Why we love the Peak District
Britain’s oldest national park has never felt fresher. For hikers, cyclists, horse riders and thrill seekers, the Peak District offers adventures galore – plus a thriving food scene and festivals of all shapes and sizes.
Established as a national park in 1951, the Peak District is made up of two distinct terrains: ‘Dark Peak’, with untamed moors and windswept hills; and ‘White Peak’, a patchwork of sheep-grazed fields and quaint villages. Despite its name, the park has no mountains – but it does have hidden depths, in the form of spectacular caves. The likes of Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern offer a glimpse of this eerie underworld, crafted by nature over millions of years.
For all its wilderness, the Peak District is also one of Britain’s most accessible national parks - an easy trip from Manchester, Leeds and Nottingham, while Sheffield is the perfect gateway for ease of access to climbing, mountain biking and hiking adventures. Whether stopping by for a quick break or a longer jaunt, here’s how to plan your trip.
Find your perfect path
Dark or White – or both? The two areas of the Peak District offer contrasting walks: to the north lie invigorating trails through open moorland and craggy gritstone, and up to the park’s highest point, Kinder Scout. To the south, the White Peak’s pastoral valleys and villages make for gentler hikes.
Explore the underworld
Millions of years in the making, the many caves of the Peak District are filled with sculpturesque stalagmites, vast grottoes and even a unique semi-precious mineral called Blue John. The Castleton area has four impressive show caverns, or you could venture deeper on a specialist caving trip.
Ride the old rails
Get in the saddle! For cyclists and horse riders, the park is criss-crossed with glorious traffic-free trails – including the old railway routes of Monsal (8.5 miles/13.6km), High Peak (17 miles/27km), Thornhill (2 miles/3km) and Tissington (13 miles/21km). Several bike hire and riding schools operate in the area.
Sail, swim and splash
Make waves on the Peak District’s reservoirs: the likes of Carsington Water and Derwent Waterside Park offer paddleboarding, canoeing, windsurfing, sailing and more. Whether you hire your own boat or join a lesson, it’s a great way to explore – and there are cycling trails and picnic spots nearby too.
Bathe in Buxton’s beauty
The town of Buxton is the Peak District’s ‘capital’, famed for its thermal spa baths, elegant Pavilion Gardens, Poole’s Cavern showcaves and abundance of art galleries and theatre venues. It sits just outside the national park boundary, and hosts jazz, opera and folklore festivals year-round.
Get a fresh perspective
With pristine gardens and opulent interiors, the Peak District’s historic houses are always impressive – but you can delve even further. Look out for Haddon Hall’s live concerts and Christmas markets; outdoor cinema and theatre at Chatsworth House; and Lyme Park’s behind-the-scenes tours.
Things to do in the Peak District
Featured things to do
Chatsworth House is famed for its lavish décor and rich history, but it’s also a working farm – and during the spring lambing, visitors can bottle-feed the adorable newborns by hand.Learn more about lamb-feeding at Chatsworth House
’Tis the season for festivals – including craft beer and street food at the Thornbridge Peakender, live music and camping at Y Not Festival, and farm-themed fun at the Ashover Show.Learn more about the Peak District’s festivals
Got a head for heights? Ride a cable car to the Heights of Abraham, a hilltop estate with wild woodlands and caves to explore. In autumn, you’ll get a birds’ eye view of the red treetops.Learn more about Heights of Abraham
Bakes and brews
Taste the Peak District’s epicurean joys: from Bakewell pudding and Ashbourne gingerbread, to artisan cheeses from Hartington Creamery. Many distilleries and breweries offer tasting tours too.Learn more about food and drink in the Peak District
Places to stay in the Peak District
With Sheffield, Manchester and Derby just a train ride away, why not combine your Peak District adventure with a city trip?
The national park has hotels to suit every style: from romantic boltholes and grand rural mansions, to homely family-run B&Bs.
Want something wilder? You’ll find forest lodges and glamping sites all over the Peak District – and even treehouses too.
Getting to the Peak District
Sitting between Manchester and Sheffield, with Derby to the south, the Peak District is simple to reach by bus, train or coach, and has great motorway links. Trains from London St Pancras to Derby take around 90 minutes. The closest airports are Manchester (33 miles/53km from Bakewell) and East Midlands (40 miles/64km); they’re served by direct flights from all over the world.
The Peak District’s trains are far-reaching, with the likes of the Derwent Valley Line and Hope Valley Line making car-free travel easy. Some brilliant walks can be reached directly from its rail stations, and bikes can be rented throughout the national park. Electric car-charging points are available throughout the region.
Want to know more?
For more epic Peak District adventures and great places to stay, check out its official website.