Great things to do in the Peak District in winter
The main attractions may be closed but there are still things to do in the Peak District in winter.
Castles, caverns and churches
Bolsover and Peveril Castles are open to visitors at the weekends during the winter. The keep at Peveril Castle is closed for maintenance but the views from the castle walls make the walk up worthwhile. Bolsover Castle was built by Sir William Cavendish in the 17th century as an entertainment venue rather than a defensive castle. You’ll hear stories of lavish parties fit for a king rather than of daring escapades.
The caverns in Castleton and Buxton could be a great place to go to in the winter. With an even temperature all year round, it may even be warmer to be below ground. If you’d like to see some caves close up and not like the traditional tourist, call on Dolomite training for an introductory course on caving.
Churches are normally always open and we have wonderful churches to visit. All Saints Church in Bakewell has a wealth of Saxon carved stones and a pair of Saxon crosses. St Edmund’s Church in Castleton was begun by William Peveril, the illegitimate son of William the Conqueror and has a 12th century chancel arch. Tideswell has the ‘Catherdral of the Peak’. Of course, we should also mention St Mary and All Saints Church in Chesterfield, famous for its 13th century crooked spire (and which you take a tour into)
Trails, tours and museums
The ground underfoot may be a bit boggy for a walk across open fields but there is nothing more exhilarating than being outside on a cold and crisp day. The trails are quiet at this time of year and the walking easy. If you are feeling energetic, head to Hassop Station and hire a bike for the day. Cycling from one end of the trail to the other (and back) will warm you up!
Live for the Hills offer a unique way of seeing the Peak District National Park – in the comfort and warmth of your own Caravelle minivan. Choose one of the tours on offer or create your own. A tour will normally involve a pub lunch stop too – what’s not to love!
Buxton Museum had a £1.5m makeover 18 months ago. It’s now a super place to spend half a day or more exploring the art, social, archaeological and geological history of the area. Exhibitions change regularly.
Finally, whatever you choose to do, there is nothing nicer than coming back to a toasty warm cottage, lighting the fire and putting your feet up!
For family friendly cycling a bike ride needs to be reasonably flat and as safe as possible so that Mum and Dad can relax too (as far as possible anyway!).
We’ve picked five rides that fulfil these two criteria and are also within easy reach of the cottages
Parking: Various but would recommend Hassop Station (grid reference SK217705)
Distance: 8.5 miles linear route (17 miles if you go both ways and all the way to the end)
Cycle Hire: Hassop Station, Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire
There are several starting points for the Monsal Trail but the closest and probably the most accessible is the Hassop Station car park. The whole trail is 8.5miles long (17 miles if you go all the way to both ends and back). If you want to do it all, I’d suggest going left to start with and making a quick 1 mile dash towards Bakewell. If you’re not bothered about completing the whole length, then go right on the trail to start.
You can travel almost as far as Buxton if you have the energy. The beauty of doing it this way is that it ever so slightly downhill all the way back to Hassop Station
What you’ll see
The scenery is immediately interesting and varied and it will not be long before you are plunging into the darkness of one of the four tunnels re-opened in 2011. The tunnels are lit during daylight hours but the light is very subdued. With that in mind, it may be useful, but not essential, to have lights on your bikes.
After the first tunnel, you will be atop the famous Headstone Viaduct (usually called the Monsal Dale Viaduct). There was much controversy when it was first built in 1863. You can imagine that many people thought the valley completely spoiled by its arrival. It is hard to imagine the landscape without it now, however, and, indeed, there has been a preservation order on the viaduct since 1970. Make sure you stop for the wonderful views up and down the River Wye.
Shortly after the Viaduct, you’ll see Cressbrook Mill, a cotton mill built for Sir Richard Arkwright in 1783. The current building was built in 1812 after the first mill was destroyed by fire. Manufacturing only ceased here in 1965. The Mill has now been turned into apartments.
A few miles on is Litton Mill, a cotton spinning mill that became well known for the ill-treatment of the children that came to work there.
Parking: Visitors Centre (grid reference SK241515)
Distance: 8 miles circular route
Cycle Hire: Visitors Centre (only 2 electric bikes are available for hire currently)
Carsington Water is the 9th largest reservoir in England and when full can hold an amazing 7,800 million gallons (or 35,412 megalitres!) of water. The reservoir was opened in 1992. It takes water from the River Derwent during the winter and then slowly releases it back during the summer months.
There is a wonderful 8 mile gravelled track around the reservoir which is great for cycling or walking. It is a rolling path so you or your children may need to get off in one or two places. Some descents can also be a little slippery at times.
There are a couple of points where the cycle path crosses access roads so do watch out for little ones at those points.
What you’ll see
There are a number of bird hides around the reservoir which might be an ideal opportunity to stop for a break.
On your return to the car park there’s a great cafe with a view across the water.
Parking: Various but include; Mapleton Lane; Ashbourne (grid reference SK175473); Tissington Station (SK177520); Parsley Hay (SK146637)
Distance: 13 miles linear route
Cycle Hire: Parsley Hay or Mapleton Lane, Ashbourne
The Tissington Trail follows the course of the London and North Western Railway, between Ashbourne and Buxton, that first opened in 1899. Along with many other lines, it closed in the 1960s and remained unused until the National Park Authority bought it for use by walkers and cyclists.
Along the same lines as the Monsal Trail, I’d always recommend that you are heading downhill for the second half of a bike ride. To achieve this on the Tissington Trail, you’ll need to travel to either Asbourne, if you want to do the Trail’s entire length, or perhaps Tissington itself, to start.
The trail is completely off road which is a bonus, however, the trail does follow quite an elevated route and can be a bit exposed to sun and wind and rain – consider yourself warned!
What you’ll see
Tissington, just a short diversion off the trail, is an extremely picturesque village, with Tissington Hall at its heart. the Hall is open for visitors at certain times during the summer. It’s lovely just to have a wander around the village
There is a restored signal box at Hartington Station which now serves as an information center, open at the weekends during the summer.
Manifold Valley Trail
Parking: Various but include; Hulme End (grid ref SK102593); Waterhouses (SK085501)
Distance: 9 miles linear route
Cycle Hire: Waterhouses (Brown End Farm Cycle Hire)
The Manifold Valley trail follows the route of the disused Leek & Manifold Light Railway from Hulme End to Waterhouses. The railway was originally used to transport milk down the valley for onward transportation to London. It also served tourists visiting the valley’s beauty spots.
The trail is mainly off road, with the exception of a 1.5 mile section along a single track country lane. There’s also a 100m tunnel at Swainsly that is dimly lit
What you’ll see
The scenery along the Manifold Valley trail is varied, from towering rocky outcrops to picturesque valleys, a river that disappears into the limestone only to reappear further down the valley and wooded slopes.
As you head along the valley floor you will see Thor’s Cave about 250ft (80 meters) above you. It’s a worth a diversion up the easy stepped path to take a closer look at the cave, if only for the tremendous views of the valley. Remains and artefacts found at the cave suggest it was occupied by humans throughout the stone and iron ages
Parking: Fairholmes Visitor Centre
Distance: 11 miles or 14.5 miles circular route
Cycle hire: Fairholmes Visitor Centre
This circular route takes in the three interconnecting reservoirs of Ladybower, Derwent and Howden
Start at the visitor centre at the top of Ladybower reservoir. The circular route is 11 miles although it can be extended to 14.5 miles if you don’t turn across the base of the Derwent Dam but cycle down to the Ashopton Viaduct and then back up to the Visitor Center towards the end of the ride.
The route is partly on road cars are excluded from using the road at weekends during the summer. There’s a wide cycle path across the Ashopton Viaduct so there’s no need to go onto A57 if you have extended the ride.
History of the reservoirs
The Derwent and Howden Reservoirs were built in tandem between 1901 and 1916. The reservoir of water held by the Derwent and Howden was still not large enough, however, to support the surrounding population so the building of the third reservoir, Ladybower was started in the 1930s and completed in 1945.
During the Second World War, the British identified the industrialised Ruhr Valley and its dams as a key target. They believed that if they could destroy the dams, the German war effort would be seriously compromised. The construction of the Derwent Dam was very similar to that of the German dams, so the pilots and crews of 617 Squadron used Derwent Reservoir to practice the low-level flying that would be needed to drop their revolutionary bombs. The operation to destroy the German dams became known, of course, as the Dam Buster raids.
What you’ll see
On this ride you’ll see great scenery; woodland, moorland, water and the dramatic Victorian dams. Look out for birds of prey including peregrine falcons and merlin.
Note on Hiring Bikes
If you intend to hire bikes you may need to bring a form of identification and may need to leave a deposit – please check on the relevant website. Hiring a bike can be a really fun way to try a different form of cycling; tandem perhaps, tricycle, electric bike or perhaps handcycle
It’s Valentine’s Day week so we are getting all lovey-dovey this week. We’ve picked just a few ideas for romantic things to do locally, to set hearts swooning.
Lover’s Leap in Dovedale and the stepping stones.
There are several Lover’s Leaps around the county, and indeed, the country. Probably the most famous in Derbyshire is Lover’s Leap in Dovedale where, the story goes, a young woman threw herself from the promontory believing that her lover had been killed in the Napoleonic Wars. Her skirts caught a branch and saved her. All ended well when it was discovered that her lover had not been killed after all. For all that, it’s not a particularly romantic spot so we’d recommend heading toward the stepping stones that cross the river Dove just a short distance away. You may need to get there reasonably early if you are also keen to avoid a crowd (which, let’s face it, is not very romantic either).
Be your own Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet
Lyme Park has been used as Pemberley in a film version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and makes wonderfully romantic backdrops. We wouldn’t recommend going into the lake, however, you may upset the gardener! (Note: Lyme Park will be reopening on the 16th February 2019)
The film version of Pride & Prejudice that Keira Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen starred in also had a memorable scene set on the top of Stanage Edge, which is also a fabulous spot! Not a great place to be if the wind is howling though!
Love Locked in Bakewell
Bakewell has its very own ‘love lock’ bridge, across the River Wye, close to the town centre. Come prepared or visit the local locksmith on the high street to leave a special memory
Picnic by the river
Talking of rivers, we are not very blessed with rivers in the Peak District and Derbyshire. With so much limestone, most of the water disappears invisibly into the ground but there are some options! The River Wye through Bakewell is very pretty and there are several spots that you could stop for a lovely picnic within a short walk of the town centre. There are several delicatessens and bakeries in Bakewell that would sell you the makings of a delicious picnic – don’t forget the Bakewell Pudding!
On a beautiful day what could be more indulgent than having afternoon tea on the terrace of a lovely country house hotel overlooking their beautiful gardens. Scrummy! Try East Lodge in Rowsley
Our favourite and probably coolest option (no pun intended) would be to grab a blanket or two, a flask with a hot drink inside, go out after dark, look up and count the stars! We’re blessed here in Flagg with really dark night skies but there are other official ‘dark skies’ spots around the county; Parsley Hay, Minninglow and Surprise View, near Hathersage. Give us some notice and we can lay on the blankets and flask for you.
During September and October, our local tourist board, Visit Peak District will be running a photo competition on Twitter and Instagram
We’d like you to share what you feel makes the Peak District unique, not just the things that are unique to the area but every experience, landscape or great meal that is unique to you.
This could be anything that inspires you and will maybe inspire someone else to visit the area; breathtaking scenery; taking part in an activity such as rock climbing, walking, caving etc; a selfie at one of the areas many wonderful attractions; relaxing over a meal with friends or at their accommodation; anything at all that best depicts your unique experience in the area!!
It’s easy to enter;
1) upload your picture to either Twitter or Instagram
2) tag with @vpdd for Twitter or @visitpeakdistrict for Instagram
3) include the hashtag #UniqueDistrict in your post
The best entries will be shared and a winner chosen at random. The winner will receive 2 nights stay in Haddy’s Hut, a beautiful and well-equipped shepherds’ hut in the Hope Valley.
Are you in the Peak District for the Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend. There’s more going on than you’ll have time for!
Crich Tramway Village
If you have come to Derbyshire (one of the most inland counties) but are missing the seaside then head to Crich Tramway Village. The village will be turned into a seaside resort with a beach deckchairs, buckets and spades, a fun fair and lots of lots of icecream! With temperatures set to rise for the weekend, it’s going to be a hit with all. Crich is also dog-friendly and accessible for the less able.
Buxton Pavilion Gardens
Despite the repair works currently going on, Buxton Pavilion Gardens will still be hosting its annual Bank Holiday Spring Spectacular. There’ll be stalls, food and drink, face painting, music, dancing and children’s entertainment
If you fancy a smaller, more ‘country’ affair then head to Monyash on Monday for their village green market. Stalls and activities to raise money for several good causes.
Tissington Well Dressing
Tissington village traditionally kicks off well-dressing season. Six wells around the village will be ‘dressed’ and blessed on 25th May. They will then remain in place for about a week afterward. We’d recommend taking time out to see this Derbyshire custom. Read more about well-dressing.
Hartington Festival of Talents
If having a go is more your thing then Hartington Festival of Talents is the place to go at the weekend; bell ring, clog dancing, cheese making, dry stone walling, patchwork, to name a few