The Peak District is an excellent short break destination for all sorts of reasons. Whether you’re looking for a foodie break, a romantic weekend away, a trip with family or a weekend away with the girls or your dog, there are Peak District weekend breaks to suit all tastes and interests.
The first National Park in the UK, the Peak District is celebrating its 70th birthday this year. It was recently voted the fourth best national park in Europe in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. There’s everything you would expect from a world class national park from stunning scenery, fascinating historical sites and extensive walking, hiking and cycling routes.
The great outdoors has never been more attractive. At a time when many of us are seeking to keep our social distance from throngs of other tourists, the Peak District is a perfect rural destination. It rivals any of the premier tourism destinations in the world, but is likely to be far less crowded and not feel overly ‘touristy’. Obviously the big, famous attractions do get busy at peak times but it’s entirely possible to stay off the beaten track.
I’ve never really been one for sticking to someone else’s schedule, so rather than providing a prescriptive, ‘one size fits all’ itinerary I’ve tried to offer some themed suggestions of things to do and places to go depending on what your interests are. Hopefully there’s something for everyone.
Peak District weekend breaks for food lovers
The Peak District has a wealth of great independent restaurants. From fine dining to moreish street food, we really do have it all here.
For fine dining, The Peacock at Rowsley and Fischer’s of Baslow Hall both have excellent reputations locally. I’ve not yet tried Fischers but definitely rate The Peacock at Rowsley for perfectly executed exquisite fine dining. The double AA rosette awarded, Grafene at Losehill House (also a luxurious accommodation option) was listed by The Times newspaper as one of their ‘20 best wild places to eat in Britain’. Famous documentary maker Louis Theroux recently stayed here and was very complimentary about his stay.
If pub grub is more your thing, The Devonshire at Beeley, part of the iconic Chatsworth Estate, is a wonderful example of a high end gastro pub/country inn.
Riverside Kitchen Bakewell is an excellent option for breakfast, lunch or coffee or you might just be lucky enough to coincide your trip with one of their pop-up supper club events. Read my review here and then keep an eye on their socials.
In terms of food festivals, I’d definitely recommend checking out Haddon Hall’s Mercatum which usually has a small but perfectly formed range of street food vendors plus lots of artisans selling their wares. The next one is scheduled to be the Summer Artisan Market which will be held on 16th-18th July. Pre-booking recommended.
Eat in the Park will be a music and food festival celebrating 150 years of the Pavilion Gardens in Buxton on the 21st and 22nd of August. There’s a wide range of street food stalls including vegan and vegetarian options. Find out more here.
Just outside the Peak District, is the Great British Food Festival at Hardwick Hall from 30th July to the 1st August.
There’s the obvious Bakewell pudding (definitely not tart!), but also check out Hartington stilton and delicious Derbyshire oatcakes. Many places will serve oatcakes as part of their breakfast menu but you can also buy these Derbyshire delicacies from delis and farm shops. Read about my favourite farm shops here.
For more information, foodies might be interested in this 60 page Food & Drink guide produced by Visit Peak District. It’s a tiny bit dated now, but still useful overall.
Romantic Peak District weekend breaks
What constitutes romance is subjective – but whatever sets your heart alight, there’s a Peak District weekend break to suit.
If you like the idea of cosying up with your loved one, look into staying in The Hut, a beautifully decorated shepherd’s hut in Eyam. There’s lots to do in the local area from walking to exploring the picturesque and historic village. There are lots of cosy pubs and also the busier, more contemporary Coolstone.
If your idea of romance is more luxurious, check out The Peacock at Rowsley for refined yet comfortable country house with exquisite fine dining. Fischer’s Baslow Hall a luxurious country house with Michelin starred dining; the stylish, sumptuous rooms of The Cavendish Hotel in Baslow; or The Devonshire Arms at Beeley for an upmarket gastropub with an exceptional restaurant.
Bakewell is a pretty market town for a romantic stroll. It is rumoured that Jane Austen wrote and based Pride and Prejudice whilst staying at The Rutland Arms. Feed the ducks during a riverside stroll. Mooch around the local shops and then take home a Bakewell pudding. Numerous bakeries sell them, but The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop is often regarded as the best. Takeaway or enjoy inside or in their sunny courtyard. Don’t be tempted to put a love lock on the bridge as they’re due to be removed by the council.
There’s also the rugged beauty of the moors. If you fancy staring out wistfully a la Elizabeth Bennettor gazing into your loved ones eyes, head to Stanage Edge.
Peak District stays for walkers and hikers
The Peak District is a walkers’ paradise. In fact, it’s one of the most popular places in the UK for walking and hiking.
Keen walkers will no doubt have heard of the ‘Ethels’, a brand new hill walking challenge. Like Scotland’s Munros or the Lake Districts’ Wainwrights, the Ethels are hoped to be a long term draw to the Peak District. There are 95 Ethels, i.e. hilltops over 400m above sea level and some significant smaller hills that stand out in their own right. Track your progress on the free app.
The Ethels are named after Ethel Haythornthwaite, the founder of what is now countryside charity CPRE Peak District and South Yorkshire. Ethel was a pioneering environmentalist who together with her second husband, Gerald was pivotal in establishing the Peak District as Britain’s first national park in 1951. Ethel had found refuge walking through the stunning countryside near her Sheffield home after finding herself “lost in grief” after her first husband was killed in the First World War.
The Hope Valley for walking or exploring
The Hope Valley is a particularly picturesque part of the Peak District and is great for walking. Castleton is one of the most beautifully situated villages in the Peak District and the perfect base for some of the best walks in Derbyshire. Climb the steep steps up to the atmospheric ruins of Peveril Castle. For a longer walk, Mam Tor has stunning views of the National Park, including the photogenic Winnats Pass. As one of the most-loved ridge walks in the Peak District, you can see all the way to Manchester on a clear day.
Castleton is the only place in the world where Blue John, a semi-precious stone, unique to Derbyshire and the Peak District can be found. There are various caverns to explore such as Speedwell Cavern which features an underground boat ride to the eerie ‘Bottomless Pit’.
If you’ve been out walking, nothing beats that first cold drink at the pub afterwards! There are numerous traditional pubs in Castleton that welcome both muddy boots and dogs. For instance try The George, an old country inn with a cosy bar and hearty pub grub. Their beer garden has stunning views of the surrounding scenery.
If you’d rather head to a café check out The Grasshopper Café in nearby Hope for quality coffees, locally sourced food and their pretty garden. Famous for their grilled cheese sandwiches or their homemade cinnamon waffles.
The Monsal Trail for walking, cycling or just a great base to explore the local area
The Monsal Trail is a 8.5 mile, traffic-free route for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users through some of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales. It runs from Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale to Bakewell. The trail is on an old railway line so is very accessible. You can even walk through the old train tunnels which are well lit. There’s a large pay and display car park at Hassop Station where you can also rent bikes, and relax in their extensive café facilities. There’s also a small children’s play area. From Hassop Station you can easily walk to Bakewell in one direction (just over a mile and a half) or the magnificent views at Monsal Viaduct (2 miles).
For more Peak District walking inspiration head to the Peak District Walks website which has comprehensive information, and the ability to search by location, distance, type of walk etc. For walks suitable for young children, check out Peak District Kids and the family friendly section here.
A weekend away with the girls in the Peak District
The Peak District might not be the most obvious choice for a girly weekend, but if you’re looking for relaxation, fresh air and good food it can be a perfect destination to catch up with your mates.
Of course The Peak District has a plethora of cosy, traditional pubs (e.g. try the Bulls Head in Ashford in the Water) but if a decent gin menu or perfectly mixed cocktails are more your idea of what makes a fabulous mini break, head to The Coolstone in Eyam or the Red Lion at the Peak Edge Hotel both of which are excellent for cocktails and high end gastro pub style dining.
For walking inspiration, check out the outdoorsy section here or head to Coco Travels, Sam is a twenty-something Derbyshire based travel blogger, she’s often out walking in the peaks and this blog post or her Instagram page is a good place to head if you’re looking for ideas for walks with friends.
If you’re looking for a spa check out newly opened, five star Ensana Buxton just outside the national park boundary. Within the Peak District there’s Losehill which enjoys stunning views of Win Hill.
Just outside the Peak District, there’s the contemporary Casa hotel situated in the outskirts of Chesterfield. You would need a car to get into the national park (less than a 20 minute drive) but if you’re looking for nice accommodation to relax with the girls, they’re currently doing an amazing girls night in package. For £145pp you get a jacuzzi suite, robes and slippers, Cava and chocolate dipped strawberries, a mini spa treatment and a three course dinner in their lovely restaurant including glass of house wine!
Alternatively, for a right good laugh, consider staying in a youth hostel. Personally I’m not a massive fan of roughing it, but I have had the absolute best laughs staying with friends in a youth hostel on a walking trip. You can usually book a private room for your party and it’s very cheap! See all the YHA youth hostels in the Peak District here. Or for a touch more luxury consider glamping. There are various options across the Peak District.
The Devonshire Arms at Baslow, recently listed in The Times Top 40 summer pubs, is a great option for staying with friends, as is the Peak Edge Hotel.
Family friendly Peak District weekend breaks
The Peak District is a wonderful destination for families. There’s lots of outdoorsy fun to be had and compared to lots of other parts of the country it’s relatively inexpensive. Located in the Midlands, chances are it’s also fairly accessible. I know I like to minimise travelling time with my car sick prone pre-schooler (the less said about that, the better).
There are dozens of family friendly attractions throughout the Peak District. A personal favourite is the gardens of Chatsworth House for a wonderfully family friendly day out. On a sunny day, children enjoy paddling in the Cascade. Families with younger children would enjoy the farmyard with (in normal times) animal handling and milking demonstrations and large woodland playground with rope park, trampoline, slides and water and sand play. Picnics are also welcomed at Chatsworth or there are a range of on site catering facilities.
Thornbridge Hall is smaller and quieter than Chatsworth but just as lovely and really good fun with children who will adore its famous rubber duck fountain. Read my review here.
If you’re visiting the Peak District as a family I would thoroughly recommend Peak District Kids as a really helpful resource. Their website lists numerous family friendly walks, days out and an extensive range of accommodation. There’s also a really helpful Facebook group where you can ask questions and so on. If you find Facebook groups helpful in planning days out, I’d also recommend the Days Out in the Midlands group for its wealth of information and friendly community feel. And whilst I’m talking about Facebook, I should probably give my own page a mention! Please give me a follow here.
My own tip for family friendly accommodation in the Peak District would be Darwin Forest, a 5-star lodge holiday park that is set within 47 acres of stunning woodland, I haven’t stayed here myself but it’s famed for a vibe akin to that other famous-middle-class-woodland-holiday-lodges-place.
Peak District stays for history lovers
There is much to excite history buffs in the Peak District. Chatsworth House is often described as the jewel of the Peak District and is probably my favourite place on earth. Jane Austen is believed to have based her idea of Pemberley on Chatsworth House. It has extensive, exquisite interiors, which are breathtakingly beautiful all year round, but something truly magical when the house is dressed for Christmas. The 105-acre gardens are equally impressive. Famous for their rich history, there is something for everyone.
If you’ve had your fill of Chatsworth, head to the picturesque village of Eyam (infamously ‘the plague village’). In normal times there is a small but fascinating museum dedicated to this gory history.
There’s a multitude of other historic houses and castles to visit. Most with exquisite gardens and parklands. Haddon Hall is another particular favourite.
Dog friendly Peak District weekend breaks
The Peak District is a perfect destination for dog lovers. There are obviously lots of places to walk your four legged friend. Many Peak District attractions are open to four legged friends. My friend Debs, loves taking her gorgeous dog, Snowy to the Heights of Abraham (just outside the national park). Both the cable cars and the outside tables at the café with the stunning views of Matlock Bath below are open to dogs. For more dog friendly Peak District days out check out this great post from Let’s Go Peak District.
In terms of accommodation, lots of holiday cottages are dog friendly. One example is Garden Farm at Ilam which is child and dog friendly with its own fields and woodlands to explore. I haven’t stayed myself but it has 5* overall on Trip Advisor. It’s not far from the lovely market town of Ashbourne and is a good base to explore Dovedale. Read more about Dovedale here.
The Devonshire Arms in Beeley on the Chatsworth Estate, is an award winning, stylish country inn that’s serious about food. They welcome dogs in the bar area while you eat. There are also dog friendly hotel rooms, read more about their pet policy here.
For luxurious dog friendly accommodation in Derbyshire, The Peacock at Rowsley has dog friendly rooms. The hotel happily provides dog food and water bowls. You can leave dogs in the room alone whilst you dine or they can accompany you to eat outside in summer. Although note that dogs are not allowed in our bar, restaurant or lounge. The food here is exceptionally good.