The central Peak District within the boundaries of the Peak District National Park are where you will find the gentle classic villages of the Peaks. These villages nestle in the limestone valleys and dales of the White Peak limestone country and sit within the Derbyshire Dales which sweep north from Ashbourne towards Bakewell. On the shoulder of Mam Tor near Castleton the Derbyshire limestone ends and the gritstone and shales of the Pennine chain begin. Within the Derbyshire Dales around Tideswell and Youlgreave sit the beautiful Dales of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve including Cressbrook Dale, Monk's Hill and most popular Lathkill Dale near Youlgreave and Over Haddon villages.
The Dales are where you'll discover some of the best examples of wildlife and fauna in the White Peak as well as fascinating industrial heritage sites. Historic market town Bakewell is aptly known as the 'capital of the Peak District'. It is the only town which sits within the National Park boundary and is hugely popular with visitors. Bakewell is famous for its Bakewell pudding or tart, great markets, its wonderful selection of farm shops, tearooms and craft and gift shops. Bakewell town centre contains one of the Peak District National Park's main visitor centres and the town affords easy access onto the Monsal Trail and nearby Peaks beauty spot Monsal Head.
The beautiful Derbyshire Dales villages around the Central Peaks including Tideswell, Youlgreave, Eyam and Ashford in the Water all hold the unique traditional Peak District Well Dressings during the summer months. Well Dressings involve the decoration of wells and taps in the villages with spectacularly ornate floral icons made out of flower petals and other natural materials. The revival of Well Dressings in the Derbyshire Peaks villages and towns can be traced to Tideswell which features several well dressing designs.
The best of the historic Peak District churches can be found around the central Peaks villages including the most famous 14th century 'Cathedral of the Peak' in Tideswell. Other highlights include Edensor's church with its graceful spire designed by George Gilbert Scott. Charming tearooms, historic coaching inns, craft and local produce markets and shops are all distinctive features around the Central Peaks. Attractions in the Central Peaks include some of the Peak District's most beautiful and iconic historic houses such as Chatsworth House, recently voted Britain's favourite stately home, and the stunning medieval manor house Haddon Hall.
Hartington at the southern end of the Central Peaks is one of the best holiday bases for easy access on to the family friendly White Peak Trails including the Tissington Trail, Manifold Track and the High Peak Trail. The White Peak Trails are open to walkers and cyclists and are well marked and family friendly. On the northern edge of the Central Peaks Baslow is within walking distance of the Chatsworth estate. North of Baslow the Eastern Moors and Edges begin their long sweep up to Hathersage and the Peak District's most famous climbing edge, the iconic Stanage Edge. The River Derwent winds through the area with its western bank overlooking the gentler limestone hills and its eastern bank nestling below the great gritstone eastern edge.
Pretty Youlgreave village with its striking mostly Norman parish church nestles between the Dales of Bradford and Lathkill and sits alongside the River Bradford. Youlgreave (or Youlgrave) is the perfect walking base for access into Lathkill Dale National Nature Reserve. Lathkill is one of five Dales in the Derbyshire Peaks which together form the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. Of the five Lathkill is the most accessible and popular with visitors and features spectacular waterfalls, a range of habitats, lead mining remains and caves. Famous prehistoric sites in the central Peak District including Arbor Low Stone Circle and the Nine Ladies Stone Circle are also within easy reach of Youlgreave.
Youlgreave is one of a selection of villages in the Peak District National Park which holds an annual traditional summer Well Dressing event. Youlgreave's Well Dressing is particularly ornate, with all five wells in the village decorated with the classic flower petal designs. Youlgrave also has a strong ethos of sustainability. The Sustainable Youlgrave campaign links in with a history of co-operative living in the village. Youlgreave's Youth Hostel is located within the old Co-op village store.
Historic features in this classic Peaks village include charming Pack Horse and Clapper Bridges across the River Bradford. All Saints Church on the eastern side of Youlgreave village boasts a stunning 14th century tower and within there are stained glass windows designed by Edward Burne-Jones and Kempe.
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Hartington is a superb family friendly walking and cycling base in the heart of the White Peak. Popular White Peak Trails including the Tissington Trail, Manifold Track and the High Peak Trail are all easily accessed from Hartington. These White Peak Trails are open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
Hartington is also a popular stopping off point for walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders exploring the Pennine Bridleway National Trail. This long distance National Trail, Britain's first purpose-built long distance bridleway, pushes up through the Peak District National Park just east of Hartington.
A picture postcard village in the Peak District National Park, Hartington contains a delightful central historic market square. The village centre features a wide choice of charming tearooms, historic coaching inns and fine craft and gift shops.
Famous Peaks beauty spot Dovedale as well as Ilam Hall and Country Park are both within easy reach of Hartington to the south whilst to the north Parsley Hay (where you can hire bikes) and the High Peak Trail are within easy reach. As a family friendly holiday base for easy access on to the gentle White Peak Trails, Hartington is one of the best.
Historic market town Bakewell is the only town located within the Peak District National Park. Incredibly popular with visitors, Bakewell town centre is home to one of the Peak District National Park's main visitor centres. The popular Monsal Trail also passes through Bakewell en-route to famous Peaks beauty spot Monsal Head.
Bakewell markets, farm shops, independent stores and famous tearooms and cafes like the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop and the Bakewell Tart Shop and Cafe are just some of the many attractions which draw huge numbers of visitors to the town. The award winning Old House Museum in Bakewell digs deep into the local history of the area and includes displays on the history of the famous Bakewell Pudding.
Bakewell is ideally situated off the main A6 road which cuts through the Peak District National Park from Buxton to Matlock, making the town a top central Peaks base for exploring all of the Peak District National Park. Bakewell is also well served by public transport boasting bus links to both Matlock and Buxton. Around Bakewell within easy reach sit the charming villages of Rowsley and Beeley.
Rowsley is connected to Matlock by the scenic Peak Rail Steam Railway and is closely associated with the nearby spectacular medieval manor house Haddon Hall. Beeley sits just on the edge of the Chatsworth estate and affords easy access to Chatsworth House and Gardens.
The two stately homes of Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall in the Peak District National Park are within easy reach of Bakewell. A visit to both is not to be missed during a holiday in the Peak District. Chatsworth in recent times has been voted Britain's most popular stately home attraction.
This spectacular mansion with gardens landscaped by Capability Brown and a colourful timeline of characters from the Cavendish family recently featured in the popular film 'The Duchess' starring Keira Knightley. Medieval manor house Haddon Hall with its charming walled gardens has been described by Simon Jenkins as Britain's most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages.
Idyllic Ashford in the Water village alongside the River Wye sits just off the main A6 a mere 2 miles west of Bakewell. The attractive Sheepwash Bridge, much photographed and one of the Peak District's most celebrated historic bridges, crosses the River Wye at Ashford. The village has a rich history in the quarrying of the beautiful shiny black stone Ashford Black Marble which was incredibly popular during the Victorian era, used often in conjunction with other stones to create ornaments and furniture.
An Ashford Black Marble table top is on display at the nearby Old House Museum in Bakewell and an extensive collection of Ashford Black Marble, probably one of the best in Britain, is on display at the Buxton museum.
The River Wye really takes centre stage at Ashford in the Water. Lazy summer days or autumn and winter strolls in Ashford along the River Wye are a joy in this classic Peak District village. From Ashford visitors can gain easy access on to the nearby Monsal Trail. The village also boasts a wide choice of B&Bs, fine country house hotels, traditional inns and tearooms.
Ashford's proximity to the main A6 road makes it an ideal Peaks base from which to explore the Peak District National Park whilst Bakewell, Chatsworth and Haddon Hall are all within easy reach. Attractions in both Matlock to the east and Buxton to the west are just a short drive or bus journey away.
Tideswell village is home to the Peak District's most famous church, St John the Baptist 14th century church known as 'The Cathedral of the Peak'. 'The Cathedral of the Peak' was a favourite church of the poet John Betjeman.
Tideswell is a classic example of a central Peaks village which remained largely untouched by full on Victorian industrialism. This beautiful village in the Peak District National Park identifies more strongly with its 14th and 15th century history as does nearby Eyam to the east, the famous plague village.
Tideswell's 'ebbing and flowing' well featured as one of the original Seven Wonders of the Peaks in Michael Drayton's 1622 collection of poems. The village celebrates one of the Derbyshire Peak District's best traditional Well Dressing events during the summer involving a week of events culminating in a torchlight procession and Morris Dancing.
Tideswell is ideally situated for easy access into two Dales which form part of the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve, Monk's Dale and Cressbrook Dale. The Monsal Trail also weaves just to the south of Tideswell.
Baslow village sits on the northern edge of the Chatsworth estate making it the ideal holiday base from which to visit the magnificent Chatsworth House, Gardens and Parkland. Beautiful luxury country house hotels and fine traditional inns can be found in Baslow village. The stylish Cavendish Hotel in Baslow contains stunning antiques from Chatsworth. A short and gentle scenic walk from Baslow via Nether End sees you in the Chatsworth Estate parkland.
Whilst the gentle parklands of Chatsworth sit to the south of Baslow, to the north and east the landscape the drama of the Eastern Edge and Moors takes centre stage. Baslow, Curbar and Froggatt Edges are all popular with both walkers and climbers and the moorland above the Edges contains historic monuments like the Wellington Monument and Nelson Monument as well as prehistoric sites.
The River Derwent divides this area. Calver village to the north of Baslow sits on the west bank of the Derwent overlooking the gentler limestone hills whilst Curbar and Froggatt sit on the eastern back below the gritstone edge. The Eastern Edge villages of Curbar and Calver are within easy reach of Baslow and contain fascinatng industrial heritage sites. The old cotton mill in Calver has associations with the Arkwright family and was famously used as Colditz Castle in the Colditz TV series.
Hathersage (Heather's Edge) is within easy reach of the Peak District's most famous climbing edge, Stanage Edge. The village sits just below the Stanage gritstone escarpment and offers ample choice of fine B&Bs, traditional inns and shops. There are hundreds of different climbing routes up the mighty Stanage Edge which features high on the world's climbing stage as one of the unmissable climbs.
Hathersage village, which boasts a railway station affording direct connections to Sheffield and Manchester, is a popular Peaks base for climbers and walkers looking to explore Stanage, the Eastern Moors, the Derwent Valley and the Hope Valley around Castleton. Opportunities for outdoor activities in Hathersage are extensive.
Peak Activities is based in Hathersage and they offer a range of outdoor and indoor activities inclusive of team building activities and corporate events. Ideally close to Sheffield, Hathersage is one of the best Peaks bases for outdoor activity holidays, events and weekends where you can access a huge choice of activities including rock climbing, caving, mine exploration, hillwalking, abseiling and orienteering.
Just below the Stanage Edge is the famous Tudor tower house of North Lees Hall. Strong evidence points to the fact that North Lees Hall, home to the Eyre family for many years, was Charlotte Bronte's inspiration for Thornfield, Mr Rochester's House in Bront'es novel Jane Eyre. Literary and flim connections around Stanage are numerous and include recently the iconic scene of Keira Knightley perched on the top of Stanage Edge in the film 'Pride and Prejudice' (2005). Hathersage also has links with Robin Hood and Little John. John Nailor or Little John's grave sits in Hathersage churchyard.