With rolling hills, meandering rivers and spectacular stately homes, the Peak District makes for a picture-perfect weekend away
Things to do in the Peak District
This national park of undulating hills and breathtaking valleys could make a strong claim to be the most beautiful part of Britain. It’s a landscape familiar from the works of Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë – the stately homes here providing the inspirations for Darcy’s Pemberley and pretty Hathersage inspiring the locations of Jane Eyre. The 555 square miles of dreamy countryside running across the foothills of the Pennines will still inspire the weekend visitor, three centuries on.
Take in the incredible sights of the Heights of Abraham, from the comfort of a cable car
Once upon a time, one of the most stunning views in the whole Peak District was accessible only to those who had the stamina to scale Masson Hill. But in 1984, the UK unveiled its first cable-car system in the style of those found at ski resorts. The twelve cable cars give you a sedate passage up a 568 metre climb, with jaw-dropping views of the Derwent valley. Once at the top, guided tours will take you down into one of the district’s most admired natural wonders – the spectacular Great Masson Cavern. This is a network of illuminated caves, leading to the Tinker’s Shaft viewing point. The attraction has lost none of its appeal since 1780, when visitors first started visiting to admire the caves.
Visit Chatsworth House, inspiration to Jane Austen
While we have no confirmation that Pride and Prejudice’s Pemberley (Mr Darcy’s family pile) was based on Chatsworth House, it was close enough for the makers of the 2005 film production to use it as their location. This is one of the UK’s most fabulous stately homes – not just grand, but also extremely beautiful, and perfectly fitting the Pemberley description in Pride and Prejudice: “It was a large, handsome, stone building standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front, a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal, nor falsely adorned.” The home remains the family seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, who have occupied it for six generations, but there is much public space to explore here. You can also head outdoors where a charming little farm provides entertainment for little visitors (be mindful that the house itself doesn’t allow prams, if you’re visiting with children). You will leave as entranced as Elizabeth Bennett was on her own first visit.
Find out what a bad day at work really feels like at Masson Mill
Feeling pressured by deadlines? Got a window with a view onto a wall? You may revise your idea of work troubles after visiting Masson Mill. This 18th-century mill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and faithfully reproduces the sights, unsavoury smells and noises of this very active cotton mill, powered by the nearby River Derwent. Nowadays, the mill is no longer active as a cotton producer, but it’s buzzing with visitors instead. Many come for the shopping village now occupying one of the mills – with lots of well known and independent brands set over five floors.
Head to Bakewell for a piece of its legendary pudding
Unsurprisingly, more than one of Bakewell’s bakers claims to have baked the first Bakewell pudding. Bloomers Original Bakewell Puddings and the Old Original Bakewell Pudding shop both squabble over its provenance. Local historians have it that it was actually a cook at the Rutland Arms (now a working hotel) who misread a recipe for a jam tart, and came up with the almond paste and pastry pudding, which has been favoured by high tea takers since the 19th century. But sweet pastries are not the only reason to visit this pretty market town, set on the River Wye. With picturesque streets and grand old houses, Bakewell is an attractive place to visit in the Peak District, with food and produce markets, cultural events, carnivals and festivals taking place in the summer months.
Head to Buxton, the Bath of the north, for a relaxing spa day
Buxtons’s natural waters have been a lure for tourists since the 14th century, and you can still visit to enjoy some serious downtime with an impressive backdrop of Georgian and Victorian architecture throughout the handsome town. Head to the glorious Devonshire Dome, the largest unsupported dome in Europe, a vast and imposing structure which dwarfs London’s St Paul’s Cathedral. Here you can hit the Devonshire Spa for a luxurious retreat in a historic building – first built as a stables, now a centre for Derbyshire culture and recreation. A full menu of beauty and wellbeing treatments is on offer for those who need more than just the invigorating Peak District fresh air to blow away the cobwebs.
From inspirational architecture to relaxing spas, take a look at our hotels in the Peak District to experience it yourself.