While the total population of the Peak District fails even to top 40,000, over 20 million people live within an hour’s drive, making it one of the UK’s most accessible tourist areas. But what does it have to offer?
Clearly the Peak District’s most obvious selling point is its wild expanse of national park, with landscape, outward bound pursuits, hiking routes and picture-perfect villages nestling into stunning geology. Whether on foot or in your vehicle, the green and grey wilderness offers a wholesome connection with the majesty of Mother Nature.
The Peak District National Park was established in 1951, and each year welcomes an estimated 14 million visitors. It stretches across the borders of five counties – Derbyshire, Cheshire, South and West Yorkshire, Staffordshire and Greater Manchester – showcasing over 1,600 miles of walking routes.
If you’re willing to delve below the surface, the Peak District’s caving network is something to be admired. Organised caving and potholing experiences – from walk-in routes to vertical drops from ground level – reveal the mysteries of thousands of years, with passageways, streams and chambers testing physical durability and mental strength in equal measure.
The tallest cave, discovered on New Year’s Day 1999, is in Castleton, and carries the rather formidable name, Titan Shaft. At 464ft high, it’s taller than the London Eye.
From the resplendent and regal Chatsworth House (where large parts of the film Pride & Prejudice were filmed) to museums, temples and mills, the history and heritage of what in some places was a heavily industrial area provides a remarkable step back in time to rather simpler ways, long departed.
Food & drink
The Peak District’s connectivity is what gives its pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes a rich combination of southern and northern flavours. Certainly, the trend for gastro and high-end dining in remote converted cottages has given the area, and Derbyshire in particular, a versatile base on which to build its culinary power, with Eyam, Castleton and Bakewell doing more than most to lure in tourists.
The region is also renowned for its incredible pubs and brewing tradition, particularly across the Staffordshire border. Centuries-old pubs pattern the Peaks, making a trip there an experience that’s refreshing at every turn, if not sobering!
Deciding how to spend your time in the Peaks may prove as difficult to decide as it does selecting a place to lay your head.
The area caters for every brand of visitor, with five-star hotels and spas, elegant guesthouses, simple Airbnbs, right through to stylish riverside campsites that connect you immediately with rustic, countryside pleasures.
For such an expansive area, summer season accommodation fills up quickly, and prices can be high. If you are willing to look at spring or autumn escapes, and can book early, there are some incredible deals on offer.
The hidden Peaks
The real hidden beauty of the Peak District, however, is not in the big tourist attractions or the places that attract visitors of all persuasions – it’s in the period picture postcard properties, the dry-stone walls, the rolling vistas that appear out of nowhere and, of course, its people. It is a place and a spirit all in one.