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8 outdoor activities to try in the Peak District holiday cottages

8 outdoor activities to try in the Peak District

Julie Smith 17 June 2019

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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 are 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 in the Peak District and Derbyshire.

1. Outdoor adventures with Peaks and Paddles

Paddle your way to fun on the lochs and rivers of the Lake District…

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, or give both activities a try and pick your favourite.

Peak District Canoeing

Canoeing: Absolute beginners can start with a sedate canoe trip through the calm waters of a Derbyshire canal. For more experienced canoeists, the River Derwent provides choppier waters for a challenging ride – see how you feel on the day!

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 – there’s an adventure activity in the Peak District you won’t forget.

Need to know:

  • All equipment is provided, but make sure you bring suitable clothing.
  • Adventures can be tailored to suit children aged 5 and above but all under 18s must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Location: Peaks and Paddles | Matlock, Derbyshire, DE4 2GS 

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

2. Ride a horse with Matlock Farm Park

Adventure on horseback and make some new friends…

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. 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.

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. Horse riding is not only fun but a very calming activity too as horses are gentle giants that provide friendly company for an hour or too – just remember to wear a helmet. There's no better feeling than to be at one riding with your horse!

Need to know:

  • You can book half-hour and one-hour riding lessons, or a two-hour session which is more like a trek. You can even book a session for pre-schoolers!
  • Benefits of horse riding include improved fitness, better posture and improved confidence and emotional well-being.
  • Previous riding experience is necessary to take part in a trek, and suitable footwear must be worn.
  • Location: Matlock Farm Park | Matlock, DE4 5LH 

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

3. Take a boat trip on Cromford Canal

Slow down the pace with a different kind of boat outing…

Take to the water and enjoy a slow-paced outdoor pursuit in the Peak District. It’s hard to beat a stroll along Cromford Canal then a trip on the water aboard a historic Birdswood narrowboat, not to mention all the nature and wildlife you can spot too.

This beautifully renovated boat is run entirely by a team of volunteers and you can travel in style on one of Birdwood’s regular two-hour canal 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. To make the experience even more special, make sure you look into their horse-drawn boat trips.

Need to know:

  • Booking in advance is required and places are very limited
  • Powered journeys typically take place on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays during the summer months
  • Location: Birdswood | Matlock, DE4 3RQ 

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

4. Wipeout in the water at Sheffield Cable Waterski and Aqua Park

Take to the water with a plunge and a splash and get the children laughing…

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:

  • Other challenges include inflatable slides, trampolines, an inflatable climbing wall and a blast bag!
  • Children under 7 are not permitted to use the Aqua Park and must be 12 or over to use the Cable Park
  • You need to be able to swim a minimum of 25 metres to enter the park and it's sensible to wear a wetsuit
  • Location: Sheffield Cable Waterski and Aqua Park | Sheffield, S26 5PQ 

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

5. Play pooh sticks from Sheepwash Bridge

Share your childhood memories with the new generation with a good old-fashioned game…

Just in case you’re not familiar with this classic British game, pooh sticks 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, especially if you have small children, and is bound to bring out your family’s competitive side.

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. 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. You don’t always have to go somewhere big to make the most of the outdoors in the Peak District.

Need to know:

  • This is an historic packhorse bridge with an attached stone sheep wash: lambs were placed in the pen on one side of the river and the ewes swam across the river to get to them, while being pushed underwater by the shepherds to clean the fleece before shearing.
  • Throw your stick upstream off the bridge so that it floats downstream along the river
  • Location: Derbyshire Dales

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

6. Hire a bike and ride it down the Tissington Trail

Take to the road on two wheels and breeze through your new surroundings…

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

Tissington Trail

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:

  • Another route is the quieter Manifold Trail in the south-west which runs past Waterhouses along the old Leek and Manifold light railway line, taking in the spooky Thor’s Cave
  • 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
  • Safety is important when on the bike so try and wear reflective clothing and a helmet at all times

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

7. Try out some caving and potholing in the Peaks

Explore some of the darkest places in the Peak District…

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.

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. It’s one of the best sports around so enjoy yourself responsibly. There are several caving clubs you can join in the area too, who can guide your adventures, as well as plenty of guided tours.

Need to know: 

  • 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.
  • 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
  • If you are undertaking this Peak District activity, make sure it is done within safety guidelines

Where to stay: Chapter House, sleeps 4 - a three-storey town house in the heart of a historic spa town. 

8. Challenge yourself to some wild swimming

Swimming for pleasure in lakes and rivers is a growing trend; it gives you a very real sense of the unknown and adventure. Wild swimming is a pleasant pursuit for the more relaxed and intrepid amongst you, and those who are not afraid of a bit of cold water. Finding somewhere deep to jump in or a spot undiscovered by others can be really exciting.

For a taster of some chilly wild water, we 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, or head in slowly with a gentle surface dive. It can get a little busy on the few hot summer days we have, but this makes for a safer environment and great atmosphere. Other places recommended by local wild swimmers are Mermaid’s Pool and Slippery Stones.

Need to know: 

  • There are never any lifeguards at wild swimming spots, unlike at popular beaches, so safety must come first at all times
  • Be aware of your body temperature; if you are someone who gets cold, it might be worth wearing a wetsuit
  • The locations mentioned are all suitable for wild picnics but you are required to tidy up after yourself

Where to stay: Barn Cottage, sleeps 5 - a converted barn and 300-year-old shippon in a rural location surrounded by fields. 

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. Whether you are planning a break for your family, friends or partner, there is plenty to keep everyone busy in this cool and diverse place.

View our collection of Peak District cottages to find your perfect base then start planning how to fill those long summer days! We have the best of the bunch when it comes to family holiday homes, trendy apartments for couples and dog-friendly pads for the whole gang! Check out our range today…

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