10 of the prettiest Peak District towns and villages
- Credit: Archant
A round-up of unmissable villages in the Peak District
This picturesque village on the River Wye has attractive village inns, lovely old stone houses, a beautiful 13th-century church and the charming packhorse Sheepwash Bridge where sheep were dipped prior to shearing. Visit around well-dressing time in early summer, from the Saturday before Trinity Sunday, for a colourful and impressive display of this local art. Nearby are: Thornbridge Hall, whose unique gardens open on Wednesdays from June to the end of August; the highest Megalithic tomb in England on Taddington Moor; and scenic Monsal Dale with one of the Peaks’ prime walking and cycling trails.
Said by many to be the heart of the Peak District, this prosperous country town on the River Wye has everything – lovely riverside walks, heritage and history (including wonderful All Saints’ Church and the fascinating Old House Museum), a wide range of independent shops, hotels, art galleries, restaurants and cafés, and a large car park. It is the only place to sample the town’s eponymous delicacy, Bakewell Pudding, and is renowned for its weekly market. The invaluable tourist information centre in the old Market Hall has an impressive gallery of work by local photographers. Jane Austen stayed at the Rutland Arms Hotel and immortalised the town as Lambton in Pride and Prejudice. Not to be missed is nearby Haddon Hall, a stunning medieval manor house that has featured in various films.
In the centre of the High Peak and surrounded by hills, dales and valleys, Castleton makes a great base for exploring the Hope Valley, a mecca for walkers, climbers, cyclists and anyone who delights in beautiful scenery. Its useful modern tourist information centre is a good starting point and the village has its share of attractive places to stroll around, inns, cafés and jewellery shops for anyone in search of the local speciality Blue John jewellery. Nearby are ancient ruined Peveril Castle (English Heritage), the ‘Shivering Mountain’ of Mam Tor and, last but by no means least, remarkable caverns that have attracted large numbers of visitors for generations.
The last or first stop on that celebrated walking route, The Pennine Way, Edale is set in the charming and unspoiled Vale of Edale. A path leads to the wild, magnificent plateau of Kinder Scout – the highest place in Derbyshire and where views of the famous ‘Downfall’ and the Mermaid’s Pool are just two of many sights that make the walk worthwhile. YHA Edale has an impressive TripAdvisor rating, and a visit to the Peak District National Park’s Moorland Centre is a must, as is a pint at the Nag’s Head. There are walking routes for all tastes and abilities!
Possibly the most perfect example of an estate village, Edensor was rebuilt for the Chatsworth estate workers in 1839 and lies in the midst of one of Derbyshire’s most precious landscapes. Chatsworth is probably at the top of any list of places to visit in Derbyshire, and once the delights of its House and Gardens have been explored, the estate villages of Edensor, Beeley, Pilsley (home of the famous Chatsworth Estate Shop) and Calton Lees, and nearby Baslow, all offer alternative places to eat and drink, interesting architecture and churches to explore – and, in the case of Baslow, a number of unique independent shops. Several cottages are available as holiday lets, and there are top hotels and Derbyshire’s Michelin-starred restaurant, Fischer’s Baslow Hall.
Last year was the 350th anniversary of the year bubonic plague was brought into the village from London in a consignment of cloth. Rather than risk spreading the disease, the villagers decided to isolate themselves and it is in tribute to this bravery that people have visited this beautiful village over the years. Once there, discover Eyam’s history on a trail which includes the museum in the old school house, the medieval parish church and Eyam Hall (NT), which dates from 1676. Eyam has a number of thriving businesses and a vibrant community. There are numerous lovely walks around the area, including a new long distance Peak Pilgrimage to Ilam.
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Set in the central section of the Dove Valley, the scenery around this picturesque village with its pretty duck pond has attracted visitors across the ages, including the famous anglers Izaak Walton and Charles Cotton, who numbered nearby Beresford Dale amongst their favourite beats. Hartington Hall is a popular Youth Hostel, there are good inns and hotels, and cheese-lovers can stock up at the famous cheese shop with its award-winning, recently revived Stilton. Wolfscote Dale, Derbyshire’s Neolithic henge Arbor Low, and Parsley Hay where the Tissington and High Peak Trails meet are all nearby.
This is a village renowned for its literary associations and legends. Once local landowners, the Eyre family were immortalised by Charlotte Brontë, who visited the village. The churchyard reputedly holds the grave of Little John, of Robin Hood fame. Hathersage’s position on the Manchester to Sheffield railway line makes it a good starting point to explore this area of the Peak District. Situated above the River Derwent, it is overlooked by dramatic Stanage Edge and the enigmatic hillfort of Carl Wark is close by. There is a range of pubs, hotels and shops, and for summer visitors the surprising luxury of an outdoor swimming pool. On the outskirts, David Mellor’s Roundhouse – a cutlery factory, design museum, country shop and café – is a perfect stopping-off point.
Tideswell could be called Derbyshire’s hill village as it has high limestone ‘mountains’ on all sides. Its 14th century church, known as ‘The Cathedral of the Peak’, houses notable monuments and the lovely wood carvings of Advent Hunstone. A focal point for the surrounding community is a variety of shops, including a butcher, baker and greengrocer, plus an ice-cream parlour, café, takeaway-lunch shop, four pubs, two fish-and-chip shops, a Co-op, and a range of accommodation for visitors from camp sites to cottages.
An idyllic unspoilt estate village surrounding Tissington Hall – home of the FitzHerbert family – it is just off the route from the popular town of Ashbourne to Buxton, and next to the cycling and walking route, The Tissington Trail. Described as being ‘as near perfection as you can get’, in recent years its picture-perfect looks have been enhanced by a range of interesting businesses on which to call. These include the Hall’s popular Herbert’s Tearooms, an amazing vintage sweet and antique emporium, and On A Wick and A Prayer candle shop. B&Bs, a Nursery and a Trekking Centre are also nearby. Wells have been dressed here since 1350, though this continuing Derbyshire custom probably pre-dates the Roman occupation.