The Peak District is a wonderful part of the UK. Covering over 550 square miles, it’s a national park in the counties of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester that is home to an incredible array of attractions, from historic homes to literary landmarks and popular walking spots.
Many people come to the Peak District on holiday throughout the year, whether they’re touring the charming little towns and villages, looking for serious walking routes, or escaping to the countryside to relax and unwind. It’s an ideal place for all ages, with a variety of activities on offer that can fill all manners of itineraries.
The vast size of the area means that choosing which places to visit in the Peak District can take time, especially if you’ve never come to the area before. You might be planning on staying in one location for your trip and taking day trips elsewhere, or you may have a longer holiday organised that involves exploring the depth and breadth of places and things to do.
We’ve highlighted twelve of the best Peak District attractions to help you decide where to visit first.
Monsal Dale is home to the Headstone Viaduct, which historically was seen as a nuisance and the destruction of the countryside’s natural beauty by famous critic John Ruskin when it was built in 1863. Now, the viaduct is cited as one of the best examples of a piece of architecture that blends perfectly with the landscape and is a popular Peak District sightseeing spot.
The best way to explore Monsal Dale is by walking or cycling the Monsal Trail, which follows the railway track from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill. The eighteen-mile walk can be stretched out over a weekend, or you can just walk a section of it to enjoy the unspoiled countryside found in this part of the Peaks.
The small village of Eyam has one of the richest histories of any location in the Peak District. In 1665 the black plague reached the village when an infected package of cloth was delivered from London. Although Eyam placed itself under strict quarantine measures to stop the spread of the disease, approximately 260 inhabitants died and left less than 100 living in the village; a heroic but tragic story that still brings visitors to the village to learn the story.
Eyam is one of the top places of interest in the Peak District thanks to this tale, with a museum and guided tours available for those who want to learn more about how Eyam became known as ‘the plague village’. It’s a wonderfully historic place to visit with a range of other attractions that include Eyam Hall, a craft beer shop and an arts and crafts centre.
Chatsworth House and Estate
If you’re a fan of stately homes then Chatsworth House and Estate is one of the finest examples that you can visit in the whole of England. The spectacular home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire is top of most people’s Peak District sightseeing bucket lists and is a must-see if you’re near Bakewell.
As well as getting to explore the interior of this beautiful building that has been passed down through sixteen generations of the Cavendish family, there are also 105 acres of beautiful gardens and park that make this a fantastic choice for a summer visit. Various events are held at the House throughout the year, but it’s a fantastic place to come at any time, whether you’re a fan of history, gardening or architecture.
Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the Peak District. Located in the picturesque town of Matlock Bath, it’s the location of the very first cable car that was opened in the UK and has been operational since 1984.
Riding a cable car up to the Heights of Abraham gives you incredible views of the Derwent Valley, as well as access to incredible viewpoints across the estate once you reach the top. Two show caverns can be explored with guided tours, a miner’s shaft once used to access caverns, a restaurant and exhibitions space and playgrounds for children. It’s the perfect place to visit with family.
If you’re a walking fan then you’re bound to have heard of Kinder Scout. As the highest point in the East Midlands, it’s one of the best Peak District places to visit for stunning views of the countryside that often stretch as far as Manchester and Snowdonia.
Kinder Scout can be climbed by following a historic series of footpaths that take you past Kinder Downfall; the tallest waterfall in the Peak District. Most people begin the walk by starting at Edale, which has a train station that connects to many major cities nearby. To reach the plateau at the top of the hill you will have to tackle quite a demanding hike, but the views from the top definitely make it worth it.
If you’re looking for some of the best places to stay in the Peak District, Hathersage often comes strongly recommended. Found towards the east of the Hope Valley, it’s a beautiful part of the area that has plenty of standout attractions, such as the Hathersage Lido which is one of the only heated outdoor pools in Britain.
Literary lovers will also be keen to visit Hathersage because of the wealth of different affiliations that the town has to authors and fictional characters. Charlotte Bronte was said to have based Thornfield from her famous novel Jane Eyre on North Lees Hall, and the town’s church is said to be the place where Robin Hood’s second-hand man Little John is buried.
If you’re looking for an adventurous activity when deciding where to visit in the Peak District, Castleton Caverns in the Hope Valley provides just that. Four underground caves provide a range of different opportunities to explore the landscape in the area, the most famous of which is Blue John Cavern where you can see veins of the famous type of stone running through the walls.
Speedwell Cavern can be explored with a thrilling boat ride through underground canals, whilst Treak Cliff Cavern can be discovered either as part of a guided tour or at your own pace with an audio guide. Peak Cavern is the largest naturally formed cave, humorously also known as the Devil’s Arse, and can be explored via a series of different pathways.
Another fantastic place to visit in the Peak District if you’re a fan of stately homes and historic buildings is Haddon Hall. Also located near Bakewell, this medieval manor house and estate features architecture that dates all the way back to the 12th century and has been used at the location for countless famous film productions, including Pride and Prejudice.
Haddon Hall is one of the oldest houses in the UK, and exploring the interior will reveal numerous stories of the generations of family who have lived there as well as countless artefacts from across the ages. There’s also a famous Elizabethan walled garden outside of the house and a Medieval Park in the estate that is perfect for afternoon strolls admiring the untouched natural scenery.
Anyone looking for the most beautiful places to visit in the Peak District should add the gorgeous village of Ashford-in-the-Water to their holiday itinerary. Through the streets lined with pretty stone cottages runs the River Wye, which contributed to the fact that the village was named by VisitEngland as the best location in the UK to play a classic game of Poohsticks.
The standout feature of Ashford-in-the-Water is that it is one of the only remaining English villages to practice the tradition of well dressing. Between May and September every year the inhabitants of the village decorate their wells in all manner of different styles, which attracts visitors from all over to come and admire their handiwork.
Robin Hood’s Stride
Whilst Nottingham is the location that is most often linked with Robin Hood, there are plenty of places in the Peak District that are named after the figure. One of these is Robin Hood’s Stride, where the famous hero allegedly jumped from one rock formation to another.
Whilst the distance between the rocks suggests that this story is probably just a fable, Robin Hood’s Stride is still a brilliant place to visit in the Peak District because of the dramatic scenery. It’s a popular spot for boulderers and trained rock climbers, and you’ve also got the iconic Nine Ladies stone circle and Hermit’s Cave with an ancient carved crucifix nearby.
The Upper Derwent Valley is known as one of the most beautiful parts of Derbyshire, and Ladybower Reservoir can be described as the jewel in its crown. If you’re wondering where to visit in the Peak District for a day trip then the reservoir is an excellent option, with plenty of walking routes suitable for dogs and small children around the water and across the picturesque viaduct.
Ladybower Reservoir is known as being the filming location for the iconic 1955 film Dam Busters, which is one reason that it gets so many visitors. But at the bottom of the reservoir, there is also the remains of a village that was flooded in the 1940s and which can still be spotted when the water levels are low.
To round this list off, Dovedale is one of the most stunningly beautiful places in the Peak District to spend a day, as well as being one of the most popular. The valley is home to the River Dove which flows along the bottom and can be crossed by an iconic set of stepping stones, a popular attraction in the area and highlight of circular walks such as the one from Ilam Park.
Dovedale is also at the foot of Thorpe Cloud; a dramatic hill that can be ascended for incredible views of nearby Ilam and the valley. It’s a steep scramble to the top, but there are a lot of other, gentler walks around the area that are suitable for all ages and abilities and make this an ideal place to visit on a mild and sunny day.
There are hundreds of popular places to visit in the Peak District and it might take you several trips to cross them all off your list. Such a beautiful part of the country deserves to be visited more than once, however, whether you’re visiting the iconic beauty spots, famous stately homes or historic towns and villages.
Countless artists, writers and other creatives have also been inspired by various locations around the Peaks, which makes it a location that is incredibly rich with culture. No matter where your interests lie, there’s something for everyone in this famous national park.
If you’re planning a visit to this beautiful part of the UK and are looking for somewhere to stay, check out our range of self-catering properties in the Peak District.