The sheer gritstone faces of Stanage Edge, Froggatt Edge and Curbar Edge draw climbers from afar – they offer real challenges for the hardened climber or ‘starter’ climbs for the less experienced. A number of outdoor pursuit companies offer equipment and expert guidance and there are a number of indoor climbing walls in the Peak District and Sheffield to get to grips with the techniques before tackling the real thing. Over in the west of the Peak District (to the north of Leek) are the Roaches, another gritstone outcrop popular with climbers.
Cycling and Mountain Biking
Explore the spectacular countryside of the Peak District by bicycle on quiet lanes and traffic free trails (former railway lines) and really enjoy the views. The Tissington Trail, the High Peak Trail and the new Monsal Trail are popular, the latter featuring four tunnels recently opened up to allow walkers and cyclists through. Bring your own bike or hire one at one of the cycle hire centres. Or if mountain biking is your sport, you will find an unrivalled choice of routes, with varied terrain from tough, exposed moorland to green lanes and bridleways. The Dark Peak in the north and the Goyt Valley in the west offer the most challenging routes, whilst the softer White Peak offers a network of tracks that once served the area’s lead mines.
Walking is the one of the best ways to get out into the countryside (not to mention keeping fit and healthy) and the views here are unrivalled. From the challenge of a stretch of the Pennine Way to a gentle riverside ramble, there is plenty of choice. The Dark Peak’s high moorland of Kinder Scout and Bleaklow offer real challenges, whilst the gritstone edges offer some of the best views. But if you prefer a more rolling landscape then head for the limestone White Peak – a patchwork of green fields, stone walls and lovely river valleys. Dovedale (north of Ashbourne) and the valley of the River Wye (between Buxton and Bakewell) are favourites. There are also pleasant woodland walks – such as Padley Gorge (Grindleford), Manners Wood (Bakewell) and Linacre Reservoir (Cutthorpe) to enjoy.
The high ridges and hills of the Peak District are a dream for lovers of airsports – whether it’s hanggliding, parascending, paragliding or microlighting. But if you have never experienced any of these exhilarating sports, try one of the airports schools which offer expert tuition and equipment. Or, if you fancy something more leisurely and serene, there is a number of hot air ballooning companies that regularly fly in the area, nothing beats this for a birds-eye view of the landscape with tiny villages, church spires and grazing cattle below.
If you prefer to tackle the hills on four legs rather than two, the Peak District has a network of bridleways, old packhorse routes, quiet lanes and traffic free former railway lines to explore. Some cottages (mainly those on farms) have their own grazing, by prior arrangement with the owner, so you can bring your own horse – please enquire at the time of booking. The Pennine Bridleway starts in the Peak District and there are special facilities for horse riders at Hartington station on the High Peak Trail. However if you just fancy a couple of hours in the saddle there are pony trekking centres (e.g. Ladybooth Farm at Edale and Northfield Farm at Flash) where you can enjoy a trip into the hills on a sure-footed pony.
Caving and Potholing
For experienced pot holers there are cave systems and caverns to explore below the central limestone plateau of the Peak District. For beginner a number of outdoor pursuit centres offer courses with equipment and tuition provided. However the underground world is not just reserved for those prepared to undertake such a challenge – four show caves/caverns at Castleton (Peak Cavern, Blue John Mine, Speedwell Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern) welcome visitors, plus the spectacular Poole’s Cavern at Buxton.
Carsington Water (near Ashbourne), Redmires Reservoir (near Sheffield) and Tittesworth Water (near Leek) are some of the main stretches of water for watersports, plus Errwood, Dovestones and Ogston reservoirs all have sailing clubs. So if you fancy sailing, windsurfing, kayaking or canoeing there are places in the Peak District you can learn or hone your skills surrounded by spectacular landscapes. Further south on the edge of the National Forest is Staunton Harold, another popular venue. Outdoor pursuits centres offer tuition and equipment if you are not planning to launch your own boat. Or perhaps just enjoy rowing a boat along a calm stretch of the River Derwent at Belper River Gardens?
The area’s flagship swimming pools are at the superb Arc Leisure Centre at Matlock (opened in 2011) and at the internationally acclaimed Ponds Forge at Sheffield. However there are nice pools (some quite unusual) in other towns – don’t miss Buxton’s natural spa water pool, the Victorian swimming pool at Glossop (with its impressive vast ceiling) and the outdoor heated pool at Hathersage.
Many towns in the Peak District have tennis courts which may be hired for a couple of hours. However for all year round playing don’t miss Graves Tennis Centre, Sheffield’s large specialist centre with both indoor and outdoor courts. It is located close to the Peak District on the south eastern edge of the city, easy to reach from Chesterfield and the surrounding villages as well as the central Peak District.