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Fairytale Derbyshire: Derbyshire’s most romantic spots

Lud's Church Photo: Alamy
Lud's Church Photo: Alamy

Otherworldly places to discover across Derbyshire and the Peak District.

Lud’s Church

There’s a certain juxtaposition when it comes to Lud’s Church. Hidden within the depths of the Back Forest within the Staffordshire Peak District, it’s the kind of hidden, obscure place which would largely be forgotten about.

Yet it is nothing of the sort. Lud’s Church, close to the Roaches, has an extraordinary aura which acts as a beacon to those who visit from near and far to experience its wonders and mystery.

Transport yourself into another world as you explore its deep moss-covered chasm and echoey drips of water, adjusting as you go to the contrast of deep greens, low light and fascinating nooks and crannies – a far cry from the expansive vistas that surround it.

This is a place of spirituality, of myths, mysteries and legends. As far back as the 1400s, this unique place is said to have been a secret place of worship for those who opposed – and were persecuted by – the Roman Catholic Church.

The name is believed to have come from one Walter de Lud Auk, who was captured at Lud’s Church during one of their meetings.

Great British Life: Stanage Edge Photo: Gary WallisStanage Edge Photo: Gary Wallis

Stanage Edge

You could write a book on all the various spots in the Peak District that lend themselves to the perfect fairytale romantic spot in which to share precious moments with a loved one – and probably still have enough material left for a sequel.

Yet there’s just something about Stanage Edge that appeals to the romanticist in us all.

Perhaps it’s the ‘Pride and Prejudice effect’, with the gritstone edge – which extends approximately four miles and affords the most stunning views of the Dark Peak moorlands and the equally evocative Hope Valley – gaining popularity and exposure due it being a chosen spot for a scene featuring Keira Knightley in the 2005 adaptation.

But of course it would be doing Stanage Edge a great disservice to put too much emphasis on this – there is, after all, a reason the producers chose this spot in the first place.

Sit and observe a sunset or sunrise and feel the weight of the world slip away.

Great British Life: Sudbury Hall Photo: Gary WallisSudbury Hall Photo: Gary Wallis

Sudbury Hall

The South Derbyshire estate of Sudbury Hall is, as you’d expect, lovely to look at – as is the case for the plethora of stunning country houses and gardens dotted across the county and wider Peak District.

What makes Sudbury Hall a fairytale location, however, is what’s to be discovered within its striking walls.

Home to the Children’s Country House, the interior of this Grade I listed building is a treasure trove of childhood nostalgia which will transport you back to your tender years.

It’s a thoroughly enchanting place which will bring memories flooding back of old toys, literature, TV shows and so much more from previous generations.

There’s even a chance to head back to Victorian times and take part in a lesson (minus the cane, of course!).

Great British Life: Edale Photo: Getty ImagesEdale Photo: Getty Images

Edale

A fairytale village in every sense of the word, Edale, tucked away at the end of the Hope Valley, courted national interest in 2017 when it was named in a Channel 4 show as one of their ‘villages of the year’.

It’s also been named as one of Britain’s best places to live in various polls – including by The Times in both 2019 and 2021.

So what’s all the fuss about? This pretty hamlet’s topography is simply stunning, the definition of a rural ideal.

Quite apart from its wonderful surroundings, Edale village is picture-postcardesque, idyllic in almost every sense.

Lovely architecture, a local shop, quintessentially English pubs, a railway station dating back to the late 19th century… all this and more adds to Edale’s charm.

If you’re looking for a romantic getaway for Valentine’s Day or at any time of the year, it’s a wonderful option.

Great British Life: StarDisc, Stoney Wood Photo: Phil Richards, FlickrStarDisc, Stoney Wood Photo: Phil Richards, Flickr

StarDisc, Stoney Wood

Nothing shouts ‘fairytale’ quite like StarDisc’s strapline of ‘linking communities to the stars’.

Found in Stoney Wood above the market town of Wirksworth, its elevated position lends itself to stunning views across the Ecclesbourne Valley.

There are, of course, plenty of elevated locations across Derbyshire and the wider Peak District that afford such settings but there’s just something a little bit special about this place, high above the rooftops of the town below.

Ostensibly a 21st century stone circle star chart, the connection it offers to the skies above and the community spirit that can be found there makes it feel so much more than a stone circle.

Head out there with friends, family and/or loved ones on a clear night and watch the stars slowly emerge as the sun comes down – a really life affirming experience.

Great British Life: Padley Gorge Photo: Getty ImagesPadley Gorge Photo: Getty Images

Padley Gorge

A Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in acknowledgement of its rich ancient woodland and the wildlife that call it home, Padley Gorge is a sight to behold whatever the weather but against moody, cloud-laden skies it takes on an atmosphere that feels like walking straight into Narnia.

Its babbling brooks and streams, rugged rocks and – above all – its twisted trees and branches gives the area and almost mystical feel.

Yes, Padley Gorge, which is close to the village of Grindleford, is popular but that doesn’t mean you can’t find peace and tranquillity here. Time your visit right and it can feel like you’ve left civilisation behind and given yourself over to the rich tapestry and wonderous scope of nature. It’s like another world.

An SSSI since 1972, it has been described as ‘the best example of the remnant oak-birch woodland that once covered much of the edges of the gritstone uplands of the Peak District.’

Great British Life: Ashford-in-the-Water Photo: Gary WallisAshford-in-the-Water Photo: Gary Wallis

Ashford-in-the-Water

A village which requires little introduction, its reputation as a charming and picturesque hamlet doesn’t mean it should be discounted from this list.

Limestone cottages, beautifully-kept gardens and abundant community spirit all provide upsides for those looking to visit but arguably the sense of romance and fairytale comes from its famous medieval Sheepwash Bridge.

There’s an inner child in all of us and this bridge, said to be the most photographed bridge in the country, has been described by VisitEngland – the national tourist board – as the best location in the country to take part in the age-old family pursuit of ‘Poohsticks’.

Made famous by A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series, there’s something so simple yet satisfying about throwing a stick in the river, rushing over to the opposite side of the bridge and waiting excitedly for the current to carry it through and downstream.

An activity sure to bring a smile to the faces of people young and old – and what a spot to do it in.

Great British Life: Heage Windmill Photo: steve p2008, FlickrHeage Windmill Photo: steve p2008, Flickr

Heage Windmill

A little like Sudbury Hall, a windmill may not be the obvious choice for a listing of fairytale location but, as they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and perceptions can be altered depending on your state of mind.

The truth is, Heage Windmill is mesmerising. Its pretty as a picture, it has a compelling backstory, it sits against a majestic backdrop and you can’t help but feel inspired by the love and affection shown to it by those who were adamant it would not be left to ruin.

It has the distinction of being home to the only working six-sailed stone tower windmill in the whole of England and its careful restoration has seen it bridge the gap between the past and present.

Closed at the moment but back open at Easter, Heage Windmill offers the visitor an experience that is hard to capture elsewhere.

Great British Life: Macclesfield Forest Photo: Jason MountfordMacclesfield Forest Photo: Jason Mountford

Macclesfield Forest

Over the Derbyshire border and into Cheshire, though still within the Peak District National Park on its western edge, Macclesfield Forest’s extensive woodland is a great spot to escape everyday life – you feel as though you could be anywhere.

Comprising close to 1,000 acres of woodland and plantation, its striking trees – including Sitka spruce, Japanese larch, Scots pine, oak, sycamore, beach and Morway spruce – reach for the skies, while at ground level there are surprises at every turn.

With four reservoirs in the surrounding areas, plenty of designated trails and wildlife aplenty (including red deer) the area oozes an enchanted charm – the definition of getting away from it all.

Great British Life: Ilam Photo: Gary WallisIlam Photo: Gary Wallis

Ilam

Hugging the delightful River Manifold, a trip to Ilam on the border between Derbyshire and Staffordshire is like walking into a fairytale.

Around four miles from Ashbourne, Ilam could almost be an imagined place, the work of fiction created by an author tasked with creating an idyllic, fantasy setting.

Its surroundings is one of its greatest gifts but the village itself is full of assets which adds to its appeal.

Alpine-style cottages, a park which offers far-reaching views to Thorp Cloud and beyond, the therapeutic sound of flowing water, neo-gothic stately hall (now a youth hostel), striking Anglo-Saxon church and much more, this is a village like no other.

Another perfect location for a romantic getaway, Ilam has been described numerous times in the past as being akin to the Swiss Alps.

Does true perfection exist? If so, Ilam can’t be far away from it.



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