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Things to Do in the Peak District

By Dawn Rainbolt
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Discover the Peaks

At the heart of England is the Peak District. This rugged mountainous area covers most of Derbyshire as well as parts of five other counties.

The Peak District National Park has the honour of being the UK’s first national park, established in 1951. A hiker and climber’s paradise, the Peak District is full of lots of unique and interesting geological features. Enjoy sweeping views, glittering lakes, wild valleys, cave networks and pretty stone villages. Wander through the purple heather that coats the rolling moors and keep your eyes out for the wildlife and birds that call this region home.

Read on to discover more about this fascinating region in central England and learn about the myths, legends and literary connections tied to the Peak District

Hike the Hills of the Peak District National Park

True to its name, most of the Peak District is comprised of rough and mountainous terrain. Split into the Dark Peak (largely moors and gritstone) and the White Peak (lots of limestone), the Peak District is a paradise for hikers and climbers.

Located at the farthest end of the Pennine Mountains, most of the Peak District rises over 1,000 ft or 300 metres. The highest point is Kinder Scout, measuring 2,087 ft or 636 metres. Instead of sharp or jagged peaks, discover an ancient region full of rocky hills, sweeping valleys, eerie landscapes and high escarpments.

Stanage Edge Peak District

Stanage Edge

The gritstone escarpment of Stanage Edge is one of the best-known locations within the Peak District. The impressive rock-face towers 25m high and sits 458m above sea level at its highest point. Its escarpment runs for almost four miles from the Cowper Stone all the way to Stanage Edge. Quarrying coupled with natural erosion has created a steep and stunning cliff-face drawing climbers from near and far.

Of course, you don’t have to be a climber to enjoy the area around Stanage Edge. Plenty of hiking opportunities abound, and the views and unique geological features make the outing worth it. Stanage Edge is located near the cosy wee stone village of Hathersage.

Peak District

Kinder Scout

This is the highest point of the Peak District. Boasting stunning views, a moorland plateau and nature reserve, Kinder Scout is one of the harder Peak District walks. The expansive views justify the meaning of its name: “wide views.” Fun fact: the plateau was the site of the 1932 mass trespass which led to public access of open lands.

Sites of interest include Edale Cross, located on an ancient route across open moorland and once a medieval boundary marking the edge of a royal forest. Also visit the cascade Kinder Downfall, legendary home to a mermaid who can grant immortality (see more on this below).

Mam Tor Peak District

Mam Tor

Another popular hike in the Peak District is the “Mother Hill.” This 517-metre high hill sits in the Hope Valley between the Dark Peak and White Peak regions. Combined, these regions comprise the Peak District. The Mam Tor hike weaves through the dappled green slopes of Winnats Pass, offering an iconic photo op. Drink in Mam Tor’s sweeping views and discover some fabulous ridge-walking.

Like most of the Peak District, there are a number of caves and underground spaces nearby. Mam Tor is also sometimes known locally as the “Shivering Mountain.” There is a new distillery, the Shivering Mountain Distillery, tucked into the Hope Valley, home to a couple of types of gin.

Walk the Grounds of Chatsworth House

Calling Jane Austen fans! As any fan of Pride and Prejudice will recall, Jane Austen’s beloved character Elizabeth Bennet visits the Peak District on a journey with her aunt and uncle. She visits the Peak District and Darcy’s fictitious house, Pemberley. This journey inspired one of the novel’s famous quotes “What are men compared to rocks and mountains?” – a sentiment that rings true in the Peak District mountains.

The 2005 Pride and Prejudice film starring Keira Knightly used the stunning Chatsworth House as a stand-in for Mr Darcy’s famous abode, Pemberley. Interestingly, many think Chatsworth House was the basis Austen used when describing Pemberley in her acclaimed novel. In fact, she visited the house herself and many of her descriptions align with a 19th-century Chatsworth House.

* For those who prefer the BBC’s 1995 version, Mr Darcy’s estate was filmed at Lyme Park House, west of the Peak District.

Chatsworth House

Begun in 1687, this impressively lavish manor house is home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. It was subsequently passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. Up to 25 rooms, the lush estate gardens and part of its working farm are open to the public. One could easily spend hours wandering through the 105-acre grounds, complete with a Victorian rock garden, fountains, sculptures and arboretum.

Visit the Villages and Castles that Inspired the Brontës

Born in the village of Haworth north of the Peak District, the Brontë sisters are among England’s most beloved and respected authors. They are perhaps England’s most famous literary family.

Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of the Brontë sisters, visited a friend in the village of Hathersage in 1845 while writing Jane Eyre. The quaint village and its vast and desolate environs offered inspiration and atmosphere for her iconic novel.

Walking along Stanage Edge, immerse yourself in the endless hills and moors that form an ever-present background to Jane Eyre, before gazing upon North Lees Hall. This 16th-century tower is recognised as the inspiration for Thornfield Hall, the principal house in the novel. Even the name “Eyre” is a local family name.

Emily Brontë, the author of Wuthering Heights, has creative ties to this area too. The rough, rocky landscape with its vast atmospheric stretches had a hand in influencing the dark and desolate setting found in Wuthering Heights. Hiking these eerie landscapes, it’s not hard to imagine Heathcliff and Cathy out on the moors.

Read more about Jane Austen, the Brontës, and other English authors and the landscapes that inspired their works here.

Explore Sites Associated with the Robin Hood Legends

The legendary outlaw Robin Hood also has a few connections to this central craggy region. Most people likely associate him with Sheffield or Nottingham but Robin Hood’s name dots the Peak District landscape. While nearly impossible to separate fact from myth, one thing is certain: the wild Peak District landscapes are magical storied places.

Robin Hood’s Cave

Amidst the rough and rugged terrain surrounding Stanage Edge, there is a cave named after the infamous outlaw. Robin’s Hood Cave isn’t easy to find but perhaps its secretive location is what made it such a super hideaway for the outlaw from certain evil sheriffs.

Ideally, we recommend visiting the cave with a guide. Inside Robin Hood’s Cave, discover remnants of those who came before you and soak up the myths and legends associated with this ancient place.


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Little John’s Grave

Little John, Robin of Loxley’s lieutenant and close friend, was born in the village of Hathersage according to popular myth. Robin Hood and Little John embarked on many adventures together, and Little John lived a long life.

Legend claims that after Robin Hood’s burial in Kirklees Abbey in Yorkshire, he returned to the cottage from whence he came. Here in the quiet village of Hathersage Little John died peacefully.

Though there is no real proof, many claim that Little John was buried in the churchyard at Hathersage. In fact, there is even a recent “tombstone” erected to mark the supposed spot he was laid to rest. Interestingly, a village called Loxley is just 10 miles away.

Robin Hood’s Stride

Find also Robin Hood’s Stride. This gritstone tor is a unique rock formation not far from the village of Bakewell. From afar, this formation may look like a fortification but it is in fact a natural geological feature.

The so-called Robin Hood’s Stride gets its name from a legend claiming that Robin Hood once strode between the huge boulders. But that would be one hugely impressive stride as the boulders are 15 meters apart!

Combine Robin Hood’s Stride with a walk through Bradford Dale via Elton for a lovely 8-mile walk. Your walk includes the Stride and a 12th-century hermitage tucked in a quiet place behind a row of yews.

Other place names bear the famous miscreant’s name, such as Robin Hood’s Cross on Abney Moor, a medieval cross only part of which survives. Another locale is Robin Hood’s Stoop on Offerton Moor. This is a medieval boundary marker. Local legend has it Robin once shot an arrow two miles away to Hathersage Church, a place with its own Robin Hood connections.

Wander Quaint Peak District Villages


The quaint stone village of Hathersage is popular amongst visitors to the Peak District, catering to outdoor lovers and hillwalkers. Hathersage was visited by authors such as Charlotte Brontë (while writing Jane Eyre), as well as Daniel Defoe (of Robinson Crusoe fame).

Accessed by train, Hathersage is an ideal jumping-off point for hikers wishing to explore Stanage Edge, Robin Hood’s Cave and the Peak District National Park.

This postcard-perfect stone village of just 2,000 inhabitants has a lovely medieval church. Inside, find a stained glass window was saved from Derwent Chapel just before the village was “drowned” to create a reservoir.

North Lees Hall is on the outskirts of the village. This ancient tower is generally accepted as inspiration for “Thornfield Hall” in Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre.


A bustling market town, Bakewell lies in the southern reaches of the Peak District and is a popular spot with visitors.

When you hear the name of the town, dessert might come to mind. This is no coincidence! The village of Bakewell is known for a beloved English delicacy, “Bakewell pudding,” a delicious jam pastry that legend says was created by mistake in the mid-1800s. A related tasty treat is the Bakewell tart, a variant of the Bakewell pudding. It’s safe to say there is no shortage of treats in this corner of the Peak District.

The village also has a church founded in Saxon times, an Elizabethan dwelling, a number of Anglo-Saxon crosses, a medieval arched bridge, and of course the traditional outdoor market (held on a Monday).

This substantial village is home to a number of cosy pubs, shops and quaint stone buildings. Bakewell is located close to Chatsworth House, a stand-in for Mr Darcy’s Pemberley from the Pride and Prejudice film. This is not the only Jane Austen connection. Bakewell is the inspiration behind the village of Lambton in the novel Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s descriptions in the novel evoke the real-life town you see today.

Hope Village

This thimble-sized stone village is adorable and quaint. Located at the confluence of the River Noe and Peakshole Water, the village of Hope has a 13th-century church home to a number of impressive gargoyles. It also has a couple cosy cafes and pubs.

Hope Valley reaches out on every side of the village, making the area a popular place for hikers and those looking for a quiet getaway.

Hope is also an ideal starting point to explore the atmospheric valley of Cave Dale to the viewpoint of Mam Tor. Not far away are the remains of the Roman fort of Brough.

Go Underground to Visit the Region’s Plethora of Caves

Heights of Abraham

The park at the Heights of Abraham includes a fossil museum, a Victorian tower offering panoramic views, among other things. The area is accessible by hiking of course, but another option is to take the exciting gondolas to the top.

In addition to the rest, the Heights of Abraham contains two incredible underground caverns that were formed over 350 million years ago. Visitors might like to see the newly-revealed huge deposits of calcite crystals revealed when the cavern was cleaned during the winter.

The Valley of Cave Dale

Just a few miles from the lovely wee village of Hope, hikers can discover the atmospheric valley of Cave Dale to the viewpoint of Mam Tor, one of the region’s high points (see more on Hope village and Mam Tor above).

As the name suggests, this area is riddled with caves and interesting rock formations formed in the limestone by glaciers. The mighty scale of Cave Dale’s valley offers breathtaking views, spectacular hiking, fascinating local heritage – like the ruins of Peveril Castle – and of course opportunities to peek under the Peaks.

There are four caves open to the public in Cave Dale, showing just how much more to the Peaks there is than what we see above ground. The views from the elevated ridge are stunning.

Try Spotting Kinder Downfall's Elusive Mermaid


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As the highest waterfall in the county, the 30-meter-high Kinder Downfall is also worth exploring. The scenery is surrounding the falls is magnificent, and the cascade is rugged and stunning. But what makes Kinder Downfall and the dark pool at the bottom of the waterfall particularly interesting is its folklore.

Legend has it that a water spirit, sometimes referred to as a mermaid, haunts this pool. She supposedly shows her tail on the eve of Easter. Other sources say that the mermaid in the pool can grant immortality to those who see her, or else offer the ability to see into the future, depending on which version of the tale you hear. Though be careful – such gifts always come with a price!

A myth such as this one likely points to Kinder Downfall and its mountainous surroundings as being an ancient spot of importance or worship.

Have we piqued your interest?

Join our self drive tour of the Peak District. Combine great hikes, historical sites, stunning viewpoints, literary and mythical connections, delicious food and cosy villages. This trip offers flexibility and can be adjusted to suit your preferences. Simply choose your dates and let us know your interest.

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Meet the Author: Dawn Rainbolt

American by birth but European in spirit, Dawn has called the US, Costa Rica, Spain, England, Poland, France and Ireland home over the years. While she has travelled to more than 30 countries, she is passionate about sharing her love of the UK & Ireland with visitors from across the world.

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