Peak District, Derbyshire
The sweeping heather-clad moors, rugged rock formations and stately homes of the Peak District have inspired everyone from walkers to writers.
Swathing the inland hills of northwest England, the Peak District is home to some of the UK’s most dramatic scenery. Undulating dales criss-crossed by dry-stone walls soar up to brooding moors pocked with craggy rock formations, and market towns and pretty villages are crammed with great cafes, shops and lively events.
It’s easy to see why the Peak District was the UK’s first national park. It’s simply beautiful. The moors seem to change with every wisp of cloud passing overhead. Gnarled gritstone tors, rocky outcrops and sharp edges make for breathtaking views, and the bright green fields of the dales beneath are a pleasing contrast. The area begs to be explored so it’s just as well that it’s superbly set up for outdoor enthusiasts. Walkers, climbers, cyclists, horse riders and cavers are well catered for. There are miles of dedicated off-road cycle trails, quiet country lanes perfect for whizzing along on two wheels, and remote moorland shared-use bridleways. Caving enthusiasts can go underground at Castleton’s four famous show caves, while Titan Cavern is the highest natural cavern in the UK. And of course, there’s plenty for walkers who can take it easy with a stroll across the top of the moors, or test their legs on the steep-sided dales.
Food and drink
All that activity is bound to work up an appetite. Fortunately, the Peak District is well stocked with delicious supplies. A particular foodie hotspot is Bakewell, home of the tart of the same name; you can sample it in the town’s bakeries. The monthly food market is one of the best in the country and you’ll kick yourself if you miss the Bakewell Baking Festival. Those better at eating food than cooking it can hone their culinary skills at the prestigious Hartingtons School of Food.
The Peak District is dotted with stately homes, each with its own enthralling story to tell. Chatsworth is the most famous. Its pale, golden walls are a magnificent sight as you sweep towards it along the drive. Inside, there are over 30 beautifully decorated rooms to explore, as well as the Devonshire Collection, one of Europe’s most significant art collections. Haddon Hall, meanwhile, is a Medieval and Tudor gem; the most modern room you’ll see here is the Elizabethan long gallery.
With so much beauty – natural and man-made – it’s no surprise to learn that the Peak District has played a role in some iconic artistic works over the centuries. Charlotte Brontë took inspiration for her novel Jane Eyre from Hathersage village; the eponymous heroine was named after a local family, and Rochester’s home was based on nearby North Lees Hall. Jane Austen’s much-loved Pride & Prejudice also has strong links to the area. Stanage Edge, a dizzying rocky outcrop, and Chatsworth house both featured in the 2005 film adaptation starring Keira Knightley. Meanwhile, fans of the box-set can follow Lyme Park’s walking trail around the filming locations used in the 1995 BBC adaptation that brought Colin Firth to everyone’s attention.