The Peak District was just made for a walking holiday as it’s filled with traffic-free railway trails, dramatic limestone gorges, grand stately homes and lots of country pubs where you can call in for refreshments.
We have put some suggestions of the best routes to try if you fancy exploring the Derbyshire countryside, getting some fresh air in your lungs and uncovering hidden gems along the way. Take a look at some of our favourite Peak District walks and start planning your next short break or holiday to this beautiful part of the UK.
Best for pretty villages
Hartington in Derbyshire has got to be one of the prettiest villages around comprising of a large duck pond, some charming 18th-century houses and a rather good cheese shop. There’s also an abundance of gift shops and cafes as well as a selection of great walking routes that all start from Hartington.
One of our favourites is a walk to the quaint village of Longnor, passing by nearby Pilsbury Castle along the way. Longnor was used as a filming location for popular TV show Peak Practice and has a bustling market square with lots of nooks and crannies to explore. Head to the old market hall where you can browse locally made gifts at the Longnor Craft Centre that’s housed there now.
Other Hartington walking routes include following the path of the River Dove down through the wooded Beresford Dale - a haven for butterflies in the warmer summer months thanks to an abundance of wildflowers. Head through Wolfscote Dale and stop at the lovely village of Alstonefield before returning to Hartington through Biggin Dale. We recommend calling at The George at Alstonefield for refreshments then taking a seat on the pretty village green.
Where to stay: Dove Valley Cottage in Hartington
Best for grand country houses
Derbyshire is known for some of the UK’s finest stately homes and a walking holiday to the Peak District is one of the best ways to uncover them.
Chatsworth and Haddon Hall are both located close to Bakewell and you can walk to each of these impressive country houses from the popular market town.
The magnificent 16th-century Chatsworth House is set in a 1,000-acre park and there are a variety of paths and trails to try within the surrounding grounds and parkland. You can also take a circular 3.5-mile walk around Stand Wood; the beautiful ancient woodland is directly behind Chatsworth is Stand Wood and includes a selection of pretty lakes, streams and very scenic picnic spots.
Nearby Haddon Hall is one of the finest examples of a medieval manor house in the country and offers guided walks through its grounds where you can learn about the history of the beautiful estate. The walks encompass ancient parkland and organic farmland and you can spot a variety of wildlife (and some rare breed cattle) along the way.
Where to stay: Hope Cottage in Bakewell
Best for lovely views
The moorlands around Eyam offer some breathtaking views, making them the perfect choice for a scenic summer walk.
The village of Eyam has a fascinating history and it’s worth calling at Mompesson’s Well on the outskirts of the village. When the plague broke out in Eyam, the villagers self-imposed exile on themselves to save it spreading to the rest of Derbyshire and the well was used as the drop off/exchange point with neighbouring villages.
From Eyam, head to the Sir William Hill Trig Point where you can look out over the surrounding Peak District countryside for 360-degree views that take in sights such as Kinder Scout and Mam Tor.
Other points worth visiting include the Chair Stone at Wet Withens Stone Circle and the pretty woodland at Abney Clough.
The walk from Eyam to nearby Foolow is another good option as there are views of open countryside to enjoy on both sides. Foolow itself is also a very picturesque village, complete with a duck pond and rather good pub. While away a couple of hours at The Bull at Foolow before heading back to Eyam.
Where to stay: Clarice Cottage in Eyam
Best for limestone gorges
The Limestone Way is a 45-mile waymarked trail that starts in the Derbyshire town of Castleton and weaves its way through the southern part of the Peak District National Park. This area is known as the White Peak because of the abundance of limestone plateaus, caves and gorges.
One of the best-loved beauty spots on the Limestone Way is Dovedale which features spectacular limestone ravines and some iconic stepping stones. It’s a lovely spot for a walk and a must-visit Peak District attraction.
Winnats Pass is a dramatic hill pass and limestone gorge near Castleton that’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) due to the abundance of fossilised sea creatures hidden in the rocks. Take a walk from Castleton along Winnats Pass and call in at the spectacular Speedwell Cavern for a dramatic boat trip under the Hills of Castleton. Head back to Castleton on the Limestone Way and you’ll pass by another impressive limestone gorge, Cave Dale, and the 11th-century ruins of Peveril Castle - one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses which is mentioned in the Doomsday book.
Where to stay: Cave End Cottage in Castleton
Best for doggies
The traffic-free Monsal Trail follows the line of the former Midland railway tracks from Buxton to Bakewell and there are lots of access points and circular routes so you can adapt the length of the walk to suit your requirements (and those of your canine companion).
It’s a popular choice with dog walkers so pooches can make some four-legged friends along the way plus there’s a selection of dog-friendly pubs close by where you can call in for refreshments. Our favourite Monsal Trail pubs include:
Hassop Station Cafe is another good option for food and drinks - the eatery is housed in a bright and spacious old station building with outdoor seating so you can look out over the trail. Park at the cafe and walk to nearby Bakewell before looping back along the banks of the River Wye.
One of the loveliest villages to call in at from the Monsal Trail is Ashford-in-the-Water. It’s picture-postcard pretty with a flowing river and the medieval Sheepwash Bridge. You may even be able to catch a game of local cricket before calling in at the dog-friendly village tea room for refreshments.
Where to stay: The White Cottage in Priestwell (about halfway between Buxton and Bakewell).
Best for history and heritage
The Derwent Valley Heritage Way is a Derbyshire walking trail which follows the full length of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The waymarked walking route is 55 miles in total but is typically split into ten manageable sections.
Matlock is one of the towns on the route and makes a great base for discovering some of the fascinating history of the Peak District with walks to Rowsley and Whatstandwell. Find out more about walking the Heritage Way.
Heritage mills around Matlock include Masson Mills which is the best-preserved of the Arkwright cotton mills and Cromford Mills which has a range of interactive displays (and is set on the very pretty Cromford Canal).
The Heights of Abraham are also close to Matlock and have been a popular Peak District visitor attraction since the 18th century. As part of the 60-acre site, there are a number of heritage trails where you can walk on the same paths that have been followed by visitors for more than 230 years.
Where to stay: The Hayloft - Matlock
Find your perfect Peak District holiday cottage
Has this inspired you to get out walking in the Peak District? You can find even more inspiration in our guides to 10 fantastic Peak District Walks and planning the perfect Peak District walking holiday. Browse our range of Peak District holiday cottages to find the perfect property for your walking holiday, whether you are looking for dog-friendly, romantic, or somewhere to gather with a group of friends.