6 perfect Derbyshire staycation breaks

Matlock Bath

Matlock Bath - Credit: Gary Wallis

With more and more people opting for UK holidays, Derbyshire is - understandably - high up on many people's wish lists.

And whether you're a native of the county or looking to visit, there's plenty to see and do.

Derbyshire Life magazine has been championing and celebrating great locations across Derbyshire and the Peak District for 90 years.  

Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure of hiking or biking, gastronomic delights, a romantic getaway, a trip with family or a weekend away with friends, there’s a Derbyshire staycation to suit your tastes, interests and budget.  

So, whether it's an autumn getaway you're after or planning a magic Christmas break, here are a few options to inspire your ultimate Derbyshire staycation.

Derby  

Derby Cathedral

Derby Cathedral - Credit: Gary Wallis

Head to the Cathedral Quarter for beautiful architecture and quirky streets full of independent shops, bars and restaurants. The Cathedral itself is open to visitors (check website for current opening hours) to look around or find a few moments peace.  

There is much to explore in Derby, from the brand new Museum of Making (free to visit but book a timed entry slot) to one of the city’s parks. Derby Arboretum was the first public park in Britain and influenced the design of the world famous Central Park in New York.  

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Just outside the city centre, Darley Abbey is an historic mill village and UNESCO World Heritage site which now hosts a range of upmarket yet casual bistros and bars.  

For fine dining and sumptuous brunches head to Darleys, which enjoys beautiful riverside seating. The Cotton Works and The Shed offer more casual but still delectable dining, also with riverside tables.  

Stay at The Coach House, a stylish B&B or, alternatively, the Penta Hotel is a contemporary boutique style hotel located on Pride Park.    

Ashbourne 

Ashbourne

Ashbourne - Credit: Gary Wallis

Ashbourne is an attractive market town with cobbled streets and plenty to explore.  

The park has a lovely duck pond and playground suitable for young children. There are a wealth of independent shops such as Handmade Ashbourne which stocks over 50 UK designers and makers and The Cheddar Gorge, a delightful deli.  

Whilst there, why not swerve the big chains and support local by grabbing a coffee from one of the fabulous independents.  

Try F’Coffee or The Little Shed, both also good for light bites throughout the day, whilst the Lighthouse Restaurant has an excellent reputation for a fine dining treat.  

Alternatively, drive to either The Duncombe Arms, The Cock Inn or newly opened Bluebell in Kirk Langley, all popular, upmarket gastro pubs.  

Stay at The Cow at Dalbury Lees, a beautifully stylish gastropub and luxurious boutique bed and breakfast.  

Not far from Ashbourne is Dovedale, an iconic Peak District spot. It can get terribly busy in peak season so get there early or pick a day with less favourable weather.  

Park at the pay and display Dovedale car park (where there’s often an ice cream van) and enjoy the stepping stones across the river.  

If you’re feeling energetic walk up Thorpe Cloud. An easier walk is along the river to Milldale, a chocolate box little hamlet with cute little counter serving up refreshments. There are also some free public toilets here.  

It’s about three miles from Dovedale to Milldale so just under an hour at a brisk pace.  

The Tissington Trail, a dedicated route for walkers, cyclists and horse riders, is also easily accessible from Ashbourne.  

Hope Valley  

Hope Valley

Hope Valley - Credit: Gary Wallis

The Hope Valley is a particularly beautiful part of the Peak District. Hope and nearby Castleton are both worth visiting.  

In Hope, check out The Grasshopper Café for quality coffees, delicious food (think grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade pizzas and waffles) and their pretty garden.  

Castleton is the only place in the world where Blue John, a semi-precious stone, can be found and there are various caverns to explore.  

It’s also the perfect base for some of the best walks in Derbyshire. Climb the steep steps up to the atmospheric ruins of Peveril Castle. From here you can continue to Mam Tor which has stunning views of the National Park, including the photogenic Winnats Pass.  

This is one of the most-loved ridge walks in the Peak District. On a clear day you can see all the way to Manchester! Refuel afterwards at one of the numerous traditional pubs; most welcome muddy boots and dogs.    

Bakewell  

Bakewell

Bakewell - Credit: Gary Wallis

The historic town of Bakewell is perfect for a mooch. Jane Austen is said to have written much of Pride and Prejudice whilst staying at the centrally located The Rutland Arms.  

This historic hotel has recently been refurbished into a contemporary boutique hotel, bar, restaurant and coffee house.  

Potter around the range of independent shops, take a riverside stroll and enjoy a traditional Bakewell pudding.  

Explore nearby Chatsworth House, often described as the jewel of the Peak District. There are expansive, exquisitely manicured gardens and the more rugged surrounding parklands.  

The farmyard and playground are brilliant for children, as is the cascade. The house itself is a treasure trove of historic artefacts. The estate farm shop in nearby Pilsley is also worth a visit.     

Matlock and Matlock Bath 

Matlock

Matlock - Credit: Gary Wallis

Matlock Bath is set in the stunning gorge of the river Derwent. As one of the very first tourist destinations in England, there’s a real seaside vibe to Matlock Bath - complete with amusement arcades, fish and chips, sticks of rock and ice cream.  

It arguably verges towards the tacky, but in a familiar, comforting way. It gets really busy on a sunny weekend when parking can be tricky – so consider arriving early or travelling via public transport. To escape the crowds cross over the river for a tranquil riverside walk. 

Matlock has a different ambiance. It’s less touristy and calmer. There’s a beautiful Victorian park with duck pond and decent playground. Look out for interiors and gift shop Bow Boutique with its pretty tearoom overlooking the park.  

Dale Road has earned a reputation as the vintage quarter of Matlock. It’s quieter and quirkier than the town centre, but boasts beautiful architecture and over 40 independent businesses.  

Particularly, check out Butterfingers Bakery for one of the best cake counters in the county, Hide and Thread for bespoke, handmade furniture and gorgeous soft furnishings and Bradman’s swish new fine wine bar complete with sunny champagne terrace.  

Afterwards, head to Stones for relaxed fine dining (book in advance).    

South Derbyshire 

Melbourne

Melbourne - Credit: Gary Wallis

Tourists tend to associate Derbyshire with the Peak District, so South Derbyshire can be somewhat of a hidden gem to the masses. The scenery changes to more genteel rolling hills and pretty patchwork quilts of fields but is just as lovely.  

There is much to explore in South Derbyshire. For a cheap, family friendly day out head to either Rosliston Forestry Centre in Swadlincote to explore the National Forest or to Staunton Harold Reservoir.  

Both have walks and playground facilities, and apart from paying for parking you could enjoy a free family day out with a picnic.  

Mercia Marina is the largest inland marina in Europe and boasts some lovely independent shops and eateries in a beautiful location. Don’t miss Lotus Indian Kitchen for authentic Indian street food and curries served in plush, contemporary surroundings.  

South Derbyshire is studded with pretty villages. A particularly good example is Melbourne, the birth place of Thomas Cook so an apt place for a staycation!  

Take a stroll around Melbourne Pool which is free to explore. Or visit the lovely gardens at Melbourne Hall Gardens which are thought to be the best surviving early 18th century English garden in the manner of acclaimed gardener, le Nôtre  (also responsible for Versailles).  

Melbourne plays host to a plethora of delightful independent shops, cafes and restaurants. Seek out Tea at 3 for a light and contemporary tea room, or the stylish Amalfi White for Italian themed menus and expertly mixed cocktails.  

Wherever you decide to staycation in Derbyshire, have the very best time!