Looking for an adventure in the UK? It has to be the Peak District National Park. Millions of people come from all over the UK and across the world to see the unique beauty of this national park, so why haven’t you planned your trip yet?
From stunning hikes and challenging scrambles to paragliding, horseback riding, and wild swimming, the Peak District is an adventurer’s paradise.
In this Peak District National Park guide, we’ll show you everything there is to know about the National Park so you can plan your visit.
Peak District National Park History
Millions of years ago, the Peak District was actually a tropical lagoon. Even today, people find the fossils of tiny sea creatures on the highest peaks in the park.
It wasn’t until around 6,000 years ago that the park became farmland for sheep, cows, and crops. And in some areas, you’ll see remnants of the distinct fields from Roman times.
Many people think the name “Peak” comes from the tall hills in the area, but it actually comes from the Anglo-Saxon Pecsaetan tribe that settled the area.
The Peak District was designated a national park in 1951 – the first of Britain’s 15 national parks. It covers almost 1,500 km, which is roughly the size of Greater London.
The highest point is Kinder Scout which reaches 1,086 feet, and the park is also home to gritstone edges (Dark Peak), limestone dales (White Peak), and rolling hills (South West Peak).
Unlike many National Parks around the world, the Peak District is a “living landscape” and home to around 38,000 people.
Why Visit Peak District National Park?
The Peak District is widely thought to be one of the UK’s best holiday spots. In fact, it won the Bronze award in the 2019 British Travel Awards.
When you visit the district, it’s easy to see why it’s loved by people across the world.
- It’s one of Britain’s most cycle-friendly places to visit with 20 cycling routes.
- It has a unique cable car ride to a clifftop country park at the Heights of Abraham.
- It has one of the stately homes of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth – one of the many Peak District attractions.
- You’ll spot exotic birds and other wildlife on your adventure.
- The amazing views of the British countryside are hard to beat.
- It’s incredibly family-friendly, with many activities for kids.
Best Time to Visit Peak District National Park
Summer is the most popular time of year to visit the Peak District. British weather is notoriously unpredictable, so you’re most likely to get some sunshine.
Of course, summer is also the busiest time of year in the Peak District, so if you’re looking to avoid crowds, it’s best to visit outside of the English school summer holidays.
During the last weeks of August and the start of September, you’ll see the renowned purple heather blanketing the landscape.
If you’re happy to risk some rain showers, Spring is another beautiful time to visit the district. Wildflowers will be in bloom and you’re more likely to spot local wildlife.
Where to Eat/Drink
It’s safe to say you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating and drinking in this national park. There are countless farmers’ markets, farm shops, local breweries, pubs, restaurants, and cafes throughout Derbyshire and within the park.
Here are a couple of our favorites for you to try:
The Yorkshire Bridge Inn Restaurant
This is an award-winning inn that’s known for locally sourced food and community events. Located near Ladybower Reservoir, there are a few walks that begin right outside the pub, making it an ideal base.
The Orangery Restaurant at Losehill House Hotel & Spa
Another award-winning restaurant in Hope Valley, this place is known for its provenance and the staff will be happy to tell you about their locally-grown and sourced menu. And who doesn’t want a spa treatment after a long day outside?
The Anglers Rest
This one is a community-owned pub, cafe, and post office all in one located in Millerdale, Buxton. They have a great selection of local real ales and freshly cooked food that’s perfect after a long day of hiking
The Red Lion Inn
This is a traditional English pub with a Sardinian twist. From the famed Sunday carvery to Sardinian banquets, this one is another must-visit in Buxton.
Where to Stay
From wild camping in the Peak District to award-winning hotels, there’s something for everyone when it comes to sleeping in the Peak District.
There are tons of campsites dotted throughout Derbyshire. If you’re looking for a campsite to plan your visit, here are the local choices.
This is a sustainable campsite that has the coveted Environmental Quality Mark award. Located right in the center of Buxton, Bakewell, Ashbourne, and Leek, it’s a great base for exploring.
They have spaces for tents, RVs, and caravans, or you can rent out a yurt or holiday cottage on the grounds.
The site has toilets and showers as well as a designated dog walking trail around the perimeter of the site. There’s also a huge playing field for kids and a chance for little ones to meet some local Shetland ponies.
This campsite is in a remote location at the northern end of the national park. If you’re looking to go walking on your trip, this is the campsite for you. They have many local footpaths as well as access to the long-distance Pennine Way.
Howden and Ladybower Reservoirs are in walking distance, too, as well as Chatsworth House and nearby Bakewell.
There are grass pitches with electric hook-ups for RVs and caravans as well as space for tents. If you’re taking on a multi-day hike, this site will find a place for you to pitch up even at the last minute.
This site is at the foot of Dark Peak, so if you’re looking for a base to do some challenging climbs, it’s a great site. A walk up nearby Lantern Pike is a tough route but gives one the unique Peak District sights of seven different counties.
This site has a shop, shower and washroom room, kids playground, and spacious pitches in a secluded area. However, it doesn’t allow caravans or RVs because of the narrow streets you’ll need to take to get to it.
This site is found near the small village of Youlgreave. It’s a basic, rural setting with minimal facilities – but that’s what campers who stay here love most. The views are what make this campsite popular, overlooking expansive Derbyshire countryside.
There are 100 maintained pitches, with shelter from trees, as well as a dedicated dog walk and a kids’ play area. There are no shower or toilet facilities, and a lot of the pitches are sloped.
The town of Bakewell is around five miles from the site, known for its Bakewell tart.
If you want to spend a day on rollercoasters at Alton Towers, this is the campsite for you. It’s just one mile from the theme park while also being on the doorstep of the Peak District National Park.
This is also a great location for watersports, with Carsington Water and Visitor Center just northeast of the campsite. There, you’ll be able to go fishing, kayaking, sailing, and more.
The site welcomes tent camping and caravans, but all the pitches are sloping so you’ll need leveling blocks.
Just a stone’s throw from the southern Peak District, located in the Staffordshire Moorlands, this is a popular site for walkers.
There are great facilities, sheltered pitches, a shop, and a kids’ play area on the site. Not to mention the Roaches is just north of the campgrounds – a popular attraction for tourists in the district.
Churnet Valley Railway is also just south of the grounds if you want to explore the park in a slightly different way.
This caravan park rents out self-catering holiday homes for families who don’t want to camp in tents. The six caravans have all the facilities you need and dogs are welcome to stay.
Right on the edge of the Peak District, the working farm is remote with great views of rolling hills all the way to the Cheshire Plains.
The site fills up quickly year-round and is popular with families since kids can see the baby cows, chickens, and plenty of local wildlife.
Kinder Scout is just three miles from the farm, so it’s also a great base for hikers looking for a comfy base to come home to.
Broadholme Lane overlooks the Derwent Valley and National Heritage Corridor, giving unbelievable views and sunsets. Each pitch is hard-standing with electrical hook-ups and there are disposal and recycling facilities.
Only two dogs per unit are allowed but there is a designated dog walking area if you plan on taking your pets caravanning with you.
Teversal has a set of holiday homes you can rent outset in the Silverhill woodlands. The holiday rentals are modern with all the needed amenities, and since the park is four acres in size, it’s remote and feels peaceful.
There are 11 mapped walks and cycling routes nearby ranging from 1.5 to 30 miles, making it a great spot for walkers and cyclists.
Right on the edge of Marston Montgomery Village, this is a small campground with four hard-ground serviced pitches, one grass pitch with hook-ups, and ten sites for tents.
The Tissington Trail starts in Ashbourne, which is family and cycle-friendly. Carsington Water is also within driving distance if you’re looking for water sports and an adventure park.
This is a Certificated Site (CS) and it’s very small. No large sites are allowed anywhere near, so it’s a popular one for its remote but sought-after location.
Nestled in the heart of the National Forest, this is a much larger site with plenty of spots for caravans, RVs, and tent campers. It’s a year-round site with full facilities, a playing field, and an overnight car park.
Dogs are welcome, and the Ashby World Heritage Trail begins at the campsite – a 3.5-mile route following the old Ashby and Nuneaton Joint Railway.
If you’re an older couple looking to get away from the noise of young groups, Laneside is a great option. Although the site welcomes families and quiet couples, they won’t accept single-sex groups or unaccompanied teens in an attempt to keep the noise to a minimum.
It’s found right outside the village of Hope in Hope Valley, right in the heart of the Peak District. You’ll find shower and toilet facilities, as well as hairdryers and makeup vanities – the reviews for the facilities are superb.
Waleswood is an award-winning caravan park found in the Rother Valley Country Park. It’s surrounded by lakes, trails, and cycling tracks and welcomes pets to stay.
There are 163 pitches with hook-ups, with the choice of extra-large pitches for families. On-site, there’s also a coffee shop, game room, and free WiFi – perfect for kids.
Just outside of Buxton, Farditch Farm only has 11 hard-standing pitches and three non-electrical pitches for RVs. It’s uncrowded and a quiet option for anyone looking to get away from it all.
There are toilet and shower facilities as well as a lounge, and if you’re looking for a holiday cottage, there are three modern homes to rent out in the park, too.
Just one mile outside of Harington Village, this is a small, boutique campsite with many footpaths into the Park District. You’ll also be camping within a 20-minute walk of pubs, shops, and a well-stocked farm shop.
Camping here is a little different, with a choice of yurts and tipis to sleep in. They’ve converted an old barn into washrooms with showers and toilets along with heated towel rails – glamping at its finest.
Peak District Hotels
If camping isn’t your style, there are plenty of local hotels to choose from around the Peak District.
This hotel is owned by the Chatsworth Estate and is within walking distance of Chatsworth House. It’s a traditional coaching inn with modern rooms and fantastic food right in the heart of the Peak District.
Found in a small village in the popular area of Ashbourne, this is a quaint B&B with modern rooms and a great breakfast to start your day of exploring.
This one is a working sheep farm run by a local family. It only has two B&B rooms, but it’s a lovely little place on the northeast corner of the national park. If you’re looking for a really quiet setting with plenty of walks, this one’s for you.
In a characterful building are comfy rooms and great food (not to mention a great selection of local beers). The Old Hall is a popular choice with travelers in Chinley, High Peak.
If you do decide to go camping, it’s always nice knowing where the local towns are to stop and refuel. There are several local towns you can visit while exploring the Peak District.
Sitting on the River Why, Ashford-in-the-Water is a small village filled with pretty historic houses and inns. Sheepwash Bridge is the main attraction of the village, but just outside you’ll find Thornbridge Hall – a Grade II listed country house with beautiful gardens.
This will be your base if you’re exploring Hope Valley. Mam Tor and Winnats Pass are both accessed at Castleton, which has narrow streets and traditional pubs when you need to refuel. Don’t forget to visit Peveril Castle and Peak Cavern while you’re there.
Edale is the starting point for Kinder Scout and is part of Pennine Way. Even though it’s a tiny little village, it’s popular with hikers, so it becomes crowded in the Summer. You’ll find pubs and cafes among the old stone houses.
The Chatsworth Estate is the star of Edensor, which is surrounded by stunning Derbyshire countryside. It’s also got a golf club and church, although there’s not much else. You’ll need to visit nearby Baslow for pubs and shops.
Eyam has a unique history and reputation as “the plague village”, dating back to the bubonic plague in 1665. Now though, it’s a charming village with a museum and manor house. There are also some great pubs and cafes at the eastern end of the village.
Right in the middle of the Dove Valley, Hartington is surrounded by some fantastic trails for walkers and hikers. From here, you can visit the Neolithic henge monument of Arbor Low, Wolfscote Dale, and Parsley Hay.
Within the village, you’ll find the famous cheese shop, a quaint duck pond, and a network of narrow streets to explore.
Hathersage is a great starting point for hikers visiting the Peak District. Right in the middle of the Hope Valley on the rail line, you can take Carl Wark, Stanage Edge, and Higger Tor from the east of the village.
The Cathedral of the Peak is Tidewell’s claim to fame, with impressive monuments and carvings. Around the yard, there are some great shops, cafes, and pubs to try, and if you visit during the summer solstice, you’ll catch The Wakes Festival featuring a torchlight procession.
Alstonefield is in the White Peak region of the district. Wolfescote Dale and Dovedale are both nearby, as well as Thor’s Cave to the west.
In the village is The George, a nice green next to the pub – a great spot to enjoy the sun and try some local beers in the summertime.
If you’re visiting Tissington, try to go during Well Dressing Week. All week long, the water sources are decorated with flowers and it’s a beautiful thing to see. Whatever time of year you go, Tissington is the starting place of Tissington Trail, which is perfect for walking or cycling.
Famous for its thermal spas, Buxton is a larger town in Derbyshire, right on the edge of the Peak District. With stunning lakeside views, there’s a high street filled with shops and eateries and a local arts and crafts market on weekends. If you’re looking to restock for your camping trip, Buxton is a great spot.
Best Things to do in Peak District National Park
No Peak District guide is complete without talking about everything there is to do. There is something for everyone in the Peak District and so much to pack in during your trip.
One of the most cycle-friendly places in the entire UK, mountain bikers and cyclists love the district. Not all Peak District routes are cycle friendly, but there are plenty for all abilities.
- Monsal Trail
- Manifold Trail
- Tissington Trail
- Rudyard & Roaches
- Tideswell & Millers Dale
- National Cycle Network
- Pennine Cycleway
- Pennine Bridleway
Of course, the district is known for its walking trails, and there are tons of routes to choose from. Make sure you plan your walk in advance and take enough supplies – some of them are 30+ miles long, so you don’t want to get caught short.
Some of the most popular routes are:
- Bakewell – Edensor – Chatsworth Walking Route
- Castleton – Mam Tor – The Great Ridge – Walking Route
- Hathersage to Stanage Edge Walking Route
- Hartington Walking Route
- Cromford Mill & Village Walking Route
- The Limestone Way
- By the Heights of Abraham to Matlock
- Birchen Edge – Chatsworth Walking Route
The Peak District has the highest natural cave in the UK, known as Titan Cave in Castleton. It’s one of the most amazing places to see in the Peak District if you’re a caver and was only discovered back in 2000.
The district is also riddled with underground formations, some of which you can visit in well-lit show caves. In fact, the show caves in Castleton are the only place you’ll see Blue John stone.
If you’re a total beginner to caving, there are professional tours you can take and several activity centers to make sure you stay safe.
Hang gliding & paragliding
The district is also home to the best settings for gliding in the whole UK. For a unique challenge, the BHPA (British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association) has schools where you can book tandem gliding with a professional. There are even local training courses if you want to learn to go it solo.
If you just want to watch the action. Mam Tor is a popular spot for hand gliding and paragliding in the Peak District, so you can watch the pros take off from there when conditions are good.
If you love horses but don’t have your own, Matlock Farm Park Riding School provides riding lessons and pony trekking along some local trails.
For horse riders who want to bring along their own horse, there are 65 miles of off-road for those rising throughout the district.
Harington Station on the Tissington Trail and Torside car park both have horsebox parking and tethering facilities.
With countless cliffs, crags, and rock faces, it’s no surprise that rock climbers come from across the world to take on some of the popular climbing challenges in the Peak District.
From rock climbing classes to challenging scrambles, there is something for all abilities. If you’re into rock climbing, here are the most popular spots in the district:
- Crescent Arete
- Not To Be Taken Away
- The Green Traverse
- Flying Buttress
- Heaven Crack
- Saul’s Crack
- The Sloth (HVS 5a)
- Right Unconquerable
- Chequers Buttress
- Flying Buttress Direct
- Left Unconquerable
- Fern Hill
- The Archangel
When it comes to fell-running, the Kinder Downfall is the most iconic trail to take on. It’s a circular run that tackles some of the most challenging terrains in the Dark Peaks.
From peat fields and muddy trenches to Jacob’s Ladder, you’ll end your run with shaking legs. But on your way, you’ll be rewarded with some of the most scenic countryside views you could ask for.
Sailing & Windsurfing
Several of the reservoirs in the district are home to sailing clubs, including Carsington, Rudyard, Combs, Errwood, Dovestone, and Torside.
The clubs offer introductions to most watersports, including sailing and windsurfing, and you’ll also have the opportunity to go out on your own boat if you wish.
Most of the clubs are open to members and visitors alike, and there are campgrounds near most.
Kayaking & Canoeing
Most of the reservoirs, rivers, and canals around the Peak District are perfect for kayaking and canoeing. Carsington Water, Tittesworth Reservoir, the River Derwent at Matlock, and the Peak Forest canal are some of the most popular spots and safe for kids.
Carsington Water Sports Center is great for lessons if you’re new to canoeing or kayaking and want to learn the ropes on gentle water. But for those with more experience, there are a few places for more thrilling kayaking on the rivers.
The Peak District might be landlocked, but you’re still spoilt for choice when it comes to wild swimming. Some of the best swimming rivers in the country are found in the district and there’s even a lido if you’re not a fan of wild water.
- Slippery Stones: a “reward swim”, only accessible on foot at the end of a trail starting at Fairholmes car park, stretching along the Howden Reservoir.
- Mermaid’s Pool: just off the main path towards the summit of Kinder Scout. It’s relatively small but a welcome break on warm days.
- Black Mere Pool: you’ll need to drive down the A53 and follow Thorncliffe Road for around five miles to get to this wild pool.
- Sparth Reservoir: this is a popular reservoir for swimming and is easily accessible from Marsden train station after a short mile-long walk along Huddersfield Narrow Canal.
There are countless trails if you’re looking for a gentle walk around the district, but if you’re looking for something a little more challenging, the national park is also renowned for its hiking trails.
Without question, the most popular are Kinder Scout and Mam Tor.
This is the highest peak in the district and will give you unforgettable panoramic views. On your hike, you’ll see moorland and a stunning waterfall, gentle streams, and steep rocks.
Although there are some challenging areas and some scrambles, it’s a unique hike that’s well worth the effort.
Mam Tor – Shivering Mountain
Mam Tor (or Mother Hill), is 517 meters high, sitting near Castleton in the High Peak region. It’s one of the most famous walks in the district, with jaw-dropping views of the Dark Peaks (gritstone) and White Peaks (limestone), as well as Winnats Pass.
Yes, there are even opportunities for canal boating in the Peak District. If you have your own canal boat, there are two canals that are perfect for your trip:
- Caldon Canal: runs from Stoke-on-Trent to picturesque Staffordshire and the Churnet Valley.
- Peak Forest Canal: one of the UK’s most scenic waterways running along the edge of the Peak District.
Planning Your Visit to Peak District National Park
No matter what time of year you plan on visiting the district, you need to spend time planning your trip to make the most of your limited time there.
Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to get to with railway stations in the nearby villages, as well as five major airports within driving distance.
- Manchester Airport: 19 miles/35-minute drive
- East Midlands Airport: 35 miles/46-minute drive
- Birmingham Airport: 56 miles/1-hour drive
- Leeds Bradford: 38 miles/1-hour drive
- Liverpool: 42 miles/1.2-hour drive
Itinerary for Peak District National Park
If you just can’t decide what you should do and see while you’re in the Peak District, here’s a three-day sample itinerary you can use as a basis of your planning:
- The Roaches: located in Staffordshire county, the Roaches is a spine of rock that erupts from the valley – the perfect spot for scramblers, walkers, and rock climbers of all abilities.
- Lud’s Church: located just behind the Roaches in the glade of the Back Forest, this is a natural gulley with gushing waters. It’s a surreal experience to climb down into, but well worth the effort.
- The Lazy Trout Pub: just a short drive from the Roaches car park, this is a great spot to stop for lunch and refuel before you head back out exploring.
- Thor’s Cave: this is a karst cave formed from the limestone bedrock and years of rain. Found in the Manifold Valley, it’s a steep, slippery route, but a famous one to tick off your list.
- Chatsworth House: Wake up bright and early to head out to Chatsworth House, voted Britain’s favorite countryside house. It has beautiful grounds, an outdoor cinema, and markets throughout the year.
- Bakewell: you can’t visit the Peak District without stopping in Bakewell to sample one of the famous Bakewell tarts at the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.
- Chrome Hill: this is a 425-meter knoll in the Upper Dove Valley. It’s a Site of Special Scientific Interest because of the fossils found in the area, and a stunning hike to take on.
- Kinder Scout & Mam Tor: this is the most popular hike in the Peak District and one you can’t miss. It takes around five hours in total with some steep ascents, so be prepared to go out for most of the day.
- The Rambler Inn: this is at the end of the hike and a great spot to stop for a locally-sourced meal and pint of ale.
Is the Peak District on Your Bucket List?
It can feel a little overwhelming planning a trip to the Peak District National Park. There is so much to do and see. But one thing’s for sure, it’s a must-visit for hikers, walkers, campers, cyclists, and everyone in between.
If you want to plan the very best walks for your trip, check out our Peak District walking guide, where we go into more detail about the most popular walking trails and what you can expect from each one.