Deep contrasting colours in a land oozing natural beauty, diversity and serenity. A myriad of rolling hills, rivers, springs, gritstone edges, dales and caverns to name a few highlights. Everything one dreams of and more when thinking of rural England. There is no choice but to breathe deep and relax when surrounded by such vivid and sensational views that seem to go on forever.
The Peak District National Park is one of my favourite getaways in the UK. It is easily accessible and only about four hours’ drive from London. I have family up in Huddersfield so it has now become a bit of a habit to have a cheeky stopover to break the journey…..any excuse to slip in a holiday! The Peak District National park is within the borders of five counties; Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire & Greater Manchester. It attracts over 10 million visitors a year, making it one of the most popular National Parks in the UK.
There are a vast amount of activities and things to see and do for all fitness levels. There are 1,600 miles of accessible rights of way for walkers including 64 miles accessible to the disabled and also boasts 65 miles of designated walking and cycling trails but bear in mind, these are mainly old and disused train lines so have a slight gradient. Interestingly, 35% of the park is designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) where certain flora and fauna, wildlife and geological formations are conserved and these are mainly privately owned although the public can access most of these areas, but do check first. It is also an excellent place to drive around soaking it all in, it’s full off narrow, winding roads often with an abrupt edge and steep drop so make sure you’re on point and drive carefully! It’s also usually easy-ish to stop for photographs or to further explore a new-found hidden gem.
It is home to 2,900 listed buildings including world famous Chatsworth House, medieval Haddon Hall, Peveril Castle, tons of centuries old farm buildings and the medieval bridge in Bakewell. It is also home to film, TV and literary classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Moll Flanders and The Other Bolyn Girl to name a few. There are many charming towns and villages such as medieval market town Bakewell (famous for its tart, the secret recipe thought to be a fortunate mistake by a pantry maid in the 1860s and is also one of the UK’s most important agricultural towns), Castleton (famous for caverns, Peveril Castle and Winnats Pass) and Tidswell (14th century ‘cathedral of the peak’). These are just a few reasons so many people from across the globe visit here. You can spend hours exploring in the Peak District, and when your tired legs need a break there is a vast array of sweet tea rooms and traditional pubs to wet your palate and feed that hunger.
I’ve stayed in a few different places in the Peak District, eaten many a tart and walked for miles, and I still have so much to see! But based on my experience, here are a few tips. Remember, I never recommend anything I have not tried and actually liked myself!
Sleep on it and rest those legs
My favourite accommodation is Mount Pleasant Glamping. It has the most fantastic views and has that feeling of being in the middle of nowhere (it pretty much is!) Ok, so it’s not officially in the Peak District itself, but it is right on the southern outskirts in Ashbourne – only a few minutes drive into the park so I am including it here, and this is where I will mainly stay when visiting in the future. Based on an old farm, the owners have a camp site with pitches for tents and camper vans and three delightful wooden ‘glamping’ huts with electricity, cosy double beds with plenty of cushions and blankets, dining table and chairs, kettle, toaster, cutlery/crockery and an outdoor oven with hot plates and smoke oven plus a whole lot more of our home comforts and accessories. The shower block is literally ten seconds walk from the huts and you get tokens included in your stay. We stayed in a larger hut and had a really lovely relaxing time here, the washing facilities are warm and clean, accommodation is very comfortable and clean, the owners Sarah & Whizz are extremely hospitable and friendly and to top it off they have a little family of rescue animals including Alfred the mule, Flossy the Shetland pony, Brandy the mini Shetland pony and the hilarious four characterful pigs Louie, Gertie, Wiggles and Tiny. You are welcome to look at the animals and even scratch the pigs backs with a broom or feed them some grass! Of course if patting farm animals isn’t your idea of fun, you can steer clear of them easily.
Very reasonable prices start at £14 for a tent pitch and £65 for a small hut, read more and book here
Stuff your face and drink to your heart’s content
Of course you must try a Bakewell Tart or pudding. Don’t think of Mr K’s famous packaged tarts – they are absolutely not the same (although I see where the concept came from!) It’s hard to advise the best place to buy one of these as wherever I’ve got them from they’ve been perfect, but it would be a safer bet to get one from one of the little bakers in Bakewell advertising the ‘original’ tart as they’re more likely to be fresh and made on site. You’ll also find local ales in the villages and pubs and fresh cheese and produce in the market and shops.
As for lunch or dinner, my favourite pub is The Royal Oak between Longor and Bakewell. The food is delicious, healthy on the pocket and the service is very friendly and efficient. I would highly recommend the ‘Worlds Best “Oak” Ploughmans” a large plate of local produce, home-made pies and pickles and fresh ingredients, it was to die for and my mouth is watering just thinking about it! It can get busy so best to book if you’re visiting during busy periods.
Plane, Train & Automobile
So how will you get there? This depends entirely upon where you are coming from! The closest airports are Manchester to the north and East Midlands to the south. To access the northern villages in the Peak District, you can catch a train on the Hope Valley line the Derwent Valley line, Manchester to Buxton line and Manchester to Glossop line. For up to date information and detailed journey planning visit the Peak District National Park Authority website
My favourite way of getting round is by car. If you don’t own one, I would hire one. That’s not to say you can’t cycle and walk extensively too but if you’re limited on time and want to see the towns and stately homes as well as walking and nosing on nature, then I would strongly recommend having access to a car.
Other ways I like to spend my days
Go to Chatsworth house. This place is magnificent and a great way to spend a few hours just roaming and imagining life as it once was. The opening season has extended to 4th January 2015 (closing for Christmas and New Year holidays) but always bear in mind filming schedules and recent renovations. Always check opening times before going There are also an array of other buildings, museums and sites of historical interest to see.
See some caves. One of my favourites is Poole’s Cavern, it’s spookily divine, spectacular and takes you to another world. Our tour guide was very interesting and knowledgeable too and made a memorable hour away from the outside world above. It’s based in Buxton, famous for it’s springs and a nice little town to wander around.
Get lost, drive by and shoot. No, not animals or humans. That would be revolting. I am talking about the digital kind of shooting. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve driven around and I’ve shouted ‘STOP’, only to get out to get those perfect photographs and take in the atmosphere. Just driving, walking or cycling around, you’ll see this for yourself. This is actually how we spend the majority of our time when exploring this wonderful place. You can come here a million times, but it would still be possible to get lost and unearth something totally new. And then do it again five minutes later.
Swim in one of the natural swimming spots. We have found most of these just randomly wandering, and unfortunately couldn’t point you back in the direction now as I have no idea where they are! However, the Wild Swimming website is a great resource and even gives levels of safety and cleanliness.
Do you have anything in particular you’d like to ask about the Peak District? , Talk to me – I want to hear from you!
What is your favourite thing to do when in the Peak district? Comment below, share the love, like away on www.facebook.com/thehardytraveller and Twitter @hardytravellers – I appreciate every single one of you, thank you so much for reading!