Covering more than 500 sq. miles and spanning five counties – Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester – The Peak District National Park was founded in 1951 and is home to steep limestone valleys, dramatic views and rural heather-hued moorland. Now, visitors flock there during all seasons to explore the charming villages, walking routes and stunning scenery.
What To Do & Where To Visit
Passed down through 16 generations, the stately home of Chatsworth is now the permanent residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. There are 25 rooms waiting to be explored in the house – all filled with interesting art and antiques – as well as a 105-acre garden complete with its own arboretum, rock garden, fountains and sculptures. There’s even a working farmyard and child-friendly playground.
High Peak Trail
Bought by the park in the 1970s, this is now a traffic-free trail for walkers and cyclists to enjoy. It might be 17 miles long, but it can be explored in shorter chunks if you’re not up for a long-distance adventure. Just be sure not to miss the Black Rocks, an outcrop of Ashover grit that makes for a great climbing spot.
Peak Wildlife Park
For some family fun, a visit to the Peak Wildlife Park is a must. Embark on one of the large walkthroughs where you can come face to face with the animals, or opt for the ‘be a keeper’ experience, which lets little ones get to know their favourite creatures up close. There are four different encounters to embark on – Lemur Heights, Penguin Paths, Wallaby Wonderland and African Village – plus, an outdoor play area, shop and picnic spots.
National Trust owned Lyme is a magnificent house surrounded by lush gardens, moorland and a deer park. Perched on the edge of the Peak District, this 1,400-acre estate is a great spot for a relaxed woodland walk followed by a wander round the rose garden and nearby lake. Afterwards, grab a hot drink and slice of homemade cake at the on-site Timber Yard Café. Just bear in mind, right now, visitors need to book timed slots in advance to help with social distancing.
One of the more rural areas in the Peak District, the heather-hued Marsden Moor comprises over 5000 acres of rugged landscape. A designated Site of Special Scientific Interest, it's home to a variety of wildlife, as well as walks suitable for all the family – from short trails to longer adventurous hikes. Journey up to the top of Pulse Hill for breath-taking views across the moorland, and don’t forget to stop off to read the poem engraved on the Marsden Stanza Stone.
Water lovers should visit Carsington Water, where professionals and amateur enthusiasts can master their skills at sailing, windsurfing and kayaking. Those with their own equipment can launch any time between 11am and 4pm daily, with passes available to purchase in advance online. There’s also the option to hire bikes should you wish to explore the area on two wheels.
The Mam Tor hill comes with a surrounding circular walking route. Walking the entire trail takes roughly two hours – not counting the time spent admiring the view from the top, that looks out over the Edale Valley. Less challenging than other trails in the area, this makes for a great family stroll, with dogs also welcome.
Bakewell & The Monsal Trail
Bakewell is the largest town in the Peak District. As the name suggests, it's the birthplace of the Bakewell tart, so expect to find plenty of bakeries and tea rooms here. Sitting on the banks of the river Wye and home to an array of pretty stone buildings, other sights include a medieval bridge and plenty of charming shops and pubs. It’s also ideally situated near the start of the Monsal Trail – an 8.5 mile walkway across the former Midland Railway.
The iconic Pennine Way spans 268 miles of majestic and rural landscape. Known as Britain’s backbone, the route takes you across the rolling hills of the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales before heading across the North Pennines and over Hadrian’s Wall, ending up at the Scottish Borders. Having opened in 1965, it’s now one of the most popular walking and cycling routes in the country.
The limestone valley of Dovedale is home to the River Dome. There are plenty of hikes to embark on in the area, with walkers rewarded with some spectacular views across the Derbyshire and Staffordshire hills. Some trails, like the one up Thorpe Cloud, can be steep, but a less challenging option will take you across the river by following a flat footpath that children and adults can both enjoy.
Where To Stay
Set in a traditional stone manor house, The Peacock is a slice of country luxury. A pretty boutique hotel, there are 15 rooms to choose from, including two special suites. Classic oak furniture is coupled with contemporary colours and patterned linens, creating a cosy and warm atmosphere. Downstairs, a snug restaurant offers a menu of Mediterranean-infused dishes made from locally sourced ingredients, while the bar makes for a relaxing spot for a post-dinner drink. Finally, the terrace is the place to enjoy your morning coffee.
North Lees Campsite
To truly get back to nature, pitch up at North Lees campsite, which can be found in the heart of the park. An oak woodland acts as the setting for your stay, with a backdrop of rolling hills and stunning views. There are plenty of family-friendly amenities included, such as hot showers, a large washing-up block and recycling facilities. There’s also a selection of wooden pods available to hire – all of which have electricity and a covered veranda – should you be looking for a few home comforts.
The Devonshire Arms
In a prime position on the Chatsworth estate, this traditional inn is a lovely spot for a staycation. With 18 beautiful en-suite bedrooms spread across four buildings, each comes with pretty feminine touches and cosy furniture to make you feel right at home. After a soak in the roll-top bath, wrap up in one of the plush robes and drink in the magical view. Dogs are also welcome.
Peak District Barn
This contemporary barn is a lovely place to stay either as a family or couple. Once part of the village pub, it now houses two light and airy bedrooms, a sleek kitchen and a cosy lounge, with authentic beams and original shutters taking centre stage. You’ll find it in the charming village of Dovedale, with plenty of walking routes and cycling trails available right from your front door.
Where To Eat
Chatsworth Farm Shop
After exploring the grounds and house, stop off for tea and cake at the Chatsworth Farm Shop. Inside, expect a selection of quality produce, including a butcher’s counter, delicatessen, patisserie, fresh veg stands and a wide range of wines and beers. In the café, tuck into breakfast dishes, homemade sandwiches and a tasty afternoon tea, or treat yourself to one of the daily cakes. The farm shop is also currently taking part in the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme.
The Devonshire Arms
For good pub grub, head to The Devonshire Arms. Whether you’re staying here or not, you can book a table in the cosy restaurant for dinner, which has earned itself a nod from the Michelin guide. There’s a seasonal lunch and dinner menu on offer, too – both of which can be enjoyed in the brasserie or inn – as well as an impressive Sunday lunch with the option to sit outside on the garden terrace. A great place for a family feast.
Fischer’s Baslow Hall
If you’re celebrating a special occasion, or just fancy a treat, book a table at Fischer’s. A Michelin starred restaurant, you only get the best here. For something really luxurious, take a seat at the kitchen tasting bench, where you’ll have a great view of the chefs as they serve up an innovative and seasonal tasting menu. If you want something to take away, the restaurant is currently offering a range of pre-cooked meals and wine cases from the cellar for you to enjoy at home.
How To Get There
The drive to the Peak District takes just over three hours from central London. But thanks to its proximity to the M1 and M6, it’s easy to get to no matter which direction you’re coming from. There are plenty of car parks near some of the most popular sites, but these can fill up quickly – especially at the weekends – so be sure to book spots in advance where possible. Alternatively, get there early or check the car park status on the official website before you set off. Trains also run frequently from London St Pancras to Derby, and take just over an hour and half, with the option to get on a connecting train from there.
*DISCLAIMER: Always check the latest government guidelines before travelling to anywhere, even in the UK, as advice is changing daily. Please also ensure you respect social distancing guidelines when visiting public sites – including National Trust properties – and remember to book a place in advance where necessary.