Set at the heart of England, the Peak District is a beautiful natural setting within an easy drive of the surrounding villages, towns and cities. It is a far cry from the urban sprawls of Manchester and Leeds, treating visitors to a slice of serenity in an otherwise bustling area of the UK.
The Peak District covers more than 555 square miles and encompasses hundreds of alluring places to visit. With so much to pack into your itinerary, planning your time here can feel a little overwhelming! We’ve compiled our top places to visit in the Peak District to help you make your trip as memorable as possible. The list includes places where you’ll discover breathtaking views from dizzying peaks, the prettiest villages, the best towns to experience the true Peak District and some of the top activities you can do in the area. Our self-catering cottages are spread all across the area, so you’ll never be far from your next adventure.
It is unsurprising that Dovedale is one of the most loved places to visit in the Peak District. Dramatic limestone ravines shelve down to a broad, meandering river with charming stepping-stones, grassy banks and a level riverside path.
Take in the awe-inspiring views of Thorpe Cloud, a secluded limestone knoll which you can climb if you’re feeling intrepid and wearing sturdy boots. Families will enjoy the riverside stroll which skirts past Thorpe Cloud and onwards with woodland to explore and wildlife to spot.
Dovedale is the starting point for several other walks, including a challenging round trip to Milldale which takes you up hill and down dale, touching base with the river at various points along the way.
Insider insights: There is a car park at Dovedale and National Trust parking is available at Ilam Park, less than half a mile from the Dovedale stepping stones (it is free for National Trust members). Here there are toilets, a tea room and a National Trust shop.
Edensor and Chatsworth House
Pronounced ‘Enza’, this charming village is set within parkland owned by the Devonshire family, whose stately home is a short stroll across the river. Custom-built for the 6th Duke of Edensor, it is a fascinating mix of traditional house styles, which is rumoured to have come about due to the Duke being somewhat indecisive in his design decisions! The resulting houses are built in styles from Norman to Jacobean, Swiss-style to Tudor.
A visit to the licensed Edensor Tea Cottage is a must to fuel your walk up to Chatsworth, the jewel in the Peak District’s crown of stately homes and the family home of the Devonshire family.
The magnificent house stands on the banks of the River Derwent against a backdrop of dense woodland, with opulent manicured gardens and paths stretching across 105 acres. Take a wander along the miles of footpaths, stopping to admire water features, discover the outdoor art exhibitions and wonder at the skill of the gardeners who tend to this impressive display.
Insider insights: Children will love the adventure playground and working farmyard at Chatsworth. Check their website for free seasonal activities. If you are inspired by the immaculate gardens, round off your day with a visit to Chatsworth Blue Diamond garden centre, just outside the village.
Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham is rightly one of the most visited attractions in the Peak District. Here you can soar across the Derwent Valley in one of the iconic cable cars before descending underground for an insightful tour of the historic caverns.
Adventurous tourists have been taking the trip to the peak of Masson Hill since the 1780s, but the cable car has enabled modern-day visitors to glide up in style since its installation in 1984. Scaling a height of 169 metres, you’ll dangle (securely!) up to 23.5 metres from the ground. Once at the top with your feet back on sturdy soil, you can explore the attractions which include exhibitions at The Long View and The Fossil Factory, the spectacular views from the amphitheatre, the Victoria Prospect Tower, the adventure playground and the two caverns of Great Rutland and Great Masson.
Insider insights: Make a saving by buying your tickets online in advance. At certain times, a discount is available if you visit by bus or train, or if you serve in the armed forces or emergency services. The cable car ticket includes free access to the underground tours and other attractions at the peak.
Bakewell's most famous export is known and enjoyed far and wide, but few are familiar with the pretty town itself. Bakewell’s gorgeous stone buildings meld with the natural landscape which surrounds it, creating photo opportunities around every picturesque corner.
Many a painter and author has drawn inspiration from the honey-coloured market town, not least Jane Austen who is thought to have based fictional Lambton on Bakewell. An outdoor market is still held every Monday in the town square, a treat for locals and visitors alike who can pick up fresh food and gifts from local traders. The Old House Museum, set within an attractive Tudor building, is brimming with stories and artefacts reflecting life in rural and industrial Bakewell.
While you’re in Bakewell, pay a visit to Chatsworth House (see Edensor and Chatsworth House above) and don’t miss a walk on the Monsal Trail which runs along the picturesque former Midland Railway line.
Of course, you can’t leave Bakewell without sampling either the tart or pudding (two different types of dessert) which has made the town a household name. The Original Bakewell Pudding shop promises a treat like no other!
Insider insights: If you’re visiting Bakewell during carnival week at the beginning of July, get ready for your senses to be bombarded by a well-attended programme of events which range from the celebrated raft race to the lively carnival procession.
Hathersage and Stanage Edge
Another delightful place to add to the list of prettiest villages in the Peak District is Hathersage which lies at the eastern end of the Hope Valley. The large village boasts an attractive collection of buildings in the local stone which is familiar to so many of the homes in the Peak District.
Take a literary tour around the town’s famous points of interest which include a grave rumoured to be that of Robin Hood’s companion, Little John, as well as the outlaw’s cave, well and stoop. Pay a visit to North Lees Hall to explore its similarities with Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre.
While the village itself is attractive enough in its own right to have made it onto our list of best places to visit in the Peak District, it also has an astonishing array of nearby attractions which are most certainly worth a look.
Our top recommendation is Stanage Edge, a sheer gritstone rock formation which towers above the village, providing the best vantage point for admiring the landscape of the Peak District in all its glory.
If you’re a keen walker, put your best foot forward on the Derwent Valley Heritage Way. From Hathersage, you can walk the northernmost section to Ladybower Reservoir, or head south from the village to Baswell. The full, 55-mile route makes the most of the breathtaking scenery and takes in several of our top places to go in the Peak District.
The next village to make it onto our list is Castleton in the Hope Valley, which enjoys arguably the most beautiful setting in the Peak District. Nestled amongst a trio of hills between the Dark Peak to the north and the White Peak to the south, it has an almost mythical atmosphere. This feeling is intensified by the fact that it is the only place on earth where the semi-precious stone Blue John can be found.
The magic awaits below ground in Treak Cliff Cavern where the largest known single piece of Blue John can be admired as you wander through the fairytale caves dripping with stalactites and stalagmites. In Speedwell Cavern, you can glide along on an underground boat ride to the mystical ‘Bottomless Pit’. Opposite Mam Tor, Blue John Cavern is the deepest of Castleton’s caves, and, as its name suggests, exhibits some wonderful examples of the native semi-precious stone.
Peak Cavern is approached via a riverside walk which passes ancient miners’ cottages and opens out into a magnificent limestone gorge. The sheer cliffs topped by Peveril Castle give way to the Cavern’s gaping entrance chamber where a village stood for over 400 years, the inhabitants making ropes for local lead mines.
When you’re done with exploring deep underground, brave the climb up the steep steps to the Norman ruins of Peveril Castle. The imposing fortification offers a fantastic vantage point for admiring panoramic views of the Hope Valley.
On a visit to Castleton, you can’t miss a drive through Winnats Pass, a deep, limestone valley which tears a scar through the landscape approaching the Hope Valley. Winnats Pass is cared for by the National Trust and is a protected Site of Special Scientific Interest, due to the fact that the limestone is full of fossilised sea creatures from when the valley was under a tropical sea more than 350 million years ago.
Insider insights: Peak Cavern (or the 'Devil’s Arse' as it is fondly known) hosts an impressive programme of musical events which take advantage of the natural amphitheatre of the entrance.
Kinder Scout, Dark Peak
The Peak District’s highest point offers unparalleled views and some of the best walking terrain in the national park. It is a moorland plateau which lies a dizzying 2,087 feet above sea level, encompassing superb sights such as the peaceful Mermaid’s Pool, bubbling streams and intriguing rock formations such as Pym’s Chair and the Boxing Gloves.
Your walking boots are essential in this challenging landscape. There are several routes to choose from, all of which take in different aspects of this iconic landmark. From the comparative comfort of the dales, the ascent to Kinder Scout is not for the faint hearted. You can walk in the footsteps of the trespassers, a dedicated group who braved the perils of the rugged moorland and the not so welcoming local gamekeepers to protest for the right to walk through common land.
Insider insights: The Kinder Downfall waterfall is a sight to behold and well worth the walk up there. From Hayfield, one walk takes you along the edge of the reservoir before a calf-testing climb up to the waterfall. An alternative route is from Upper Booth, via an ascent up Jacob’s Ladder and a walk across the top of Kinder Scout.
Edale and the Pennine Way
The picture-postcard village of Edale marks the start or end of the Pennine Way, a long-distance walking path which scurries along the mountain tops of the backbone of England, providing walkers with 268 miles of upland walks.
The little village, while rural and rugged, has exceptional transport links thanks to its railways station which lies on the Manchester-Sheffield train line. Before you set off on your moorland ramble, plan your route at the Moorlands Visitor Centre, which is a hive of information, both practical and historical.
There are numerous walks from Edale to suit all abilities, so it’s the perfect place to begin your discovery of the Peak District.
Insider insights: Edale Country Day, the village show, takes place in June and promises a day of family-friendly entertainment in the form of fell races, workshops, a dog show, falconry displays, sheep shearing, farm and vintage vehicles and many craft, food and community stalls.
A fine, Jacobean hall lies at the centre of this wonderfully rural village which appears trapped in time. Home to the FitzHerbert family for centuries, Tissington Hall is open to visitors at certain times and Herbert's Tearoom, the on-site eatery, is a fabulous stop for a relaxed bite to eat.
3.5 miles north of Ashbourne, Tissington begins to charm even before you arrive. You’ll either pass through an attractive avenue of lime trees or cross a ford and meander through the countryside before entering the village by the pond.
The Tissington Trail is one of the main things to do and caters for everyone from walkers and cyclists to horse riders. It runs along what was once the Buxton to Ashbourne railway line, taking in some beautiful view en-route. Another draw for walkers is the Limestone Way, which also passes through the village.
Insider insights: The unusual tradition of Well Dressing is thought to have originated in Tissington. For the uninitiated, this is the custom of decorating the village’s wells with flowers on Ascension Day as a thank you to God for the gift of water. People travel to Tissington specifically to see the dressed wells and, if you’re visiting at this time, it’s a pleasant activity to wander through the village to appreciate no less than five examples of this charming tradition.
Upper Derwent Valley
We end our list on a fairly broad area which covers some of the Peak District’s finest highlights. The Upper Derwent Valley is characterised by its spectacular reservoirs flanked by serene forests and open countryside ripe for exploration.
The three dams are collectively known as the Derwent Dams, forming a series of three reservoirs – Ladybower, Derwent and Howden. The reservoirs are fed by the River Derwent which tumbles through stunning scenery to provide water for the cities of Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
There are some fantastic walks around this area, one of which is a peaceful circular route which takes in the northern part of Ladybower Reservoir before heading up over farmland and moorland, finishing alongside the southern part of Derwent Reservoir. Wildlife enthusiasts will enjoy this bracing walk, as mountain hares and plovers can be spotted along the way.
Insider insights: The reservoirs of the Upper Derwent Valley were used by Royal Airforce 617 Squadron to test ‘bouncing bombs’ on low-level, night-time bombing runs. Thanks to these practice runs, Operation Chastise was able to damage two German dams and some of their power stations, and the squadron became known as the Dambusters. Visit the small museum at Derwent Dam to find out more about this incredible story.
Peak District cottages
If you're filling your itinerary with places to visit, you'll need somewhere lovely to stay during your trip. Search our Peak District cottages to find your perfect home away from home.