48 Hours in the Peak District & Derbyshire

Spend two days combining city style with country walks, first-class restaurants with cultural treasures, all of which you’ll find in and around the UK’s first-ever national park, the Peak District, and the surrounding county of Derbyshire in north-west England. The area boasts show-stopping attractions, such as the stately home of Chatsworth and the fascinating World of Wedgwood, but look a little deeper and you’ll encounter a whole raft of must-do experiences.

DAY ONE

09:00 GO UNDERGROUND

Part of the Peak District’s charm is its enviable landscapes and stunning geological make-up. Discover this is more depth by heading into Poole’s Cavern, an ancient natural limestone cavern with colossal illuminated rock-sculpted galleries to explore. Book onto a guided tour to understand the history of this magnificent underground scenery.

11:00 TREAT YOURSELF TO A SPA

Head into the historic spa town of Buxton, where healing waters have been attracting visitors for centuries, and book in for an indulgent spa treatment. For contemporary treatments in a historic setting, try out The Devonshire Spa retreat, part of the resplendent Devonshire Dome (a Grade II-listed building dating back to 1779). Elsewhere, the town’s Palace Hotel is a fine example of Victorian architecture yet one that houses modern-day spa facilities. And, come summer 2019, there will also be the choice of The Buxton Spa, in Buxton Natural Baths, which is being redeveloped as part of the Crescent Restoration project.

13:00 ENJOY A TASTE OF THE PEAK DISTRICT

Book in for lunch at the Columbine Restaurant, situated close to the Buxton Opera House, for delicious dishes created using produce from small local suppliers in the area; the provenance of ingredients is easily traceable. You’ll enjoy creations such as fish crumble tart and a variety of English cheese from its cheese board.

14:00 HIKE THROUGH GORGEOUS COUNTRYSIDE

Drive 30 minutes from Buxton into the Peak District National Park to the village of Hathersage in the Hope Valley, and, from there, hike nine miles north to Stanage Edge. The gritstone edge stretches out to around four miles and delivers impressive views of the Dark Peak moorlands and across the valley. You may also recognise it from a scene in Pride & Prejudice, featuring Keira Knightley as Elizabeth Bennet.

17:00 DINE IN A HISTORIC PUB

Return to Hathersage and enjoy an early evening meal at The Plough Inn, a 16th-century inn located on the banks of the River Derwent. Feast on dishes such as feuilette of wood pigeon and pear or seared scallops, while vegans are well catered for with dishes such as kachoris (spiced lentil parcels) with kachumber salad.

20:00 MARVEL AT THE DARK SKIES

Just above Hathersage is one of the national park’s most magnificent viewpoints – the charmingly named Surprise View. While it’s a great spot to watch the sun set, it’s also one of the official ‘Dark Skies’ stargazing spots, meaning on a clear night you can witness the Peak District skies lit up by millions of twinkling stars.

TIME TO CHECK IN

There are a number of bed and breakfast options in the Hathersage area and you can also stay at The Plough Inn, which offers guests a choice of seven bedrooms and two shepherd huts. Equally charming is The George Hotel, a three-star hotel in Hathersage situated in an old coaching inn that dates back 500 years, and The Old Hall Hotel in Hope, five minutes from Hathersage, once a 16th-century coaching inn and now a cosy B&B.

 

DAY TWO

09:00 STEP BACK 500 YEARS

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to fabulous stately homes to visit in the Peak District and Derbyshire. A little outside the national park is Hardwick Hall, a National Trust-owned property that was created in the 1500s by one of the most powerful women of Elizabethan England, the remarkable ‘Bess of Hardwick’, and added to over the centuries by her descendants. It’s a house that was built to impress and is said to have ‘more glass than wall.’ Its surrounding estate is also open every day for walks through glorious gardens and woodland trails.

11:00 CLIMB DIZZYING HEIGHTS

Journey just 30 minutes from Hardwick Hall and board an alpine-style cable car to take you to the Heights of Abraham. These observation cars give you the opportunity to admire the breathtaking vistas of the Peak District and the Derwent Valley.

13:00 SAMPLE LOCAL DELICACIES

Head back into the Peak District National Park to the pretty town of Bakewell for a spot of lunch at the quirkily decorated Lavender Tea Rooms. Charming period décor is enhanced by cute, mismatched traditional crockery, on which a range of sandwiches and cakes are served. But don’t forget to leave room for the sweet treat the town is renowned for – Bakewell pudding. Plenty of places sell it but try The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop – it also offers pudding-making experiences.

15:00 EXPLORE THE NATIONAL PARK

There are a myriad of wonderful walks you can do in the Peak District (and it’s a great way to walk off those pudding calories!), one of which is a walk around the Ladybower Reservoir. Here you’ll experience some of the most perfect countryside views, a mix of moorland and woodland with a stunning body of water. Bamford Edge is a good place to head to for beautiful vistas and the Y-shape of the reservoir means there are plenty of circular walking and cycling routes to choose from.

17:00 DISCOVER THE ‘PLAGUE’ VILLAGE

Row upon row of pretty stone cottages adorned by beautiful gardens make up the picturesque village of Eyam. But what makes this Peak District village profoundly fascinating is its history as the ‘plague village’. When the plague struck the village in the 17th century, the disease spread rapidly and Eyam was put under quarantine for 14 months. A stroll around this picture-prefect English village will lead you to discover the plaques outside houses that state who died there during this terrible time, as well as the ‘Boundary Stone’. This had been set up to transport food and medicine into Eyam safely from the nearby uninfected village of Stoney Middleton.

20:00 FEAST ON FIRST-CLASS FOOD

A short drive from Eyam is Baslow Hall, a gorgeous 100-year-old Grade II listed manor house. Within is the fine-dining restaurant Fischer’s at Baslow Hall, where Head Chef Rupert Rowley creates classical dishes using seasonal, British ingredients. Dine on produce such as Devon crab or Derbyshire pork jowl, hand-dived scallops or Creedy Carver duck from Devon.

TIME TO CHECK IN

Once you’ve finished your meal at Fischer’s you can book in to stay at the luxury Baslow Hall, which offers 11 beautiful bedrooms; the Garden Rooms look out onto their own private walled courtyard garden, while there is also a romantic, secluded cottage close by, Cruck Barn. Also within the area is elegant The Peacock at Rowsley, which also boasts a fine-dining restaurant, and the Losehill Hotel & Spa, a high-end boutique hotel offering spa facilities with Peak District views.

Getting there: The Peak District lies less than an hour from the cities of Manchester and Leeds (both around two hours by train from London), and around half an hour from Sheffield (also two hours by train from the capital).

Five reasons to visit Britain’s National Parks

July heralds Britain’s National Parks Week (22-29), where an eclectic range of events, from seaside safaris, forest walks, family fun days and treasure trails, take place across our 15 National Parks. All boast diverse and ancient landscapes, communities with rich cultural roots going back thousands of years and are must-visit destinations of natural beauty and tranquillity. Each is unique and special in its own way; here’s why a visit to Britain’s National Parks should be on your itinerary.

 

Cool ways to explore the countryside

Outdoor pursuits are ubiquitous throughout the National Parks, with a huge variety to experience. Enjoy boating? Head to the Broads National Park, where pleasure boating, especially on board a barge, has been part of life through its myriad of inland waterways since the early 19th century. Looking for an activity to get that adrenaline pumping? The Lake District National Park boasts the highest concentration of outdoor activity centres in the UK – check out Honister, an innovative adventure attraction (and also England’s last working slate mine) for a brilliant buzz. Neighbouring Yorkshire Dales National Park is famed for its limestone geology, making it one of the best places in the UK for caving and potholing. And the only coastal national park, the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park in west Wales, is perfect for watersports from coasteering and surfing to sailing and kayaking. 

 

The chance to spot rare wildlife
Bring those binoculars…because the National Parks are home to rare and endangered species of wildlife. Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park – the largest of all the parks – is home to high plateaux with the rarest habitats and is the most southerly site in Europe for snow buntings. In fact, one in four of the UK’s endangered species have their home in this park, such as the golden eagle. Down on England’s east coast, in the Broads National Park, a quarter of Britain’s rarest species have their home here, while around 20 per cent of Wales’ Snowdonia National Park is specially designated by UK and European law to protect its distinctive wildlife. That includes the Snowdon Lily and the Snowdon beetle (both unique to Snowdon). And native wildlife often gives a National Park real character; check out the Dartmoor Ponies, a part of the Dartmoor National Park’s cultural heritage, and the iconic New Forest Ponies roaming free in the woods of the New Forest National Park.

 

Be inspired by contrasting landscapes
There are such varied landscapes within each National Park that depending on which area of each park you’re in you’ll find a wealth of distinctive environments. The Brecon Beacons National Park in south Wales, for example, is a mix of caves, gorges and waterfalls, hilltops, cliffs and broad valleys, as well as farmed landscapes, lakes and rivers. While down in the south-west of England, Exmoor National Park is one of heather and grass moors, wooded valleys, wonderful coastal views and upland farms. Exmoor is an International Dark Sky Park, as is Northumberland National Park in the north east of England; plus, the latter’s landscape is so geographically important, there are five Sites of Special Scientific Interest here, such as its volcanic and glacial features.

 

You’ll be stepping onto a film set
You might just recognise some of our National Parks’ landscapes and features from the silver screen, and from the pages of legendary novels and poems. The Peak District National Park in central England, for example, has been used many times as a film location, thanks to its multitude of magnificent stately homes – Chatsworth has starred in Pride & Prejudice, as has Lyme Hall; Haddon Hall was the background setting to Jane Eyre, Elizabeth and Moll Flanders while North Lees Hall, as well as appearing in Jane Eyre and Pride & Prejudice, starred in The Other Boleyn Girl. Elsewhere, Dartmoor’s landscape appeared in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, while the Lake District is famously the inspiration for Romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge and children’s authors Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome.

 

Stay in unique accommodation
You’ll find everything from campsites to charming B&Bs, cosy inns and luxury hotels throughout National Parks, as well as accommodation that’s rather extraordinary. In Scotland’s Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park wild camping is permitted in certain sections, an incredible way to experience the true beauty of the nature. Experience a glamping site with a difference at the North York Moors National Park at La Rosa campsite and stay in gypsy caravans with décor ranging from circus-themed, fairy tale themed, ‘psycho candy’ (all pink) and 1970s funky Africa! At the opposite end of Britain, on the edge of the beautiful South Downs National Park in south England – the country’s youngest national park – you can even stay on a 1964 Routemaster London double decker bus in Blackberry Wood, kitted out with sleeping, kitchen and dining areas!

 

Spotlight on: Peak District National Park

  • The Peak District was the first designated National Park in Britain, in 1951.
  • The park stretches into five counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, meaning it’s accessible from the cities of Manchester, Sheffield, Derby and Nottingham.
  • With 1,600 miles of public rights of way across footpaths, bridleways and tracks, this is great walking country. Love cycling? Hit the park’s 65 miles of off-road dedicated cycling and walking trails, with cycle-hire centres at Ashbourne, Parsley Hay, Derwent Valley and Middleton Top. It also boasts a treasure trove of disused railways to explore – the park owns 34 miles of them at High Peak Trail, Tissington Trail and Monsal Trail.
  • Head to the medieval market town of Bakewell, home to one of the UK’s most important agricultural markets. Make sure you try its famous Bakewell puddings (flaky pastry base, moist almond and jam filling, said to be invented by lucky mistake by an 18th-century kitchen maid).
  • The National Park has 2,900 listed buildings, including the world-renowned stately homes of Chatsworth, the medieval Haddon Hall, the Norman Peveril Castle, Bakewell’s medieval bridge as well as centuries-old farm-buildings and cottages.
  • There are plenty of interesting villages to explore. Castleton is famous for its caverns, and the “shivering mountain” of Mam Tor, Winnats Pass and Peveril Castle. Then there’s Eyam (“plague village”), Hathersage (reputed grave-site of Robin Hood’s friend Little John), Tideswell (14th century “cathedral of the Peak”), Ilam (Swiss-style architecture), Ashford-in-the-Water (classic English riverside village), and Tissington (Tissington Hall and close to Tissington Trail).
  • The Peak District has a distinctive custom to look out for: well dressing! Originally a pagan ceremony to honour water gods, it’s now a summer tradition in dozens of villages. Different villages decorate their wells or springs with natural, ephemeral pictures made of flowers, petals, seeds, twigs, nuts and berries, pressed into soft clay held in wooden frames. Well dressing weeks also include carnivals and streets decorated with bunting.

Great British cycle routes

Great Britain excels in cycling, hosting celebrated challenge rides like the Peak District’s Eroica Britannia in Derbyshire, Scotland’s TweedLove Bike Festival and the UK National Track Championships in Manchester. But one of the best things about UK cycling is simply taking off spontaneously on a trail. Here are some ideas for exploring the UK on two wheels…   

 

Long-distance

Hebridean Way

This new long-distance ride spans the length of Scotland’s Outer Hebrides island chain. The 185-mile route crosses 10 islands in the archipelago – and it’s packed with paradise beaches visitors might not expect in the UK.

Surprise trailside treats: Calanais Standing Stones which pre-date Stonehenge, the historic Butt of Lewis Lighthouse.

 

Bay Cycle Way  

Starting at the nature reserves of Walney Island, this flattish route follows a spectacular yet often underrated coastline. Pedalling 81 miles through the Cumbrian and Lancashire countryside, cyclists can enjoy bird-watching in RSPB reserves and eating in the many gourmet restaurants in the village of Cartmel.

Surprise trailside treats: Coniston Priory Buddhist Centre, the art deco Midland Hotel.

 

Celtic Trail West

The Celtic Trail runs across Wales at its widest point with the west section connecting Swansea and Fishguard via the spectacular Swansea and Pembrokeshire coastlines. The seaside resorts of Tenby and Saundersfoot are also worth a visit.

Surprise trailside treats: The sand dune forests of Millennium Coastal Park, the Brunel Trail.

 

See also:

South Coast Way

This 360-mile coastal route from Dover, Kent to Dawlish in Devon stops at the seaside towns of Brighton and Hastings.

 

Fun and family

Two Palaces Ride, London

This two-mile loop takes in more than just the two palaces of the title. The relaxed start from Buckingham Palace leads to a laidback ride through the Duke of Wellington Arch and into Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens on its way to Kensington Palace – best ridden on a Sunday.

Surprise trailside treats: Hyde Park’s Serpentine Gallery and Apsley House.

 

Monsal Trail, Peak District

In Derbyshire’s Peak District National Park, the traffic-free Monsal trail offers flat, easy cycling along the old Midland railway line with great views of the limestone dales. The eight-and-a-half mile trail, from Blackwell Mill in Chee Dale to Coombs Road at Bakewell, blasts through six moodily lit tunnels, up to 400 metres long.

Surprise trailside treats: The Secret Tea Garden at Miller’s Dale. 

 

Lagan and Lough Cycle Way, Northern Ireland

The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way is a 21-mile, mostly traffic-free route from Lisburn to Jordanstown via Belfast. Cyclists can enjoy biking along the Lagan Towpath and Belfast Lough, with spectacular views inland to Belfast’s hills.

Surprise trailside treats: Kingfisher-spotting in the Lagan Valley Regional Park and Belfast’s most famous pub, The Crown Bar.

 

Cuckoo Trail, Sussex

The Cuckoo Trail gets its name from an old Sussex tradition of releasing a cuckoo at the Heathfield Agricultural Show. Running from Polegate near Eastbourne to Heathfield itself, it covers 11 family-friendly miles of traffic-free tarmac and gravel along a railway line.

Surprise trailside treats: See if you can spot Artist Steve Geliot’s wooden benches carved from storm damaged oaks, Hailsham village and nearby Michelham Priory, a medieval monastery-turned-country house and museum.

 

See also:

Fallowfield Loopline, Manchester

Head south from the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre and you’ll find the 16-mile traffic-free route to South Manchester.

 

Derby Canal Path and Cloud Trail

Flat, well-surfaced riverside riding starting in Derby and ending at the engagingly named Cloud Quarry where cyclists are rewarded by wonderful views. 

 

Camel Trail

A popular 18-mile, predominantly traffic-free railway trail taking in Padstow, Bodmin, Wadebridge, and Wenford Bridge; a delightful mix of Cornish woodland, birdlife and wild estuary.