The Peak District is the UK’s oldest National Park after it was officially designated as a National Park in 1951. Since then, it has become one of the most loved National Parks in the UK, alongside The Lake District, The Norfolk Broads, and Pembrokeshire Coastal Park. But, not many know about the towns in the Peak District.
Located in the centre of the UK, the Peak District is a contrast of lively market towns, traditional villages and breathtaking landscapes. From mountains and caverns to reservoirs and rivers and historic stately homes, the Peak District is one of the best places in the UK to admire natural beauty.
There are too many great places to visit in the Peak District to cover all of them at once, so here are four amazing towns that you must visit in the Peak District to get you started.
4 must-visit towns in the Peak District
Make sure to visit at least one of these towns in the Peak District if you’re ever in the area.
Bakewell is one of the most popular towns in the Peak District, attracting visitors all year round. The small town is full of little cafes, quaint tea rooms and gift shops, as well as several hotels and pubs. Make sure you stop by The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop to try one of Bakewell’s famous Bakewell Puddings
Away from the centre of town, you’ll find plenty of walking and cycling trails, as well as stately homes to visit. Bakewell is also perfectly positioned in the south of the Peak District to explore the nearby towns of Buxton and Matlock.
Bakewell is the perfect mix of shops, cafes and pubs alongside short walks. It’s suited to families and couples who want a touch of home comfort and amenities whilst still enjoying the beautiful surroundings and nature that is synonymous with the Peak District.
The Peak District is a great day trip from Manchester. Here’s a day trip that includes Derbyshire, the Peak District and stops at Bakewell!
What is there to do in Bakewell?
Take a leisurely stroll along the River Wye
Start at the Bakewell Recreation Ground and cross over the Bakewell bridge, following the footpath away from town.
Cycle or walk part of the Monsal Trail
The Monsal Trail is an 8.5 mile cycling and walking route that connects Bakewell and Chee Dale on a former railway line. The Monsal trail can be accessed from Bakewell Station car park, and if you are cycling, you can hire bicycles and ebikes from Hassop Station and cafe.
Visit Chatsworth House
Chatsworth House is one of Derbyshire’s most well known stately homes. It’s just a 15 minute drive from Bakewell, or, why not combine a visit to Chatsworth with a walk through the beautiful countryside. This 6 or 8 mile circular route from Bakewell to Chatsworth takes you over the Monsal Trail and through the pretty village of Edensor.
Tickets for Chatsworth can be purchased online and there are various options to choose from, depending on whether you want to visit the House, Gardens or Farmyard. There are often events held at Chatsworth, so check ahead to plan your visit.
Visit Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall is another beautiful Stately home, just 10 minutes south of Bakewell. Featuring a Tudor Hall and manicured medieval gardens and parkland, Haddon Hall is full of history. Tickets are £23.90 for adults and can be purchased online.
Tips for visiting Bakewell
Bakewell can be extremely busy, particularly on the weekends and during the summer months, even more so if there is an event in Bakewell, or at Chatsworth House. If you want to enjoy Bakewell with fewer people, plan ahead and try to avoid event days and public holidays. For information on walks, restaurants and other attractions nearby, head to the Visitor information centre on Bridge Street.
Parking: There are several car parks in Bakewell. Smith’s Island car park is on the opposite side of the river, next to the Bakewell showground. There is a footbridge that takes you into town from this car park. In the centre of town, there’s Market Place and Granby road car park, close to the Coop store. Parking in Bakewell can be tricky during the peak summer months, so try and arrive early to ensure you are not driving around trying to find a space.
Public transport: The nearest train station is in Matlock. From Matlock train station, walk 7 minutes along Bakewell road to Stand D bus stop and catch either bus no. 172, 6.1, or the Transpeak bus to Bakewell.
Public toilets: Toilets can be found behind the Coop on Granby Road.
Buxton is famous for its natural thermal springs and has been a popular spa destination since the Roman times, when it was thought that the naturally mineral rich warm water had healing properties. As well as earning the title as one of the UK’s best spa towns, Buxton is also known for its Georgian and Victorian architecture, with several notable, historic buildings in the town. The most prominent of which is the Old Hall Hotel, where Mary Queen of Scots was held captive in the 16th century.
Buxton is one of the larger towns in the Peak District and has plenty of shops, cafes, restaurants and attractions to visit. It’s a great destination for families and those wanting a leisurely day out or romantic weekend away in the Peak District.
What is there to do in Buxton?
Have a picnic in the Pavillion park
The Pavillion Park and Gardens are the focal point of Buxton. The pretty gardens have a playground, miniature railway and duck pond – perfect for kids. There’s also a cafe and gift shop. During the summer months there are small fairground rides and food trucks selling donuts and ice creams outside the Pavillion. The gardens have plenty of paved walking paths, suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs.
See a performance at the Buxton Opera House
The Buxton Opera House is one of the highlights of the town for evening entertainment. The Edwardian style building hosts Opera, Ballet and theatre performances. If you prefer to catch a film, head to the Buxton Cinema, inside the Pavillion Arts Centre, next to the Opera House.
Visit Buxton’s famous Crescent and Pump Room
Learn about Buxton’s history and its famous thermal waters at The Crescent – an 18th century building which houses the old Pump room. You can explore the exhibits on your own, or join a guided tour.
Explore Pooles Cavern
A guided tour of Pooles Cavern is one of the best things to do in Buxton. Explore the underground limestone caves and see beautiful stalactite and stalagmite formations. As this is one of Buxton’s most popular attractions, booking in advance for a guided tour of the caves is essential. Prices for adults are £14.50 and children are £6.80. After your visit through the caves, take the Woodland Path from the car park to the summit of Grin Low. This is a great short walk for families through the woods.
Next to Pooles Cavern is the Go Ape adventure park. The Buxton tree top adventure is one of the highest Go Ape courses in the UK. Test your nerve and swing through the forest on the assault course!
Enjoy a spa trip
It would be a shame to visit a historic Spa town without a trip to a spa! The Buxton Crescent hotel has several spa packages, including several day spa options. Make sure that you book ahead.
Tips for visiting Buxton
Buxton has lots of choices for dining out in the evening, however it is always best to book a table in advance if you are hoping to visit somewhere specific. Buxton is one of the most popular Peak District towns for overnight stays and restaurants can get busy in the evening, especially if there is a performance at the Opera House. The Buxton visitor centre is located in The Crescent, in the heart of the town and has plenty of information on attractions in and around Buxton.
Parking: If you are visiting Buxton on a daytrip, there are several car parks located around the town. The most central is the Pavillions Garden car park, although this does get quite busy during the peak summer months. Other options just outside of the town centre are Market Street car park on South Mews and Spring Gardens car park, on Wye Street.
Some hotels have their own car parks, but you may have to reserve a spot due to limited availability – check with your accommodation before travelling. Parking in Buxton during the summer months can be tricky and you may find yourself having to park further out of town unless you arrive in the early morning. Consider taking the train instead if you can.
Public Transport: Buxton Train station is located in the centre of the town with direct links to Manchester. Visit the website to plan your route to Buxton via the rail network.
Public toilets: Public toilets are located in Pavilion Gardens car park and Market place.
Castleton is a beautiful village that sits in the heart of the Peak District National Park. Surrounded by rolling hills and caverns, Castleton is the perfect destination for hiking enthusiasts and those that love being outdoors and has some of the best walks and hiking trails in the Peak District right on its doorstep.
Walk through Cave Dale
A walking path from Pindale Road in Castleton will guide you through Cave Dale valley. The rocky path will lead you through the gully with beautiful views of the valley, past the ruins of Peveril Castle.
Visit Peveril Castle
Standing above Cave Dale, Peveril castle is one of the earliest Norman Fortresses. Climb to the top of the castle for sweeping views across Hope Valley. This is a great activity for families visiting Castleton, especially when combined with a walk through Cave Dale. Tickets are £7.80 for adults and £4.70 for children.
Climb Mam Tor
Mam Tor is one of the most well known and most visited mountains in the Peak District National Park. It’s quite accessible for most fitness levels and is popular with families due to the short walk to the summit from the car park at the bottom of the mountain.
If you are a keen hiker, follow this 6.5 or 8 mile circular route from Castleton, which takes you to the summit of Mam Tor and then onto Back Tor and Lose Hill Pike. The views from the ridge are spectacular and it is one of the most popular hiking routes in the area.
Explore the Caverns!
One of the best things to do in Castleton is to take a guided tour of one of the many caverns. The closest cavern to the village is Peak Cavern – which boasts the largest cave entrance in the UK. At the base of Mam Tor are the Blue John and Treak Cliff Caverns, where you will find some of the most beautiful cave and rock formations in the UK, including rare stalactites, marine fossils and the famous Blue John Stone. At Speedwell Cavern, you can take an underground boat tour through the cave system.
Drive or walk Winnats Pass
Winnats Pass is a dramatic limestone gorge, just outside of Castleton. Take a scenic drive through the pass on the winding road, or see the gorge from above by tackling the steep hiking trail from Castleton Visitor centre to the top of the pass.
Tips for visiting Castleton
Castleton village is only small and it receives a lot of visitors wanting to explore the many hiking trails surrounding it. If you plan to stay overnight, you will need to book your accommodation in advance, especially if you are visiting during the summer months. There’s a small grocery store opposite the bus station to pick up some supplies for your day out, and many of the cafes and tea rooms sell takeaway sandwiches and pies for a picnic.
Parking: The main car park in Castleton is behind the visitors centre, just off the main road through the village. The Peak Cavern All Day Car Park is another option, located on the other side of Buxton road.
Public transport: The nearest train station is in the village of Hope, which is just 2 miles from Castleton. From Hope station you can catch the number 271 or 272 bus to Castleton. If you are travelling from Sheffield, you can take either of these buses all the way from Sheffield city centre to Castleton.
Public toilets: There are toilets located next to the Visitor centre and the bus station, both of which are on Buxton Road, which is the main road running through the village.
4. Matlock and Matlock Bath
Sitting on the edge of the Peak District National Park, is the popular Derbyshire town of Matlock and its neighbour, Matlock Bath. At the heart of the town is the pretty riverside park, where the famous Annual Matlock Illuminations festival is held Friday – Sunday every September and October. Matlock is a great place to visit for the day, with something for all ages. It’s also perfectly positioned to visit the nearby sights of Cromford, Darley Dale and Bakewell if you choose to stay overnight.
What is there to do in Matlock and Matlock Bath?
Soar to the Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham is a historic hilltop estate that sits above Matlock town. It’s Matlock’s most popular attraction and has several activities to choose from, meaning it’s a great day out for the whole family. Access to the Heights of Abraham is only by riding the famous cable car up to the top!
Cable car tickets are £23 for adults and £15 for children and include all of the attractions at the top of the park, including visiting the exhibitions and taking a guided tour through the caves. There’s also a playground and woodland trails to explore. You will need to purchase your tickets online and pick your desired day and time of visit when booking.
Stroll around Hall Leys Park
Hall Leys Park is the crowning glory of Matlock and the focal point of the pretty town. The award-winning, landscaped gardens run alongside the River Derwent and are a great place to sit with a hot drink or fish and chips. Kids will love riding the miniature train, or taking a boat out onto the small lake.
Walk the High Peak Trail
The High Peak Trail is one of the Peak District’s most popular walking and cycling routes. The 17.5 mile linear route follows in the path of an old railway line. The trail starts from High Peak Junction near Cromford and continues to Dowlow, near Buxton. A great place to join the trail is at Middleton Top Visitor centre where you can hire bicycles.
Go back in time at Crich Tramway Village
Crich Tramway Village is a restored period village and National Tramway Museum, 10 minutes drive south of Matlock. Ride the vintage trams, visit the exhibitions and stroll through the period village, complete with old fashioned pubs and shops. Tickets are £20 for adults and £12 for children. You can buy tickets for Crich Tramway Village online, though it is not necessary.
Spend the day at Carsington Water
Carsington Water is just 20 minutes drive south of Matlock and is an ideal location to spend a few hours or a leisurely summer’s day. It’s a popular spot for watersports and you can rent out kayaks, stand up paddle boarding or try your hand at windsurfing. There’s also plenty of grassy areas, perfect for picnics, as well as a children’s playground, making it a great place for a family day out.
There are three different walking and cycling trails to choose from at Carsington Water. If you decide to walk the full 7.5 mile route around the reservoir, take a detour into Carsington Village halfway round for lunch at The Miners Arms Pub.
Tips for visiting Matlock and Matlock Bath
During the summer, one of the best things to do in Matlock is to enjoy fish and chips in parks and there are several fish and chips shops to choose from, just get in the queue early as they are popular!
If you are attending the famous Matlock Illuminations during September and October, be aware that most of the car parks are full by 5pm. The event organisers usually operate a temporary park and ride into the town, which is a great option. Check the organisers website for up to date event information.
Parking: There are several car parks around Matlock and Matlock Bath and parking here is usually easier than some of the other popular Peak District towns, as long as you are prepared to park away from the main high streets. In Matlock, the most convenient is the Olde Englishe Car Park, which is opposite Hall Leys Park, although this can be busy. Lido and Bank Road car parks are also convenient and tend to be less busy, these are both located behind the large M&S. In Matlock Bath, there are two car parks to the south of the town, on Derby road which are good options.