Alport Dale in the Peak District National Park
The Peak District's very special qualities are well known to the people who live in the towns and cities that surround the National Park but for visitors from further away, whether from Britain or abroad, the magic of the Peak District is just waiting to be discovered.
Our home is just minutes away from the Peak Park and a stay here will allow you to explore some of England's most spectacular scenery and in the towns, villages and hamlets - amongst the prettiest in the country - you will find a warm and genuine welcome wherever you go. Every taste is catered for and many exciting activities are available.
The Peak District also enjoys the most extensive public transport network of any national park giving you a unique chance to visit the countryside without having to worry about taking the car.
For a fun and informative day out try one of the Peak Parks' ranger guided walks and events. Alternatively we have lots of ordnance survey maps and books of the area at the house detailing a huge range of walks from the short and easy to the very challenging many including suggested stops at pretty country pubs 'en route'.
For people who are less mobile, or have young families, check out the 'Access for All' initiative on the Peak Park Authority's website for information and ideas on how to get maximum enjoyment from your visit.
Walking Britain's excellent guide to the different areas of the Peak Park (the so called 'White' Peak and 'Dark' Peak) This site has an amazing database of walks with detailed descriptions of the route's to take (we have OS maps at the house).
As an aside, our brother has a farm in Grindon Moor (very near to Wetton - see Thors Cave below) so if anyone wants to combine Thors cave with a visit to the farm (particularly those with younger children) then I'm sure he would be happy to welcome you and show you around.
It is dificult to know where to begin to describe the Peak Park - there are so many stunning areas and picturesque villages but here are a few of our favourite locations with the approximate driving time from our house!
The cottage in which George Vicars lived
It's hard to imagine that the quiet village of Eyam, off the A623 in Derbyshire, could have such a fascinating, yet tragic story to tell. But .... at the end of August 1665 bubonic plague arrived at the house of the village tailor George Vicars, via a parcel of cloth from London. The cloth was damp and was hung out in front of the fire to dry, thus releasing the plague infested fleas. On 7th September 1665, George Vicars, the first plague victim, died of a raging fever. As the plague took hold and decimated the villagers it was decided to hold the church services outdoors at nearby Cucklett Delf and, on the advice of rector William Mompesson and the previous incumbent Thomas Stanley, villagers stayed within the confines of the village to minimize the spread of the disease. Cucklett Delf was also the secret meeting place of sweethearts Emmott Sydall, from Eyam, and Rowland Torre, who was from a neighbouring village. They would call to each other across the rocks, until Emmott Sydall herself became a victim of the plague. Six of the eight Sydall family died, and their neighbours lost nine family members.
Eyam Church where many of the victims are buried
To minimize cross infection, food and other supplies were left outside the village, at either the Boundary Stones, or at Mompesson's Well, high above the village. The Earl of Devonshire, who lived at Chatsworth House, freely donated food and medical supplies. For all other goods, money, as payment, was either purified by the running water in the well or was left in vinegar soaked holes. The Riley graves, close to Riley House Farm and approximately 1/2 mile from the village house the bodies of the husband and six children of farmer Elizabeth Hancock. All died within a week of each other. Because of the high risk of infecting her neighbours she had the traumatic task of burying them all herself. Even more tragic is that the infection probably came to her family when she helped bury another villager's body. Twelve months after the death of George Vicars, the plague was still claiming its victims, and on 25th August 1666 Catherine Mompesson, wife of the recently appointed rector William Mompesson (aged 28) , died of the plague. She had loyally stayed with her husband and tended the sick, only to become a victim herself.
As an aside Eyam Hall opens its gardens to the public under the National Garden Scheme. Eyam Hall is the C17 seat of the Wright family, the traditional walled garden has four distinct areas; the knot garden, the potager, the bowling green and the pleasure lawn with glorious rose walk and herbaceous border. A formal gravelled walk is edged with lavender and espaliered fruit trees and planted with exotic specimens.
.Journey time from the house - 47 mins (Route map)
Matlock, the county town of Derbyshire, is a former spa town situated at a sharp bend in the River Derwent, where it turns south to carve its way through the ridge of limestone which bars its route towards Derby. Just downriver of the main town lies Matlock Bath, which is enclosed by the limestone cliffs of the gorge and contains the main tourist attractions of the locality.
In many respects Matlock seems quite a new town, certainly when compared with Buxton or Bakewell for instance. The reason is that Matlock was an unimportant collection of small villages centred around the church at Matlock Town (where the only buildings of any age are to be found) until thermal springs were discovered in 1698. Even this did not lead to an immediate development of Matlock because the route down the Derwent was blocked by Willersley crags at Cromford, so the road to Matlock from the south arrived by a circuitous and hilly route.
This situation was remedied by the cutting of the road through Scarthin Nick near Cromford in 1818, though Matlock had already begun to gain a reputation as a rather select spa by then. The Victorian era saw the development of Matlock Bath as a fashionable resort and the construction by John Smedley in 1853 of the vast Hydro on the steep hill to the north of the river crossing at the centre of the town. This enormous hotel functioned as a spa until the 1950s, when it closed and was taken over by Derbyshire County Council as its headquarters.
The coming of the railways in the 1870s transformed Matlock again, this time into a resort for day-trippers from the Derby-Nottingham area and further south. From then on Matlock spawned tourist attractions in the form of show caverns, cable railways, petrifying wells, pleasure gardens and even recently a theme park. The evidence of the change which came over the place can be seen best at Matlock Bath, where the amusement arcades along the main road provide a sharp contrast with the elegant Victorian villas above.
The Matlocks is one of the most popular rural inland tourist resorts in Britain; in summer, standing traffic can stretch for 20 miles along the A6, and even sunny winter weekends are very busy. Other attractions in the area include, Carsington Water, the Heights of Abraham Cable Cars, Gulliver's Kingdom, Arkwrights rejuvenated mill complexes at Cromford and Masson , High Peak Trail , Mining Museum, National Stone Centre, and the regionally-famed Wirksworth Arts Festival.
Journey time from house - 48 minutes (Route map)
Lud's Church, The Roaches
The Roaches, with Hen Cloud and Ramshaw Rocks, form a gritstone escarpment which marks the south-western edge of the Peak. Best viewed from the approach along the Leek road, they stand as a line of silent sentinels guarding the entrance to the Peak District, worn into fantastic shapes by the elements.
The Roaches Lower Tier The area is one of rock and heather which once belonged to the Swythamley Estate. Following the break up of this estate, the area including the Roaches and Hen Cloud (an area of 975 acres) was purchased in 1980 by the Peak District National Park Authority in order to protect this unique area and guarantee access for the public.
Hen Cloud is an impressive, solitary edge which rises steeply from the ground below. The Roaches themselves have a gentler approach and actually consist of two edges, a Lower and Upper tier, with a set of rock-steps connecting them. Built into the rocks of the Lower Tier is Rock Cottage, a tiny primitive cottage which was once the gamekeeper's residence and has now been converted into a climbing hut. Below and to the west of the main edge is a line of small subsidiary edges known as the Five Clouds.
Ramshaw Rocks The area was once famous for its wallabies. These were released in World War II from a private zoo at Swythamley and managed to breed and survive until the late 1990s, when the last survivors seem to have disappeared.
The whole area is a favourite place with walkers and rock-climbers, and the edges provide some of the best gritstone climbing in the country, with famous classic routes such as Valkyrie, the Sloth and The Swan. In some ways the area has become a victim of its own popularity for the area is very busy at weekends.
Journey time from the house - 23 mins (Route map). The route map is actually to Flash (the highest village in England) but you will pass the Roaches on your left (on the A53) on the way to Flash village.
Waterfalls at Three Shires Head
Three Shires Head is the meeting point of the counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire, and Staffordshire. The River Dane rises about two miles above here and runs in a steep-sided valley at this point. The area is between 360 and 450 metres above sea level and is typical of the Cheshire uplands. The heather, bracken, and purple moorgrass are interspersed with rocky outcrops while the surrounding pasture lands are closely grazed by flocks of sheep. A few stunted trees are to be found on the hillsides and a small area of mixed woodland lies near the two bridges.
Journey time from our house - 30 minutes (Route map)
View of the Monsal Viaduct from Monsal Head
Monsal Head, standing high above the dale, affords the best viewpoint for admiring Monsal Dale. The great railway viaduct seen in this picture once carried trains to Buxton but after the line was closed it was taken over by the Peak Planning Board, and it now carries the Monsal Trail, from which the walker can overlook the dale. The many tunnels along the Trail are closed, but most are circumvented by paths.
Journey time from the house - 43 mins (Route map - to Little Longstone, Monsal Head Pub )Back to top
Thor's Cave is the most spectacular sight of the Manifold valley, dominating the central section of the valley. The rock in which it is set rears up out of the hillside like a giant fang with the cave entrance forming a hole in it ten metres in diameter, a sight which is clearly visible for several miles.
Excavations have shown that the cave was occupied as long as 10,000 years ago and this occupation probably continued until Roman or Saxon times, making it one of the oldest sites of human activity in the Peak. Stone tools and the remains of a range now extinct animals were found within the cave.
The cave can be reached quite easily from Wetton and is well worth a visit for a scramble inside or to climb onto the prow above the cave itself and admire the excellent view of the Manifold valley.
Journey time from the house - 27 minutes (Route map to Wetton)back to top
Treak Cliff Caverns
Treak Cliff cavern is an underground Wonderland of Stalactites, Stalagmites, Rocks Minerals and Fossils. It is also home to Blue John Stone, a rare form of Fluorite with beautiful colours. Popular as an ornamental stone and mined for 300 years, one of the largest pieces ever found is still in situ called The Pillar. The Blue John Stone in Treak Cliff Cavern can be seen all around the walls and roof of the Witch's Cave. The guided tour takes you deeper underground to see multi- coloured flowstone adorning the walls of Aladdin's Cave, and further on you can experience the wonder of the stalactites and stalagmites in Fairyland and the Dream Cave. The most famous formation is 'The Stork', standing on one leg.
People of all ages can enjoy a visit to Treak Cliff Cavern, guided tours take about 40 minutes. Special events are held at certain times during the year. Polish Your Own Blue John Stone is an activity usually available during most school holidays where you select, prepare and polish a slice of Blue John Stone to take home.
Opening times: All year except Christmas and New Year (weather permitting), 1st March - 30th October: From 10.00am last tour 4.20pm. 1st November - 28th February: From 10.00am last tour 3.20pm
Contact details: Treak Cliff Caverns, Buxton Road, Castleton,
Telephone: 01433 620571 | Fax: 01433 620 519 | Website
Journey time from our house - 47 minutes (Route map)
The picturesque and historic market town of Bakewell is the largest settlement in the Peak District National Park, and is well known to residents and visitors alike as the `Capital of the Derbyshire Dales'.
Indeed, Bakewell's Aldern House is the headquarters and administrative centre of the Peak District National Park Authority, and the sympathetically restored seventeenth century Market Hall, with its miniature gables and twin-light mullioned windows is now home to the excellent Peak Park Information and Exhibition Centre.
The town has a long and fascinating history; first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1085, `Badequella', meaning `bath-spring' has been attracting visitors for two thousand years ever since the Romans discovered it's warm chalybeate wells, of which there were at least twelve, making it an ideal place for settlement. Little wonder that the Celts and Romans were followed by the Saxons and Danes to this `little wonder'; this virtual paradise beside the pure crystal waters of the Wye, for throughout the rich tapestry of its history, Bakewell has provided an abundance of lifes pleasures for those who have sought solace and beauty in the heart of the delightful Derbyshire Dales countryside. It still does, and there is `little wonder' that modern 21st century Bakewell has become the most popular and most visited town in the Peak District of Derbyshire, for it provides an ideal base for tourists to explore its numerous attractions, and those in the surrounding landscape.
Gothic five arched bridge, Bakewell
The famous Bakewell Show is held every August on the Showground across the river; inaugerated as a mainly local show in 1819, it has since grown out of all proportion into one of England's Premier Country Shows, with regular crowds of around fifty thousand - weather permitting!
Haddon Hall, barely a mile away down the valley is regarded as the finest medieval Manor House in England, and is a seat of the Duke of Rutland, whilst the Duke of Devonshire's splendid Chatsworth House, known as the Palace of the Peak, stands sedately beside the Derwent less than three miles away.
Bakewell has a golf course to the east of the town accessible from Station Road, whilst also accessible from the Old Station car park nearby is the Monsal Trail. The Trail was once the main railway line to Buxton and Manchester, but now provides one of the most scenic of walks both beside the Wye, and through some of the most picturesque of dales landscapes all the way to Miller's Dale - and best of all, it's free!
Ashford-in-the-Water (en route to Bakewell) is a worthwhile stop. A very pretty village with a lovely 3 mile circular walk and two picturesque pubs.
Journey time from the house - 42 minutes (Route map)
Tissington in Derbyshire, is a well managed estate village which has an ideal blend of duckpond, trees, cottages, church, tearooms and an old hall. To many, Tissington seems to be the model village.
Tissington Hall is a large and very fine Jackobean mansion and home for the Fitzherbert family for over 400 years. The house was built in 1609 for Francis Fitzherbert possibly incorporating parts of an earlier hall. The property had become a seat of the Fitzherberts around 1465 when Nicholas the second son of John Fitzherbert of Somersal married the Tissington heiress.
During the Civil War Tissington was garrisoned by Colonel FitzHerbert in support of the King.
Tissington church dates back to Norman times and much Norman work is to be seen inside despite being restored in 1854. It has a 2 decker pulpit, a Norman font and many monuments to the Fitzherbert family.
The old school has been turned into tea-rooms and is adjacent to a large duckpond complete with ducks.
Just off the car park runs the Tissington Trail, an easy and pleasant walking and riding route which follows the line of the former Ashbourne to Buxton railway line. You can hire cycles ( in season ) to ride along it or just walk through some fine countryside.
Well dressing takes place in Tissington at ascentiontide. The 5 wells and 1 childrens well are dressed to depict varing religious themes. Natural materials such as flower petals and mosses are pressed into clay set in a wooden frame, to form a unique and colourful picture. The tradition is supposed to have originated as a thanksgiving for the endless supply of pure water to the village. Many villages have well dressing ceremonies but Tissington is probably the most famous.
Journey time from house - 34 mins (Route map)
Queen Elizabeth's Grammer School Ashbourne
Ashbourne is the southern gateway to the Peak and lies on the boundary of the Old Red Sandstone of southern Derbyshire and the Limestone which surrounds Dovedale and the White Peak. Although the town lies a short distance away from the River Dove, it commands the approach to Dovedale.
It is a colourful and historic town, already a Royal Borough by the time of the Domesday survey. Church Street, which leads out west from the town centre, has many fine buildings, including of course St Oswald's church, the former Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School (founded 1585), Owfield's Almshouses (1614-30), and The Mansion, which was the home of the Rev John Taylor from 1740 to 1787. A colourful character, Taylor was one of Dr Johnson's closest friends, and Johnson was a frequent visitor here. The town can also boast of visits by Charles I and Bonny Prince Charlie, who stayed here on his march south to Derby in 1745.
The streets in the centre of the town are quite narrow and the are overhung by the inn sign of the Green Man and Black's Head - a famous Georgian coaching inn once frequented by Dr Johnson and Boswell. To the left are the former Shambles (now called Victoria Square), which lead up to the Market Square, the hub of the modern town. (There is a market every Thursday). The town has a fairly wide range of shops and of course numerous pubs.
Shrove Tide 'football match' Ashbourne
Journey time from the house - 32 minutes (Route map)
Hartington village duck pond
Hartington is the major village on the central section of the valley of the Dove, and is therefore an important tourist centre, so it can be very busy at summer weekends. An old village which was granted a market charter in 1203, it has a long history and some nice buildings.
The village is centred around the village green, with its duckpond and car park. The entrance to Nuttall's creamery, the source of Stilton and Buxton Blue cheese, lies just off the green, and there is a cheese shop here which belongs to the creamery - a visit to this is almost obligatory.
The church lies on a rise to the east of the green and is built of a attractively coloured local sandstone. It was mostly constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries and has a fine tower in Perpendicular style, but contains little of immediate interest. In the street below the church is the Old School House, dated 1758. The 17th century Hartington Hall is a fine building which stands on the hill opposite the church, on the road to Biggin, and is now a Youth Hostel.
Hartington has several pubs and shops and there is a public car park along the Warslow Road with public toilets opposite, next to Rooke's Pottery.
Journey time from the house - 28mins (Route map)
Stepping Stones at Dovedale
The River Dove rises on the Eastern side of Axe Edge and flows almost southwards to the boundary of the Peak, forming the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire for the whole of its length.
The river is renowned as one of the most beautiful in the area, if not in the country, and is a famous trout-fishing river, immortalised by Izaak Walton in his book 'The Compleat Angler' - written when visiting his friend Charles Cotton at Beresford Hall near Hartington.
Axe Edge View The scene where the river rises seems a far cry from the famous lower valley of the Dove. Axe Edge is a high gritstone moor, and the river plunges steeply down through a deeply-cut valley before it arrives at the limestone rock near Hollinsclough. Now the valley widens out somewhat, but the hills seem to rear up around it in weird shapes - those on the left bank of the river are the remains of ancient coral reefs, which tower with sheer sides and fluted ridges above the upper Dove valley. Chrome and Parkhouse hills are both magnificent cock's-comb ridges, while High Wheeldon is only marginally less spectacular.
Crowdecote The Dove flows on with a limestone ridge on its left bank and a gritstone one on its right, through the tiny hamlet of Crowdecote and past Pilsbury and Sheen. This part of the valley has twice been threatened with plans for a reservoir, which have fortunately been resisted. In 1946 the House of Lords threw out a plan by Leicester Corporation, and in 1970 a scheme by the Trent Water Authority was also abandoned due to local opposition.
The river then reaches Hartington to begin the section which has made it famous. Hartington actually lies just off the river itself, but a path leads out of the village across the fields to reach the Dove at the start of Beresford Dale, where the river enters the narrow gorge where Walton and Cotton fished. Though Beresford
Beresford Dale Hall has long since gone, the fishing house Charles Cotton built alongside the river in 1674 can just be glimpsed amongst the trees, and just downstream lies the pool where the character 'Viator' in The Compleat Angler marvelled at the spike of rock which leaps out of the river here. Beresford Dale is the most intimate stretch of the Dove, with the river hemmed in by steep cliffs and heavily wooded slopes which tower over it, while the stream glides lazily through turbid pools.
Journey time from the house - 30 minutes (Route map)
The village of Beeley sits snugly amongst the gently undulating wooded hills which rise on the east bank of the River Derwent about a mile and a half due south of Chatsworth House, the home of the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire - and about a mile along the B6012 from its junction with the A6 at the former rail-head village of Rowsley. The village stands to the east of this road, whilst to the west Lindup Wood rises above the Derwent Valley and there are magnificent views northward to Chatsworth Park.
The proximity of Chatsworth with it's magnificent open parkland has had a major influence on the character of Beeley and it's surrounding landscape ever since Sir William Cavendish bought the Chatsworth Estate on December 31st 1549 - though the village itself remained independent of any Ducal control for another two hundred years until the third Duke of Devonshire purchased Beeley Hill Top in 1747.
Thus, Beeley has enjoyed the benefits of two centuries as an estate village under the control of successive Dukes of Devonshire, and though this is no longer the case with many of the properties having been sold off in recent times, the evidence of Ducal influence can still be plainly seen throughout the village today.
It was in these idyllic surroundings that an Anglo-Saxon named Godric cultivated a tiny royal manor at the time of the Norman Conquest, and in 1086 'Begelie' was first recorded in the Domesday Survey, having ninety acres of taxable land - which would have supported a small agricultural community.
Beeley seems to have retained its `small agricultural community' status for almost 500 years until early in the sixteenth century when Lord Vaux of Harrowden sold the manor to John Greaves (1539 - 1621) - just ten years after Bess of Hardwick and her husband had acquired Chatsworth.
It is likely that Beeley Old Hal, which still stands opposite Norman House in the village, was the original manor house until John Greaves purchased the manor in 1559. The family lived in a house called `The Greaves' - from which they took their surname - and this then became the manor house.
Following Greaves' death in 1621 the Old Hall and the manor house were both rebuilt and the latter, where the arms of King James 1st can still be seen above a bedroom mantelpiece, was renamed Beeley Hill Top. Both reverted to farmhouse status late in the 17th century, and in 1747 Beeley Hill Top was purchased by the 3rd Duke of Devonshire.
(As an aside I am a direct descendant of the above Greaves family - which is perhaps one of the reasons I like Beeley village!) Beeley also participates in the National Garden Scheme and a number of the villagers open their gardens for the day (proceeds go to charity). Thisis a really lovely day out with a really nice atmosphere, bar-b-que in the village etc.
Journey time from the house - 45 minutes (Route map)