Peak District, England August 2019

by Emma Bumpus on August 26, 2019

Windswept moorland, verdant hills and pretty stone-built villages whisk Careertraveller away to the Peak District, Britain’s first National Park.

Greeted by layers and layers of symmetrical lines of dry stone walls spread across a patchwork of pastures is a breath-taking journey into an area of spectacular beauty that attracts over 10 million visitors a year!

Driving through scores of hamlets and villages offset by distinctive soft hills and valleys reveals White Peak renowned limestone foundations with a welcoming plethora of local limestone pubs, hotels and houses full of honeypot character. Narrow field paths and lanes lead us to the picturesque village of Hartington, whose traditional parish duck pond, coaching inns and village pump echo days of a bygone era.

Observing ‘The Old Cheese Shop’, tea rooms and Village Stores, the latter being one 30 listed buildings around Hartington, brings an exciting introduction to Derbyshire’s first market village, which granted market charter status in 1203 smacks of tasty fresh locally made produce. The hilltop church of St Giles with it’s gargoyles and parts dating back to the 13th century add further character and historical interest which sets the scene for our stay at YHA Hartington, a heady mix of youth hostel and 17th century manor house!

First impressions take youth hostelling to the next level as we enter a leafy green playground containing giant outdoor chess and a secluded selection of landpods and bell tents that radiate outdoor fun and adventure whatever the weather. Passing welcoming BBQ firepits and tables fit for ‘under the stars’ alfresco dining we head for reception of what feels like a stately home.

Stone walls, partly rebuilt in 1611, and a medieval entrance door take us back in time through a grand entry hall whose welcoming stone floor, oak panelled walls and period fireplace create an intoxicating coaching inn ambiance. No surprise we learn that Bonnie Prince Charlie is reputed to have stopped here in 1745 on his way to London so we take a sneaky peek at room 1 honoured in his name!

A check of the free Wi-Fi, cycle store, dry, laundry and games room meets our seal of approval and preps us for a walk through nearby Dovedale, a striking National Trust Nature Reserve bursting with wildlife and geology Peakland beauty. A walk along River Dove with encompassing meadows and limestone rocks involves a walk across the famous Stepping Stones which beneath Thorpe Cloud, the valley’s cone shaped 942 ft hill, justifies it’s local ‘Little Switzerland’ mountainous title!

A quick change and convenient boot wash back at YHA Hartington Hall makes time for an afternoon of Peak District sightseeing in nearby towns Buxton and Bakewell where foodie heaven appears. Tearooms and coffee shops to farmers markets and micro-breweries smack of great local cheeses, crusty pies and farm-produced ice cream that beckon a visit to the Buxton Pudding Emporium. Finest home made cake and puddings and local artisan produce radiate High Peak pleasure with a tasting plate menu including 6 month mature ‘Fabulous Fruitcake’, which made from scratch smiles with a slice of Peakland White Cheese.

Minutes away is the Opera House, Pavillion Gardens and distinguished Town Baths and Pump Rooms, whose renowned natural warm spring water still flows freely from St Anne’s Well. Steeped in history on the River Wye puts Buxton on the careertraveller radar for a return Peak District visit as we head gluttonously towards Bakewell for a slice of legendary Bakewell Pudding.
Greeted by Throngs of visitors in this former saxon settlement awaits a haven of quaint honey coloured buildings offset by a hillside steepled church and riverside location.

New heights are reached on the Derbyshire Peak fringe and Lower Derwent Valley as we drive to spa town Matlock Bath, once called ‘Little Switzerland’ by the Victorians. Encircled by dramatic rocky hills we head for Derbyshire’s oldest tourist attraction Heights of Abraham and are blown away by this sky-high hilltop country park of fun. Enchanting cable cars inspired by the Alps take us on a breath-taking gondola ride through treetops overlooking the Derbyshire Dales, stunning!

The forest summit brings 60 acres of family entertainment from underground cavern adventure to woodland Punch and Judy with spectacular vistas dotted everywhere. Spoilt for choice we start with the Great Masson Cavern tour, which takes us on a geological journey of mining and lead ore in a show of electrically lit chambers. Tinkers Mine Shaft viewing platform continues the glittering rock story with panoramic views of the Derwent Valley and Peak District and celebrates Derbyshire’s industrial heritage.

Eye catching Victoria Prospect Tower adds a 19th century lookout for 360 views of all the park has to offer, including amphitheatre, Woodland Adventure Park and life size metallic cows that tribute RHS Chelsea Flower Show award winner Lee Besthall. Amongst the play and picnic areas we discover fossils in the Fossil Factory and uncover the cable car installation and transformation in the Masson Pavillion.

Photographs and film portray the love and toil behind this wonderfully restored pleasure playground that roars with Derbyshire pride and culture, most befitting of a Heights’ Ploughman in the Vista Restaurant. An array of award winning Derbyshire pork pie with local cheese and a pint of locally brewed Chatsworth Gold ale bring summer to the outdoor terrace with the best dining view in the Peak District fringes.

As we head home with a slice of the Peak District National Park, all 555 square miles, we pass the Chatsworth Estate whose imposing house and parkland, sprinkled with flocks of sheep, is an excuse to return soon!

Further information:

Peak District & Derbyshire Official Tourist Information
The Heights of Abraham
YHA Hartington

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