To celebrate its 70th birthday, I’m sharing 8 fabulous places in and around the Peak District from a local’s perspective, highlighting the lovely, local, indie businesses
The Peak District is famed for it’s stunning scenery, and is immensely popular with walkers and cyclists. But there’s more to it than just the great outdoors. There is already a wealth of information online for ramblers and cyclists. I want to concentrate on the lovely attractions, towns and villages and the brilliant small businesses. If your idea of a nice trip out is a wander round somewhere pretty with some great food and drink, I’ve got you covered with eight great places in the Peak District, all perfect for days out or staycations.
8 Great Places in and around the Peak District
Chatsworth House is the jewel of the Peak District and probably my favourite place on earth. I’ve visited numerous times and there’s always more to see. You could spend days just exploring the beautiful gardens or parklands. The farmyard and playground are brilliant for children. The house itself is a treasure trove of historic artefacts, as well as more contemporary pieces such as paintings by Lucian Freud. I’m fascinated by the late Duchess of Devonshire who was instrumental in the restoration of the house and transforming Chatsworth into the successful commercial enterprise it is today. She was the last surviving Mitford sister and related to JFK by marriage. Chatsworth is a fascinating place with so much more to it than a dusty old stately home. Even the estate farm shop is exquisite.
Why not combine your trip to Chatsworth with a stay or meal at The Devonshire Arms Pilsley? A charming country inn with great food and service.
Whilst there is more than enough to do at Chatsworth for a full day out, it’s could easily be combined with a visit to nearby Bakewell or Eyam. Bakewell is one of my favourite places in the Peak District. It’s an historic market town to enjoy a mooch around. Take a riverside stroll, feed the ducks and marvel at the love lock bridge. Jane Austen is said to have written much of Pride and Prejudice whilst staying at The Rutland Arms which has recently enjoyed a make-over into a contemporary boutique hotel, bar, restaurant and coffee house. Read my review.
There are lots of interesting independent shops. I particularly like The Lambton Larder for foodie treats. Don’t leave without sampling (or taking home) a traditional Bakewell pudding. Or go all out with a decadent dining experience at Lovage by celebrity chef Lee Smith. Nearby Thornbridge Hall Gardens is a lovely place to enjoy, read my review here.
Hope & Castleton, Hope Valley
The Hope Valley is a particularly beautiful part of the Peak District. Hope is a pretty village to explore. Make sure you check out The Grasshopper Café for quality coffees, delicious food and their pretty garden. Castleton is also worth a wander. You can walk up to Mam Tor or explore the caverns. Then relax in a cosy, traditional pub; there are plenty to choose from.
Also in the Hope Valley, the pretty village of Eyam has a fascinating albeit morbid history. Its mortality rate was double that of London during the Great Plague and has earned Eyam the title of ‘the plague village’. In normal times there is a small but interesting museum dedicated to this. Enjoy a wander around this picturesque Derbyshire Dales village, or walk in the surrounding countryside and then refresh yourself at either the Village Green café or The Coolstone at Eyam Hall which is a fabulous restaurant, bar, coffee house, shop combo – read my review here.
Dovedale is an iconic Peak District spot. Hidden gem, it is not, and I would go as far to say to actively avoid it on a sunny bank holiday afternoon. But, if you can get there at the crack of dawn or can visit on a slightly grey mid weekday, off season, you’ll experience the magic. Park at the pay and display Dovedale car park (where there’s often an ice cream van) and enjoy the stepping stones across the river. If you’re feeling energetic walk up Thorpe Cloud. I prefer the walk along the river to Milldale, a chocolate box little hamlet with a cute little counter serving up refreshments. There are also some free public toilets. It’s about three miles from Dovedale to Milldale so just under an hour at a brisk pace.
Ashbourne is an attractive market town with cobbled streets and plenty to look at. If you get there early you can usually park for free at the rugby and cricket club on 12 Cokayne Ave, DE6 1ER which is just a few minutes’ walk into the pretty town centre, via the park if you wish. The park has a lovely duck pond and playground suitable for young children. There are a wealth of independent shops. I particularly like Handmade Ashbourne which stocks over fifty UK designers and makers and The Cheddar Gorge, a delightful deli. Swerve the big faceless chains and support local by grabbing a coffee from one of the fabulous independents. Try F’Coffee or The Little Shed. Either are also good for food, or try Jack Rabbits for a light lunch or the Lighthouse Restaurant for a fine dining treat. For an expertly made cocktail, head to The Bank. Alternatively, drive to either The Duncombe Arms or The Cock Inn, both popular, upmarket gastro pubs.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the wider Ashbourne area, The Cow is a chic B&B.
Matlock and Matlock Bath
Matlock and Matlock Bath are two much loved places just outside the Peak District. Matlock Bath is set in the stunning gorge of the river Derwent. As one of the very first tourist destinations in England, there’s a real seaside vibe. You may as well embrace this. Knock yourself out with amusement arcades, fish and chips, sticks of rock and ice cream. Matlock Bath verges towards the tacky, but in a familiar, comforting way. It gets really busy on a sunny weekend when parking can be tricky – so consider travelling via public transport, or park in Matlock and walk. To escape the crowds cross over the river for a tranquil riverside walk and two playgrounds.
Matlock has a different ambiance. It’s less touristy but definitely still worth a visit. Park at the large pay and display carpark next to the station, DE4 3NA. Walk towards town and from here you can turn right to explore Dale Road (and walk on Matlock Bath) or cross over the bridge to explore Matlock town centre. There’s a beautiful Victorian park with duck pond and decent playground. Don’t miss Bow Boutique near the entrance to the park for the prettiest little gift shop. There’s a cute little café at the back of the shop which overlooks the park.
Dale Road has earned a reputation as the vintage quarter of Matlock. It’s quieter and quirkier than the town centre, has beautiful architecture and over forty independent businesses. Particularly check out Butterfingers Bakery for one of the best cake counters in the county, Hide and Thread for bespoke, handmade furniture and gorgeous soft furnishings and Monk Bar for seriously good cocktails. From Dale Road you can walk the mile along the river to Matlock Bath.
I hope I’ve inspired you to either visit or enjoy more of the wonderful places in the Peak District. To find out more head to www.visitpeakdistrict.com