The Peak District has to be one of the most beautiful areas to visit in England. Rural and picturesque villages are speckled around the stunning countryside, not far from Liverpool, Manchester, and Birmingham (in case you want to combine your visit with a city break!). Set out from anywhere and you are guaranteed to find a walking path with delightful pubs along the way.
1. Ladybower Reservoir
Mention ‘Ladybower’ to anyone over 50 from Yorkshire or Derbyshire and they’ll tell you enthusiastically that this is where the 1955 classic Dam Busters was filmed. If you’re a fan of the film then it’s an obvious choice for a visit, but there’s a good reason it was used as a location — it’s incredibly impressive and beautiful. You don’t have to walk far to appreciate the reservoir properly, as a stroll across the bridge lets you look down into the deep water. At the bottom lies the remains of a village, which was flooded in the 1940s. When the water levels drop, the village becomes visible.
After a good look at the reservoir, you can head up into the hills through a walking trail that is stunning in the warmer months. Grab an ice-cream from one of the trucks parked around the reservoir and then some traditional northern cuisine at Ladybower Inn, just half a mile away. If you’re looking to stay in the area overnight then The Yorkshire Bridge Inn offers a peaceful night’s sleep in idyllic surroundings.
Second on our list of Peak District places to visit is Bakewell – the birthplace of the delicious Bakewell Tart, but far from the only reason to visit this lovely village. Bakewell Old House is an intriguing little museum where you can marvel at the old stonework of the building and view artefacts from the village’s history. The staff will be more than happy to speak with you about Bakewell. All Saints Church sits just behind the Old House and it’s a historical gem not to be missed.
The whole village is picturesque, so it’s worth exploring. And when you need a pick-me-up, head to one of the little cafés for a proper Bakewell Tart. The Bakewell Tart Shop serves an excellent tart, but don’t expect it to taste like the shop-bought kind — they’re far better in Bakewell. The Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell is great place to stay and they offer the kind of traditional pub fare that’s perfect after a day out in the Peaks.
3. Eyam Plague Village
On arrival in Eyam, the first subject of conversation is likely to centre around how to actually pronounce the name of the village. Only the locals know how to say it properly!
However, it’s also known as The Plague Village because, from 1665-1666, 260 of the tiny village’s inhabitants died from the plague. It was first introduced to the village in a flea-infested bundle of cloth and, once it became clear that the plague had arrived in Eyam, the villagers took the selfless action of quarantining themselves from the surrounding villages to try and stop the spread. Entire families passed into history as they become victims of the plague and there are houses lining the main road, known as ‘plague cottages’. These cottages bear plaques for the public to read, commemorating victims of the former household who perished. One plaque commemorates the family of Elizabeth Hancock, who physically buried six of her children and her husband on her own. You can still see where they were buried on the outskirts of the village.
At the edge of the village you’ll find a stone that food was laid on for the inhabitants of Eyam by those living in the surrounding villages, to avoid all contact. You can hear the unique and harrowing story of the Plague Village at Eyam Museum. The Barrell Inn has been in Eyam since 1597 and offers amazing views of the peaks, so it’s perfect for an overnight stay.
4. Devil’s Arse, Castleton
Technically, it’s called Peak Cavern but, let’s face it, it’s much funnier to suggest a dive in the Devil’s Arse. Weather permitting, a walk through the cave makes for a brilliant day out, and sometimes there are even musical events in the amphitheatre, contained within the cave. Your guide will talk you through the rope-making process, which was once very important to the area. You can keep an eye on upcoming events and opening times on the website.
If walking through a cave isn’t for you then you can always take a boat trip around the nearby Speedwell Cavern — an old lead mine. It’s just as lovely, but has a less funny name. If you’re looking to stay in the area overnight then head to the town of Castleton. Innkeepers Lodge is a good bet for a pleasant night’s sleep, with comfy beds and exposed beams — a lovely characteristic often found in the Peaks. There is also a restaurant attached and lots of other restaurants within walking distance.
In the 19th and 20th centuries Hathersage was an industrial village, producing things like needles and then umbrellas, but it’s also known for its connection to Charlotte Brontë. She spent some months there in 1845 and set her novel Jane Eyre in the village. Robin Hood’s companion, Little John, is also supposedly buried in Hathersage and you can read his gravestone in the churchyard. All of the main attractions here are located to the north west and north east, so if you head north from the main car park, it is easy to find everything and see it all in one day.
If you visit in the summer then you might want to visit the outdoor pool in the village centre. It’s £7 for adult admission and amazing for cooling down after a long walk in the sun. The dog-friendly Plough Inn is great for food and accommodation.
6. Stanage Edge
Just north of Hathersage is the vast and impressive Stanage Edge. Climbers flock here to scale the cliffs and you can see them heading to the base with climbing mats and ropes. You don’t have to climb Stanage Edge, mind — there are several little pathways carved out from all of the people who have visited and followed the same paths to the top. One you have reached the top of the Edge, you can walk along the ridge and the views from up there are phenomenal. It is very easy to spend a day sitting on the ridge, or even half way up, on one of the huge stones that jut out amongst the grass. Bring your friends and a picnic and your day is sorted. Oh and, in the summer, make sure to bring suncream because the walk is an absolute sun-trap. But there are often ice-cream trucks around so you can grab something refreshing after your walk!
Stanage Edge is the perfect place to see The Peak District because, from atop the ridge, you can gaze down into the hills and valleys and feel like the King or Queen of the mountaintop. Peak Edge Hotel is nearby and offers brilliant food as well.
7. Mam Tor
Mam Tor stands out amongst all of the little hills surrounding it, hence the name ‘Mam Tor’, which means ‘Mother Hill’. There are car parks near the base of the hill and the climb can take anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour and a half, depending on how anxious you are to get to the top and how quickly you are able to walk. There is a path leading up the hill which you can’t miss and, like Stanage Edge, the view from the top is very beautiful.
If you are looking to stay nearby then Castleton and Hope are good places to look for a hotel. If you’re up for camping then you could always stay at Rowter Farm Campsite nearby where you can buy fresh eggs, along with snacks, tea and coffee. For an evening meal, head to The Olde Nags Head in Castleton, which also has rooms to rent, if camping isn’t your thing.
Tideswell is a quaint little village with some very impressive old buildings to look at. The 14th Century ‘Cathedral of the Peaks’ is a lovely place to visit. If you go in May, don’t miss the food festival in the centre of the village, where you can sample some delicious food from the Peak District. The George Inn sits at the heart of Tideswell and there are plenty of pubs around also serving food. There is even a little cinema in Tideswell! It’s perfect for an easy afternoon in idyllic surroundings.
9. Millers Dale
Next up on our list of places to visit in the Prak District, Tideswell and Millers Dale walk is one of the best walking trails in the region. It runs through a series of viaducts which were constructed as throughways for trains. Eventually, you will come to Litton Mill, which was once notorious for having children working under terrible conditions. The mill has now been renovated and turned into apartments, and it is possible to rent one of the apartments and stay there. If you’re into cycling, this route is perfect and going through the tunnels on a bike is such a cool experience. For food, you can head to one of the surrounding villages like Tideswell (see above), or there are loads of picnic benches around so you can always bring your own food if you’d prefer.
10. Thor’s Cave
Thor’s Cave in the Peak District is incredible and remarkable for its huge entranceway, which is 60ft tall. Although there isn’t a great deal to explore within the actual cave, the views from the entrance are fantastic. It can be reached via a footpath that starts at Wetton Mill and climbs up into the hills, where the cave stands 350 feet above the valley. Wetton is also worth a visit, with some lovely places to grab a drink and a slice of cake, like Wetton Mill Tea Rooms and Old School Tea Room (which is dog-friendly). If you need accommodation then The Old School Chapel is close by and, yes, it literally is an old, renovated chapel.
11. Monsal Head Viaduct
Stretched out across the scenic Monsal Dale is the Headstone Viaduct. When it was built, in 1836, the viaduct was seen as quite ugly and out of place, but today it has been weathered and shaped by nature so that it feels completely natural. The river Wye runs below the viaduct and the viaduct offers amazing views of the surrounding area. There are plenty of places nearby to eat at or stay in, such as Monsal Head Hotel, which serves great food.
12. Matlock Bath
Matlock Bath is home to two fantastic attractions to visit: Gulliver’s Kingdom Theme Park and The Heights of Abraham. A lot of the rides at Gulliver’s Kingdom are for children, but there are enough rides for adults to warrant a visit. It draws plenty of visitors over summer and spring — not because of its size (it’s not very big) but because of its location in the beautiful Peak District. If you have been walking along trails all week and you’re seeking some thrills, Gulliver’s Kingdom is a great place to visit.
Inspired by Switzerland’s use of cable cars, the Heights of Abraham takes you to the very top of Masson Hill so you can look out over the Peaks. There are different areas to explore on Masson Hill, such as the viewing platform on Tinker’s Shaft, from which you can look down at the old mine below. You may also spot three metallic cows on the hill. The owners of The Heights of Abraham apparently bought all three because they felt bad for splitting them up.
Matlock Bath is really popular so there are loads of hotels around, such as the pretty Crow Pie Cottage. If you’re hungry after a day of adventuring then The Fishpond on South Parade serves up pizzas and Sunday roasts.
13. Padley Gorge
On a summer’s day, there’s nowhere busier in the peak district than Padley Gorge. But that doesn’t matter much because there are plenty of places to sit and have a barbecue. The waterfalls that flow through the middle of two sloping banks—covered in lush green grass and wise old trees—are incredibly photogenic. You can walk around the area, but it’s also the perfect spot just to sit and dip your feet into the water. Padley Gorge is the quintessential school holiday day-out for kids in South Yorkshire and Derbyshire, so it’s easy to forget that you’re an adult with responsibilities here. Just relax and watch the little fish swim around your ankles.
There are always ice-cream vans nearby in the warmer months but if you head towards Grindleford, down the main road, you will find plenty of places to eat and sleep, like The Maynard.
14. Nine Ladies Stone Circle
What at first may just look like a circle of rocks may have been very significant for the Bronze Age inhabitants of the area. The circle is believed to ‘depict nine ladies turned to stone as a penalty for dancing on Sunday’. To get to the stone circle, take a footpath near Stanton-in-Peak and walk for around five minutes.
This isn’t really a day out destination, but it is something that you can stop by and see very easily on your way to other things that may require more time. The Red Lion Inn is a 25 minute walk from the stone circle and the food there is both excellent and imaginative.
15. Robin Hood’s Stride
Not far from The Nine Ladies is Robin Hood’s Stride. Supposedly, Robin Hood jumped from one peak to another, where the people are standing in the above photo. However, unless he had wings, it’s doubtful that he actually did. Whether or not Robin Hood jumped 15 metres, this collection of rocks is pretty amazing. People can climb the rocks to get to the top and, it’s often climbed by low to mid grade boulderers. However, it’s not wise to try and attempt the climb as a beginner, so be careful.
You can park on the B5056 and head down the trail for a little while to reach the bottom of the Stride.