Peak District Overview
- 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.
Perfectly Peak District
Speedwell Cavern, half a mile west of Castleton on treacherous Winnats Pass, is among former lead-mining caves that are now open to the public. Its ‘Bottomless Pit’ can only be reached by boat – you approach the immense, cathedral-like cavern along a flooded tunnel as part of a guided tour (+44 (0)1433 620512; www.speedwellcavern.co.uk).
- 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.
- Tipping culture
- 10–15 per cent is appreciated. Many restaurants now add a discretionary 12.5 per cent service charge to the bill, so be careful not to tip twice.
- Packing tips
- If you forget your wet-weather gear, the centre of Bakewell has an action-man shop on every corner. The John Smedley factory shop at Lea Bridge in Matlock (+44 (0)1629 530426) is a pleasure to rummage in for fine woollen jumpers, gloves and scarves, so leave room in your bags for some take-home feel-good goodies.
- Recommended reads
- Jane Austen’s fictional Pemberley estate in Pride and Prejudice was based on the region, and George Eliot located much of Adam Bede here. Also try Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s story ‘The Terror of Blue John Gap’. Geraldine Brooks’ Year of Wonders and Jill Paton Walsh’s Parcel of Patterns explore events in ‘plague village’ Eyam.
- Regional specialities
- If you find yourself in the West Yorkshire reaches of the Peak, keep a look out for Derbyshire oatcakes – a delicious breakfast pancake that’s served sweet or savoury – and parkin, a treacle and ginger loaf. Lovers of real ale can sup pints of Absolution or Brimstone from Sheffield’s Abbeydale Brewery (www.abbeydalebrewery.co.uk), Swift Nick from Peak Ales (www.peakales.co.uk), or Whim Ales’ Hartington bitter (+44 (0)1298 84991).
- Pound sterling.
- Time zone
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the UK: +44.
- 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.
Don't go home without...
… going for a proper hike, even if it’s raining. Get all kagouled and OS-mapped up, then stop for a pub lunch. The lower the clouds, the more grateful you’ll be that you booked a table in advance.