Monday, June 24, 2024

The hidden corners of Britain’s most accessible national park

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Titan Cave, which was only discovered in the year 2000, is the highest natural cavern in the UK at 141.5 metres – taller than the London Eye.

Many caves can be accessed on foot, the most famous being Poole’s Cavern. In Castleton’s Blue John Cavern, bring home caving souvenirs of rare Blue John stones made into jewellery and ornaments.

How to get there 

By car

With its central location near to several major cities, driving to the Peak District is simple:

From the South-east – M1, leave at Junction 25 and take A52 to Derby. Then take A6 north through Duffield and Belper or stay with A52 to Ashbourne. 

From the North-east – M1, leave the M1 at Junction 30 or 29 and take A619 from Chesterfield (to Baslow) or the A632 (to Matlock).

From the South-west – M5, M42, A42, M1 then follow the same directions from the South East. 

From the North-west – M6, M63. At Stockport, follow the signs for Buxton. 

Inside the national park the A6 is a key road for accessing the east and north, while the A515 from Ashbourne is good for accessing the west. Be aware, the central area is difficult to travel across as the roads are few and narrow due to the terrain, which is hilly, rough and uneven.

By public transport 

The nearby cities all have regular Intercity rail services from destinations across the country. Northern Railways Hope Valley Line between Sheffield and Manchester links to stations adjacent to beauty spots including Padley Gorge and Jacob’s Ladder, the start of the Pennine Way. The Derwent Valley Line from Nottingham to Matlock links to local bus services.

There are rail stations within the national park and buses from the surrounding cities. Away from the main roads, public transport is patchy. For help navigating the area, Traveline (0800 952 0002) is a public transport route planner service. 

Where to Stay

The Blind Bull (01298 211949; theblindbull.co.uk) is a 12th Century Inn with six rooms all newly renovated serving fresh, local produce. Rooms from £130 including breakfast.

Shrigley Hall Hotel & Spa (01625 575757; shrigleyhallhotelandspa.co.uk) is a Georgian country house hotel set in 262 acres with 154 bedrooms of various sizes and styles and a championship 18-hole golf course. Rooms from £114 with breakfast.

Sykes Cottages (01244 352369; sykescottages.co.uk) have a range of properties to suit most budgets from a romantic cottage retreat in Bakewell, a barn conversion in Whaley Bridge and a grand country house in Matlock.

On a budget 

Avoid the main tourist hotspots like Castleton, Bakewell and Buxton. Atmospheric budget accommodation options include Peak District Pods (01335 310311; peakpods.com), Upper Hurst Farm (01298 687 273; upperhurstfarm.com) and Ernest’s Retreat Glamping Site (0300 124 6499; ernestsretreat.co.uk) a few miles to the east of the national park. 

There are plenty of free attractions to enjoy in the Peaks even beyond the walks and cycle routes, such as the Plague Village of Eyam and its museum, Creswell Crags (home to Britain’s only Ice Age cave art), and the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs sometimes referred to as ‘Derbyshire’s Lake District’.

When to Visit 

Avoid peak season periods such as school half-terms and consider early spring and late autumn during term time. Winter (excluding Christmas and New Year) is also cheaper and can be a highly atmospheric time to visit.  

Need to Know 

Weekly Parking Permit: £15 (Insider tip: You can buy ahead online.)

Bike Hire Centres: Ashbourne at the southern end of Tissington Trail (01335 343156) and Derwent Bike Hire (01629 816526) in the north near the popular cycling trails around Derwent Reservoir 

When raining: Go Underground at Castleton Caverns; or visit museums in Bakewell, Castleton or Eyam. 

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