A delightful stretch of valleys and villages fills the heart of England, cascading across parts of Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Staffordshire, and Greater Manchester. South-east of Manchester and south-west of Sheffield, the Peak District National Park is a destination for spa retreats, filled with converted farmhouses and charming hiking trails. It was the first gazetted national park in the UK and continues to be one of its most visited, captivating all those seeking a rural getaway.
Despite the name, this isn’t a park of peaks. It’s actually the southern end of the Pennines, a landscape of rounded hills and vast gritstone escarpments. Most panoramas scream vociferously of rural English stereotypes, with dry stone walls, rolling green fields dotted with sheep, and enigmatic skies of swirling clouds. Long-distance hiking trails offer these views as they connect the valleys and villages, the most famous being the Pennine Bridleway and the Limestone Way. Surrounded by the park is the tiny Georgian spa town of Buxton, where cobblestone lanes lead visitors to bubbling waters. Matlock and Bakewell are also wonderfully quaint villages, where gastropubs fill stone and thatch buildings.
The Peak District National Park has an excellent location, and it’s fairly easy to reach Buxton or Matlock by public transport. The park’s proximity to Manchester and Sheffield help it attract millions of annual visitors. Public transport to smaller villages is sporadic and most come with their own vehicle, or enjoy the best of the Peak District by rambling along the trails.
Dotted across the Peak District are some exquisite stately homes, each honouring a time of dukes and duchesses. Chatsworth House is an insight into the 17th century while the Elizabethan Lyme Park comes from the 16th century. Most of the villages in the Peak District have medieval parish churches.