The Peak District leads the way in so many extreme sporting fields it’s unreal. For caving and potholing there are few other areas outside the national park that can rival it for variety and popularity. Air sports have an ever growing following, and if you like heights the ultimate views of the moors, dales and fells await up above. Hang gliding and parascending is a great solo sport to partake in or learn. With the hundreds of miles of tracks and walkways, long distance walking and cycling is as popular as it has ever been here. Mountain bikers aren’t going anywhere as they love the sheer number of trails across the region. Even the most devoted rock climber will never run out of places to climb during the average life span. You won’t go far before you spot a crag hopper up a cliff, some locations are so well-used the rocks are polished by the level of traffic – fear not though there are many places off the beaten track and useful websites to give you a good steer. We’ll also be able to point you in the right direction when looking for some cool spots to go wild swimming.
For those looking to learn how to hang glide and paraglide there are a real bundle of schools to sift through before making your decision who to go with. You can also go on a tandem flight, so why not put the flying into professional hands whilst you marvel at the land below from your birds’ point of view. For experienced paragliders and hang gliders who are looking for somewhere like Dunstable Downs in Bedfordshire to leap from, try Mam Tor. Treak Cliff, Lord's Seat and Rushup Edge are the best leaps from Mam Tor as they pick up great winds from all directions. It’s worth reading up on the best places to jump from when the wind is northerly and so on.
Also try Shining Tor in the Goyt Valley, Bradwell Edge in the Hope Valley and some of the easterly sites such as Curbar Edge, Eyam Edge, Bradwell Edge and Stanage Edge.
You can’t just buy a glider rig and fling yourself off the nearest rock and hope for the best though. To become a hang glider or paraglider you must join an affiliated club and undergo training at a licensed school. There are several in the region.
Cycling and mountain biking
While the Pennine Way is the regions best walking routes, Tissington and High Peak Trails are amongst the very best of The Peak District off-road cycling routes. Also the quieter Manifold Trail in the south-west runs past Waterhouses along the old Leek and Manifold light railway line, taking in the spooky Thor’s Cave. If you aren’t attached to your own bike, there are places to hire them in most of the towns across the Peak District region.
Caving and potholing
For those of you who were wondering and didn’t already know, there’s not a lot of difference between caving and potholing. The main difference separating the two is important as caving relates to caves with a horizontal entrance and potholing refers to caves with a vertical entrance that you need to lower yourself into (via ropes and pulleys in most cases). Derbyshire and the Peak District have some excellent examples of both. There are several caving clubs you can join in the area too, who can guide your adventures. Eldon Hole and Nettle Pot are the best natural potholes but they are not as numerous as in the Yorkshire Dales. However, what the Peak District does have in abundance are caves and mines! There are even some that can be visited without a change of attire and have been adapted for crowds with concrete paths and lighting, like the ones at the summit of Masson Hill or parts of Poole's Cavern in Buxton.
A reputable book on the cave systems of the Peak District is 'Caves of Derbyshire' by Trevor Ford and David Gill. It includes insights on the well-frequented cave systems up at Winnat’s Pass, Giant’s Hole and the Gautries. Potholing and caving is a specialist sport and anyone intending to go underground should be well-equipped and in a party with at least one experienced caver. It’s one of the best sports around so enjoy yourself responsibly.
Most of the cave and mine systems in the Peak District require permission to descend them and does not imply that permission will necessarily be given.
Swimming for pleasure in lakes and rivers is a growing trend, it gives you a very real sense of the unknown. Wild swimming is a pleasant pursuit for the more relaxed and intrepid amongst you. Still without being your ‘Mum’ we’d recommend with caution an outing to Three Shires Head, south-west of Buxton. Two streams of icy clean, coppery moorland water meet at a bridge and tumble into a deep plunge pool. You can even leap off a ledge if you dare. It can get a little busy on the few hot summer days we have. Other places recommended by local wild swimmers are Mermaid’s Pool and Slippery Stones. There are never any lifeguards at wild swimming spots, unlike at popular beaches.
The number of recorded climbs in the Peak District exceeds 10,000 and climbing schools have reported an increase in interest for the sport. Again a high degree of skill and method is needed to get involved but the Peak District certainly isn’t short of schools to join, the majority of which offer beginners and intensive courses. There are also lots of online guides that prepare you for what to expect before you sign up for lessons. It’s an exhilarating sport that tests all facets of our nature, from problem solving to sheer strength. Look out for wallabies if you go to The Roaches (pictured above)!
Stanage Edge is world renowned for the number of crags and routes to the top – varying in difficulty. Froggatt Edge is also well known. There’s a comprehensive list of ascents online for experienced climbers to tick off their future list of conquests at both gritstone and limestone spots. For the adrenaline-seekers among you, the extreme sports and some of the off-the-grid pursuits in the Peak District makes for the perfect holiday break. We have holiday cottages across the entire Peak District region, so feel inspired.