Situated in the heart of the UK, The Peak District is renowned for its outstanding natural beauty. The landscape varies from rugged moorland, ancient forests, waterfalls, valleys carved out by rivers and caves, fields of green and caverns galore. Nestled in the landscape are some incredibly picturesque little towns and villages, not to mention some of my favourite stately homes in the whole of the country. If you are looking to explore this area, then here is my list of the best places to visit in the Peak District. As a Derbyshire lass myself and having had the Peak District to explore ever since I was little, I hope you’ll find these places really are the best the region has to offer.
A Brief History Of The Peak District
The history of this region goes back millenia and has been inhabited by the Romans, the Celts and the Anglo Saxons, all before the 8th century. Around this time coastal raids by the Vikings began, who in AD 878 drove Alfred, King of Wessex out of the area. Have you watched The Last Kingdom? Firstly, if not, then you should! Uhtred of Bebbanburg..need I say more? Secondly, if you have then you will have a little knowledge about Mercia and King Alfred already. This region was important and the town of Repton here in Derbyshire was actually the historic capital of Mercia and its church became the northern equivalent of Westminster Abbey, even becoming the final resting place of Mercian Kings and Queens including King Æthelbald and King Wiglaf.
Fast forward a couple of centuries and the whole of the country was under attack once more, this time by the Normans. One of the first things the Normans did in the Peak District was to build Peveril Castle which William the Conquerer gave to William Peveril who is reputedly his illegitimate son. The castle ruins still overlook the town of Castleton today and you can go pay it a visit. You’ll get fantastic views of the surrounding landscape but do expect quite a steep climb! The Domesday survey reported that much of the northern Peaks were ‘waste’, probably meaning unfarmable which of course would have been a loss of income for the Royal Crown. Instead, the land was declared a ‘Royal Forest’ and became the King’s hunting ground.
Places To Visit In The Peak District
The best way to enter into Castleton is to drive through the dramatic Winnats Pass road. Once in Castleton you will find numerous caves, mines, the oldest castle in the Peaks and of course, plenty of good pubs and cafes to enjoy a bite to eat. The small village of Castleton is an outstandingly picturesque place, situated in the heart of the 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. This stunning village is equally matched by the beauty of its surroundings. Sights including the magnificent Mam Tor, Cave Dale, Winnats Pass, Peveril Castle and as previously mentioned, 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 and explore! If you’d like to learn more about Castleton I have a more detailed blog post which you can find here.
Best Place To Stay In Castleton:
Trickett Gate House – If you really want to experience Castleton properly, book yourself a cosy little cottage and wake up surrounded by the most beautiful landscape. This three bed cottage in traditional grey Derbyshire stone offers the perfect mix of comfort and style, complete with an AGA to make delicious slow cooked meals which can bubble away whilst you pop out for walks in the country. Click here for prices and availability.
Nestled on the banks of the River Wye, Ashford is one of the most picture perfect villages in the whole of the Peak District. The village of Ashford got its name from two old Saxon English words aesc (ash trees) and ford (a river crossing) as it is a place where ash trees grow around a ford over the Wye on an ancient route known as the Portway. This picturesque village is where I always pop to for a picnic, I adore it here. You can sit next to the river banks and enjoy shelter from the summer sun next to the weeping willows which gently stroke the water. Ashford is probably most famous for its sheepwash bridge and it has been voted by Visit England as the best place in the country to play a game of Pooh Sticks! I’ve written a thorough blog post on everything you need to know about the village so click here if you would like to read more and see plenty of photos from what I believe is the prettiest village in the Peak District.
Best Places To Stay In Ashford-In-The-Water:
Whibberley Cottage – If you want cute country cottage, then this three bedroom place right in the heart of Ashford-in-the-Water is for you! Curl up on the sofa next to the beautiful large stone fireplace and warm yourself through by the log burner. It is only a short walk down the street to the river which provides one of my favourite picnic spots in the whole of Derbyshire. Click here for prices and availability.
Arncliffe House – This beauty is perfect if you’re a large family or travelling with friends and children. It boast 5 bedrooms, a gorgeous open plan country kitchen complete with an AGA stove and a walled south facing garden which makes for a fantastic place to enjoy some al fresco time. Click here for prices and availability.
The pretty market town of Bakewell is just a five minute drive away from Ashford-in-the-Water and I usually swing by here first on my way to pick up Bakewell puddings for my picnics. The fame of the Bakewell Pudding has spread so far that it is now high on the list of favourite British puddings. According to tradition, the recipe was the result of an error that happened in the kitchen of the Rutland Arms Hotel in around 1860. The cook, flustered by a request from some important guests to prepare a special order of strawberry tart, put the jam in first, then poured in the egg mixture destined for the pastry, on top. Far from being a disaster, the new invention was hailed as a culinary triumph and became a regular item on the menu. By the way, Bakewell Puddings are not Bakewell tarts, they are two different things. Both delicious though and both sold in Bakewell. If you visit Bakewell, make sure to also stop for lunch at Tiroler Stuberl, the Austrian sausage shop, and grab yourself a kasekrainer. Thank me later 🙂 They’re absolutely delicious!
Of course, Bakewell isn’t just known for its food. It has long been a popular destination even as far back as the early 1800’s when Jane Austen stayed here in the Rutland Arms and payed a visit to nearby Chatsworth House – more on this later.
Best Places To Stay In Bakewell:
The Rutland Arms – If you are a Jane Austen fan then there really is only one place that you can stay whilst in Bakewell. That is The Rutland Arms which is said to be the very place that Jane herself stayed whilst on a trip to Derbyshire in 1811 and was where she amended manuscripts of Pride and Prejudice after paying a visit to nearby Chatsworth House. There is some debate to this going on but I love the story and just the possibility of staying somewhere she might have stayed would get me in there! It has also been visited by author Charles Dickens! Click here for prices and availability.
Priory Cottage – The three bedroom cottage is just a two minute walk from the centre of Bakewell so perfectly positioned to enjoy a little bit more quiet away from the centre of town without being too far of a walk out. I like this cottage for its cosy home from home feel! Click here for prices and availability.
All Saints View Cottage – I love the stylish decor of this place! And the best bit? It comes with a hot tub! This cottage is slightly larger with 4 bedrooms so ideal family vacation trip material. Click here for prices and availability.
Tissington is a small village in the heart of Derbyshire, just north of Ashbourne, with a population count of under 200 people. The village dates back well over 1000 years and was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. Today it remains peaceful, tucked away from the main road which leads from the busy market town of Ashbourne all the way to Buxton. As well as being a rather pretty place, it also happens to be one of the most unspoilt villages in the county. You approach the village through a gateway and over a cattle grid, then along a beautiful drive lined with lime trees, it feels very grande. My favourite feature is the duck pond in the centre of the village and the well dressings which happen once a year and attract around 50,000 people annually. Find my detailed Tissington post here.
Best Places To Stay In Tissington:
Butler’s Retreat Apartment in Tissington Hall – This Airbnb apartment allows you to be located in the very heart of Tissington in the hall itself. Butler’s Retreat is located in the former staff wing. The rooms have been beautifully decorated in a very classically luxurious design. My favourite feature is the wood panelled walls! Click here for prices and availability.
Mulino Pods – A great glamping option in the Peak District. Mulino Pods are located about a ten minute drive from Tissington but you get to wake up to the most incredible views over Carsington Water! We stayed here back in February last year (see my Instagram post here) and we had a wonderful long weekend outdoors in nature. The weather changed so quickly that we had a day of beautiful sunshine, a little bit of rain, a gorgeoussss foggy morning and just about everything in between bar snow! This isn’t luxury glamping with hot tubs and ensuite bathrooms, it was actually quite basic! But it was cosy and comfortable and had all the amenities we needed during our stay. To be honest, with the surrounding landscape as beautiful as it is, we weren’t left wanting for anything! Click here for prices and availability.
There’s nothing quite so relaxing as a walk through countryside and quaint villages. Milldale is as quaint as they come. If you look closely at the river you will see the old mill stone which gave this village its name. There was once a corn mill at the side of the water but this was demolished in the 19th century. The old barn is all that is left which houses an information booth for the National Trust and of course the mill stone on the water line. Reminders of this villages history. If you follow me on Instagram then you will have seen me share this village quite often, in particular a cute cottage aptly named ‘Duck Cottage’ which overlooks the river and its many ducks. If you’d like to read more about what Milldale has to offer and where to stay then I have a post all about the village here.
Best Place To Stay In Milldale:
Ilam is a 158 acre country park, situated on the River Manifold just northwest of the village of Ashbourne in Derbyshire and only 1.5 miles walk away from the start of the renowned walk through Dovedale (More on this later). For centuries it has been an important settlement, although never a very large and dates back to the Saxon period. Originally the land belonged to Burton Abbey, but after the Reformation the estate was divided among three families, the Ports of Ilam Hall, the Meverells of Throwley Hall and the Hurts of Castern. Of these, the Meverells no longer exist, Throwley Hall is now a ruin and the Hurts still live at nearby at Casterne Hall. As for Ilam, there is a delightful little village consisting of just one row of houses which were built in a Swiss chalet style. They’re quite unique around these parts! The area is also home to Ilam Hall which is now a Youth Hostel.
If you would like to read more in Ilam then you will find a more detail post here.
Best Place To Stay Near Ilam:
Castern Hall – This grade II listed manor house has been home to the Hurt family for over 500 years and is set in its own grounds, offering views out over the Manifold Valley. Today the family let some of the rooms as as part of a Bed and Breakfast for just £65 per person per night.
Alstonefield is a very small, but picturesque village in the White Peak area of the Peak District National Park and located just a 5 minute drive from Milldale. Alstonefield actually lies on the borders of Staffordshire and Derbyshire but it is still classed as being in the Peak District so I’m including it on my list. The village is set around a pretty village green where you can usually find somewhere to park and if you find you’re a little hungry then The George, a rustic cosy setting, offers award winning pub grub. If you’re looking to stay in this delightful village there is nowhere better than The Gardener’s Cottage on the Alstonefield Manor estate. Click here for more details for this beautiful little cottage. You’ll have some absolutely incredible walks on your doorstep including those down to Milldale, through Dovedale, Thorpe, Ilam, Thors Cave and the Manifold Valley. I think you’ll find yourself perfectly situated here with a lot to explore without the need to drive anywhere. Simply enjoy peace and quiet in the undisturbed countryside.
Best Place To Stay In Alstonefield:
The Gardeners Cottage At Alstonefield Manor – This charming cottage on the grounds of Alstonefield Manor is utterly beautiful. It has been gorgeously styled and provides a fantastically located hideaway to explore Dovedale and the Manifold Valley. Click here for prices and availability.
This quaint village, nestled amongst the rolling Derbyshire hills on the outskirts of Ashbourne, has long been a hidden gem. Very rarely known to anybody outside of the county or even past the surrounding villages. Things changed earlier this year however, when Parwich was named as one of the best places to live in the country according to the Sunday Times. Now, you will regularly see this place on the likes of Instagram. Take a walk around here, especially in the Autumn and I’m sure you’ll agree that it has become a popular spot for very good reason. If the photos I shared on the village on Instagram are anything to go by then it certainly appeared to make a good impression!
Best Place To Stay In Parwich:
The Studio – This wee studio cottage is ever so cute! Plenty of charm and character, this place will make for a wonderfully romantic couples weekend away. Click here for prices and availability.
The small village of Eyam (pronounced Eeem) is famed across the globe as ‘The Plague Village’. If you would like to read more about the history of this wonderful little place then click on my Instagram post here and I’ve shared a detailed story. Despite its well known history which draws hoards of people to the village each year, the village is well worth a visit in its own right. Quaint grey stone cottages with pretty English country cottage gardens, an historic church and Eyam Hall and some wonderful walks around the area are all more than enough reason to visit this delightful village.
Best place to stay in Eyam:
Rowan Cottage – This characterful 18th century cottage lies at the heart of the village and offers wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. I particularly love the old fireplace in this place! Click here for prices and availability.
The idyllic village of Edale nestles at the foot of Kinder Scout and marks the starting (or ending) point of one of the most famous walking paths here in England, the Pennine Way. Whether you visit for one of the many incredible walks around these parts or just for a day trip to the village, you will at some point find yourself a little peckish. Edale has two popular pubs, one aptly called the Rambler Inn and the other, The Old Nag’s Head Inn. I haven’t eaten in the first, but the latter is a quaint 16th century pub offering delicious food and drink and located right next to the river. I often remember my first visit to Edale when I stumbled across a gorgeous alley of cottages just down the side of the inn which led down to an ancient packhorse bridge. I quickly bookmarked it in my head to return to for a shoot at some point, it was beautiful.
Right at the entrance to the village you’ll find Edale Station so it is easily accessible by train for those preferring to use public transport. In fact, you can even get a direct train straight from London St. Pancras to Edale for as little as £22.50 if you book in advance. If you’re driving, there are a few parking locations in the village but you’ll find the main car park located right across from the village hall. Use the postcode S33 7ZP and make sure to have some change with you. The car park also has some public toilets at your disposal too.
Best places to stay in Edale:
Goose Croft – A beautiful cottage set in an even more beautiful location. Waking up to views like this cottage offers is sure to leave you feeling like you never want to go home. Click here to see what I mean!
The small town of Longnor is home to one of my favourite streets in the UK. Chapel Street. This quiet back street was home to the Lambton Inn in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. The street looks very much the same in real life, and you can even book yourself a place to stay nearby so you can experience Derbyshire in true Elizabeth Bennett style. In fact, Jane Austen stayed close by at The Rutland Arms Hotel in the nearby village of Bakewell. The corner room where she stayed is still there and you can book yourself a night there! It was in this room that she is believed to have tweaked much of the Pride and Prejudice manuscript and even based Pemberley (home to Mr. Darcy) on nearby Chatsworth House after visiting whilst here in Derbyshire back in 1811.
Best place to stay near Longnor:
Biggin Hall Hotel – Located just a ten minute drive from Longnor, this 17th century hall offers beautiful mullioned windows, oak beams and plenty of character. If things haven’t changed, then try to book the Master Suite which comes complete with a luxurious four poster bed! In the morning you’ll get to enjoy a fabulous farmhouse breakfast using locally sourced ingredients. Click here for prices and availability.
The Chatsworth Estate Villages – Edensor, Beeley and Pilsley
The Chatsworth Estate stretches far and wide, a whopping 12000 acres. Part of the estate consists of three estate villages. Edensor, Beeley and Pilsley. Edensor catches the eye first and lies the closest to Chatsworth House itself. In fact, until the 1830’s the village stood even closer to the house than it does now and was within view of Chatsworth. The 6th Duke didn’t like this very much so he had the village moved a little further away so it was out of sight. Imagine!
To the south of the estate on the southerly approach to Chatsworth you will find the beautiful village of Beeley. My favourite time to visit this village is in the autumn when it is alive with a fabulous array of colours. I also find that the cooler weather is the perfect excuse to go and nestle up beside the fire in the village pub, also called The Devonshire Arms like in Pilsley – more on this now.
Just a mile north of the house lies the village of Pilsley. Home to a wonderful pub that serves fantastic food – I have to pay a visit every time I’m in the area – and home to a handful of beautifully styled, cosy rooms where you can relax in modern luxury for a night or two. Read my full review of The Devonshire Arms here if you’re interested in more detail. Right across the road from Pilsley you will also find the Chatsworth Farm Shop which sells award winning local produce.
Places To Stay Near The Chatsworth Estate Villages:
The Devonshire Arms In Pilsley – A fantastic country retreat at the centre of Pilsley, one of the Chatworth Estate villages. This thirteen bedroom country pub comes complete with decor designed by the Duchess of Devonshire who has created some gorgeous rooms fitted with a few antiques, some from Chatsworth House itself. Read my full review from my stay last year and find images here. Click here for prices and availability.
The Peacock at Rowsley – If luxury, fine dining and four poster beds is your kind of getaway, then The Peacock will make you feel very much at home. This hotel is part of the Haddon Estate (Haddon Hall which I’ll mention shortly) and dates back to 1652 when it was an old manor house built for the Steward of Haddon Hall which is just down the road. Not short of history, charm or character! Click here for prices and availability.
Fischer’s Hotel – If you are looking for luxury, then Fischer’s Hotel situated just on the road leading out of Baslow is a fantastic place to book yourself a stay and is possibly one of the best places to stay in the Peak District. The village is just a short distance away from Chatsworth House where you could enjoy a wonderful afternoon walk before heading back to the hotel and treating yourself to their Michelin starred food! They serve freshly picked ingredients straight from the kitchen garden as well as lamb and venison from the Chatsworth Estate. Click here for prices and availability.
The small town of Matlock Bath is a tourist honeypot set along the walls of a gorge, awash with family attractions, twinkling lights, fish and chip shops, pubs and amusement arcades lined above the river which winds its way through to gorge. It is an exceedingly popular place amongst locals and in the summer months it is HEAVING! It is like being at the seaside but without the seaside. Yet the vibe is still the same, it’s delightful. It came into popularity during the late 18th century when the cream of society came here to take the waters, having little staycations at fashionable hotels. That is until 1849 when the railway arrived and the place was swamped by day trippers, something that hasn’t changed even to this day. There is a large car park at the far end of the town right next to the station where you can park up for the day. You can even ride the Heights of Abraham cable cars up to the top of the gorge where you can enjoy some spectacular views as you may your way up and then pay a visit to The Great Rutland Cavern at the top. Matlock Bath is very family friendly so this is a place to come if you have little ones with you. If you can make a day of it then take them to Gulliver’s Kingdom, a small adventure theme park aimed entirely at younger children (pre-teen). Click here to find out more about the theme park.
Best place to stay in Matlock:
Ranmoor Cottage – Situated at the heart of Matlock Bath offering superb views and original period features, this place is one for a small group rather than an individual, couples escape and boasts three bedrooms. Click here for prices and availability.
20 minutes drive south from Castleton and you will arrive at Tideswell, a pretty little village which is home to the ‘Cathedral of the Peak’ and renowned for the quality of its well dressings. Well dressings are a Derbyshire thing, as far as I’m aware they aren’t done anywhere else. So what is a well dressing? Well dressing involves the decoration of springs and wells with pictures made from living plants and flowers, and usually happens in the summer and early autumn. They happen at different times in different villages and the Tideswell dressings usually happen in June and last a week, ending with a unique Morris Dance. If you’re interested in seeing some Well Dressings, click here for my Ashford-in-the-Water post where you can see their displays from the other year. They are ever so beautiful!
There are countless other little places that are lovely to visit but my list would be endless if I named them all. You’ll also probably notice that I don’t really mention any cities on here or larger towns such as Chesterfield, Derby, Buxton or Wirksworth. If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll probably know by now that I’m not much of a city fan on the whole and it takes a very good one to woo me – like York or Bath! That isn’t to say that the towns and cities in my area aren’t worth visiting but I want to share with you the lesser known places and those that I think are more picturesque and charming. I’m all for character!
Places Of Interest In The Peak District
As you make your way up the M1 to come of at Junction 29, you can see Hardwick Hall on the hill in the distance, watching of you. The brainchild of Bess of Hardwick, one of the richest women in the world back in her day. She was a formidable woman who rose from humble beginnings as a yeoman farmers daughter, had some extremely lucrative marriages which left her with lots of money and she ended up the second most powerful woman in England after Queen Elizabeth I. The house that she built at Hardwick is nothing short of breathtaking. Back in the 16th century, having glass windows on your house was expensive. In fact only a small minority of people could afford them and even then, not many. Because of this, glass was used to display wealth and Bess made sure her house was covered in them for her wealth to be clear for all to see. Hardwick Hall is one of the best preserved Elizabethan houses in the country and there is no finer example of the use of glass as a symbol of wealth and power. There is a saying here in England, “Hardwick Hall, More Glass Than Wall”, I think it sums up this house perfectly!
Hardwick is home to the finest collection of tapestries in the world. As soon as you walk through the doors to this house you are met with display after display of wealth and grandeur and it still impresses today. Back in the 16th century the average tapestry would cost about £1000, more if you wanted them woven with gold and silk like those at Hardwick Hall. That would be around £200,000 per tapestry in todays money and Hardwick has over 100 of them. Today, the house is in the care of the National Trust. When the last descendent to live here died in 1960, the hall passed into the hands of the government when the surviving family couldn’t afford to pay the £7.5 million death duty tax and so handed over the property in return for clearing the tax bill. The government then gave this wonderful property to the National Trust to care for and preserve for us all to visit and enjoy.
I haven’t visited this gem in about 3 years but it is of course closed at the moment for obvious reasons, so as soon as it reopens I shall head back and do a video tour for you all the see. It’s incredible! Also, if you do visit Hardwick then make sure to pay a visit to Bolsover Castle just 10 minutes up the road which was home to Bess of Hardwick’s son. Pop over onto their website for more information before paying a visit.
Click here to find opening times.
Address – Hardwick Hall, Doe Lea, Chesterfield, Derbyshire, S44 5QJ
Oh what to say on Chatsworth House. Does this place actually need an introduction?
Let’s start at the beginning. Bess of Hardwick who you’ve just read about above had a son and it was her son William Cavendish who built Chatsworth. Well actually, it was Bess and her second husband William Cavendish who bought Chatsworth Manor for £600 back in 1549 and began building the first house on the site. In fact, The Hunting Tower which stands on the hill above Chatsworth till this day and is available to hire out as a holiday let, was built by Bess back in the 1580s. The house as we see it today though took on much of its form thanks to Bess’ son, also named William Cavendish after his father.
Today, Chatsworth is a must visit whilst in Derbyshire and the Peak District. The house is a luxurious masterpiece, the artwork breathtaking. The gardens are always a delight to wander with various art works on display, glass houses filled with exotic plants, the cascading fountain, a children’s farmyard and playground, a Victorian rock garden, a maze, a ravine..the list of features goes on and on. It even left its impression on Jane Austen when she visited whilst staying at The Rutland Arms in nearby Bakewell in 1811. It is said that after her visit she reworked her manuscripts for Pride and Prejudice, Chatsworth taking the form of Mr Darcy’s house, Pemberley. You may have seen this house countless times in movies as it is a popular filming location, not least to the movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
Random Chatsworth Fact: The house played jail to Mary Queen of Scots at various times between 1569 and 1584.
Click here for opening times and prices.
Address – Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP
If you follow me on Instagram, you will know by now how much I LOVEEEEE Haddon Hall and rave about how amazing it is on a frequent basis. It is the best preserved medieval house in the whole of the country and there is something about historical places like this that really speak to me. You will find Haddon Hall just down the road from Chatsworth House, a mere ten minute drive away but they couldn’t be any more different in style. Click here to read my more detailed post on Haddon Hall. It really is a must visit! If I could ask you to only visit one place on this entire list then it would be this place.
I’ll put together some proper day trip itineraries of places to visit that are in the same areas but until then, I would definitely suggest a long weekend incorporating Haddon Hall, Chatsworth, Bakewell, Ashford-in-the-Water and the Chatsworth Estate villages of Edensor, Beeley and Pilsley. Three days would be enough to fit these in and they are all so close to each other that there isn’t a great deal of travel involved.
Click here to find opening times and prices.
Address – Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1LA
Renishaw Hall is a delightful house, located on the northern border of Derbyshire and home to the Sitwell family who have lived in the hall for four centuries. The house in itself is rather impressive but the gardens are something else. Renishaw is known for its magnificent Italianate gardens which I have to admit are rather beautiful. I love that there are so many different aspects to this garden, more than just the obvious beauty of the Italianate garden up by the house. If you wander a little further you will find the bluebell woods which have a carpet of blue blossom in early May and from there you can wander down a winding path to a water lily filled lake below. It’s such a lovely place to visit on a warm sunny day. You can visit their website here for more information about booking a visit. To note, the hall is only open in late summer for private tours as it is still a family home. The gardens are open all year round.
Find opening times and prices here.
Address – Renishaw Hall, Renishaw, Nr. Sheffield, S21 3WB
Now this is the only place on the list that I am yet to visit! It has been on my list for quite a long time but somehow always managed to escape me. In order to ensure I finally get around to visiting this year I have already booked myself a ticket to visit in late spring when the gardens should be looking splendid! This large country estate is just a five minute drive from Ashford-in-the-Water which might be the reason I’ve never made it here before, I always get distracted by Ashford and spend far too long there to find time to fit in a trip anywhere else.
I don’t know a great deal about the hall other than that Thornbridge Hall here in Derbyshire dates back to the 12th century and is a privately owned residence. I’ve also been let to believe that one of the former owners managed to salvage a number of items from Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire (our neighbouring county) after it caught fire and burnt down. For now, I shall have to report back as to whether the gardens are as pretty as I have been led to believe so I will update this in June with some images and my thoughts.
Find prices and opening hours here.
Address – Thornbridge Hall, Ashford in the Water, Derbyshire, DE45 1NZ
A relatively new reservoir, only opened in 1992, Carsington has long been a family favourite. We have spent many a summer enjoying picnics here as well as cycling around it on numerous occasions. If you don’t have your own bike available don’t worry, as there is a bike hire centre here too. They also hire e-bikes too for those who aren’t as fit as they wish they were (me included) so don’t worry if you don’t think you’re up for this 8 mile circular route. Best bit, they have trails of varying difficulties so there will be something to suit the whole families abilities. Did I say that was the best bit? No, there are pubs to stop off at along the way depending on which route you take so you can stop and enjoy a nice cold pint as you make your way around. Now that is definitely the best bit! It’s a fantastic place to come and enjoy wildlife as well as there is an abundance around here. We love watching out for everything as we sit with our picnics.
The Peak District has an abundance of caves to explore but none more popular than Thor’s Cave in the Manifold Valley. Thor’s Cave is a huge natural limestone cave that you can enter to explore further and also offers some stunning views of the Manifold Valley below it from the cave entrance. There is a 5 mile walk you can do, starting at the little village of Wetton in order to get to it, for which you should allow around 3 hours.
Thor’s Cave has long been a popular spot with a history dating back to the Palaeolithic period which was between 38,000 and 11,500 years ago and seeing use during the Anglo-Saxon, Iron Age and Roman periods in our history. Dating back to the early 19th century, it was such a popular place that it was even served with its own train station. Unfortunately for us, that is no longer there and we have to use good old leg power to reach it. Well worth the view!
Peak Cavern is set into Castle Hill in Castleton and has a natural entrance that is 100 feet wide and 50 feet high – its huge! It is one of the most popular caves in Castleton who is home to numerous caves and mines. Fun fact: Peak Cavern’s nickname is The Devil’s Arse for some of the interesting sounds it produces! Sometimes there are even concerts held inside the cavern so it is well worth having a quick google before you visit to see if there is anything on.
The Nine Ladies Stone Circle
On Stantor Moor, not far from Matlock, there are a couple of ancient stone circles that date back to the early Bronze Age. The most famous of these it the circle of the Nine Ladies and a short distance away a solitary King Stone. The story goes that a fiddler and nine maidens were turned to stone for dancing on Sunday. The story goes back to Pagan times. Although just a story, it is a pretty spot, especially in August when the heather is out and the ground turns a beautiful shade of purple.
Winnats Pass is a long collapsed limestone cave system which left behind a steep sided valley and today is an incredibly picturesque winding drive down into Castleton below. The name Winnats came from the name ‘Windygates’ and on a windy day that name becomes clear! There are numerous footpaths around Winnats Pass to make the most of the views.
Pro Local Tip: get there for sunrise and you will be greeted with the most spectacular sight!
Click here for my Castleton blog post and read about the scary legend on Winnats Pass.
North Lees Hall
North Lees Hall is an old Elizabethan Manor House which looks out over the valley towards Hathersage and was the main inspiration for Charlotte Bronte’s Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. Charlotte visited the hall several times whilst staying with her friend Ellen Nussey at the vicarage in Hathersage. In the book, Jane Eyre describes – “It was three stories high, or proportions not vast, though considerable; battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look.” I saw that it had been put up for rent although this has now be removed by the letting agent so I’m presuming it has been let. But the images are still there to see if you fancy a little peek inside! Click here.
Two more places for those who thoroughly enjoy being outdoors are The Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge. Have a quick google and you will see just how gorgeous these places are for a walk. I haven’t visited in many years so haven’t got photos but believe me when I tell you how beautiful they are.
Other Places To Visit In Derbyshire:
As well as all the above, there are some other fantastic places I love which don’t classify as Peak District but are still in Derbyshire so I’ll list those here for you.
Kedleston Hall – You’ll recognise this place from many a period drama.
Calke Abbey – a fabulous National Trust property that was left as it was when it was inherited (minus any structural work to the building to ensure its safety) and tells the story of a family in decline. Read my detailed post on Calke Abbey here.
Bolsover Castle – A brilliant castle just a 10 minute drive from Hardwick Hall so good to incorporate the two together and make a full day of it.
Lyme Park – Otherwise known as Mr. Darcy’s house, Pemberley, in the 1995 BBC Adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Aka, the only version of Pride and Prejudice to watch!
Anchor Church – Anchor Church is a secluded treasure and the name given to a series of caves in a Bunter sandstone outcrop near the village of Ingleby. The name derives from the term anchorite which comes from the Medieval Latin anchorīta and the Greek anakhōrētēs meaning to retire or withdraw. This is because, according to local legend, it is thought to have been home to an Anchorite hermit, St. Hardulph, who lived and prayed here in the 6th and 7th centuries. The nearby church at Breedon-on-the-Hill is dedicated to this saint. In the middle ages the caves are thought to have been used by a monk named Bernard, who died here whilst doing penance for his involvement in a crime.
Although little is definitely known about the history of Anchor Church, records of the caves exist from 1658 when it is mentioned in church records at Repton in an entry which tells of a burial at Anchor Church of ‘ye foole of Anchor Church’. In more recent times, those of the 19th century, the Burdett family of Foremarke Hall enlarged the caves to their present size, fitting a door in 1845 (which is no longer there, allowing the caves to be accessible) and some additional brickwork including a set of steps to the entrance. Sir Francis Burdett used the caves as a summerhouse and held picnics and entertainment here. Anchor Church is still a fairly private, secluded spot to this day. Ideal for taking your own picnic and perhaps partaking in a spot for wild swimming.
Pro Local Tip – It can be quite difficult to get to, especially if it has been particularly rainy. Expect a lot of mud, steep pathways and definitely not push chair friendly.
Dale Abbey – I only discovered this gem of a place last year and since then it has become my favourite picnic spot close to home. There are a lot of uncertainties regarding the history of Dale Abbey but what is for certain is that there was an abbey here which suffered from the dissolution at the hands of Henry VIII, (all that remains now is one solitary wall which was the east window) and there is another hermits cave similar to Anchor Church which I just mentioned above. This is a very quiet spot with some lovely circular walks. To read more about the history and stories behind Dale Abbey, click here.
Elvaston Castle – I absolutely love this gem or a place. It is my daily walk and because of that I nearly didn’t put it on this list. But, I want you to have as thorough and genuine a list as possible of all the places I recommend you visit, so here it is.
The Holly Bush Inn in Makeney – As they describe themselves: “A traditional 17th century village inn, where highwayman Dick Turpin is reported to have frequented on his travels. An increasingly rare breed of unspoilt inn, where time has stood still, encapsulating the character and charm of the building.” I can’t really come up with better than that description. It is a fantastic pub where you can still get ale and cidre brought up in jugs from down in the cellar like you used to. Last time we were there a chap came in selling eggs from his hens so naturally, we had to buy some and they were delicious bright orange yolks!
Address – Holly Bush Ln, Makeney, Belper DE56 0RX
Phone – 01332 841729
The Dead Poets Inn in Holbrook – If old pubs is your thing, like it is mine, then another brilliant place to stop for a pint is the Dead Poet in Holbrook. This is a gorgeous oldy worldly village pub that was built back in the 1800’s and had some beautiful snug rooms, complete with a stone flagged bar area, lots of low ceiling with oak beams and a delightful open fire which is fantastic in the colder months. As with The Holly Bush Inn, you can still get jugs brought up from the cellar. There aren’t many places where you’ll still find that!
Address – 38 Chapel St, Holbrook, Belper DE56 0TQ
Phone – 01332 780301
Best Walks In The Peak District
This is one of the most beautiful, and popular of all the dales. It has paths which range over windswept grassy hills to the bottom of the valley. Dovedale has a path that follows the River Dove as it winds its way below the dramatic limestone peaks and is most famous for its ‘Stepping Stones’ which you can use to cross over the river as you walk through the valley and on to one of my favourite little villages, Milldale. These Stepping Stones appear on thousands of postcards across the UK and attract millions of visitors annually. You can park at Ilam Hall which is National Trust if you want a little bit of a longer walk (about 1.5 miles longer) or you can park at the Dovedale car park. Click here for more information on this walk.
Pro Local Tip: Avoid this area on weekends during the summer months, bank holidays and boxing day. It gets BUSYYYYY due to its immense popularity.
Mam Tor, or Mother Hill, is mighty 517 metre high hill which is an incredibly popular 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. It has been a good few years since I last walked along this ridge but I still remember the views from up there! Make sure to wrap up warm, it gets very blustery.
This scenic valley offers magnificent views and is a very popular spot for walkers. A narrow footbridge spans the waters of the River Wye, the best view of this comes from Monsal Head above the valley where you get to enjoy the picturesque scenery. There is the Monsal Head Hotel there too if you fancied booking yourself a night in the area or even just somewhere for food after a long walk. Just next to it you will also find a large pay and display car park from which you can make your descent into Monsal Dale. Just a short walk to the east you will find Little Longstone Chapel, a delightful chapel that hasn’t changed in centuries. It has even been used in period dramas due to its beautiful unchanged features.
One of three reservoirs in the Upper Derwent Valley, Ladybower offers some stunning walks in the surrounding landscape. This is not a natural reservoir but a man made one. Back in the early 40’s the Derwent Valley Water Board ‘drowned’ the villages of Derwent and Ashopton to create Ladybower in order to provide the growing towns and cities of the surrounding areas. In the summer months, if we get a particularly hot spell and the water levels drop really low, you can still see the top of Derwent Church. It’s quite sad really. It was also used by Lancaster bombers during the second world war for pilots to practice their low-level bombing runs for the Dambuster raids of the Ruhr. Today, the reservoir is surrounded by gorgeous countryside which attract people all over the UK for not only the views and woodland but also for the many walks and cycle paths nearby. It also offers some incredible viewpoints of Bamford Edge.
Kinder Scout is a fantastic bit of landscape and a nature reserve situated up in the Dark Peak area of the Peak District. It boasts unparalleled views over the surrounding moorland but be warned, this is a difficult trek and not one for the unseasoned walker. If you’re looking to take a trek up there then I think the best place to start is in the village of Edale at the start of the Pennine Way, although there are numerous starting points so the option is yours. I would google the route and make up your mind where you fancy beginning from.
The Roaches offer far reaching views which take in mile upon mile of green fields divided with the quintessential dark grey stone walls that the Peak District is famous for. This is a moderate walk so not too difficult but definitely not easy and certainly not family friendly.
If you’re a Bronte fan then this one is for you. Stanage Edge and the surrounding landscape inspired many of Charlotte Bronte’s works, and it is easy to see why. It is one of the most beautiful and impressive walks in the area and extremely popular with people coming from all over the country to take in these views. This is a fairly difficult walk so be prepared for some good old fashioned leg power!
Okay so this one isn’t a walking route but a cycling route, starting in the village of – you guessed it – Tissington. Well to be precise, it is a 13 mile route starting in the nearby town of Ashbourne taking you up to Parsley Hay, but I personally think the best place to start is in Tissington. The trail was created when the old railway line was abandoned and converted into a delightfully flat long path which is perfect to cycle along and very family friendly.
When Is The Best Time To Visit The Peak District?
The Peak District is one of those places that is a pleasure to visit at any time of the year. Every season has something new to offer whether it’s the first throws of spring, long sunny summer days, August when the purple heather is out on the moors or even winter when the snow caps the hills. I have to admit though, I have a soft spot for the Peak District in Autumn. It really suits this season perfectly and I feel as though all the extra colours bring the landscape alive. I also think it’s the best time for walks as the summer heat can get a bit much and as much as I like a crisp winters walk, if you’re out in the rugged landscape of the Peaks, you’ll find it can be rather bitter and most certainly not the most child friendly if you are travelling with little ones. No, Autumn is when this magnificent region is at its best in my opinion but no matter when you visit, you are guaranteed to fall in love with it.
How To Get To The Peak District
By Plane – If you are travelling in from abroad then you’ll find that there is quite easy access to The Peak District and Derbyshire as we are surrounded by three international airports. You have the choice of Manchester, Nottingham East Midlands and Birmingham which are all relatively close by and offer daily flights from all over the world.
By Car – Personally, I’m a big fan of having my own car when I go travelling. I find it saves on a lot of time waiting for public transport and having a child with us, it is definitely more convenient. Not to mention all the extra space for all the kiddie extras you need to bring along with you! Thankfully the Peak District is surrounded by some of the UK’s largest motorways, the M1 and the M6, so reaching the area is nice and straight forward.
If you haven’t got a car then there are some great places where you can hire one for the weekend. I recommend AutoEurope, click here to take a look at their options and make your journey a smooth one!
By Bus – If car really isn’t an option and you want or need to travel via public transport then the region is very accessible. You can get to most parts of the Peak District by bus and a lot of services run hourly. For more information visit the Peak District Bus Routes page.
If arriving from Derby then you could catch the TransPeak bus service, which runs through wonderful scenery, calling at Rowsley, Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Ashford in the Water and a whole load of other bus stops in between.
By Coach – You can catch the National Express from most cities across the UK which will then take you on to Derby and from there you can catch the above mentioned buses into the Peak District.
So there you have it, my list of the best places to visit in the Peak District. I know there are dozens more places I could mention so I shall have to turn that into another post 🙂 Where is your favourite place to visit in the Peak District?