The Peak District is the oldest national park in England and Wales, and a hit with walkers, hikers and climbers. Here’s our pick of where to stay, what to do and where to eat.
Of the 13 national parks in England and Wales, the Peak District was the first to be officially recognised in 1951 – though its history far predates this. Divided into three main landscapes, each area has its own flora and fauna: the rugged, heather-laced terrain of Dark Peak, popular with walkers, White Peak’s dales and meadows and the craggy farmlands of South West Peak.
With wooden furnishings galore, more than 100 malt whiskies and plenty of open fires, it’s safe to say that the vibe at the Old Hall Hotel is cosy and traditional, which is what you want after a long hike or caving expedition. Expect ornate four-poster beds, agricultural antiquities and tankards hanging above the well-stocked bar downstairs – this 16th-century coaching house does “cottagecore” authentically.
The overarching theme at Dannah Farm is country luxe, and each of its rooms is decked out slightly differently. If baroque furnishings are your thing opt for Wilderbrook, or the berry-red Hay Loft Spa Suite offers plenty of country decadence, with its own Finnish sauna. Enhance your stay with the Secret Garden pass – an add-on that’ll give you access to a private hot tub in a secluded woodland retreat.
The Cavendish Hotel is the kind of place you’d want to wake up to on Christmas morning, with crackling fires, plaid bed throws and plush velvet headboards: décor fit for, and chosen by, a duchess. There’s a festive air year-round at this place, and the sprawling gardens are best enjoyed in the full bloom of spring – but for a magical retreat, visit when the leaves start to turn.
The recent vogue for a return to simpler times has seen traditional crafts like pottery and whittling trending on Instagram. Still not sold? This wood carving workshop should change your modernist mind. In true back-to-basics fashion, you’ll learn to use and sharpen gouges so you can craft your own ivy leaves from oak, sycamore or lime. Hosted on a 16th-century farm and designed for complete beginners, this hands-on course comes with a set of Instagram-ready photos (because we’re not totally living in the past).
Hailed as one of “seven man made wonders” by the BBC, Blue John – a striking crystallised mineral which has been mined for centuries – can only be found within the marrow of the limestone gorges around Castleton. Working directly with local artisans, you’ll get to craft this unique stone into a take-home necklace. After exploring the mines, a trip to the gift store is recommended – especially if your own art skills aren’t up to snuff.
Filled-to-the-brim jacket potatoes and a dizzying selection of teas have made Tilly’s the go-to joint for locals. Popular with the hiking and caving sets, you’re as likely to overhear tips about abseiling as you are which scone to choose (cheese, always). This traditional tearoom knows exactly what it does best – generous sandwiches, unpretentious hot drinks and speciality rarebits, all of which come highly recommended.
A roaring log fire awaits you at this typical Derbyshire boozer. The Packhorse takes great pride in its community, and its location just off the Monsal Trail is undeniably a selling point. Landlord Mick sources all the food locally, and ales from nearby breweries, and will happily wax lyrical about the abundance of things to do in the area, making it the perfect place for a pint and some golden local tips.
Whoever wrote the menu at Monk was having a lot of fun, with cocktail names like Tonka Bomb and Last Flight of the Bumblebee. Meanwhile Cavendish Circus, where Monk can be found, is a hub from which roads peppered with restaurants, galleries, shops and even an opera house splinter off – so you’re in easy stumbling distance of your next stimulating stop.