Peak District Towns and Villages
While the Peak District is known for its incredible landscapes, it also has some beautiful, picturesque villages, some of them famous, some less well known. Select a Peak District town or village from the list below to find out some information and the location.
As pretty a village as any in the Peak, and perfectly placed for the scenic beauties of Dovedale and the Manifold Valley, whether up on the tumulus-crowned ‘lows’ - which are in fact hills - or along the riverbanks. Destinations might include a walk to Thor’s Cave, once a place of bardic ritual, or Ecton Hill with its copper mining relics, including a copper spire on one of the houses. Alstonefield church has a rare three-tiered pulpit and fragments of ancient stone crosses.
The cottages of this picturesque village on the Wye have settled into pretty tranquillity. Ashford is famed for a cottage industry which took the name of Ashford Black Marble around the world. A prize-winning marble table can be seen inside the church, which also has rare examples of maidens’ garlands, carried before the coffins of unmarried, all too often young, women. Ashford’s old Sheepwash Bridge incorporates a riverside pen to contain a number of sheep during their annual, and very public, bath in late spring.
Home of the Peak Advertiser and with an unspoilt country feel, this much loved old market town is justifiably known as ‘the jewel in the Peak District crown’. The Monday general and provisions market is very much alive and kicking, drawing people from all the outlying villages, while farmers come to buy, sell and gossip at the lively agricultural and livestock market. Bakewell’s welcoming shops, pubs and eateries will ensure that you leave neither empty handed nor hungry. A delicious Bakewell Pudding (don’t call it a tart!) is a must; buy it warm to share the flaky crumbs with the ducks beside the river, or take one home for a hot pudding you’ll never forget. The River Wye flows through Bakewell below a series of bridges, on through the park and the open meadows which every August host the famous two-day Bakewell Show. All Saints’ Church is one of the town’s architectural gems and here you can learn the last chapter in a famous romantic elopement. Not to be missed is the Old House Museum, set out in a 16th-century house with many original features.
Bamford lies on the edge of the Peak’s own Lake District, though it is hard to appreciate that the enormous forested dams of the upper Derwent Valley have all been laid out by human hand. Thousands of construction workers laboured on the Howden, Derwent and Ladybower reservoirs in the first half of the past century. Two villages were drowned when the valleys were flooded, traces of which still appear in times of drought. During the Second World War, pilots of the famous Dambuster Squadron perfected their ‘bouncing bomb’ technique on these tranquil waters, their story told in a museum on the Derwent dam wall (01433 650953 for opening hours). Bamford offers opportunities for fishing, hill or level walking, woodland picnics and cycle hire at Fairholmes Visitor Centre.
Flanked on one side by the rolling acres of Chatsworth Park and on the other by Baslow Edge, the setting of this old stone village is unrivalled. Baslow has thatched cottages, a tiny toll cottage on a hump-backed bridge, a curious church clock, fine Restaurants and pubs, and shops that city-dwellers would envy. The village stretches out its fingers along the banks of the Derwent and up the hill to the east. Walkers and climbers love the surrounding gritstone ‘edges’ with landmarks which include traces of prehistoric occupation, a Nelson’s column, a memorial to the Duke of Wellington and the legendary Eagle Stone with its tough challenge to young men of marriageable age.
Sheltered between the River Derwent and the high moorlands, scattered around with farmsteads large and small, Beeley is one of the charming ‘estate villages’ of Chatsworth. Amongst the clusters of cottages are some fine houses built as family seats in the 17th/18th centuries. A gurgling brook, an old coaching inn, a part-Norman church and village shop make Beeley a popular stop for walkers and road travellers.
Such is the exposed position of Biggin that its church clock is protected by four coats of black paint. Dark gargoyles glower over the churchyard, where headstones reveal names which might have been borrowed from the local map: Manifold, Bonsall, Heathcote, Derbyshire and more. This is limestone country, the White Peak, criss-crossed with drystone walls and scattered with hundreds of sheep. Biggin has a well preserved pinfold where stray sheep and cattle were impounded until the owner reclaimed them in return for a fee to the ‘pinner’ who held the key.
This attractive old quarrying village is little changed by the passage of time. Footpaths climb to curious rock formations once associated with the ancient Druids, though in truth it was an 18th-century vicar who carved niches and seats into the towering rocks. Birchover lies close to Stanton Moor, a Bronze Age cemetery with a number of stone circles including the much visited Nine Ladies. Legend has it that this circle was once a ring of nine maidens, all turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath.
The hard-working inhabitants of centuries past have left intriguing marks on Bonsall, from an abundance of lead mining remains to rickety framework knitters’ workshops. A moon-like face looks down from the fine market cross, and the Merry Monarch gazes back from his inn sign. Secret gardens are briefly opened up to visitors in late summer, Bonsall brook tumbles down Clatterway and on through the Via Gellia, and even the skies might be alive. In recent times Bonsall has become a hotspot for UFO sightings.
A village which has virtually dug itself out of the land, in the process extracting not only limestone for its cottages and church, but that other Peakland bonanza - lead. The Romans manned a collecting point for lead at their fort in nearby Brough, while there is a tradition of a bloody Anglo-Saxon battle fought in these beautiful hills - hence, perhaps, Rebellion Knoll and Gore Lane. A climb into the steep clefts and level stretches of today’s Bradwell takes the visitor past traditional stone-built cottages, good pubs and small businesses and shops to do a town proud. Bradwell knows how to enjoy itself when the work is over too, holding an eagerly awaited Gala and Well Dressings in high summer.
There was a time when Brassington lay on the main route between London and Manchester, and two of its old coaching inns - at least one of them haunted - are still in business. Less than a mile away are Harborough Rocks, worth the climb for magnificent 360 degree views over and beyondthe White Peak. In the 1720s Daniel Defoe encountered a lead miner’s family living in a cave near Brassington, the wife a ‘well-shaped ... comely woman’, but her miner husband was ‘lean as a skeleton, pale as a dead corps, his hair and beard a deep black, his skin lank ... something of the colour of the lead itself’. He had just emerged from working at 60 fathoms (360ft) below ground.
You could be in and and out of Bretton before you know it, unless the Youth Hostel is your destination, or the 400-year-old pub which at 1250ft above sea level is the highest in Derbyshire. But the Peak Advertiser reaches even this high spot on its exposed high ridge a short distance from Eyam.
A scattering of stones in a field just west of Brough marks the site of the Roman military fort of Navio, built above the pretty, almost secret, River Noe. Buxton Museum houses finds from the site, also a Roman milestone. Brough is home to a number of successful businesses, and the local pub has a grisly ghost story.
Though just a fraction outside, Buxton, much like Matlock, still has the feeling of being inside the Peak District. A handsome spa town with a spa water swimming pool, 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, and a short stroll leads to the enormous record-breaking Devonshire Dome, open to visitors simply by asking at the reception desk.
Calver is where it is because of the River Derwent, which has been harnessed to provide power first for local corn mills and later for cotton mills. Some years ago Calver’s most imposing building briefly became Colditz Castle in a TV series. But there is more to Calver than can be seen from the main road, though passing traffic will be happily waylaid by some distinctive shopping opportunities and refreshment stops.
This shy stone village, beautifully tucked away in the hills, kept itself to itself for well over a thousand years. Early travellers passed through on their way to Ashbourne or Wirksworth with little reason to stop - apart from the Romans that is. Evidence of their stay came to light during construction of Carsington Water, a major reservoir completed in 1991. The reservoir now looks as though it has been hiding in the hills forever, surrounded by lovely walks and cycle paths and offering recreational facilities including water sports and fishing, bird hides, an adventure playground and modern-day stone circle, visitor centre and restaurant. Nearby Hopton Hall, though not open to the public, is of interest for its long ownership by the Gell family.
Everyone should visit Castleton at least once in their life. Well, twice - once when it is warm enough to picnic high on the Shivering Mountain, otherwise known as Mam Tor, and again when the whole village is illuminated for Christmas with the shops open until late and the old inns brimming with good cheer. Castleton is a place of ghosts and legends, pagan customs, breathtaking scenery and the unique ornamental Blue John stone. Four show caves are each distinctly different, then there is an inexpensive but well stocked village museum and a ruined hilltop castle with the oldest lavatory in the Peak!
Known as the ‘Palace of the Peak’ and home to the Dukes of Devonshire, Chatsworth is magnificent whichever way you look at it. Elaborate waterworks with a Great Cascade and soaring Emperor Fountain are to be found in gardens laid out by the famous Paxton, while classical statues provide a grandeur which contrasts with the simple graves of family pets lying beneath the trees. Visitors can choose to tour the House or just the gardens, also the Farmyard and adventure playground. Thousands of acres of surrounding parkland and woodland are freely open to walkers, while herds of deer generally keep their distance behind the thousands of sheep which ‘play chicken’ on the road through the park.
A typical White Peak upland village, though one which retains the pattern of an ancient field system marked out by drystone walls. High on Chelmorton Low (see Foolow) is the highest megalithic chambered tomb in England; down on the village street stands a unique telephone box; and a golden locust looks down over the historic Church Inn from the top of the church spire. A shady brook, once the village water supply, is for some strange reason known as Illy Willy Water.
Churchtown in Darley Dale is almost exactly what it says, though in truth never a true town but a quiet - and, some say, haunted - area around the lovely parish church of St. Helen. A famous yew tree, one of the largest and oldest in Britain, stands in the churchyard. Almost within its shade is buried Sir Joseph Whitworth, a brilliant engineer of the industrial revolution.
Richard Arkwright put Cressbrook on the map when he built a cotton mill on the banks of the Wye in the 1780s - a very different venture from the distillery which at that time processed peppermint, lavender and other aromatic herbs. The spot called Bury me Wick, rich in wild flowers, is far too pretty for its name to cause any concern (even though ‘wick’ is an old Peakland word for ‘alive’!).
Where Sir Richard Arkwright made his name, and his fabulous fortune. Cromford owes its appearance to the great cotton magnate, from millworkers’ cottages to a hotel, market place - and tiny gaol. Oh, and the castle which would have become his residence had he not died just before it was completed. Arkwright’s Cromford Mill only narrowly missed top vote in television’s first ‘Restoration’ series and is one of the Peak’s top visitor attractions. Scarthin mill pond with its swans and waterwheel make a picturesque scene and there is good level walking along Cromford Canal to High Peak Junction, part of the story of a remarkable narrow gauge railway. (See Middleton by Wirksworth.)
Curbar village is best known for its Gap, a rare natural cleft in the spectacular gritstone ‘edges’ through which wheeled traffic can reach or leave the open moors. Below Curbar Gap a series of roadside boulders are carved with biblical texts, while a southerly footpath at the bottom of the hill skirts the five initialled graves of an entire family wiped out by the plague over 300 years ago.
Named after an ancient bridge on the Derwent, this village spans a winding road leading into the heart of the Peak. Only a stone’s throw away is the former Millclose lead mine, once the most productive in England. In the opposite direction a gated road crosses the meadows below Oker Hill, notable for its landmark sycamore tree commemorated in a poem by Wordsworth.
Home to a working carriage museum with vehicles used in period films from Jane Eyre to Pride and Prejudice and by passengers from Santa Claus to the Tweenies, Darley Dale is almost a town in its own right. It has any number of shops, garden centres, several pubs and eateries, handsome Victorian properties such as a hotel and a landmark former hydro, and the extensive Whitworth Park - one of its connections with the great engineer Sir Joseph Whitworth (see Churchtown). Peak Rail has a station at Darley Dale and another further along the line at Northwood, with steam trains operating throughout the year.
The Vale of Edale lies at the foot of Kinder Scout, the highest point in Derbyshire and serious walking country for well prepared enthusiasts. The Pennine Way long distance footpath links Edale with the Scottish borders but shorter rambles can be enjoyed with the help of a good map. Jacob’s Ladder does not quite lead to heaven, but it can seem like it. Thick cloud can descend quickly over these Dark Peak moors: Kinder and Bleaklow are littered with the remains of aircraft wrecks. Advice is freely available from the Information Centre between Edale station and the village.
Pronounced ‘Ensor’, this is a Chatsworth Estate Village, hence all the ‘estate blue’ paintwork. The original Edensor stood closer to Chatsworth but was cleared in the 1840s and rebuilt around the church. The diversity of the houses are said to be due to a whim on the part of the architect, who built each one in a different style taken from his pattern book. Edensor church contains a flamboyant monument to two sons of Bess of Hardwick, builder of the great Elizabethan mansion which was the first Chatsworth. Her ducal descendants have far more modest monuments in the family burial plot behind the church, last resting place too of Kathleen Kennedy whose brother became President of the United States.
An observant visitor might notice that the houses on one side of Elton’s main street are built of gritstone but those on the other side are limestone. At almost 1000ft above sea level, a difference in temperature might also be noticed, in fact the village becomes something of a ski resort with a decent snowfall. The one and only pub is genuinely not of this world. Elton is a good base for a walk to the strange outcrop of Robin Hood’s Stride and the nearby hermit’s cave.
This matchless picture postcard village is immortalised by its suffering during an outbreak of plague in 1665/6, when the villagers put themselves into voluntary quarantine. A plaque marks the cottage where the plague began and the names of many victims are displayed on the houses where they lived and died. Each August a commemoration service is held on the slopes of a dell where the brave rector prayed with his dwindling congregation. The village still has its ancient market hall, stocks, bull ring and at least one haunted pub. Eyam Hall and Craft Centre are open to visitors.
This village with a curious name would be just a hamlet but for its church and the fact that it boasts the closest pub to the beauty spot of Tissington. It did once have a moat around the old hall, family seat of the Beresfords. Thomas Beresford, who fought at Agincourt with many sons from his 21-strong brood, is commemorated with his wife in Fenny Bentley church, but their effigies appear as two figures trussed up from head to toe in marble shrouds.
For 364 days of the year, despite the fact that the Limestone Way passes along its one main street, the farming village of Flagg is every bit as peaceful as any in the White Peak. But on Easter Tuesday Flagg Moor bustles with thousands of people attending the highest point to point in the country - a brisk and breezy 1100ft above sea level. A footpath between Flagg and Taddington runs parallel to mile after mile of white drystone walls.
This is one of a number of villages ending in the syllable ‘low’, from the Old English ‘hlaw’ meaning a hill or burial mound. And sure enough the map shows the sites of prehistoric tumuli on all our Peakland ‘lows’. Picture perfect, Foolow has a little church, pub, duck pond, and a bull ring preserved below a carved stone cross on the immaculate village green.
Froggatt offers unforgettable views from its gritstone ‘edge’. The dark and rugged crest of Froggatt Edge can be seen from miles around, the rockface usually dotted with rock climbers, while gliders and hang gliders swirl in the skies above. A broad path along the edge is popular with walkers in all seasons, passing close to a stone circle thought to be of Bronze Age origin.
Derbyshire and Lincolnshire Gliding Club is based above Hucklow Edge, just the place for taking advantage of the thermals, not to mention the breathtaking scenery of this rugged corner of the Peak. Car parking is provided for visitors who enjoy watching the aeronautical activity while keeping their feet firmly on the ground.
Here life is centred around an ancient village green with a stone ‘cross’ atop timeworn steps. Notable buildings in this attractive village include an elegant red brick hall, the old Manor House adjacent to one of the village pubs, and St Giles church with its early stonework and finely carved oak roofs. Church Lane Farm with its row of stone troughs was once a brewery; its beer was taken as a remedy when typhus struck the village in 1820 and not a single life was lost!
A three-arched bridge over the Derwent spans a river crossing used since the 1300s, and Gryndelford Bridge appears in the story of a highwayman with a purse, and almost a heart, of gold. The main road through Grindleford later became the Buxton/Sheffield turnpike, with travellers paying their dues at a roadside house still known as Toll Bar Cottage. A short distance from Grindleford railway station is Padley Chapel, site of an annual July Pilgrimage commemorating three Roman Catholic martyred priests, two of whom were caught in hiding at Padley Hall, since fallen into ruin.
Long before construction of the A6 out of Matlock, horse-drawn traffic travelling into the Peak had to climb the steep Dimple hill and continue along the flanks of the Derwent Valley via Hackney. Apart from a pub and some long established nurseries, all commercial life has come to an end in the village now. Many of its cottages were built before the age of the motor car, but lack of a garage is a small price to pay for having sweeping views across the width of the Derwent valley.
Farming has been Hartington’s lifeblood for upwards of a thousand years, almost since the place was given by William the Conqueror to Henry de Ferrers. Charters for a market and three-day fair followed. Today’s shoppers are unlikely to go home without a chunk of one of Hartington’s delicious cheeses. A picturesque village in its own right, with a duck pond and village ‘square’, Hartington is also the gateway to beautiful scenery on both the Derbyshire and Staffordshire sides of the River Dove.
The former Hassop railway station is now a large out-of-town bookstore, while the track bed has become the popular Monsal Trail. Walkers and cyclists can follow the waymarked trail all the way from Bakewell almost to Buxton, not necessarily all at once, with car parks and refreshment stops en route. Totally free of motor traffic, the path is full of interest to lovers of natural history and geology and of course to railway buffs.
Hathersage lies snugly in the north-eastern corner of the Derwent Valley below the stunning outline of Stanage Edge, acclaimed as some of the finest rock climbing faces in the country. So what of the old village set in this beautiful spot? Well Hathersage boasts several hostelries including a haunted hotel and an old drover’s inn, some very special shops, evidence from its days as a manufacturing centre for pins and needles, associations with Charlotte Bronte and her heroine Jane Eyre and, believe it or not, the grave of one of England’s favourite outlaws, Little John. Hathersage has much to offer as a holiday base, with lovely riverside walks, woodland rambles or good moorland hikes on its doorstep.
Better to live in Hope they say, and generations of families would agree. The village which gave name to a beautiful valley played major roles in Peakland history. Hope church lies alongside the point where a Roman road forded Peakshole Water, but even in Saxon times Hope was one of the largest parishes in the land, evidenced by a Saxon cross shaft in the churchyard. In medieval times Hope lay at the heart of the Royal Forest of the Peak, jealously guarded royal hunting lands with wolf, bear and deer all the preserve of the king. The village pinfold still houses an occasional beast, though nothing wilder than a stray cow or sheep. August Bank Holiday sees Hope Show and Sheepdog Trials - a real country day out amidst stunning scenery.
Hope Valley encompasses many of the most amazing places in the Peak District, which is probably why it is one of the most go-to areas for visitors to the national park.
Hathersage boasts several hostelries including a haunted hotel and an old drover’s inn, some very special shops, evidence from its days as a manufacturing centre for pins and needles, associations with Charlotte Bronte and her heroine Jane Eyre and, believe it or not, the grave of one of England’s favourite outlaws, Little John. Hathersage is very close to Stanage Edge, a spectacular gritstone edge popular with walkers and climbers.
Further along the valley, the aforementioned Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs sit atop the village of Bamford.
Castleton is situated near the bottom of the Shivering Mountain, otherwise known as Mam Tor, which shook and slid until its road collapsed (see whether you can spot the cats’ eyes embedded in topsy-turvy tarmac) and is home to the unique ornamental Blue John stone. There are four show cave, each distinctly different, and Peveril Castle, a ruined hilltop castle with the oldest lavatory in the Peak!
A modest hamlet nestling against a big brother which itself doesn’t cover a lot of ground (see Great Hucklow). The beauty of the Hucklows is their tenacious link to farming and the land. It seems that nothing could ever come along to spoil this spot where farming has put food on the table for centuries.
A one-street village which comes into bloom with the first of the spring sunshine, continuing right through summer and into autumn. Each garden, however tiny, seems to be devoted to traditional English flowers, golden nasturtiums tumbling over fossil-laden limestone walls beside a road shaded by leafy trees. Little Longstone has an old packhorse inn, the remains of its village stocks, and a Manor House. Just beyond the village are the glories of Monsal Dale with a soaring viaduct which once carried steam trains over the River Wye (see Monsal Head).
Once powered by the River Wye and now luxury residential accommodation, Litton Mill was one of the cotton mills on which England’s industrial revolution was built. It is difficult now to relate this charming and gentle village to the appalling treatment of its apprentices in the distant past. Litton village presents a lovely scene with a tree-shaded green, a set of stocks and traditional old pub.
Crowned many years ago as the Capital of the Moorlands, Longnor is a favourite haunt of campers, walkers and hikers who come to explore the lovely valleys where the River Dove forms the Derbyshire/Staffordshire boundary. Its surroundings, with a changing landscape between moorland and limestone, are rich in fossils, flora and wildlife, while traces of prehistoric occupation have been found in rock shelters and burial mounds. Behind Longnor’s cobbled square an old market house still displays a list of tolls for buyers and sellers.Community spirit excels itself at Longnor Races, an annual event since 1904
Even the road signs are not sure whether there are two p’s in Mappleton, though the village can trace its history to Domesday. St Mary’s church has an unusual mini-dome instead of a spire - coincidence or not, the architect was a pupil of Sir Christopher Wren, builder of St Paul’s Cathedral. The technicalities of Mappleton’s New Year’s Day charity bridge jump literally makes the blood run cold. It incorporates a half-mile paddle down the River Dove, a 30ft leap into the water, a swim and finally a foot race to the village pub - which within living memory spent 40 years as a temperance hotel!
The administrative centre for both Derbyshire Dales and Derbyshire County Council, Matlock has something for everyone; regular markets, bus station, mainline railway station as well as a private railway offering pleasure rides in a steam train, shops galore, restaurants, takeaways and accommodation. The Derwent flows through a large park in the town centre and Matlock’s houses, and more shops, spread along the river to Matlock Green and up the hillsides. One lofty hill is topped with a gaunt ruined castle, built by a hydropathic pioneer who really put Matlock on the map. His massive former hydro, now County Hall, takes prime position over other prominent hydros just below the skyline on Matlock Bank. Matlock lays on special events throughout the year, not least the Victorian Christmas Market and a Boxing Day raft race.
Arguably the most popular inland pleasure resort in England, Matlock Bath really knows how to welcome visitors. The village has had centuries of experience, born of a time when it was a world famous spa in a setting which Byron compared favourably with Switzerland. Grottos and garden walls are built from tufa, a stone which ‘grows’ and is much used here for decorative features. Visitor attractions are numerous and very varied, both overground and underground, not to mention a wealth of shops, Restaurants and takeaways. Matlock Bath illuminations are the highlight of autumn, with thousands of coloured bulbs reflected in the Derwent, weekend firework displays and parades of illuminated boats along the river.
Middleton by Wirksworth
This small quarrying village maintains a strong connection with the stone industry. The National Stone Centre is on its doorstep, with a fascinating quarry trail and indoor exhibition. It stands alongside the High Peak Trail, a former light railway, and visitors can still take a ride along a branch line on the quaint Steeple Grange Railway. Middleton Top Visitor Centre, with its intermittently active Engine House, tells the story of the Cromford & High Peak Railway. A cycle hire centre has bikes to suit everyone and there are 18 miles of traffic free countryside to explore along the High Peak Trail.