The Peak District National Park was Britain's first designated National Park, established in 1951. Britain's first National Trail The Pennine Way, which begins at Edale in the North Peak District, opened in 1965. The Peak District is Britain's most accessible National Park and also one of Europe's most popular National Parks along with the Lake District. Family attractions in the Peaks include the gentle southern and central White Peak walking and cycling trails which follow the route of old railways. In the Staffordshire Moorlands near Alton village is Britain's biggest and most popular theme park resort, Alton Towers theme park surrounded by the stunning countryside of Dimmings Dale.
Reservoirs in the Peak District like Carsington Water and the Upper Derwent Reservoirs offer a great mix of family walking, cycling and attractions whilst Matlock and Matlock Bath boast great family attractions like the Heights of Abraham alpine style cable car ride. Show caves in the Peak District include the four spectacular Castleton Caves and cultural capital Buxton is home to the Edwardian theatre gem the Buxton Opera House and the Victorian gem Buxton Pavilion Gardens. Historic homes and famous beauty spots in the Peak District have appeared on film and TV including Chatsworth House, Stanage Edge and Haddon Hall. There are also plenty of outdoor activity orgs like 'Peak Outdoor', who specialise in providing adventures, outdoor instruction and holidays in the Peak District and beyond.
The North Peaks contains one of Britain's great wilderness landscapes, the Dark Peak hard gritstone landscape which sweeps north of Castleton to the Peak District's highest point at Kinder Scout and beyond towards the Southern Pennines. A favourite challenge with walkers, the Pennine Way National Trail crosses the Dark Peak beginning its long 268 miles north to the Scottish Borders from Edale.
In the valleys of the North Peaks sit some of the Peak District's most popular tourist attractions and centres. Castleton in the Hope Valley attracts huge numbers of visitors all year round who come to visit the superb selection of Castleton gift shops, Blue John Stone Jewellery shops, fine cafes, bistro restaurants and traditional inns. Top attraction in Castleton are the four breathtaking Castleton Caves which feature deposits of Blue John Stone, subterranean lakes, frozen waterfall rock formations and fibre optic lighting effects. Favourite Peak District walks from Castleton include the walk up to Peveril Castle overlooking the village and the walk to Mam Tor, the great 'Mother Mountain' near Castleton.
The Upper Derwent Valley in the North Peaks near Bamford is home to the famous Ladybower, Howden and Derwent Reservoirs associated with The Dambusters. A huge choice of cycling and walking trails feature within the Upper Derwent Valley.
To the northwest sit great gateways to the Peak including Glossop and Hadfield. Glossop sits at the foot of Snake Pass whilst Hadfield affords easy access into Longdendale and on to the Trans Pennine Trail. Around the Saddleworth Moorland sit the unique gritstone villages of Delph, Diggle, Dobcross and Uppermill, all of which feature great craft shops, traditional inns and attractions along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Yorkshire Peaks and Pennines villages and towns like Holmfirth and Penistone are great gateways into the Peaks from the northeast. Holmfirth is a stunning Pennine Yorkshire town and great walking base which is famously associated with the hit TV series 'Last of the Summerwine'. Penistone is a top family activity holiday base, especially for horse riding, and affords easy access on to the Trans Pennine Trail.
The Central Peak District is the gentle Derbyshire Dales landscape of the Peak District National Park featuring picturesque Dales villages and market towns like Tideswell, Eyam, Bakewell, Ashford in the Water and Youlgreave. Derbyshire Dales villages and towns in the Central Peaks are where you'll find the famous annual summer Well Dressings involving the decoration of springs, wells and taps with beautiful mosaic designs made from flower petals and other natural materials. Around Bakewell and the Central Peaks villages sit the five Dales of Lathkill, Cressbrook, Monk's Dale, Long Dale and Hay Dale which together form the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. The Dales feature some of the best examples of geology and wildlife in the White Peak. Also in the Central Peaks are the magnificent stately home estates of Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall near Bakewell. Both Chatsworth and Haddon Hall have featured extensively on film in recent times. Medieval Manor House Haddon Hall appeared as a film location in both the TV series and 1996 film of 'Jane Eyre' whilst Chatsworth fittingly took centre stage in the recent film 'The Duchess' (2008) starring Keira Knightly. The film was based on the life and times of Lady Georgiana Spencer, a distant relative of Princess Diana, who was the famous wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire. Chatsworth is the ancestral home of the Cavendish family - The Dukes of Devonshire.
The bustling market town of Bakewell, the capital of the Peak, is the only market town within the Peak District National Park boundary. Bakewell Markets include a selection of weekly themed markets and a monthly farmers' market. Bakewell Markets offer a range of Peaks fresh local produce and crafts. Independent shops, farm shops and the famous Bakewell Pudding and Bakewell Tart shops all cluster around Bakewell town centre. Attractions near Bakewell include one of the White Peak's most popular trails, the Monsal Trail which passes through Bakewell and features the beautiful Peaks beauty spot Monsal Head.
Tideswell is home to the 'Cathedral of the Peak', the 14th century St John the Baptist with its spectacular Perpendicular tower. East of Tideswell is the Peak District's famous 'Plague village' of Eyam from which there is easy access to Middleton Dale and Stoney Middleton, an area famous for its cave systems, thermal springs and waterfalls. Youlgreave and Over Haddon to the south of Bakewell afford easy access into beautiful Lathkill Dale, one of the five Dales within the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve. Lathkill is the most accessible of the five central Dales and features stunning woods, caves, rivers with many dippers and spectacular viewpoints.
Hartington is surrounded on all sides by beautiful White Peak countryside and is a superb family friendly holiday base affording easy access on to the most popular White Peak Trails including the Tissington Trail, High Peak Trail and the Manifold Track.
The southern Peak District is where you'll find the most popular beauty spots in the Derbyshire Dales and the great family friendly White Peak cycling and walking trails, the Tissington Trail and the Manifold Track. Charming Ashbourne is a tourist centre in the southern Derbyshire Dales and a gateway to the stunning limestone valley of Dovedale with its famous stepping stones over the River Dove and spectacular rock formations. Ashbourne is one of the Derbyshire Dales' most attractive market towns boasting beautiful Georgian architecture, fine boutiques and local shops, great cafes and tearooms and numerous events including the famous Ashbourne Shrovetide Football event in mid-February. Direct access on to the Tissington Trail from Ashbourne town centre is via The Ashbourne Tunnel extension. The Tissington Trail which weaves up from Ashbourne through the heart of the southern White Peak to Parsley Hay, where it joins the High Peak Trail, is a superb family friendly surfaced path for walking and cycling.
Other great family friendly attractions around Ashbourne include Ilam Park in the heart of the National Trust's South Peak Estate. From Ilam a gentle walking trail leads direct to Dovedale. Also overlooking Dovedale from the northern end of the valley is top walking holiday base pretty Alstonefield which is ideally situated for easy access into both the Dovedale Valley and west towards Wetton Mill and the Manifold Track.
Derby in the far south is one of the top gateway cities around the Peak District. Public transport links from Derby into the Peaks are superb and include East Midlands Trains' Derwent Valley Mills rail links and a network of bus links to top spots and favourite attractions in the Peaks including Ashbourne, Chatsworth, Matlock Bath and Buxton. International visitors looking to access the Peak District are well placed in Derby city centre which has frequent and fast bus links to East Midlands Airport situated just south of the city off the M1 Motorway. Attractions in Derby city centre are impressive. A choice of great Derby museums and galleries, top specialist shopping, restaurants and cafes around the Cathedral Quarter, the outstanding city centre Westfield Derby Shopping Centre and the best collection of artwork by the Derby artist Joseph Wright (1734-97) are all waiting to be discovered in the exciting East Midlands city of Derby. Derby theatres and funky contemporary arts centres are also outstanding and the magnificent Derbyshire stately homes of Kedleston Hall, Sudbury Hall and Calke Abbey are all within easy reach of Derby city centre. More countryside gems sit in South Derbyshire to the south of Derby. Swadlincote is located in the heart of the beautiful National Forest, one of England's newest and boldest environmental projects. The National Forest stretches across parts of Derbyshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire and features a network of family friendly cycling and walking trails alongside great family attractions like the award winning indoor and outdoor adventure playground Conkers.
In the southwest are the stunning Staffordshire Moorlands which contain a superb mix of sublime countryside, steam railways and canals, top rock climbing territory, historic market towns and family attractions. Britain's biggest theme park resort sits within the Staffordshire Moorlands near Alton village, the Alton Towers Theme Park. Around the villages and market towns of the Staffordshire Peaks are beautiful historic churches, great markets and local produce shops. 'Pugin's Gem', St Giles church in Cheadle is one of Peak District's most spectacular churches and not to be missed are top family attractions like the Churnet Valley Railway and canal boat trips from Froghall Wharf on the Caldon Canal. Historic market town Leek, just in Staffordshire near the Cheshire border, contains some hidden architectural and industrial heritage gems including church designs by William Morris and the Brindley Water Mill built by the great canal pioneer James Brindley. A choice of premier antique shops and antique centres in Leek also feature, often in stunning converted mill buildings. Leek is a great gateway into The Roaches, one of the three rough gritstone areas in the Peak District surrounding the central limestone White Peak. The Roaches and famous Hen Cloud and Ramshaw Rocks, hotspots for rock climbing and walking, sit just north of Leek. There are great family friendly reservoir playgrounds near Leek too including Rudyard Lake with a miniature steam railway and gentle reservoir walks and Tittesworth Reservoir with visitor centre, cafe and superb opportunities for birdwatching.
The East Peak District contains the favourite family holiday attractions around The Matlocks, Matlock town and Matlock Bath. The spectacular scenery of the Derwent Valley around Matlock and Matlock Bath combined with a host of top family attractions like the Heights of Abraham cable cars, a range of gift and craft shops, cafes and restaurants, Gullivers Theme Park and Matlock Bath Aquarium to name just a few are a recipe for success. The Matlocks are the Peak District's top family holiday tourist hotspot. The Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site also weaves up from Derby to Matlock Bath following the path of the River Derwent. Heritage mills like Richard Arkwright's Masson Mills, now a very popular factory shopping village, can be found at Matlock Bath and nearby sits Arkwright's village Cromford and the Crich Tramway Village. The Peak District Mining Museum is also at Matlock Bath.
Chesterfield is a bustling market town centre in the East Peaks. A beautiful town featuring numerous historic buildings, specialist shops and several themed markets weekly, Chesterfield is home to the famous Crooked Spire Church. Around Chesterfield sit the spectacular historic sites of Elizabethan gem Hardwick Hall, the Italianate Renishaw Hall Gardens and the lavish 17th century mansion Bolsover Castle. Nearby Dronfield to the north of Chesterfield is a superb East Peaks base just 3 miles from the Peak District National Park boundary. Dronfield also affords easy access to Sheffield city centre attractions.
The Wirksworth area is home to the fascinating limestone quarries around the National Stone Centre. Top family attractions including Carsington Water and the High Peak Trail also sit near Wirksworth. A great place to start your family friendly walk or cycle on the High Peak Trail is Middleton Top with its magnificent Engine House. The peaceful heritage lead mining villages of Winster and Elton have colourful histories and boast a host of 17th and 18th century historic buildings. Winster contains the beautiful 15th/16th century Market House, the first property in the Peak District to be purchased by the National Trust in 1906.
Belper is located at the midway point along the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Trail. The town contains the mighty Strutt's North Mill, home to the Derwent Valley Visitor Centre and Strutts North Mill museum. Alfreton, Ripley and Denby are all hotspot areas for great designer factory shops and outlets and afford easy access into both the Peaks and Nottinghamshire.
With the Peaks cultural capital Buxton at its heart, the West Peak District borders the East Cheshire Plains and contains spectacular historic halls, family friendly walking and cycling trails along old railway routes and tramways and a network of canals where you'll find some of the Peak District's most spectacular industrial archaeology sites. The Cheshire Peaks contains the stunning Macclesfield Forest and Goyt Valley, both of which feature great walking through woodlands and around reservoirs. The famous A537 Cat & Fiddle road weaves up across the southern edge of the Goyt Valley towards Buxton, with The Cat & Fiddle Inn en-route amidst stunning high moorland which almost reaches the heights of Kinder at Shining Tor. East Cheshire towns and villages such as Macclesfield, Bollington, Poynton and Alderley Edge all make excellent gateway holiday bases into the Peaks from the west. The Macclesfield Canal, part of the circular Cheshire Ring canal network, winds up from Congleton via the Bosley Locks, Macclesfield, Bollington and Higher Poynton, meeting the Peak Forest Canal at Marple Junction. Disley is the nearest West Peaks holiday base to the magnificent Lyme Hall (National Trust) which is surrounded by beautiful parkland with a network of walking trails. Superb views can be seen from The Cage hunting tower at Lyme Park across to the High Peak and Kinder beyond.
Chapel-en-le-Frith is a bustling market town centre in the West Peaks boasting some great pubs, a pretty cobbled market place and nearby family attraction the Chestnut Centre Wildlife Park. Chapel is a superb gateway into the Peaks and Buxton with walking trails direct from the town to Combs Reservoir and a handy cut through road east via Sparrowpit and the stunning Winnats Pass to Castleton. Around New Mills, Whaley Bridge and Buxworth sit the Peak Forest Canal and Peak Forest Tramway Trail. The breathtaking steep sided Torrs, industrial archaeology sites including mighty viaducts and historic mills and riverside walks at New Mills are not to be missed. Highlights on the Peak Forest Canal include the Whaley Bridge Canal basin with its historic Transhipment Warehouse and fine tearooms and cafes. At Buxworth near Whaley Bridge is a precious industrial heritage site, the Bugsworth Basin, once Britain's largest and busiest inland port on the canal network. The Bugsworth Basin sits at the head of the Peak Forest Canal. Visitors can access the Peak Forest Tramway Trail from Bugsworth Basin as it heads off towards Dove Holes where there were once several limestone quarries.
Buxton, one of Britain's great historic spa towns, is a jewel in the Peak District and centrally situated along the main A6 road making it a top base for touring all of the Peak District. Attractions in Buxton are extensive and feature beautiful Georgian architecture such as John Carr's The Crescent and spectacular Victorian gems like the Buxton Pavilion Gardens, The Dome and the Buxton Baths. The acclaimed Buxton Opera House Theatre is one of the great Edwardian theatre designer Frank Matcham's best surviving theatres. Both the Opera House and Buxton Pavilion Gardens are the town's cultural centres playing host to numerous year round events and festivals in Buxton. Delightful gardens with a miniature railway and walking trails sit adjacent to the Victorian Pavilion Gardens building. Buxton is also home to 'The First Wonder of the Peak', the beautifully lit Poole's Cavern, one of the great showcaves in the Peak District. The town centre is a treasure trove of craft shops, specialist food shops, fine cafes and award winning tearooms, chic restaurants, vintage antiques and collectables shops, spas and a fine choice of accommodation to suit all budgets and tastes. Not to be missed in Buxton Museum is one of the best collections of stunning Ashford Black Marble ornaments and furniture.
New Mills is connected to Hayfield by the gentle Sett Valley Trail (2.5 miles). This popular family friendly trail is open to walkers, cyclists and horse riders and affords spectacular views of the Dark Peak and Kinder. Hayfield marks the end of the heritage mill towns of the West Peaks and is the main western gateway into the Dark Peak and up to Kinder. The Manchester contingent famously headed up to Kinder Scout from Hayfield in 1932 on the 'Right to Roam' Kinder Trespass. A superb choice of traditional inns, fine tearooms and cafes and a great choice of accommodation all feature in popular Hayfield, gateway to the Dark Peak from the west.
The spectacular landscapes of the Peak District are the rough gritstones of the Dark Peak which surround the central limestone White Peak area which was once a tropical sea. In the Derbyshire Dales White Peak you will find the popular and accessible dales and limestone valley beauty spots like Dovedale and the Stepping Stones across the River Dove. Beautiful historic churches and fascinating industrial archaeology both feature strongly across the Peak District. On the western edge of the Peaks around Buxworth, Whaley Bridge and New Mills sit the Peak Forest Canal and Peak Forest Tramway Trail.
Top spots for rock climbing in the Peak District include the internationally renowned Stanage Edge near Hathersage and The Roaches in the Staffordshire Moorlands. Derby is a main gateway into the Peak District and the great swathe of the beautiful Derbyshire Dales covers much of the southern and central Peaks around Ashbourne and Bakewell.
Looking for mountain bike instruction in the Peak District? Look no further, based in the Peak District National Park Peak MTB are ideally located to take advantage of the many fantastic bike routes available. With some of the most beautiful scenery in the country they can take you on a journey of adventure and exploration, of both the park and your biking skills which they can help you improve to get the most out of your ride to further your enjoyment. Peak MTB offer courses for the beginner and the improver and tailor them to the needs of the people attending to ensure you enjoy your day with them. See the link to the right for more details.