The Peak District is one of the crowning glories of the British countryside. Whether you’re looking for walking routes, seeking adrenaline thrills or want to find a dog-friendly pub to cosy up in with your pooch, the quaint villages, sprawling hills and glistening lakes combine to create a whimsical wilderness that you won’t mind getting lost in.
With so much to discover, here at Peak Cottages we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to the Peak District. Covering everything you could need to know, we’ve broken it down into easy to manage sections: the basics, towns and villages in the Peak District, Peak District walks, places to eat in the Peak District, things to do in the Peak District, top Peak District photography spots, and what’s on in the Peak District.
- Where is the Peak District? Located towards the north of England, the Peak District National Park encompasses much of northern Derbyshire, however it also crosses into the county borders of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.
- In 1951, the Peak District was officially awarded National Park status. Conserving and enhancing the scenic beauty and preserving the wildlife and culture of the area is key to national parks in England and Wales, alongside ensuring that the public can appreciate and enjoy its qualities.
- The size of the Peak District is just over 550 square miles, or 1425 square kilometres.
- The highest point in the Peak District is at Kinder Scout, where altitude reaches 2087ft, or 636m.
- Consisting of so many miles, the terrain varies drastically throughout; emerald green countryside is stitched with craggy peaks and towering summits, which blend seamlessly with vast stretches of water. They each intertwine to create an endlessly exciting mass of land that you’ll never tire of with something new to uncover and breath-taking to see in every cavern and crevice, atop every mountain peak and arduous ascent.
- The area is mainly split into two distinct sections: the Dark Peak in the north, and the White Peak in the south. In the Dark Peak, there is sparse population and lots of moorland and gritstone, which is starkly contrasted by the White Peak where there are a multitude of idyllic villages and the geology is predominantly limestone.
TOWNS AND VILLAGES IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
Picturesque and truly idyllic, the quaint villages of this beautiful national park each showcase their own individual quirks and charm through their unique architecture, honey-coloured houses and perfectly peculiar shops and cafes. From rivers running through their heart to stunning mountainous backdrops, the chocolate-box towns offer some of the most scenic destinations to head during your stay. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular towns and villages in the Peak District to visit with some interesting facts about each of them, to inspire your itinerary and offer options of where to stay.
- The highest market town in England
- Its striking Devonshire Dome has a larger span than St Paul’s Cathedral
- Mary Queen of Scots once stayed in the town sampling the famous spa waters for their ‘healing properties’
Boasting an abundance of amenities, history and stunning surroundings, Buxton is certainly a popular choice when it comes to taking a break in the Peak District. Its natural thermal springs have drawn visitors to the town for hundreds of years and, after decades of being out of action, will be used once more after the restoration of the five-star spa is completed.
If you’re looking to ease off on the walking a little and relax on your trip away, Buxton has plenty to keep you busy within the town itself. The selection of boutique shops and cafes combined with the high streets stores leave you with lots to be explored, whilst the Edwardian Opera House hosts the Buxton Festival plus much more throughout the year. For some underground discovery, the Poole Caverns offer a unique and memorable experience, or head to the Pavilion Gardens for a tranquil space packed with perfectly manicured flora and fauna.
- Marks the start (or end) of the infamous Pennine Way
- Jacobs Ladder was named after Jacob Marshall who lived at Edale Head House (formerly Youngit House) in the 18th century
- The Moorlands Visitor Centre is a flagship tourism hub for the national park
The perfect place for walkers to base themselves, Edale’s size may be small but it certainly has its draws. The Moorlands Visitor Centre has a plethora of information about the national park to study, and is also the hub of national moorland research thus plays a key part in environmental preservation.
No car? No problem. The location of the village puts it in prime position to benefit from one of the most breath-taking railway routes in the country; the Manchester to Sheffield line cuts through the north of the Peaks, allowing you to sit back and admire the beauty of your holiday destination as you arrive. Edale’s location at the start/end of the Pennine Way also lends it to being a popular stopover for ramblers looking to take on the arduous challenge.
- Most famous for its pudding the Bakewell Tart
- Used in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice under the thinly-veiled pseudonym of Lambton
- The Parish Church of All Saints has links back to both the Saxons and the Normans with a major restoration in the 19th century
Go to the Peaks, stay for the pudding! It would be wrong to visit Bakewell without sampling the infamous cuisine created there in the mid-19th century, with The Original Bakewell Pudding Shop frequently packed to the rafters no matter the time of year.
Food really is one of the main appeals of the town, with one of the best farmers’ markets in the country based there offering local produce, and an abundance of specialist shops selling delightful treats such as handmade chocolate and delicate pastries. Every Monday an outdoor market draws people from far and wide searching for quirky gifts and bargains, whilst the livestock market is also a unique experience if you’re a stranger to the world of agriculture and animal rearing.
The River Wye runs through the heart of the town offering picturesque strolls and ample photo opportunities, plus the five-arched stone bridge that dates back to medieval times is also quite a draw for tourists and historians alike.
- Backdropped by Mam Tor (or the ‘Shivering Mountain’)
- The only place in the world where the semi-precious ‘Blue John’ stone can be found
- Peveril Castle was built in 1080 and much of the village is centred around it
However you enter Castleton, the landscape is sure to take your breath away; Winnats Pass is a stunning section of road that is enveloped by the towering limestone peaks either side of it, or Hope Valley is equally as striking. Peveril Castle may be high up, but the views from the top are truly beautiful and the history of the ruins are remarkable.
For a whimsical world of underground wonderment, the Treak Cliff Cavern is the perfect place to head. With stalagmites and stalactites coating the surface plus the largest known piece of the rare Blue John stone, it provides an environment of unique geological appeal and is a magically atmospheric way to spend an afternoon with friends or family.
- Once a collection of small villages it became a spa town in the 19th century
- The ‘Hydro’ used to house spas atop the hill overlooking the town before closing in the 1950s and eventually becoming the County Offices
- The town is divided in two
Surrounded by attractions and centrally located to explore both the White and Dark Peaks, Matlock is a popular destination for visitors to base themselves in. Travel in style with minimal effort on one of the many modes of transport in and around the town; multiple public transport links means there’s no need for the car, or perhaps you’d rather take a trip on the steam train or tramway. Alternatively, if you’ve a head for heights, the Heights of Abraham offer a cable car ride with unparalleled panoramic views of the Derwent Valley.
Crown Square is a hub of boutiques and eateries in the town, offering plenty of choice to make sure you’ve a varied selection when it comes to buying gifts or heading out for lunch, but if you’d rather compile a picnic filled with delicious local goods and enjoy some al fresco dining then head for Hall Leys park. It is one of five picturesque parks in the area, with lots of leisure activities to partake in if a leisurely stroll is a little too sedate.
- Over 200 listed buildings in the town
- Dr Samuel Johnson the author of the first dictionary frequently holidayed here
- The town hosts an annual football match called ‘Royal Shrovetide’ every Shrove Tuesday
Glorious architecture, quaint cobbles and a collection of independent boutiques combine to make Ashbourne an idyllic destination. Perfectly placed to explore the White Peaks, the plethora of historic buildings in the village offers a visually diverse array of architecture to admire the 212-foot-high spire of St Oswald’s Church forming a particular focal point.
The selection of family-run businesses offer a wide variety of clothes, antiques, food and drink, plus a weekly open-air market that’s also a big hit with locals and tourists alike.
Little John’s Grave by Dun.can - CC BY 2.0
- Connections to the tale of Robin Hood include Little John’s grave by St Michael’s Church
- Charlotte Bronte visited the village and used it in Jane Eyre
- Many industries have links to Hathersage including the making of brass buttons, wire and paper
A history with literary figures is prominent, and a much-celebrated aspect of the village’s past and present. Characters such as Robin Hood and Little John have strong connections to the area, whilst Charlotte Bronte also drew inspiration from Hathersage for her novel, Jane Eyre. Its other fame comes from the industrial heritage, boasting a rich history of millstone and needle manufacturing.
Its location at the eastern end of Hope Valley makes the village popular with walkers, with plenty of stately homes offering a more relaxed option for those seeking a cultural getaway. The shops in Hathersage sell a variety of wares and lots of local produce, whilst for a day out with a difference there is the unique Round Building on the outskirts of the village, a factory specialising in making cutlery where you can even take a tour inside.
PEAK DISTRICT WALKS
Perhaps one of the best ways to experience the Peak District is on foot. Walking the length and breadth of this phenomenal national park means you can discover places and wilderness that no car could ever possibly navigate, and take in every little detail at your own pace. Whether your plan is to make your own way on a challenging hike or take a relaxing reservoir stroll, join a guided group ramble or head off on a solo discovery, there are plenty of walks in the Peak District to suit every age and ability.
Easy walks in the Peak District
The Monsal Trail – 8.5 miles, 2 hours.
Following the route of an old railway, it is traffic-free and flat. Popular with walkers, cyclists and horse riders, it passes through multiple tunnels along the route, four of which are lit up in the hope of increasing safety and encouraging more people to explore the area.
Manifold Trail – 9 miles, 2 hours.
Child-friendly and relatively short, this trail doesn’t compromise on what you get to discover, in spite of its distance. Valleys, hamlets and the famous Thor’s Cave offer a varied array of scenery to feast your eyes upon as you wander the pathway, and represents yet another pedestrianised route that was once a railway.
Dovedale to Milldale – 6 miles, 3 and a half hours.
Encapsulating the essence of one of the Peak District’s most famous areas, this route is captivating for all who walk it. From caves to the River Dove to a beautiful array of wildlife, it’s best to walk at a leisurely pace to ensure you catch a glimpse of every little detail along the way.
More challenging trails
The Gritstone Trail – Split into three sections manageable for competent walkers: Disley to Tegg’s Nose (10 miles), Tegg’s Nose to Timbersbrook (15 miles), and Timbersbroke to Kidsgrove (9 miles).
Hilly but not mountainous, the trail features several ascents and descents, many stiles, a lot of rough surface underfoot. The path is well-marked with lots of yellow arrows and a trodden route thanks to the many previous ramblers who have undertaken the task of walking it.
Kinder Scout – 9 miles, 5 hours.
Rocky valleys and steep ascents aren’t very forgiving on the untrained body, so it’s wise to ease into longer walks before tackling this more challenging route, but if you’re confident enough to head for the summit it’s a rewarding experience. Heading back down via Jacob’s Ladder is the final challenge of the day, but you’ll be rewarded with a choice of pubs once you arrive at Edale. If you’re not comfortable completing the route solo but want to tick it off your itinerary, Lost Earth Adventures offer a guided version.
The most difficult Peak District walk
The Pennine Way – 268 miles.
Starting in Edale in the south, the Pennine Way is often referred to as ‘the backbone of England’, and continues for 268 miles taking in multiple landmarks and crossing many county borders, eventually finishing in Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders. Due to its length and complexity in parts, it is one of a handful of walks across the country that avid walkers aim to complete in their lifetime.
For more in-depth information, Walking Books provide a range of guidebooks and maps which offer hundreds of wonderful walks to take in great detail.
PLACES TO EAT IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
From the infamous Bakewell Pudding to stilton cheese and oatcakes, food and drink in the Peak District is more than enough to tantalise your taste buds. The charming cafes down cobbled village alleyways serve delightful afternoon teas and glutinous home-baked cakes, whilst gastropubs and Michelin star restaurants combine to offer an unrivalled evening dining experience.
Exerting so much energy on exploring your beautiful surroundings you’re sure to work up an appetite, which is why we’ve got a list of some of the best pubs, pantries and patisseries in the Peaks.
Best Peak District Cafes
- Lavender Tea Room – Bakewell, serving afternoon teas, breakfast and lunch.
The charming courtyard setting of this pretty little café means that the atmosphere alone is a treat. The antiquated décor is something to be admired, withstanding the modernisation of the world around it to ensure your tea room experience is as special and memorable as possible, and the homemade cakes frequently receive rave reviews from visitors near and far.
- Tilly’s of Castleton – Castleton, serving all day breakfast, local ice cream and hot food throughout the day.
Consistent with its high recommendations from all who drink or dine in the cafe, Tilly’s has established itself as a must-visit destination when looking for somewhere to eat in Castleton. The comfortable seating and elegant décor make this quaint tea room a delightful option – and it serves a lovely selection of gluten free and vegetarian options too!
- Village Green – Eyam, serving lunch and afternoon tea, offering takeaway options and triple-certified coffee.
Dog-friendly and downright cute, Village Green is the epitome of one woman’s dream of having the perfect spot in the Peaks to keep passers-by content, channelling her love of family and home-cooked goodness into a place that has been made with love, and exudes it by the (tea)pot load.
Best Peak District Pubs
- The Bulls Head – Monyash, near Bakewell, separate pub and restaurant areas offering anything from pool and darts to a T-bone steak, lamb shank in red wine sauce (or moulamb rouge as they like to call it) or a traditional quiche.
Serving food between 12-2 and 5.30-9pm on a weekday and all day on a weekend, the beautifully maintained garden is perfect for the summer months whilst the roaring fire in the bar lulls you into a cosy, tranquil state in the winter.
- Devonshire Arms – Buxton, evening, lunch, snack and Sunday lunch menu all available.
The traditional atmosphere of this 17th century village pub lends it to being a welcoming environment in which to enjoy a pint of local ale or a locally sourced, home cooked meal. The olde-worlde décor and the unique beers on offer combine to create a pub one could only ever stumble upon in somewhere as wonderfully unpredictable as the Peak District.
- White Lion – Great Longstone, serving pub classics, kids choices, offers and Sunday lunch.
Open seven days a week, this gorgeous pub serves up equally gorgeous food. From flatbread pizzas and pan seared lambs’ liver, to their ‘Little Lions’ menu and lunch menu deal there’s something to tantalise the taste buds of each and every visitor.
Best Peak District farm shops
- Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop – Chatsworth, offering a meat counter, fresh fruit and vegetables, home baked cakes and a huge selection of cheese.
Aside from the fact it’s close to one of the most beautiful stately manors in the UK, Chatsworth Farm Shop is itself worth a visit without even heading to the main house. The goods on offer are second to none, with the butchery counter a particular bonus, meaning you can get all of your locally-sourced, totally fresh food and drink all in one place, supporting a local business as well as the local sustainability.
- Watson’s Farm Shop – Hope, family-run and offering meat in store that is made with animals reared and butchered on the farm itself.
The huge selection of burgers and sausages means you’ll likely be spoilt for choice when heading to this particular pantry! Add to that the range of cheeses, cakes, pies and cooked meats and you’re onto a winner before you even walk in the door.
- Highfield House Farm Shop – Ashover, events held on certain days throughout the week including pie day on a Wednesday, offering a multitude of meats and local produce within.
A combination of a farm shop and a tea room, the establishment is based on the southern fringes of the Peak District and has been offering locals and tourists goods for over 20 years, growing from strength to strength in that time.
THINGS TO DO IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
It doesn’t matter if you’re searching for a relaxing retreat gazing at the luscious landscape or a thrilling escape to get your adrenaline rushing – there’s something to do to suit everyone. From cycling, rock climbing and boating to cable cars, prestigious houses and even a theme park, whatever your age and however fast or slow paced you want your holiday to be you’ll find it here.
It would be impossible to list all of the fantastic attractions in one post, so we’ve picked out a few of our favourites to whet your appetite for a little adventure.
Chatsworth Estate by Paul Bainbridge - CC BY 2.0
Chatsworth Estate – Explore the stately Chatsworth House with its prestigious history and in all its regal glory before heading outside and to wander the stunning gardens, complete with striking sculptures and contemporary water features. If you’re holidaying with little ones then there’s something for everyone, with a farmyard and playground to keep children happy too, although be aware that pushchairs and rucksack baby carriers are not permitted within the house itself. There are events on at Chatsworth throughout the year, with themed activities for kids during school holidays and exhibitions covering a multitude of genres and themes.
Heights of Abraham – Open since 1780, this spectacular attraction affords some of the most stunning views of the Peaks without exerting the energy it takes to climb to a summit. The breath-taking scenery gets better the higher you go, and once at the top there is plenty more to discover; Great Masson Cavern is rich in history whilst Tinker Shaft’s viewing point gives another phenomenal perspective of your surroundings. There is also a fantastic bar and restaurant to sit back, relax and enjoy the view some more.
Alton Towers – Though not strictly in the Peak District, it’s located just south of the national park’s border, meaning it’s only a short drive if staying in the White Peaks. The exhilarating rollercoasters and range of rides suiting anyone from toddler to teenager to thrill-seeking pensioner provide a full day of memorable fun, and if you’re left wanting more, you can always make the short trip again the next day and discover the water park too.
Nemesis, Alton Towers by Jenny Brown - CC BY 2.0
Blue Mountain Activities – Hosting high adrenaline activities from rock climbing and abseiling to gorge scrambling and cave exploration, the company can accommodate groups of family, friends or colleagues to ensure your Peak District outdoor experience is a memorable one for all the right reasons. If it’s an adventurous getaway you’re after, be sure to try something new, sharing the moment with loved ones in a beautiful landscape.
Helicopter Pleasure Flights – Take to the skies in a once in a lifetime helicopter trip. Get a taste for heights with a five-minute ride, or book yourself or a loved one in for a longer experience in one of the ‘themed flights’ across Chatsworth, the Monsal Trail or the Dambusters Run.
TOP PEAK DISTRICT PHOTOGRAPHY SPOTS
Sumptuous sunsets and sparkling night skies, glorious greenery and snow-capped peaks. The infinite battle to get the best shot of the scenery may never end, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop seeking perfection through a lens. With so many incredible panoramas to observe, many a visitor has taken a striking image or two of the Peak District, whether that be a budding photographer or a master of the camera, with it revealing some of the most stunning places to head if you want to snap up that flawless photo finish…
Stanage Edge – Whether you’re an early riser or a night owl, Stanage Edge looks stunning at any time of day, but the crystal-clear night skies make for sumptuous starry shots and spectacular moonlit shadows. The jagged edges of the rock face create intriguing and unique lines, so whether it’s the sun set framed by the protruding points or misty vista smothering the towns below you’re sure to catch some memorable images if you set up snapping at Stanage Edge.
Stannage moonrise by Simon Harrod - CC BY 2.0
The Bridge of Love – The UK’s very own ‘Pont des Arts’, the Bridge of Love is found in Bakewell and mirrors a tradition of the same nature in Paris. Attaching padlocks to the fixtures of the bridge, people inscribe the locks with love notes, dedications and messages for loved ones before throwing the keys into the water to ensure the message remains forever. It is a poignant and beautiful symbol of love, creating a heartfelt and emotional image if you catch it right.
Pont D’amour – The Bridge of Love by Simon Harrod - CC BY 2.0
Mam Tor – It might be obvious to include one of the most famous landmarks in the whole of the Peaks, but Mam Tor really is as photogenic as they come. Breathtakingly beautiful no matter what the day or season, from glorious sunrises across the panoramic hilltops to visiting when the frosts of winter have swathed the grounds below in glistening ice crystals, you’re guaranteed a shot at the perfect picture.
Mam Tor to Hollins Cross by Richard Walker - CC BY 2.0
WHAT'S ON IN THE PEAK DISTRICT
Whether you’re planning a Christmas escape to explore one of the many magical markets or a summer holiday in the sun, there’s plenty of events in the Peak District to keep you busy no matter when you visit. Here’s just a short list of what’s on throughout the year…
Royal Shrovetide Football – February
A true Peak District spectacle, the Shrovetide football match is guaranteed to not be quite like anything you’ve ever seen before. The historical event has links to people such as Prince Charles and the Duke of Devonshire, and is hosted annually on Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday.
The Devonshire Dome plays host to one of the most patriotic of British traditions in July as military bands join forces to perform for charity. Now in its eighth year, tickets have sold out swiftly for previous events as the performance proves ever popular with visitors, and with a setting as spectacular as Buxton for it to take place, it’s not hard to understand why. Routines take place at both 2pm and 7pm so you have more of a chance of getting entry and appreciating the truly phenomenal show, with ABF The Soldiers’ Charity getting all the proceeds from the occasion.
With events all week leading up to the big day itself on the 1st July, there are plenty of things to keep you entertained. The well dressings were combined with the carnival celebrations in 1971, creating one of the most popular events in the north of England. Workshops, treasure hunts and tournaments all feature in the agenda, alongside the main procession on Saturday and the ever-popular duck race from Bakewell Bridge.
Well dressing by Smudge 9000 - CC BY-SA 2.0
Another popular carnival event, Hathersage hosts its own spectacle around the same time as Bakewell. Children’s art competitions, talents shows and of course, well dressings, as compile to create a family-friendly event that stretches across an entire week.
Hathersage village straw horse by Stephen Colebourne - CC BY 2.0
One of the oldest agricultural shows in the country, the Bakewell Show really is the best of British. The list of attractions range from The Sheep Show to a stunt team to flower displays, showcasing livestock, live music and a fantastic food marquee as well as the Premier Dog Show and Companion Dog Show. It’s one of the crowning glories in the agricultural calendar, and certainly one of the Peak District’s most famous and revered events.
Bringing together everything from military vehicles and gun dogs to hot air balloons and Highland dancing, you may need to attend on more than one day to make sure you catch everything you want to see. Cookery classes with famous chefs are a big draw on the event schedule, with a huge list of exhibitors selling an extensive range of food and other wares offering shoppers a haven of choice.
Sprinkled with twinkling lights adorning boats and the riverbanks, the illuminations are a magical and captivating marvel to admire on an autumnal trip to the Peaks. The colourful scene is a staple of the Matlock Bath calendar and brings together people from far and wide to witness the spectacle.
Whether you’re searching for some much-needed respite in picturesque surroundings or looking to challenge yourself on several of the many tough trails across the terrain, the Peak District National Park really is the perfect destination to head for a holiday. The multitude of idyllic towns and villages to discover create an infinite itinerary, coupled with the many independent boutiques, cafes and pubs to visit as you explore and the abundance of events on throughout the year.
Our collection of properties across the Peak District place you right in the middle of the luscious landscape; from luxurious lodges and chic apartments to lakeside boltholes and family-friendly cottages, our portfolio is packed with choice. Browse our selection to discover your next beautiful hideaway today.