Castleton is an outstandingly picturesque English village, situated in the heart of the Derbyshire Peak District National Park. An ancient place first settled by the Celts, the remains of who’s hill fort still resides on Mam Tor today. After which came the Romans who came to mine the area and then the Normans with William the Conqueror in 1066.
This stunning village is equally matched by the beauty of its surroundings, including the magnificently renowned hill of Mam Tor, Cave Dale, Winnats Pass, Peveril Castle and numerous underground caves and caverns including Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern. All of which are open to the public to go explore.
This small village was mentioned in the Doomsday book of 1086, although it went under a different name back then – Pechesers, meaning Peaks Arse. Charming, I know. Despite the long history of Castleton, the oldest buildings in the village are The Castle Hotel which dates back to the 17th century and Castleton Hall. That’s if you don’t count Peveril Castle which dates back to the 11th century. But seeing as it is only a shell today I won’t class this as a ‘building’.
What To Do
Stroll through the picturesque village and admire the beauty of the stone cottages. Take a pit stop at one of the many pubs for a cold drink and grab something to eat from the fish and chip shop.
Climb Mam Tor
This mighty hill is an attraction for nearly all visitors to Castleton and offers superb views out over the Peak District for miles around. There is a circular walk which will take you across the north of the Edale Valley and on to Kinder Scout, all the way around Mam Tor. Visit this website for the route. The scenery is not to be missed!
Drive/Walk Through Winnats Pass.
Winnats Pass is a long collapsed limestone cave system which left behind a steep sided valley. The name Winnats came from the name ‘Windygates’ and on a windy day that name becomes clear! There are numerous footpaths around Winnats, but if you don’t fancy a walk then take a drive through the valley and admire the views.
There is a local legend of Winnat’s Pass. A tragic love story. The story of the murder and robbery of Allan and Clara which dates back to the 1700’s. Legend has it that they were riding to Peak Forest to be married at a famous runaway church. They arrived at Castleton in the dark, where they stopped at one of the inns for food and rest. A group of miners noticed that they were carrying a large bag of money and followed them when they resumed their journey, robbing them of their money and murdering them, burying their bodies where they wouldn’t be discovered for many years. Apparently their ghosts are still seen in Winnats to this day. The men who robbed and murdered them are supposed to have met bitter ends. One broke his neck in Winnats, another crushed by falling rocks. The third was driven mad and the fourth committed suicide. The final man standing made a deathbed confession about what they had done. If you visit the shop in Speedwell Cavern (at the entrance to Winnats Pass) you can see Clara’s red leather saddle.
Visit Peveril Castle
Peveril Castle stands looking down over Castleton. The square keep and curtain walls of the once great castle still stand and you can take a walk up the seriously steep hill and have a look around yourself, however the remainder of the castle fell into disrepair after 1480 when it was no longer inhabited and the stone was pilfered to build houses in the village.
Peveril castle was built after the Normans invaded England. It was bequeathed to William Peveril (hence the name) in 1086 by William the Conqueror as he was allegedly the illegitimate son of Monsieur Conqueror and you hand out castles and power to your family members right? It is now run by the English Heritage and definitely worth a look if only for the views you get of the surrounding landscape. For more information, visit the English Heritage website here.
Explore The Caves and Caverns
There are four main caverns which are open to the public, known as ‘show’ caves. The most popular are Blue John Cavern, Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern. Peak Cavern is accessed through the village of Castleton so in terms of travel this is the easiest to visit. I particularly enjoy the mined Speedwell cavern where you can take an underground boat ride to the bottomless pit! Just be careful when getting aboard the boat and don’t nearly (accidentally) step into the water like my sister did, we still don’t let her live it down.
When To Go
Castleton is one of those places that is stunning no matter the season. It looks particularly beautiful in Autumn with the golden hues, it’s grey stone suits the cold of winter and the warmer months are brilliant for enjoying the numerous walks around the village and getting the best of the views.
May 29th is a particularly good date to visit. This is Oak Apple Day. The anniversary of the battle of Worcester which celebrates Charles II hiding in an oak tree to escape from the pursuing Roundheads. During the ceremony, the Garland King and Queen parade around the village on horseback wearing 17th century attire, with the King wearing a garland so big that it completely covers him from the waist up! Whilst on parade, the King and Queen stop at every pub in the village, ending up in the main square where the garland is hoisted up and placed upon the top of the church tower.
How To Get There
Driving is by far the best option to get to Castleton and there are two large carparks for visitors. However, if driving isn’t an option then there are hourly buses (the number 272) to and from Sheffield or the nearby Hope Station (2.5 miles away) for rail users.