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.
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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.
The size of the Peak District is just over 550 square miles or 1425 square kilometres.
Split into two sections - The Dark Peak in the north where there is a sparse population and lots of moorland and gritstone. The White Peak in the south boasts a multitude of idyllic villages and the geology is predominantly limestone.
National Park status:
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 highest point is the summit of Kinder Scout, where altitude reaches 2087ft, or 636m.
The terrain varies drastically throughout: emerald green countryside is stitched with craggy peaks and towering summits, which blend seamlessly with vast stretches of water.
Towns and villages in the Peak District
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. With two spas and another in the making, professional health specialists, hair and beauty salons, health shops and independent boutique shops offering retail therapy, Buxton remains a place for rest, recuperation and wellbeing.
- Buxton is the highest market town in England
- Its striking Devonshire Dome has a larger span that St Paul's Cathedral
- Mary Queen of Scots once stayed in the town sampling the spa waters that are famous for their healing properties
Top places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: Chapter House, sleeps 4 + 1 dog
- Large house: Bagshot House, sleeps 18
Edale is a small village at the start (or end) of the UK's first and most famous long-distance walking path - the Pennine Way. The size of this village may be small, but it certainly has its draws. Nestled beneath Kinder Scout and tucked away at the end of the Hope Valley, it is very popular with walkers and runners due to its beauty and accessibility. You have the best of both worlds here: an idyllic remote location which is but 30 minutes from the shining lights of Manchester, which makes day trips to the shops very easy. The village has two popular pubs, a cafe and local shop.
- The village itself grew from the herdsmen’s shelters or 'booths' at what are now the hamlets of Upper Booth, Barber Booth, Ollerbrook Booth and Nether Booth.
- Jacob's 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
Top places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: Cave End Cottage, sleeps 3
- Large house: The Edge, sleeps 8
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 fresh local produce. The River Wye runs through the heart of the town and onto Ashford-in-the-Water and there is a five-arched stone bridge that dates back to medieval times. It’s a really interesting place.
- Most famous for its pudding: the Bakewell tart
- Featured 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
Top places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: Hope Cottage Bakewell, sleeps 4
- Large house: Fox House, sleeps 10
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 and 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.
- 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
Top places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: Eden Tree Cottage, sleeps 2
- Large house: Robin Cottage, sleeps 6
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. 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. If you’d rather compile a picnic filled with delicious local goods and enjoy some al fresco dining, then head for Hall Leys Park.
- 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 Heights of Abraham offers a cable car ride with unparalleled panoramic views of the Derwent Valley
Top places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: Old Masson Barn, sleeps 2
- Large House: Jackson House, sleeps 10
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. The selection of family-run businesses sells 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.
- There are 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
Places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: The Tannery, sleeps 4
- Large house: The Snug, sleeps 6
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 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 local shops sell a variety of wares and lots of fresh produce – a foodie's dream!
- 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
Places to stay:
- Cosy cottage: Rylea Cottage, sleeps 4 + 3 dogs
- Large house: The Old Bulls Head, sleeps 8 + 1 dog
Peak District walks
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. Here are some of our favourites…
- Distance: 8.5 miles
- Duration: 2 hours
- Level: easy
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.
- Distance: 9 miles
- Duration: 2 hours
- Level: easy
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.
- Distance: Split into three sections: Disley – Tegg’s Nose (10 miles), Tegg’s Nose – Timbersbroke (15 miles), and Timbersbroke – Kidsgrove (9 miles)
- Duration: 6 – 8 hours
- Level: moderate
Hilly but not mountainous, the trail features several ascents and descents, many stiles, and a lot of rough surface underfoot. The path is well-marked with lots of yellow arrows and a well-trodden route thanks to the many previous ramblers who have undertaken the task of walking it.
- Distance: 9 miles
- Duration: 5 hours
- Level: hard
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!
- Distance: 268 miles
- Duration: 16 – 19 days!
- Level: hard
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.
Places to eat in the Peak District
Sharing the experience of good food is one of the best things about being on holiday - eating and tasting delicious grub you wouldn’t usually cook yourself. Also, exerting so much energy on exploring your beautiful surroundings means you will work up an appetite, which is why we’ve got a list of some of the best pubs, pantries and patisseries in the Peaks.
Lavender Tea Room – Bakewell DE45 1EE
Open weekdays 10am – 3.30pm (Monday opens 9.30am) and weekends 9.30am – 3.30pm.
Foodie points: This café enjoys a courtyard setting and provides a quaint place to sit surrounded by antiques and delicious smells. Serves afternoon teas, breakfast and lunch.
Tilly’s of Castleton – Castleton, Hope Valley, S33 8WH
Open weekdays, excluding Thursday, 9am – 4pm
Foodie points: 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 Cafe –The Square, Eyan, S32 5RB
Open Monday, Thursday, Friday and the weekend, 9.15am – 4.15pm
Foodie points: Dog-friendly and downright cute, this café was set up by a woman who wanted to create a happy place for passers-by to come and enjoy home-cooked food. Serves breakfast and lunch and, for those on the move, the takeaway option will keep you happy!
Cheshire Cheese Inn – Edale Rd, Hope Valley, S33 6ZF
Dine beside one of the open fires, perfect for warming wet paws, and enjoy good pub food and a pint of real ale. This is a dog-friendly pub that keeps everyone smiling.
Fleece Inn – Woodhead Rd, Holme, HD9 2QG
With a farm shop on-site as well as the option to take away tasty pre-cooked pub food, you can pop in for a drink then head out to dine back at your holiday home. Steak pie, fish and chips, burgers and seafood – the choice is yours!
The Royal Oak – Hurdlow, Buxton, SK179QJ
With roaring fires and endless country charm, this pub offers comfy seating and hidden corners where you and your partner can enjoy the ambience and chatter of locals after a busy day exploring the Peak District.
These pubs are on our list of 8 of the best pubs to eat in, make sure you check out the guide to discover the rest.
Chatsworth Estate farm shop – Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP
Open: Monday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm
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 local sustainability.
Watson’s Farm Shop – Leacroft, Edale Road, Hope Valley, S33 6ZF
Open: Tuesday – Friday, and Saturday. Check site for times.
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 – Darley Rd, Chesterfield S45 0LW
Open: Monday – Sunday, 9am – 4pm
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 goods to locals and tourists 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 pumping – 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.
With the array of choice, it’s hard to list all of the Peak District's many attractions, but here are a few to start you off…
Explore the stately Chatsworth House with its prestigious history and in all its regal glory before heading outside to wander the stunning gardens, complete with striking sculptures and contemporary water features.
- Historic house and grand gardens to explore
- Playground (pushchairs and baby carriers not permitted in house)
- An array of events hosted throughout the year
- Educational exhibitions
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 breathtaking scenery gets better the higher you go, and once at the top there is plenty more to discover!
- Cable car adventure
- Tinker Shaft’s view point offers amazing views
- Great Masson Cavern and Great Rutland – two historic caves to explore
- Bar and restaurant to sit back, relax and enjoy the view some more
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.
- Family-friendly theme park
- Range of rides, many strictly for adults
- Food and drink options throughout park
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.
- Rock climbing, abseiling, kayacking, orienteering, high ropes and much more
- Picturesque locations
- Tailor your day to suit you
- Available throughout the year
What's on in the Peak District
Buxton Military Tattoo
- When: July (1 day)
- An event where military bands join forces to perform for charity. All proceeds go to ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.
- Takes place in the village of Buxton, a characterful and charming setting
- A popular event with locals and tourists where tickets sell fast. Get your tickets here
Bakewell Carnival Week and Well Dressing
- When: July (1 day)
- The biggest and best carnival in the North of England
- Locals and visitors all celebrate on the streets of Bakewell and watch the enormous carnival procession
- Events run throughout the week including workshops, treasure hunts and tournaments. More info
Chatsworth Country Fair
- When: September (3 days)
- Everything from military vehicles and gun dogs to hot air balloons and Highland dancing
- Cookery classes with famous chefs
- Huge list of exhibitors selling food, crafts and local produce
Matlock Bath Illuminations
- When: September and October
- Featuring a unique parade of illuminated boats on the River Derwent
- A family event with firework display - check out the website for admission costs. More info
Come and stay!
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 creates an infinite itinerary, coupled with the many independent boutiques, cafes and pubs to visit as you explore and the abundance of events throughout the year.
Our collection of properties across the Peak District places 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.