The Peak District is a delight of chocolate-box villages and towns linked by a great network of footpaths, cycle paths, bridleways and roads traversing stunning countryside. Here are a few suggestions to help you discover the authentic spirit of the Peak District.
Bakewell & Chatsworth House
You could easily spend a day exploring both Bakewell and Chatsworth House, so if you only have a weekend in the Peak District then spend it here. Chatsworth House is one of the finest homes in Europe, having been owned by the Cavendish family since it was built in 1553. The house is packed to the rafters with treasures and artwork to rival any palace or gallery, while the grounds total 105 acres of ornamental gardens, parkland, flowers, follies, and fountains. As if that wasn't enough, there is a farmyard, playground, several excellent restaurants and a fantastic gift shop. At just over £60 for a family ticket (less if you only want to see the gardens or house) it is not cheap, but you certainly get your money's worth.
Bakewell is the nearest town to Chatsworth House and what a charmer it is! It is set on the banks of the River Wye and is a captivating mix of stone buildings, pretty gardens and bakers selling the town's famous Bakewell puddings.
As the largest town in the national park, Bakewell offers every amenity you need and is a great base for exploring the Peak District. Browse the town's boutiques, take a stroll by the river, and stop by the Bakewell Old House Museum for a peek into the area's past. All Saint's Church was largely rebuilt in the 1840s, during which time some of the original Saxon stonework, dating to around 920, was uncovered. The stonework can now be seen together with stone coffins from the same era.
Derby is a flourishing city that has grown up beside the Derwent River. Derby Cathedral is a good place to start your day of discovery. The interior is relatively modern with beautiful stained glass windows. It is possible to climb the 189 steps to the top of the tower for fantastic views of the city and surrounding area, or why not walk a few minutes away to St Mary's Bridge Chapel, which is one of only six remaining bridge chapels in Britain. Derby also has a good museum and art gallery with interesting displays and seasonal events.
Not far from town centre is Derby Gaol. Now a museum, it is rumoured to be haunted and certainly has a spooky atmosphere. It's just near Pickford's House, another local museum which gives a comprehensive look at the lives of well-to-do Georgian households and is free.
Derby is ideal for shopping and has more than 160 shops - mainly high street brands - together with a cinema and restaurants. If you want to step away from history into the present day, you can do it here.
The Peak District National Park was formed to protect this beautiful environment so get outside and enjoy it. Dovedale is a picturesque spot where stepping stones cross the Dove River at a shallow point. There is a car park nearby (which is privately owned and currently costs £3 per car) if you just want to see the stones and have a picnic and there is a family and dog-friendly walk from Ilam village that goes through the limestone valley. The river marks the divide between Staffordshire and Derbyshire and, while the trail is nice at most times of the year, it can get muddy if it has been raining.
Dovedale is an extremely pretty village and a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) and ANOB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). The village is mainly owned and managed by the National Trust.
Kinder Scout & Hayfield
At 631 metres (2088 feet) above sea level, Crowden Head on Kinder Scout is the highest peak in the Peak District National Park. It's a strenuous walk to the top but worth it for the view across the gritstone crags and outcrops. There are two ways to approach Kinder: from Edale village going via Grindsbrook and up Jacob's Ladder, or from Hayfield going via William Clough. It is especially beautiful when covered in snow, or on a bright day when the natural rock formations stand boldly against the sky.
Hayfield is at the foot of Kinder Scout. The village was listed in the Domesday Book, but it wasn't until a mill was built there in the 1700s that it became a village of any real significance. It is a good choice for a restorative drink and dinner after a day's walking in the hills with pubs like The Sportsman and The Pack Horse, or stop by Millie's Tea Rooms and Chocolatier on Church Street for a light meal or slice of cake.
As well as being known as the highest village in England, Flash used to have a reputation for counterfeit money making and illegal prize fighting. Those days are long gone and the only rough and tumble you are likely to find these days is the water as it flows down the rocks at Three Shire Heads at Panniers Pool. One of the best ways to see this rugged landscape is on horseback, which you can do from Northfield Farm and Trekking Centre.
The Fitzherbert family have looked after the village of Tissington since Elizabeth I was on the throne and they've done an amazing job because it is one of the prettiest villages in England. The entrance to the village is via the lodge gates off the road between Buxton and Ashbourne and down an avenue of 200-year-old lime trees.
In addition to a lovely Jacobean manor house which the Fitzherberts were fortunate to keep when they backed the losing side in a fight between parliamentarians and royals in the Civil War, Tissington is known for the practice of well dressing. This tradition which takes place around the Feast of The Ascension when the village's five wells are beautifully decorated in thanksgiving for the purity of their water. A good reason to visit Tissington is for Edward and Vintage sweet shop, which looks like the sort of place that might have inspired Roald Dahl.