those tragic 16 months.

Many sights of interest in the village today are related to this period in its history. Reminders of the plague aside, however, Eyam is a typical picturesque Peak District village, a good base for walking and enjoying the White Peak scenery. 

Sights
Eyam Church
[St Lawrence Church, Parish Office, Church Street; +44 1433630930] dates from Saxon times. The church carries many harrowing reminders of the tragedy that struck Eyam in the form of the plague in the 17th century, but also of the courageous actions of the villagers. A Plague Register in the church lists the names of the 276 people who died out of an alleged population of around 350. A small exhibition about the plague is also located in the church. In the churchyard one will find the tombstones of many plague victims, including that of Catherine Mompesson, the rector’s wife. An exceptionally well-preserved Celtic cross dating from the 7th or 8th centuries can also be found in the churchyard. The Plague Cottages, which can be found to the west of the church, are where the plague is believed to have started. The tailor, the first casualty of the disease, lived here, and visitors can find out more about him and other villagers who lost their lives from the information plaques on these cottages.

Eyam Hall
[+44 1443631371, ad/ch £6.25/4.00, Concession: £5.75], a Jacobean manor house, was built in 1676 in a fashion that was already out of style at that time. Hence, to someone who knows a thing or two about architecture it might look older than it actually is. This stately home is still owned and lived in by the Wright family, descendants of the Wrights who built the mansion more than 300 years ago. The rooms of the historic house are opened to the public only at certain times of the year, so check the website before visiting. The property’s farms have been converted to a craft centre, containing several shops and a restaurant, which are open all year round. You can also take a walk in the traditional 17th century English garden, which underwent a new phase of planting in early 2010. Nearby on the village green are the stocks where petty criminals would have been held in the past, and where you can now amuse yourself taking silly photographs.

The plague was capricious in choosing its victims. Elizabeth Hancock, despite burying her husband and children within a span of eight days, escaped the disease herself. The Hancock family’s resting place, known as the Riley Graves, can be found a short walk from Eyam village, amidst tranquil Peak District scenery.

When the village of Eyam decided to go into quarantine, kind friends from neighbouring villages left food and supplies at
Mompesson’s Well, thus enabling the people of Eyam to survive. In return, the Eyam villagers left coins in the well as payment for the supplies, soaking them in vinegar to disinfect them. Mompesson’s Well is also a short walk out of the village.

Hotels
Miner’s Arms Bed and Breakfast [Water Lane, Eyam, +44 1433 630853, £45 - £60] This bed and breakfast dates all the way back to 1630, not long before the plague struck the village. It was known as the Kings Head until 1764, and used to serve as the venue for meetings carried out by the local mine owners. The bed and breakfast has seven rooms, all ensuite.

Crown Cottage Bed and Breakfast [Crown Cottage, Main Road, Eyam; +44 1433 630858, £45 - £64] Built in 1780 as the Rose and Crown Inn, this bed and breakfast has four guest rooms, all ensuite. Located in pleasant surroundings, it tends to get very full on weekends, so it’s a good idea to book ahead. The official website provides detailed and useful driving directions.

 


Peak DistrictAlthough not situated within the national park itself, Buxton (pop 24,000) is considered the “gateway to the Peak District National Park,” l,g just outside the park boundary and close to the county boundaries of Cheshire and Staffordshire. With excellent transport connections, including proximity to Manchester airport, Buxton is a great base for many visitors to the famed Peak District National Park. It is the market town of highest elevation in England.

The healing properties of the area’s spa waters had already been discovered and tapped by the Romans, who established baths at the settlement then known as Aquae Arnemetiae. During Tudor times Buxton was also known as a spa town and well patronised by the nobility for health treatments. As the spa industry reached its height in the late 18th and 19th centuries, so did Buxton’s fortunes. During this time, numerous grand buildings were constructed, many of which are still standing in Buxton, and rail connections established, bringing ever-greater numbers of spa tourists to the town. 

Although the spa industry, and as a result spa towns like Buxton, went into decline by the first half of the 20th century, Buxton has undergone significant renewal and is today a bustling centre of activity and culture in Derbyshire. A market every Tuesday and Saturday livens up the weekly atmosphere. A plethora of annual festivals, the popular carnival in July, exhibitions and performances at the opera house have earned Buxton the well-deserved title of “Cultural Capital of the Peak District.”

Layout
Much activity and many sights are concentrated around the Marketplace, one of the oldest shopping areas in the town and where you’ll find a number of cafes for refreshment. On High Street leading south from the Marketplace are located several inns. The other concentration of interest for tourists is north of Marketplace, where the tourist office, Pavilion, Pump Room, Opera House and Crescent can all be found in close proximity.

Sights
Poole’s Cavern
[Green Lane, Buxton, +44 1298 26978, ad/ch £8.00/4.75, Concession: £7.00] Another of the Peak District’s show caves, Poole’s Cavern is named after an outlaw who supposedly used the cave as a hiding place sometime in the 15th century. The cave’s geologic history goes back 2 million years, and evidence has been found of early human life during the Neolithic and early Bronze ages. As far back as the 15th century, tourists had been attracted to Poole’s Cavern, amongst them Mary Queen of Scots. In later centuries enterprising locals operated as tour guides in order to earn (or sometimes extort!) extra income. Fortunately the polite and friendly guides of today will take you through the impressive underground formations and ensure that you return safely to the surface, in time for refreshments at the café.

St Ann’s Well.  The reputed beneficial waters of Buxton are bottled and sold internationally by the Buxton Mineral Water Company. Located just outside the Pump Room, St. Ann’s Well, fed by a geothermal spring, is where you can get the thrill of filling your bottle with Buxton Mineral Water for free.

Buxton Opera House
[Water Street, Buxton; Box Office: +44 845 1272190, Administration: +44 1298 72050] Designed by Frank Matcham in 1903, the Buxton Opera House is a fine example of Edwardian architecture. The opera house fell into disuse by the 1970s, but was carefully restored in 2001 and now runs a full programme of performances throughout the year. It hosts the popular Buxton Festival taking place every summer, increasingly seen as a rival to the Edinburgh Festival. Other world-renowned festivals taking place at the opera house are the International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival and the Four-Four Time Festival of Live Music.

The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery [Terrace Road, Buxton; +44 1298 24658] displays permanent collections, most extensively on the geology, archaeology and history of the Peak District, but also of fine art, especially 19th and 20th century paintings. Changing special exhibitions taking place year-round include works by local and regional artists.

 



BakewellA market town located within the Peak District National Park, Bakewell (pop.3,979) is the second-largest town in the Peak District area after Buxton. It is nevertheless much smaller than the elegant spa town of Buxton, and retains its idyllic charm. Bakewell’s history goes back centuries, having been occupied since Roman times, with a church dating from AD 920, and being mentioned in the Domesday book of 1085. Situated along the River Wye, the town, with its proud examples of medieval architecture, is a great place to immerse yourself in history while exploring the surrounding Peak District scenery.

Layout
The town centres around Rutland Square, where the weekly markets are held, and where the Rutland Arms is prominently located (see Sights). Nearby you’ll also find the Tourist Office located in the Old Market Hall. 

Sights
All Saints Church  This grand old church was founded in 920, and although much of the present church dates from the 13th and 14th centuries, fragments of the older Norman and Saxon architecture can still be seen. An extensive restoration was undergone in the 19th century, during which the spire, which was in danger of collapse, was rebuilt. The churchyard contains two Saxon crosses dating from the 9th century, discovered in the surrounding area and eventually relocated to Bakewell. The church stands on the hill in the southwest part of the town, just above Rutland Square.

Old House Museum [Cunningham Place, +44 01629 813642, ad/ch £3.00/1.50] This intriguing museum is housed in one of the few remaining medieval buildings in town. Here you can view a Tudor toilet, explore rooms built with wattle and daub, play with historical toys, and engage your fantasies by dressing up in Tudor clothing.

The Rutland Arms. This inn, formerly known as the White Horse Inn, is located right on Rutland Square. It has two claims to fame – firstly, Jane Austen is reputed to have stayed here while working on Pride and Prejudice in 1811. She also chose this inn as the setting for Elizabeth Bennet’s meeting with the Darcy’s and Mr. Bingley in the novel. The inn’s second claim to fame is the invention of the famous Bakewell Pudding, in 1859, by the inn’s cook who mistook his mistress’ instructions and poured egg mixture over jam instead of mixing it into the pastry. As a result, the strawberry tart ordered by their guests, visiting noblemen, became pudding instead, and so well-received that it went down as a tradition. Today you can sample Bakewell pudding at several shops in town, each claiming to follow the “original” recipe.

Old Bridge.  The medieval bridge over the River Wye dates from around 1300, and is one of the few surviving architectural landmarks from medieval times. Follow Bridge Street leading away from Rutland Square and you will come to the picturesque little bridge, from where you can follow marked walking trails along the river.

Bakewell’s market day is Monday, the day when the town comes to life with this tradition from medieval times. There is also a bustling livestock market housed at the new Agricultural Centre.



Haddon Hall  flickr:GruenemannLocated just outside Bakewell are two incredibly well restored stately houses, which are part of the reason why many come to Bakewell.  Haddon Hall [44 1629 812855, A: £8.95, C: £4.95, Concession: £7.95] about 3km south of Bakewell, is one of the best examples of a fortified medieval house still standing today. Set amidst the beautiful Peak District scenery, it is no wonder that Haddon Hall is such a popular location for shooting films and television programmes. Indeed, you might have seen it onscreen before – most recently in the 2005 film version of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley.

Haddon’s various rooms date from between the late 12th and early 17th centuries, after which the estate lay neglected for 200 years. It was only in the 1920’s that the house was restored.  The house and its pretty Elizabethan gardens are now open to visitors between April and October, letting you get a glimpse into life in England in a time gone by. Haddon Hall is located along the A6, and any bus heading to Matlock would take you there. Alternatively you could also take a long walk along the east bank of the river from Bakewell, heading south.

 



Chatsworth HouseChatsworth House [+44 1246 565300, Separate prices for House, Garden and Farmyard – check website for details.] is the second of the aforementioned houses near Bakewell, and was built in 1551 being the home of the Dukes of Devonshire for centuries, with the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire currently owning and running the property. The most famous guest that this stately house has seen was Mary, Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned here periodically between 1570 and 1581, under the orders of Elizabeth I.

2010 sees the opening of a new visitor route through the house, as well as an entirely new gallery housing the collection’s art and other treasures. Families with children will find Chatsworth a particularly enchanting place to visit, with a farmyard and adventure playground where the kids will be entertained by demonstrations and animal-handling sessions. The extensive gardens warrant a visit on their own, housing a fountain high enough to be seen from the hills of the Dark Peak. If you would like to make Chatsworth a holiday in its own right, holiday cottages on the estate itself are available for rent – more information can be found on the Chatsworth website.  

Chatsworth is almost 5km northeast of Bakewell. As with Haddon Hall, you can drive or take a bus from Bakewell.  It is also possible to walk or cycle – enquire at Bakewell’s tourist office for route information.