Higger Tor courtesy of Chris Gilbert
About The Peak District
If you are visiting this amazing part of the UK, you will find many varied activities and attractions, and also scenery that is unmatched, with sweeping views, vast stretches of open access land and thousands of miles of footpaths – you will soon see why the Peak District is so popular. En route, keep an eye open for prehistoric stone circles and burial mounds, Iron Age hillforts, Roman paving, Norman stonework, centuries-old guide stoops, village pinfolds, humpbacked packhorse bridges, historic old mills – and plague graves. Oh, and water which turns objects to stone. You just can’t miss our famous drystone walls, snaking up hill and down dale. Striding along any one of our bracing top-of-the-world gritstone ‘edges’ is sure to blow away the cobwebs. Do take time to dip your toes in the sparkling streams; even walk across a river or two without getting your feet wet – providing you keep your balance!
Derwent Edge by Chris Gilbert
Chrome Hill courtesy of Jez Ward
We also boast some of the most attractive market towns in the country, with welcoming shops to match, and can recommend local specialities ranging from our delectable world-famous puddings to farm produce and award-winning beers and ice cream.
Hall Leys Park, Matlock
Our Country Shows and colourful customs promise an abundance of attractions throughout the summer months, some lively, many unique. If your family is animal crackers you can track down herds of deer, llamas and alpacas, birds of prey – and big fat trout! The Peaks and Dales have country parks and town parks, plus peaceful sanctuaries for the likes of water birds, donkeys and otters.
Ladybower Reservoir courtesy of Chris Gilbert
Our picture-postcard villages reveal many a fascinating secret or monument, especially in and around their churches. And we’ll let you into a secret: legend has it that a hoard of royal gold awaits discovery in this part of the world… but our lips are sealed! As for an easier challenge, we have pubs with names to really make you scratch your heads; try offering a prize to whoever spots the strangest inn sign hereabouts.
Edensor courtesy of Joe Parker
Summer in the Peak District
There is nowhere to match the Peaks and Dales in summertime. Higgledy-piggledy Wirksworth is an ancient lead mining capital and holds a regular Tuesday market. Bakewell sets out its stalls on a Monday, Ashbourne on Thursday and Saturday; Matlock has indoor market stalls throughout the week, including Saturdays and an outdoor market on a Wednesday.
You can go underground and overground in the Peaks and Dales to your hearts’ content. Want to walk on water? Come to Dovedale, beloved of Isaac Walton. The famous stepping stones will carry you from Derbyshire into Staffordshire and vice versa. As Byron enthused: ‘Was you ever in Dovedale? I assure you there are things in Derbyshire as noble as in Greece or Switzerland’. Fabulous show caves wait to be explored at Buxton, Matlock Bath and Castleton. Their wonders include a bottomless pit, underground village, fairyland grotto and a pillar of our famously beautiful Blue John, a rare translucent mineral displayed in Castleton Museum. The village even has a King, who in late May rides through the village on horseback beneath a gigantic riot of flowers.
Castleton takes its name from Peveril, or Peak, Castle – built by a son of William the Conqueror. Royalty and noblemen came here to hunt bear, boar and deer in the Royal Forest of the Peak but poachers suffered unspeakable punishments in the castle dungeons. Hidden in the walls of the great keep is a very old (retired) lavatory – a simple affair of a hole and a chute.
Castleton is overlooked by mighty Mam Tor, the ‘shivering mountain’ of legend – a spectacular place for picnics and for flying kites and model aircraft. Mam Tor shook and slid until its road collapsed. See whether you can spot the cats’ eyes embedded in topsy-turvy tarmac. Distant views stretch towards the Upper Derwent Reservoirs, which drowned two villages and where the Dambuster Squadron practised dropping those famous ‘bouncing bombs’.
Lancaster Bomber over Derwent Dam, courtesy of Rod Dunn
DARK SKIES AND GHOSTS
Mam Tor is favoured by The Dark Skies movement (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/darkskies), so gear up for a magical night you will never forget. For doers rather than watchers, Derbyshire and Lancashire Gliding Club is only a wing-beat away at Hucklow, offering introductory flying lessons and more.
Incidentally, you are now in the Dark Peak as opposed to the White Peak, the difference being gritstone versus limestone, as seen in our famous drystone walls. Many miles of wall stretch towards the magnificent Kinder plateau, crossed by a section of the long-distance Pennine Way. Kinder is a graveyard of WW2 aircraft so naturally has its ghosts, not to mention a mermaid’s pool. In fact we have a mermaid that you can actually see. She poses in Buxton Museum & Art Gallery along with prehistoric and Roman finds, glorious displays of Ashford marble, the heads of two runaway sheep (real ones) and a top-notch art gallery.
Buxton is a handsome spa town with a spa water swimming pool. And feel free to top up your plastic bottles with Buxton water at St Anne’s Well in the Crescent. The lovely Victorian Opera House is close by – its boards trodden by the likes of Stewart Granger, Alec Guinness and The Beatles. A short stroll leads to the enormous record-breaking Devonshire Dome, open to visitors simply by asking at the reception desk.
Shades of an outlaw and a doomed queen live on inside Poole’s Cavern, but take care not to squash the poached eggs or step on the dragon’s eye.
On the other hand, it does pay to look up when out and about. You might spot a furtive cat on the tower of our ‘Cathedral of the Peak’ at Tideswell, or a golden locust in Chelmorton. A rat for a weathervane can only mean Eyam, where the village museum tells a sad story of selflessness and heartbreak. An outdoor Plague Commemoration Service is held on the last Sunday of August, everyone welcome. This marks the start of Eyam’s Carnival and Well Dressing week.
If passing through nearby Stoney Middleton, glance up and spare a thought for the jilted Hannah Baddaley, who in 1762 leapt from the top of this limestone gorge. Her skirts billowed into a parachute and let her down with barely a scratch.
A well dressing in Bakewell
TURNED TO STONE
From springtime into late summer, starting with Tissington on Ascension Day, many of our villages dress their wells and springs with stunning tableaux of flowers in thanksgiving for fresh water. Well Dressing programmes are available from Tourist Information Centres.
Actually, we are no longer that short of water. Carsington Water is a treat for all ages, offering bird watching and boat hire, exhibitions, shops and restaurants, plus bags of open space to burn off young energy. Various villages still have their stocks, bullrings and lock-ups, while Winster is especially proud of its ancient stone market hall. Youlgrave, or Youlgreave, or even Youlegrave, boasts a record-breaking number of spellings (almost 50 to date) as well as the world’s smallest detached house. The village lies on the lovely river Bradford, a delight for spotting plants and wildlife from the riverside paths. You are welcome to take a dip in the crystal clear bathing pool just up-river from the hamlet of Bradford.
Nearby Haddon Hall earns praise as the most authentic unspoilt manor house in England, much favoured for film and television productions including Princess Bride and Jane Eyre. Not for nothing was the 16th-century Sir George Vernon known as King of the Peak – he was judge and jury round here. The elopement of his daughter, Dorothy Vernon, and John Manners passed into legend.
At Rowsley there was once a bustling railway station, welcoming royal visitors to Chatsworth, is now the extensive Peak Shopping Village.
From Rowsley you could trek or drive up to the Nine Ladies stone circle on Stanton Moor, supposedly a group of dancers and their fiddler turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath. Closer access is from Birchover or Stanton in Peak. The massive outcrop of Robin Hood’s Stride stands a few miles away. And a pat on the back if you find the nearby hermit’s cave.
FUN and GAMES, SCRAMBLING & RAMBLING
We have a Palace of the Peak too: the stately Chatsworth, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The Derwent flows through its vast park, roamed by herds of deer and sheep by the thousand, and where anyone may wander and picnic freely. The fun and games of Chatsworth Farmyard and Adventure Playground are accessed via the main drive, while the award-winning Chatsworth Farm Shop is just a short drive away. The estate village of Edensor has a not-to-be missed church – with a little delving you may learn why a sister of President Kennedy is buried in Edensor churchyard.
In the distance loom our mighty gritstone ‘edges’ beloved of rock climbers, scramblers and ramblers. We have our own Nelson’s Column on Birchen Edge and Wellington’s Monument on Baslow Edge.
Public parks variously have cycle paths, paddling and boating, a miniature railway, tennis and mini-golf, skateboarding, swings, slides and sandpits, plus bags of space for ball games and picnics. Bakewell, Matlock, Wirksworth and Ashbourne all have public swimming pools, not forgetting Hathersage open-air lido – and don’t miss Little John’s very long grave in Hathersage churchyard.
Fancy a jaunt on a steam train? Of course – courtesy perhaps of Peak Rail, based at Matlock. From Wirksworth you can travel both The Ecclesbourne Valley line and Steeple Grange Light Railway, with its quaint little NCB ‘manrider’.
Old railway trackbeds, largely suitable for pushchair and wheelchair users, link to cycle hire centres including Hassop Station Bookstore on the Monsal Trail. Echoing old tunnels open onto a breathtaking viaduct at Monsal Head. Cycles are also available at Parsley Hay, just a short distance from Arbor Low – one of the largest stone circles in England – and even closer to the temptations of Brierlow Bar Bookstore.
Cromford has Arkwright’s world-famous Cromford Mill. The canal towpath, with its promise of kingfishers and water voles, runs past High Peak Junction workshops and the Leawood Pumphouse.
FLOTILLAS, FIREWORKS & FLOATS
Up in the air for more ideas? Derbyshire and Lancashire Gliding Club welcomes both novices and old hands. At Matlock Bath the whole family can swing over the dizzy Derwent gorge by cable car, en route for the Heights of Abraham.
Matlock Bath has been dubbed England’s favourite inland resort; its many visitor attractions include the Peak District Mining Museum. Plus… the local waters are simply petrifying! Matlock Bath is the place to see unlikely objects being imperceptibly turned to stone.
Do drop into the nearby Whistlestop Centre, with its free indoor and outdoor activities during school holidays. Late summer sees Matlock Bath Illuminations, fireworks lighting up the night sky and flotillas of decorated boats sailing along the river.
We come to the end of this brief tour in the Peak Advertiser's home town of Bakewell, overlooked by the lovely All Saints’ Church and Bakewell Old House Museum. Take time to wander through the river meadows but don’t miss our famous Monday stall market and Farmers’ Market. July sees Carnival Week, beginning with a fantastic procession of floats wending its way to the park.
We have wonderful shops and restaurants too… you must have heard of our famous Bakewell Pudding. And we’ll let you into a secret – the real ‘M’ went to school in Bakewell and he went on to become head of MI6!
Finally, wherever you go and whatever you find in our Peaks and Dales, do enjoy your visit. We look forward to welcoming you again.
Baslow Edge at sunset courtesy of Joe Parker
And lastly, why is it called the Peak District? Well, this can cause something of a misunderstanding. There isn't really any 'peaks' as such in the Peak District, certainly not 'mountain peaks' – Kinder Scout and Bleaklow are its only 'mountains', although by some definitions they are still actually not mountains! But there certainly are a lot of big, rolling hills and craggy edges. One possibility for the name is that the it derives from the old English name for hill – peac. Another is that it could be from the word Pecsaetan, an Anglo-Saxon tribe that lived in the area.