Want to explore the South West region? Much of the Staffordshire Moorlands are still to be discovered by the majority of visitors to the Peak District – also known as Dovedale. The scenery is no less dramatic, the villages are just as pretty, and the walks outstanding.
Reservoirs and rollercoasters
Don’t miss an opportunity to cycle ride along the Manifold Valley, perhaps stopping at the National Trust’s tearooms at picturesque Wetton Mill along the way. The wooded Churnet Valley with its heritage steam railway is a spectacle although families may know this area better as the home of Alton Towers; Britain’s biggest theme park. The gritstone ‘Roaches’ are one of the area’s most prominent features. Enjoy the serene waters of Tittesworth Reservoir and Rudyard Lake. Ashbourne and Leek offer enjoyable shopping, with traditional market squares, cobbled streets and a wealth of antique shops as well as specialist food and fashion shops.
The traditional market town of Leek
The unspoilt town centre of Leek is a refreshing change from the modern shopping malls of ‘clone town Britain’ because it has a welcoming selection of unique antique shops and you'll also be able to explore huge Victorian mills, formerly silk mills that now house antique and reproduction pine centres, as well as traditional and contemporary art galleries. The town has numerous independent food shops including traditional butchers, bakers, green grocers, and delicatessens selling wine, local whisky, and beers. An award-winning fine-food fair is held every third Saturday of the month in the ancient Market Place. Leek's long history features such famous characters as Bonnie Prince Charlie, canal engineer James Brindley, Queen Victoria, and Victorian designer William Morris too.
Beyond Leek, there are quite a few trails to embark on for all fitness and stamina levels. Try the ‘Leek to Peak’ trail, or walks on Biddulph Grange, Brown Edge, and Green Vale, through Charnet Country, or Furnace Forest, there’s a day out here for everybody. In fact, there are 108 miles of district council managed self-guided walking trails on Staffordshire Moorlands.
Valley railways and spooky caves
The Churnet Valley Railway operates from Leekbrook via Cheddleton (5km south of Leek) and Froghall to Oakamoor, a distance of 11km, along the deep and picturesque valley of the River Churnet. The railway was once the North Staffordshire Railway (known as 'Owd Knotty' due to its emblem of the Staffordshire Knot) which ran from North Rode to Uttoxeter via Leek. The railway was closed as part of the Beeching cuts, between 1968 and 1970, though freight trains ran on part of the line until 1988.
The Churnet Valley Railway was started by enthusiasts with aid from the local authorities, and began running trains in 1996. Several stations, including those at Cheddleton, Consall and Froghall, have been restored. The railway takes you on a journey back to the classic days of railway travel on a rural line that passes through beautiful countryside known as Staffordshire's ‘Little Switzerland’. There’s a taste of contrasting moorland scenery on the 16-mile round trip along the Cauldon Branch.
If you are in the area also journey to Thor’s Cave. A good spot for rock climbers there are several routes to the top. The cave entrance is 7.5 m wide and 10 m high. It can be reached with ease from the Manifold Way trail. Film fans will know it from 1980s horror flick ‘The Lair of the White Worm’ starring a very young Hugh Grant. Sadly there’s no evidence to connect its name to the Norse God of Thunder, Thor!
Whether you’re looking for a pet-friendly holiday, a sporting break, a trekking, or a romantic getaway, Dovedale has it all. As well as pretty rural villages like Ashbourne and Fenny Bentley, this area has some of the best scenery in the area.
Have a look at our selection of great holiday homes in the region too. The activity possibilities are endless.