This scenic trail passes through a number of atmospheric old tunnels as it follows the path of a disused railway line for 81/2 miles from Coombs Road Viaduct on the outskirts of Bakewell to Topley Pike in Wye Dale. Three miles into the walk, there is a dramatic viewpoint at Monsal Head, where you can pause for refreshment at the Monsal Head Hotel.
Quaint little Eyam makes a great base for walking and cycling in the White Peak area. For an interesting short hike, follow Water Lane out of the village from the main square, then turn right and climb the hill to reach Mompesson’s Well, where supplies were left during a plague outbreak for Eyam folk by friends from other villages. To return to Eyam, retrace your steps down the lane, then take a path that leads directly to the church. The two-mile circuit takes about 11/2 hours. Eyam is famed for isolating itself during the 1665 bubonic plague.
- LIMESTONE WAY
This 46-mile trail winds through the Derbyshire countryside from Castleton to Rocester in Staffordshire, following footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes -highlights along the way include beauty spots Millers Dale and Robin Hood’s Stride. Many people walk the 26-mile section between Castleton and Matlock in one long, tiring day, but setting aside two days will make it more comfortable. Local tourist offices have a detailed leaflet with route information.
- PEAK CAVERN
The limestone sections of the Peak District are riddled with caves and caverns, particularly around Castleton. Peak Cavern is easily reached by a pretty streamside walk from Castleton centre and has the largest natural cave entrance in England, known as the Devil’s Arse. Inside, dramatic limestone formations are lit with fibre-optic cables.
- WINNATS PASS & SPEEDWELL CAVERN
Striking Winnats Pass is a collapsed cave system, once a coral reef canyon. Sheer-sided cliffs frame a lovely green valley, footpaths abound, and it’s here that you’ll find the entrance to Speedwell Cavern – a cave reached via an eerie boat ride through flooded tunnels, emerging by a huge subterranean lake.
- POOLE’S CAVERN
It’s very cool down in this magnificent natural cavern, a pleasant mile stroll southwest of Buxton, reached by descending 28 steps into an underground lair. Tours lasting 50 minutes run every 20 minutes from March to October. From the car park, a 20-minute walk leads through Grin Low Wood to Solomon’s Temple – a ruined tower with fine views over the town.
High Peak Trail is an easy, traffic-free ride through beautiful hills and farmlands following the old railway line from Cromford to Dowlow. The Pennine Bridleway is another top network, with 205 miles of trails. If you don’t have your own wheels, Peak Tours runs guided tours and the National Park Authority has three bike rental centres.
- BUXTON TRAM
It’s actually a vintage milk float, rather than a tram, but this old contraption is still a highly entertaining way to tour the historic sights of pretty Buxton. From the Opera House, take the Wonder of the Peak tour as it trundles along at 12mph on an hour-or-so circuit of the centre. There are only eight seats, so book ahead.
Known as the ‘Palace of the Peak’, Chatsworth House has been occupied by the earls and dukes of Devonshire for centuries. Inside it’s packed with priceless paintings and period furniture; outside there are miles of grounds and ornamental gardens to explore, and kids will love the farmyard adventure playground. The stately home has starred in Pride & Prejudice on more than one occasion.
Peak District essentials
Head to London first on British Airways from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur. Matlock and Bakewell are the area’s two main transport hubs, but neither town is connected directly to London by train (you need to change at Stockport). Many National Express London-Manchester buses stop at Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton. The Peak Plus is a handy pass offering all-day travel on most High Peak buses.
- WHERE TO STAY
*Handsome two-room b&b Stonecroft lies in an enchanting cluster of houses surrounded by majestic country. Host Julia is an award-winning chef; her packed lunches are available on request.
*In a Hope Valley village near Castleton, Samuel Fox is an enchanting inn owned by chef James Duckett. The gorgeous pastel-shaded guestrooms upstairs come with a sumptuous breakfast.
*Within rolling distance of the famed pudding shops, Rutland Arms is an aristocratic-looking old coaching inn with 33 rooms and lots of Victorian flourishes. Jane Austen is said to have stayed.
- THE BAKEWELL PUDDING
The Peak District’s famous dessert was invented following an accidental misreading of a recipe around 1820. Rich and delicious, it makes a great post-hike treat and there are two shops in Bakewell that claim to be the creator:
The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop has a quaint first-floor tearoom with exposed beams where you can sit down and try the pudding with lashings of custard, or as part of an afternoon tea.
There’s no sit-down dining in Bloomers of Bakewell, set in a 17th-century stone building. If you don’t make it here in person, it’s possible to order a Bakewell pudding online and have it posted to your door.