• Countryside England’s greatest outdoors
  • Country life Hillside by day, hearthside by night

The sheer size and scale of the Peak District makes for much of its mystery. Stretched across northern Derbyshire and rolling into a handful of other counties, it comprises 555 square miles of moors and uplands, dramatic views and drystone walls, plus pubs and tearooms aplenty.

It may be within easy reach of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, but you could spend a lifetime exploring its footpaths, caverns and pretty villages such as Tissington or Wirksworth, and there’d still be a ridge you hadn’t scaled or a real ale you hadn’t supped. The White Peak, Dark Peak, Southern Dales and Western Moors aren’t purely about tremendous walking, mountain biking, climbing and caving: Buxton is as elegant and cultured a spa town as any in Europe, and the Chatsworth Estate is a paragon among stately homes. Still, the real soul of the Peak – the untamed National Park – is its natural beauty, both abundant and magnificent.

Do go/Don’t go

Generally speaking, you choose between clouds and crowds: summer brings tourists and daytrippers; autumn and winter mean short days and pot luck with rain or shine. When the rest of Yorkshire and Derbyshire are bathed in sunshine, Snake Pass may be blizzard-whipped.

Getting thereView map

  • Planes The main international hub is at Manchester; Ryanair flies to Leeds Bradford from Dublin and Shannon | alongside domestic services operated by Flybe. Air Southwest and Eastern Airways fly into both Manchester and Leeds Bradford from half a dozen regional airports.
  • Trains The Peak District’s major hubs provide excellent rail links: Stockport is on the mighty West Coast Main Line connecting London and Edinburgh, and has direct links with Cardiff, Nottingham and Ely. Chesterfield is an hour from Birmingham, two hours from London St Pancras, and less than four from Edinburgh. You can also travel to Matlock via Derby, and Edale, at the start of the Pennine Way, from Sheffield or Manchester.
  • Automobiles This most accessible of wildernesses is yours off the M1 from London or Leeds | the A6 from Manchester or the A38 from Birmingham. The single-carriageway A628 between Manchester and Barnsley passes through the Peak District National Park; the A57 from Sheffield to Glossop runs through the scenic (but precarious) Snake Pass.
  • Taxis To go door-to-door, try County Cars in Chesterfield (+44 (0)1246 557755), Matlock Taxis (+44 (0)1629 584195), or Buxton Radio Cars (+44 (0)1298 23457). Peak Premier Travel in Youlgreave, near Bakewell (+44 (0)1629 636877), offers taxi tours for up to six people.