Updated on December 21st, 2021
My recent visit to the Peak District provided a mix of everything I needed from 6 days discovering the joys of this beautiful corner of England. It was a busy but varied agenda including hiking, cycling, history, castles, stately homes & delicious pudding! As a result, I’m sharing with you my exact Peak District Itinerary, so if you have a week to spend in this stunning region then this is the guide for you.”
If you have read any of my previous posts, you will know that on my recent visit to the Peak District I fell in love with the area. Between the stunning scenery & jaw-dropping views lie ancient castles, stunning stately homes, interesting history, underground caverns & of course, a very tasty pudding! The week I spent felt like the perfect mix with something different to offer each day & plenty of opportunities for outdoor adventures & small road trip tours. Therefore, if you would like to do the same, I wanted to share my full itinerary.
Love a road trip? Check out my essential tips for taking to the road alone HERE.
Peak District Itinerary – Your Perfect 6 Day Road Trip
Day 1 – Dovedale, Thorpe Cloud & Ilam
Day 1 is the day to arrive at the Peak District National Park. For me, this meant a 3-hour drive from home. I decided to stop as I entered the park for an opportunity to stretch my legs & give me an introduction to the days ahead.
My first stop was at Dovedale, a National Nature Reserve just outside Ashbourne in Derbyshire. Dovedale is famous for its river crossing over the stepping stones. But before I got there, I decided to go up nearby Thorpe Cloud.
Thorpe Cloud is the perfect place to get the blood circulating after a long drive. Getting to the top only takes around 20 minutes but the views are the perfect introduction to the landscapes of the Peak District. After getting your fill of the fresh air, head down into Lin Dale which brings you perfectly out at the famous Stepping Stones. There is an additional 3-mile walk along the river to Milldale, 6 miles there & back. I went a short way before heading over the Stepping Stones & getting back on my way to Buxton.
Before you leave Dovedale, a short drive away is the village of Ilam. It is a small & quintessentially English village with Ilam Park offering plenty more walking trails. The park is run by the National Trust (more on that below).”
For my whole time in the Peak District, I stayed at the B/W Plus Buxton Lee Wood Hotel. For me, Buxton was perfectly located to explore the area. Other options in Buxton are the Old Hall Hotel or, if you prefer self-catering, you could try Hargate Hall. To find your perfect place to stay, use the search box below:
Mam Tor hike
Day two is the perfect time to explore the countryside by taking one of the many choices of big hikes. I would thoroughly recommend Mam Tor. It was recently voted within the Top 10 of all walks in the UK & is said to be one of the most spectacular views in the whole of England. You can choose your distance, but I recommend taking the circular route for at least 2 hours. The trail leads right along the top of the Great Ridge which offers exceptional views. You can read all about my adventures getting lost on Mam Tor in my blog post. Alternatively, there are loads more choices for other fantastic hikes in the area.
How about Kinder Scout, the highest of all the peaks? Or there’s Padley Gorge for walks in the mystical woodland, or the stunning views from Stanage Edge, The Roaches or Luds Church?”
Assuming you have opted for Mam Tor, the next stop is the pretty village of Castleton & a walk up to Peveril Castle.
Peveril Castle is an 11th-century hunting lodge. When it was built by William the Conquerors trusted knight, it was one of the first stone castles in England. However, it’s not just a very important piece of Peak District history, the views from there are magnificent too. In addition, if you have just tackled Mam Tor, it’s also a brilliant place to take in the vista across Castleton, the Hope Valley & along the Great Ridge, where you’ve just been walking.
After all this activity, Castleton provides lots of choices to quench any hunger pangs. I had a delicious lunch at the Peak Hotel. Alternatively, try The Castle, The George or Three Roofs Café. If you would prefer to stay in Castleton then check out Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn, The George Inn or Ye Olde Nags Head but the choice is limited so book in advance.
Day 3 – Blue John Cave, Chatsworth House & Tideswell
Day three of this Peak District itinerary offers a very different view as we start by going underground. The terrain of the Peak District is not only impressive from above. The limestone dales have also created a jaw-dropping landscape below ground in the form of numerous large caves. The most famous of these is Blue John Cavern. It’s named after the blue & yellow mineral deposits which are unique to the area. In any of the villages, you’ll be able to buy Blue John for yourself in the form of jewellery. A visit to the cave can only be done on a tour & they leave regularly, lasting for a minimum of 45 minutes (£15).
Just make sure you can climb down & up the 245 steps for the tour. However, if you suffer from claustrophobia, I would not recommend the excursion.”
There are several other caves you can also choose to explore in the area such as Treak Hill Cavern, Peak Cavern (which is also a music venue & cinema), or Speedwell Cavern which can be explored by boat.
Next on the itinerary is Chatsworth House. Chatsworth has been home to the Duke & Duchess of Devonshire for 16 generations. Throughout that time, they have created some stunning & extensive gardens which are a joy to explore. There’s everything here from kitchen gardens to sculpture parks & rock gardens. You can get lost in a maze & find all species of flowers & trees amongst bridges & lakes, with fountains galore. The house is stunning & apparently, it was the inspiration for ‘Pemberley’ in Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Tickets for the house as well cost £12.50 but I chose to just focus on the gardens for £7.50.
The centrepiece is The Cascade which leads from the top of the gardens all the way down to the house. Water runs down a series of steps, each one a different height, to vary the sound as it descends.
A paddle here is the perfect place to cool down on a hot day. My top tip is to take your own picnic & a blanket as once you’re in Chatsworth gardens, you won’t want to leave!”
The final stop for the day is the small village of Tideswell & its spectacular 14th century St John the Baptist church. It is also referred to as the “Cathedral of the Peak” & you will see why when you venture inside for a very impressive organ, beautiful stained-glass windows & the local landowner’s tomb, in full medieval armour. While you’re there I recommend a stop at The George Inn for a bite to eat.
Day 4 – Monsal Trail, Bakewell & Buxton
The next day is time to get on your bike & see the Peak District from yet another different angle. The Monsal Trail is a disused railway which used to be part of the line stretching from London to Manchester. It was abandoned in the late 60s but has since been converted into a flat, traffic-free walking, cycling, & horse-riding trail. It covers 8 ½ miles from Bakewell to Blackwell (near Buxton). I hired a bike & cycled the full length of the Monsal Trail in both directions. It was a fantastic morning & you can read all about it in my recent blog post.
After all the exertion of the cycle, you will have worked up an appetite. I hired my bike from Hassop Station which has an award-winning café attached to satisfy your needs. Then it’s off for something a little sweeter in Bakewell.
Bakewell is a pretty market town situated on the River Wye & worth a stroll for its classic English stone houses. However, Bakewell is also famous for its delicious tart & pudding. It was apparently ‘invented’ in 1860 when one of the cooks at the Rutland Arms misread her recipe. You can try the pudding there, or go to The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop & you won’t be disappointed. If you opt for a takeaway, head down to enjoy it by the river.
The final stop for the day is Buxton. Buxton is a famous spa town & has attracted health tourists since Roman times. You can sample the healing waters at several locations. If you fancy treating yourself, then head to the newly opened Ensana Buxton Crescent which is modelled on the famous Royal Crescent in Bath.
Also consider catching a show at the Buxton Opera House. It’s an impressive building outside but apparently even more beautiful from within. Finally, there are the Pavilion Gardens which are well worth getting lost in for an evening stroll.”
When you visit Castleton & the caves, you will not be able to miss the spectacular drive through Winnats Pass. I drove up & down this road many times & was absolutely blown away by the surrounding hills & rock formations. It’s an area of Special Scientific Interest due to the sheer volume of fossils found here. As such, it is against the law to remove any plants or rocks. But this morning, take the opportunity to explore on foot & understand the fascinating geology of the Peak District at closer inspection.
The area is a magnet for outdoor lovers & there are many circular walking & cycling routes nearby. In addition, Derwent Dam & Reservoir had a very important role in British history. The RAF practised here before their daring World War II “Dam Buster” mission in Germany. It was a perilous exercise, needing to fly low, at night for the mission to be a success. In the raid, they dropped the infamous “Bouncing Bomb” created to skim across the water, before exploding next to the dam. The RAF still use the reservoir for training purposes today.
Your final stop for the day is the historic village of Eyam. Its past particularly resonates after current events. When the deadly plague arrived here back in the 1600s, the villagers agreed to quarantine themselves.
While surrounding areas were relatively unaffected, Eyam lost ¼ of its residents. A wander around the churchyard & the nearby “Plague Cottages” puts the whole thing into sobering perspective.”
Check out my video below to learn more.
For your final day, this Peak District itinerary offers another glimpse of these beautiful landscapes, by heading to the Goyt Valley. I was there in June & the walk that caught my eye was one featuring the splendour of the blooming rhododendrons. As a bonus, it was an easy walk to see the ruins of Errwood Hall, an old mansion owned by the family who was responsible for creating such a beautiful wood.
While you’re there don’t miss the opportunity to follow the trail up to the cemetery for even more spectacular views down the valley.”
As you leave the Peak District, take advantage of the chance to visit the highest distillery (& pub) in England for food, a drink or to buy some of their famous spirits. Their Earl Gray gin is delicious! The Cat & Fiddle is in a desolate location on the moors, but the journey through the Goyt Valley is well worth the effort to get there. The route I chose tested my nerves as the road had space for only one car, with sharp drops alongside. But it also offered spectacular views, making me long for more time to explore the valley further. It’s always good to have a reason to return!
Top Tips for Visiting the Peak District
• The National Trust manages several National Parks, reserves & historic sites across the Peak District (Dovedale, Kinder, Mam Tor & more). Being a member means that when visiting you can park for free as well as supporting the maintenance & upkeep of their properties. If you are spending some time in the UK, then maybe consider membership.
• Bring plenty of change for parking & toilets. Most parking can be paid for by credit card but there are still some which only accept cash (Castleton Visitors Centre is one). In addition, you may need change for the toilet (I’m remembering Dovedale, without change & needing 20p after a 3-hour drive!).
• On the hikes there may be limited facilities for refreshments. Make sure you take plenty of water & all the snacks you will need.
• Weather can change quickly so ensure you have layers, sunscreen & waterproofs, no matter what it is like when you start the day.
If you follow this Peak District itinerary, I have no doubt you will get a great introduction to this spectacular region, & all that this beautiful corner of England has to offer. I also believe that you’ll fall in love with the area in the same way I did. If you have any other suggestions, then please let me know. I will definitely be back!
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