8 outdoor activities to try in the Peak District holiday cottages

8 outdoor activities to try in the Peak District

Summer is the ideal season to head outside, take some fresh air into your lungs and make the most of the great outdoors with a bike ride, scenic walk or even a pony trek through the forest.

The Peak District is bursting with rivers, caves, nature reserves and, of course, peaks making it an enormous playground for outdoor adventures. There’s a range of activity providers for pursuits such as canoeing, abseiling and horse riding, so plenty to keep children and adults happy on a Peak District summer holiday. Couples can take a romantic trip along Cromford Canal while families can take time to enjoy the simple things in life such as a game of pooh sticks or a picnic by the river. Below are eight of the best things that you can get up to outdoors.

#01 - Outdoor adventures with Peaks and Paddles

Peak District Canoeing

You can try your hand at a range of outdoor activities with Peaks and Paddles. Canoeing and abseiling are amongst the adventures available so it’s up to you whether you want to head for a day on the water, navigate a giant rock formation harnessed to a rope or for the adrenalin junkies, give both activities a try and pick your favourite.

Canoeing: Absolute beginners can start with a sedate canoe trip through the calm waters of a Peak District canal. For more experienced canoeists, the River Derwent provides choppier waters for a challenging ride.

Abseiling: You’ll need a good head for heights for this Peak District activity. Abseiling is a great chance to push yourself, experiment with something different and see the Peak District from a new perspective. Abseiling options include travelling down the Black Rocks or tackling an 80-foot bridge that looks out over the Monsal Trail. If you're feeling particularly brave, you can even try abseiling in the dark.

Need to know: All equipment is provided, but make sure you bring suitable clothing. Adventures can be tailored to suit children 5 and above but all under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.

Where to stay: Marmalade Cottage Winster, sleeps 4 - a great central location for trying out the different activities.

#02 - Ride a horse with Matlock Farm Park

Pony Trekking Peak District

This Peak District farm has a stunning countryside setting and offers horse riding lessons, pony treks through the forest and the chance to get up close to a range of cuddly animals.

The stunning setting looks out over Riber Castle and nearby you can discover lots of farmland and forests for off-road pony trekking as well as a purpose-built arena where you can safely learn to ride.

A visit to Matlock Farm Park is a great family-friendly activity that’s particularly suited to the warmer summer months. As well as the animal experiences and horse riding, there’s a go-kart track and adventure playgrounds to keep children entertained all day.

Need to know: Previous riding experience is necessary to take part in a trek, and suitable footwear must be worn.

Where to stay: The Byre, sleeps 6 - a family friendly barn conversion in Matlock.

#03 - Take a boat trip on Cromford Canal

For a peaceful day out filled with riverside views and wildlife spotting, it’s hard to beat a stroll along Cromford Canal then a trip on the water aboard a historic Birdswood narrowboat.

This beautifully renovated boat is run entirely by a team of volunteers and you can travel in style on one of Birdwood’s regular 2-hour canal trips. Powered journeys typically take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months, but if you want to try something a bit different, look out for their special horse-drawn boat trips.

The gentle journey includes a full commentary throughout so that you can find out more about Cromford Canal and Birdwood’s rich history before exploring the surrounding countryside yourself.

Need to know: Booking in advance is required and places are very limited.

Where to stay: Stowe Cottage, sleeps 2 - a romantic retreat with hot tub near Cromford.

#04 - Wipeout in the water at Sheffield Cable Waterski and Aqua Park

For a fun-filled day out, we recommend heading to one of the UK’s biggest inflatable water parks - the Sheffield Cable Waterski and Aqua Park. Challenge family and friends to a Wipeout-style competition and see who can get around the inflatable obstacles the fastest - just try not to laugh too loudly when the first person falls in!

Once you’ve had fun splashing your way around the aqua park, there’s the chance to try wakeboarding or water skiing in the adjoining cable park. Special introductory lessons are available so it’s a great chance to learn something new.

Need to know: Children under 7 are not permitted to use the Aqua Park and must be 12 or over to use the Cable Park.

Where to stay: Elder Cottage, sleeps 4 - this cottage is just 7 miles from Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District National Park.

#05 - Play pooh sticks from Sheepwash Bridge

Play pooh sticks from Sheepwash Bridge

Sheepwash Bridge in Ashford in the Water is our top Peak District choice for playing a game of pooh sticks. Just in case you’re not familiar with this classic British game, it involves throwing sticks from one side of a bridge then racing to the other side to see whose stick appears first. It’s a great way to have fun in the great outdoors and is bound to bring out your family’s competitive side.

The setting of Ashford in the Water is picture-postcard pretty so make sure you have a mooch around the chocolate-box village after your games before settling down for a picnic by the river.

Need to know: Throw your stick upstream off the bridge so that it floats downstream along the river.

Where to stay: Granary Barn, sleeps 4 - a stone barn in the lovely countryside surrounding Ashford in the Water.

#06 - Hire a bike and ride it down the Tissington Trail

Tissington Trail

Getting out and about on two wheels is one of the best ways to go exploring - especially as the Peak District is filled with traffic-free trails for you to ride around safely.

The Tissington Trail is one of our favourites and as there is cycle hire available on the route, you don’t even have to bring your own bikes along. The easy-going route follows the old London and North West Railway route between Buxton and Ashbourne and passes through the stunning scenery of the Derbyshire Dales making it an ideal way to experience the countryside on two wheels.

Need to know: Ashbourne Cycle Hire is located at the southern end of the Tissington Trail, close to Ashbourne Town Centre. Cycle hire starts at £17 per bike per day.

Where to stay: The Tannery, sleeps 4 - a two-bedroom cottage on the edge of Ashbourne.

#07 - Head up Kinder Scout - the highest point of the Peak District

KInder Scout in the Peak District

It seems somehow wrong to visit the Peak District without heading up at least one of its peaks and if you’re going to climb up a peak, you might as well opt for the biggest one. At just over 2,000 feet, Kinder Scout is the highest point of the Peak District National Park and on a clear day, you can see all the way to Manchester from the top. The 8-mile walk from Edale (the most popular access point) is challenging, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning views and a feeling of satisfaction once you’ve reached the summit. Full day guided Kinder Scout walks are available to book through Trekking Skills.

Need to know: You’ll need a good level of fitness as well as appropriate footwear to tackle this climb.

Where to stay: Alice Cottage, sleeps 6 - catch a train to Edale from this barn conversion in the Hope Valley.

#08 - Take a scenic walk through Dovedale


Dovedale is a National Trust Nature Reserve that embodies the beautiful landscape of the Peak District; the open countryside includes ancient woodland walks, beautiful wildflower meadows and some famous stepping stones to take you across the river running through the middle.

Dovedale is a lovely spot for a countryside walk and you’ll see grazing livestock and an array of wildlife during a walk through its rolling hills. Summer relaxation in the great outdoors at its finest!

Need to know: Dovedale is beautiful open countryside with an abundance of nature but there are no facilities on site.

Where to stay: Blackberry Croft Cottage, sleeps 4 - it’s nestled in a pretty village (complete with duck pond) that’s just 7 miles from Dovedale.

Plan your outdoor adventure to the Peak District

Has this inspired you to visit the Peak District this summer? As you can see there are lots of ways to spend time outdoors and make the most of the stunning countryside in and around the Peak District National Park.

View our collection of Peak District cottages to find your perfect base then start planning how to fill those long summer days!

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