Stealing the limelight as it rolls across the Penine’s southermost hills is the stunning Peak District National Park. Comprising glorious hillsides dotted with ancient stone villages, stately homes and rocky escarpments, the Peak District is one of the most overlooked UK weekend getaway destinations.
To give this beautiful British National Park some credit, we have put together a comprehensive guide to a weekend in the Peak District. So, what are you waiting for? Delve in to find out what are the best things to see and do in the Peak district.
Why is the Peak District So Popular?
Out of the 13 National Parks in England and Wales, the Peak District was the very first to be established in 1951. As a result, the park has been shaped and moulded by the people and nature that it is home to, over thousands of years. This British National Park has so much to offer and it is clear why it is so popular, quickly becoming more and more popular as people choose staycations over holidays abroad.
Breathtaking views: The Peak District boasts three main landscapes: the Dark Peak, the White Peak and the South West Peak. The Dark Peak is largely comprised of a more rugged landscape, known for its gritstone plateaus and heather moorlands, making it ideal for challenging hikes and exciting outdoor experiences. Meanwhile, the White Peak is characterised by limestone dales and offers stunning scenery of meadows, pastures, dry stone walls and diverse habitats. Finally, the South West Peak is similar to the Dark Peak but is nicely disrupted by more calming areas of moorland, pastures and farmland.
Nature: The Peak District National Park is the perfect place for a nature-filled weekend getaway. With over one third of the area being protected for nature conservation, the huge range of diverse landscapes provide ideal habitats for an abundance of wild plants and animals. Given that the Peak District is so ancient, being inhabited for over 10,000 years has allowed a rich biodiversity, as well as social and cultural history to develop.
Wonderful walks: With thousands of miles of footpaths, crisscrossing amongst this otherworldly landscape, the Peak District is sure to reward you with some of the best walks in the UK. Whether you’re looking for a riverside stroll or a challenging up-hill hike – there are plenty of walking options in the Peak District to suit any mood or ability.
History and culture: The Peak District is packed to the brim with evidence of its old age and deep history. The living, working landscapes of this National Park have been influenced by the people and wildlife that lives there. The cultural heritage of the Peak District has been inspired by writers, poets and artists and can be seen today in its monuments, buildings, landscapes and settlements, as well as the local customs, traditions, music, art and literature.
Where in Britain is the Peak District?
The Peak District can be found at the southernmost end of the Pennines, in the county of Derbyshire. Spanning a whopping 555 square miles, the Peak District National Park includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.
With Sheffield and Chesterfield sitting to the east of the park, getting there is quite easy. If travelling from the north or south of the country, the M6 runs alongside the western edge of the National Park, while the M1 runs along the eastern side. If you’re taking the train, both Sheffield and Chesterfield offer large hubs to arrive and transfer via bus or train to reach various towns and villages within the Peak District.
Where to Stay in the Peak District:
There are countless option for where to stay in the Peak District. Whether you’re visiting for a romantic couples weekend or planning a trip for the whole family, the Peak District has places to stay for all eventualities.
To get the true Peak District experience, I would advise staying in a cute and cosy cottage. The epitome of quaint English countryside, nothing speaks British staycation like a thatched-roof cottage with a dainty wooden front door and roses climbing the higgledy-piggledy brickwork. If you want to stay in one of the park’s thriving market towns or peaceful villages, you will find plenty of cottages to choose from. Alternatively, perhaps you want to immerse yourself in the outstanding beauty and nature of the Peak’s rolling hills. If so, you’ll find plenty of cottages dotting the landscape as well.
If you’re a true lover of the outdoors and want to brave the wilderness, then you should definitely consider camping in the Peak District. This way, you can experience the real beauty of the Peak District from the very second you wake up in the morning to the moment you zip up your tent at night. Peak District camping also provides a brilliant way to explore the surrounding countryside and make the most of the stunning scenery. Most of the campsites in the Peak District National Park have exceptional access to the area’s best walks, hikes and other outdoor adventures.
Or, maybe you’re looking for something a little more unusual. Airbnb is the perfect place to look for accommodation in the Peak District that might be a little more unusual to make your weekend getaway one you will truly never forget. Stay in a charming countryside cottage, a beautiful Georgian house, a rustic converted barn or even an authentic shepherds hut. No matter what kind of stay in the Peak District you are looking for, you are sure to find it on Airbnb.
Things to do in the Peak District National Park:
Whether you’re a keen hiker, a fair-weather walker, a culture seeker, a history buff or just like to snuggle up in the Great British countryside, there is plenty to see and do in the Peak District National Park, all year round. Here are some of the best things to do on a weekend away in the Peak District.
Towns to Visit in the Peak District:
Castleton is a gorgeous village located at the head of the Hope Valley in the very heart of the Peak District. Surrounded by rolling hillsides and overlooked by the infamous Mam Tor mountain, a weekend away to the Peak District wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the beautiful village of Castleton. There is plenty to do in this quaint little village – it is popular for its show caves, rich history, independent shops and for the many nearby walks, including Winnats Pass.
As soon as you get to the village, you can enjoy a warm drink at the friendly Three Roofs Cafe or the welcoming Rose Cottage Tea Rooms. Once your thirst has been quenched, go for a leisurely stroll along the stream that winds its way through the village and admire the elegant cottages and quirky shops.
Buxton is a magical spa town in the Peak District that has been welcoming visitors to enjoy its superb scenery 300 metres above sea level since Roman times. While you may have heard of Buxton for its natural thermal springs, there is much more to the highest market town in England. In fact this Peak District town is justifiably renowned for its Georgian and Victorian architecture, largely thanks to the 5th Duke of Devonshire’s aims to build a spa town to rival Bath in the 18th century.
The Edwardian Opera House is another architectural masterpiece and is home to the internationally-renowned Buxton Festival and a host of other festivals, theatre, music and comedy performances throughout the year. A stones throw away is the historic Old Hall Hotel, where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive in the 16th century. If you’re visiting on a weekend, make sure explore the town’s bazaars which incorporate an eclectic mix of market stalls where you can find plenty of great bargains, many homemade. Shoppers can also enjoy browsing the very best of independent retailers and High Street brands at The Springs Shopping Centre, Cavendish Arcade and The Old Court House, along with a fabulous selection of cafes, tea rooms and restaurants to grab a bite to eat and drink.
Ashford in the Water
Ashford in the Water is one of the most picturesque places in the Peak District, boasting the full extent of quaint countryside charm you would expect from a rural English village. Three bridges cross the River Wye in this idyllic Peak District village, one of those being the well-photographed medieval Sheepwash Bridge which was once used by farmers to drive their flocks into the water to have a wash. Today, you can still see the walled enclosure used to pen the sheep on the river’s grassy banks.
Take a stroll through the village to admire its lovely limestone cottages and perfectly-tended gardens. If you fancy a leisurely walk or cycle, there are plenty of good links to the quiet Monsal Trail, where you can stop at Monsal Head for spectacular views across the National Park. Or, if you want a more relaxing day, there are loads of options for eating and drinking, including restaurants, pubs, a traditional English tea room and a well-stocked village shop.
Eyam (The Plague Village)
Eyam is a village in the Peak District with a very interesting and haunting history. In the early 1660s, this Peak District village didn’t stand out from the rest of the villages that lined the trade routes from London to the rest of the country. However, in 1665 Eyam became one of the most well-known villages in the whole of England when a parcel of cloth arrived from London where the Black Death plague was already rife.
Within a matter of days, the fleas in the cloth has killed the tailor’s assistant and dozens more had been infected. The villagers’ instincts told them to flee, but the Reverand quickly determined that the only way to stop the plague spreading to neighbouring villages was for the entire village to isolate themselves. As a result, the village was completely cut off from the outside world for 14 months until the Black Death plague was eventually deemed as over. Thanks to the actions of Eyam’s 800 inhabitants, the disease never infected any other nearby community.
Bakewell is an idyllic market town in the Peak District, perhaps best known for its unique and extremely tasty pudding. Legend has it that a local cook created the town’s famous Bakewell pudding by mistake in the mid-19th century. Today, this accidental invention can be sampled across the town’s various bakeries and cafes. But, as the largest market town in the Peak District, Bakewell has many more tempting treats to offer visitors.
The town’s rustic stone buildings, medieval five-arched stone bridge and charming courtyards attract many creatives, including painters, photographers and sightseers alike. Ensure you have time to grab yourself a bargain if you’re visiting on a Monday at the lively outdoor market, where you can cherry pick the very best of the local produce or browse handmade gifts. After a long day of taking in this beautiful Peak District town, fuel up with a light snack, lunch or dinner at one of the town’s many cafes, restaurants, pubs and tea rooms. You could even sample the world-beating craft beers at Thornbridge Brewery if you’re feeling dehydrated.
The Best Walks in the Peak District:
This two hour walk is ideal for spectacular views of the Peak District landscape, taking you along the ridge of the incredible mountain pass of Winnat Pass. The walk takes you through the village of Castleton, past the Speedwell Cavern and into open fields before you head up onto the pass. Please be warned that the uphill section of the walk is rather steep and could require some serious scrambling. But, don’t worry, there is a rope in place for those who need a little helping hand.
The uphill battle is definitely worth it when you reach the top and are blessed with stunning views of the limestone pinnacles and open country on all sides. This is a fairly short walk so even if you’re not an experienced walker or hiker, you can still enjoy the quick scramble to see the superb view at the top.
The Mam Tor walking route is one of the most well-known hikes in England. Overlooking Castleton village, Mam Tor is a 517m hill, commonly known as Shivering Mountain. Despite the huge hill, this is a relatively easy hike, being just 3 miles long and only taking about two hours to complete.
This circular walking trail begins at the Mam Tor car park and follows a stone footpath up the Mam Tor and over the Great Ridge. Once you reach the top of the hill you will be rewarded with incredible panoramic views across the Peak District, from Edale Valley to the Derwent Moors. The Mam Tor walk is great for families and dogs thanks to its well-maintained pathways. It is also conveniently close to the village of Castleton which means you can refuel with an afternoon tea at one of the cafes or tea rooms.
Curbar Edge and Froggatt Edge
Another great walk in the Peak District is along Curber Edge and Froggate Edge. This 6 mile, three hour circular walking route takes you along these escarpments, through woodlands and the past the Grouse Inn Pub which makes for the perfect pit stop to refuel or have a rest. The route then continues along White Edge, where you can take a small detour to admire the splendid views as the trig point.
If you really want to challenge yourself, you can extend the walk to 8 miles by including Baslow Edge or prolong it even further by opting for the ‘9 Edges Walk’, which takes between 10 and 12 hours but incorporates 9 of the most beautiful edges in the Peak District.
The Monsal Trail is an 8 mile walk that runs along the former Midland Railway line between Chee Dale (near Buxton) and Coombs Road in the market town of Bakewell. The former Manchester, Buxton, Matlock and Midlands Junction Railway was closed in 1968 and remained unused for 12 years before being taken over by the Peak District National Park authority.
Along the walking trail are a series of long tunnels that are opened by light sensors from dawn to dusk, allowing hikers to use them safely. With smooth paths and a fairly flat terrain, this walk is ideal for all ages and abilities – its even good for families with prams. However, you should be warned that it can get very busy with cyclists on sunny weekends and during the school holidays, so it is best to visit off peak.
Other Peak District Attractions
A weekend trip to the Peak District wouldn’t be complete without visiting the infamous Chatsworth House. This awe-inspiring stately mansion and gardens is home to the Devonshires since the 1500s when it was built by the famous Bess of Hardwick and her husband Sir William Cavendish.
Visit the gardens in spring, summer or autumn to see scenes of beautiful flowers and vibrant colours. You could spend the entire day exploring the grounds, gardens and walks. You can even visit the house itself and see inside this spectacular, grand building. The estate also holds plenty of exciting events all year round, including the Chatsworth House Christmas Fair.
Take a trip to Three Shires Head and experience the mental and physical benefits of cold-water swimming. Situated on the Moors at the juncture of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Cheshire, this spot is home to waterfalls, plunge pools and plenty of spots for having a quick dip in the River Dane. However, be aware that this wild swimming spot isn’t very easily accessible and is quite a walk away.
Yet, for somewhere a little more practical, visit another section of the river in Wincle. Although not quite deep enough for swimming in, this part of the river is ideal for having a leisurely paddle and relaxing on the riverbank with a good book.