Oh, for the Peaks and the Dales! You are truly England’s Green & Pleasant Land. This travel guide will help you to have a fabulous time exploring one of Britain's most special areas of natural beauty and will hopefully give you a wonderful experience of all the beauty the Peak District has to offer.
Where is the Peak District National Park?
The Peak District National Park is mostly in the county of Derbyshire but also covers areas of Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, South and West Yorkshire and is divided between the Dark Peak and the White Peak. It is easily accessible from Manchester Airport.
The Dark Peak is the higher and wider part of the Peak District in England, with its underlying gridstone, as opposed to the White Peak’s Limestone that forms the central and southern parts of the Peak District.
And what about the Dales (open valleys)? About half of over the 50 Derbyshire Dales lies within the Peak District National Park and you are spoilt for choice in terms of cycling and hiking them. To name a few Dales that are worthwhile exploring; Dovedale, Hope Valley, Mam Tor – Shivering Mountain, Monsal Head and Monsal Dale, Stanage Edge, Kinderscout are some of the more popular ones.
Where to stay in the Peak District?
The Peak District have so much to offer that finding accommodation that suits your needs and budget will be easy. However, please be notified that booking in advance is highly recommended. We stayed in the town Matlock, situated in the south-eastern part of the Peak District. We stayed at No. 15 Matlock. Another favourite boutique stay is The Old Granary Cottage (a bit more up-market and for a bigger family / group).
No.15 Matlock - Matlock - We had a great time at this stylish two-bedroom cottage in Matlock on the outskirts of Matlock Spa which we found on Airbnb. The cottage sleeps 4 (with 2 different bedrooms) and most importantly it has stunning views of the Peak District. You really have the Peaks and Derbyshire Dales on your doorstep.
No.15 Matlock is conveniently located in Matlock with Transpeak buses bringing you from Derby to the spa town Buxton via Matlock and cute little market town Bakewell. There is also a local bus that will take you to Chatsworth House, the bus stop is 20 meters No. 15 Matlock house. Please be aware, there are a few flights of stairs in the house and it’s also a 7-minute walk down into town.
The Old Granary Cottage – Matlock - Another great accommodation on my wishlist is The Old Granary Cottage, a perfect cute holiday cottage with hot tub in Matlock, great for exploring all the Peak District has to offer. The luxury cottage sleeps 2-6 while the Shepherds Hut sleeps 2 (exclusive use only with The Old Granary Cottage).
Which places to visit in the Peak District?
A few of the best and most beautiful, picturesque town and villages to visit in the Peak District are Ashford-in-the Water, Bakewell, Castleton, Eyam included in the list below but not limited to other beautiful villages.
Ashford-in-the-Water - The riverside idyll of Asford in the Water is certainly worth a visit. Just one and a half miles out of Bakewell you can easily jump of the bus (en route from Bakewell to Buxton) and cross the river Wye to visit one of the prettiest villages in the Peak District. What’s for teas I hear you asking? The Aisseford Tea Rooms serves up freshly baked cakes, breakfasts, light lunches, and afternoon teas throughout the day. Visit the Bulls Head Pub or the Ashford Arms if you are up for some pub grub.
From Ashford in the Water you can easily drive to the Monsal Head viewpoint. From here you can see the rolling hills of the Peaks countryside and overlook the impressive Monsal Head Viaduct. Or, even better, cycle the Monsal Trail like we did (read more below).
Bakewell - The only market town in the Peak District, Bakewell is idyllically situated on the banks of the river Wye and worth a visit not at least for the famous Bakewell Pudding. There are a few shops that claim the original recipe. I would recommend visiting the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. Another cute little shop for a sweet tooth is the Lavender Tearooms tucked away in a charming courtyard with bunting and cute shops.
After (or before) all these delicacies, make sure to make the steep climb up to glance at the hill-top parish church which gives you stunning views across the old town. Bakewell is just 5 miles from Chatsworth House.
Baslow - Baslow is just 1 mile north of Chatsworth House. Visit the Chicken Shed Interiors, a cute home and garden store or Vintage Living, a fabulous vintage shop, selling original vintage and decorative furniture.
Buxton - We visited the spa-town Buxton as part of our Buxton Circular via Combs Moss hike, a 10-mile trail Corbar Woods. Buxton is most famous for the Opera House beside the Pavilion Gardens, the Cresent and the Mineral Baths.
Castleton - Castleton is a real gem situated at the head of the Hope Valley in the heart of the Peak District National Park. Here is the sweeping line of the Great Ridge connecting Mam Tor with Rushup Edge, a beautiful 6-mile walking route. Don’t forget the Winnats Passs hill pass and limestone gorge, one of the most dramatic roads in the Peak District. The gorge was once a coral reef when Derbyshire lay under the ocean. You can also visit the imposing ruins of Peveril Castle and four show caverns for those interested. Personally, this is not my cup of tea 😉 Visit Rose Cottage Café for a cream tea, lunch or brunch after an outdoorsy morning.
Eyam - A beautiful historic village, Eyam became famous after the Black Death tragic sacrifices made by the villagers in 1665 and 166.There is a 3 mile circular walk from Stoney Middleton to Eyam with beautiful views over Chatsworth, Frogratt, Curbar and Baslow Edge. When its time for some refreshment visit Café Village Green, an indie family run café with great coffee and (plant based) quality food made from the best local ingredients
Hartington - Hartington is conveniently located between the Tissington Trail and the Monifold Track. The scenery in and around this charming old limestone village is outstanding. Hartington village is centred around a spacious square, with the much-photographed duck pond as a focal point.
Matlock - An excellent base for exploring the peaks and dales. We stayed at No.15 Matlock House. Visit the shops on Dale Road and make your way up to High Tor from the Knowleston Gardens. There is also a walk with a cable car ride leading to the Heights of Abraham with beautiful views overlooking a beautiful gorge. From Matlock you can easily visit Matlock Bath which draws visitors from across the country. Looking for a nice restaurant? Try Stones Restaurant or The Remarkable Hare.
Historic Houses & Castles in the Peak District
Chatsworth House – Home to the Devonshire Family and passed down through 16 generations. One of the most famous stately homes in the country and a top visitor attraction in the Peak District. We had a wonderful time exploring over 25 rooms and the beautiful kitchen gardens. If you are into period dramas, you will recognize the house being featured in films like Pride & Prejudice.
Haddon Hall – A beautiful stately home in Derbyshire well known for being featured in various films as The Princess Bride, Jane Eyre and the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice.
Walking and Hiking in the Peak District
Kinder Scout Circular Walk (varies in length between 8 to 10 miles) - Climbing the highest point in the Peak District National Park, this walk is undoubtedly the most famous and a hard to moderate walk in the area. The trail is great for hiking, trail running, and walking. There are many different ways to reach the top but one of the best ways to hike to Kinder Scout is via a path called Jacob’s Ladder, a short but steep route beginning at a beautiful packhorse bridge. A good OS map is a must (but that applies to every walk in the Peak District).
Castleton – Mam Tor – The Great Ridge Walking Route (6,5 or 8 mile) - A 6,5-mile walk starting in Castleton and walking through some of the most admired and stunning parts of the Peak District up to Mam Tor (Mother Hill) along the iconic Great Ridge, this Peak District walk gives stunning views of the Hope Valley and Edale Valley and even the edge of Kinder Scout. There is the option to extend this route to an 8-mile walk making it a circular walk via Mam Tor and Rushup Edge.
Dragon’s Back Walk (between 3,9 and 6.5 miles) - The very unique Dragon’s Back walk brings you to the remote and more quiet Upper Dove valley.
Stepping Stones across the River Dove in, Dovedale (1,5 miles) - The Dovedale stepping stones are a series of 16 limestone-capped stones located in the River Dove in the Dove Valley within the Peak District of England. It is a popular attraction for young and old.
Buxton Circular via Combs Moss (10 miles) - We really enjoyed this Buxton Circular walk via Combs Moss with beautiful views all around the Dales and Peak District. The walk starts in front of the Buxton Station which makes it an easy destination for those exploring the Peaks by public transport.
Cycling in the Peak District
Explore the countryside by bicycle on bridleways, quiet lanes and traffic-free trails like the Tissington Trail or the Monsal Trail. Cycle routes galore in the Peak District. Other trails to explore are the High Peak Trail, the Tideswell and Millers Dale or the Manifold trail. Tissington trail - A 13-mile route from Parsley Hill to Ashbourne along a former railway line.
Monsal trail - The 8-mile trail we cycled between Blackwell Mill and Bakewell, also used to be an old railway track. Take in stunning views whilst cycling over the famous Monsal Head viaduct and through tunnels. You can rent a bike at Hassop Station, one of the three resting stops along the trail. Hassop Station is also a great place for lunch and has a cute little shop.
How to get to the Peak District
The easiest way to get to the Peak District from abroad is flying into Manchester Airport. From there, hire a car. Northern Rail operates various trains and there are also the High Peak buses with the Transpeak services amongst other that can bring you to some of the most beautiful villages around.
More information about the Peak District National Park?