Peak District: On top of the world
It’s been a while! I still have some older posts that need to go up, but I’ve recently arrived back from the Peak District and I had to write about it.
We were meant to be going to Iceland over New Years, but unfortunately our plans fell through. We’re not ones to miss out on a trip so we quickly booked to go to Bakewell in the Peak District. It was very last minute but we found a gorgeous place to stay and packed up the car.
I spent many a summer holiday in the UK as a kid, but not so much as an adult. I’ve never visited the Peak District before so I didn’t know what to expect, but I was blown away by the stunning scenery. I’m very much a country girl at heart; just stick me in a forest, field or by the sea and I’m as happy as Larry. So the Peak District almost felt like a natural habitat for me (well, minus the fact that I’m so not used to walking up hills!)
Our criteria was pretty much: lots of walks, be outdoors as much as possible and find some cosy pubs. Needless to say, the Peak District ticked all of our boxes.
Where to stay
The Peak District isn’t short on pretty towns, quaint hotels and holiday rentals. We used Airbnb and stayed in Bakewell, which was a very picturesque town and reasonably priced.
Our apartment was a little noisy as it was on the main road, but we loved having the pubs and shops within walking distance. Bakewell was also pretty central for exploring the rest of the Peak District, everywhere was within a half hour drive so we managed to cover a fair amount within a few days.
Other towns we thought looked nice include Matlock and Hathersage, but there are so many more little villages and holiday rentals in the countryside if you prefer somewhere quieter.
When to go to the Peak District
We visited after Christmas for a week over New Year’s. It was pretty quiet, which was perfect for us as it meant it was easy to get parked and the routes weren’t too busy! There were moments when we had the trail or peak to ourselves, which was pretty cool.
The weather was mostly sunny and clear, but quite cold. I personally prefer walking in the cold; I get so warm when I walk so I would seriously melt in the summer! Summer is meant to be a lot busier, but I imagine the Peak District looks even more beautiful in full bloom. If you’d rather dodge the crowds and the cold weather, early spring/late autumn might be a good option for you.
Where to explore in the Peak District
The main selling point of the Peak District has to be the views and the walks. If you’re not prepared to pull on some walking boots and get a bit muddy, you’ll seriously be missing out. A lot of the places we explored could only be found on foot, so grab a map and get going!
This was my favourite place and such a nice walk for New Year’s Day. It’s a fairly easy-moderate walk up to the rocks. It took us about 20 minutes to get up there and we then walked along the entire top of Stanage Edge before heading back down. We were so lucky with the weather and the views were incredible. Definitely save this one for a clear, sunny day!
Drive time: 30 minute drive from Bakewell
Parking: head to Stanage Edge car park
Walk time: 40 minutes – 1.5 hours depending on how far you walk along the top of the edge
Remember to bring: a camera or your phone to get some good photos, layers (hat and gloves) as it’s exposed at the top
More information on difficulty for Stanage Edge (we did our own version of this walk straight from the Stanage Edge car park instead)
We walked this on a cloudy day, which was perfect for us as you’re in the depths of the forest for most of it. Lud’s Church is an incredible chasm on the Dark Peak, surrounded by woodland and moss-covered rock. I’d definitely recommend visiting, it’s a beautiful and eerily serene place. History has it that this was used as a place for religious groups to meet in secret back in the 15th century, hence its name. It’s quite a walk from the car park and quite a long incline, so might not be suitable for everyone. That said, there were lots of families and young kids walking it!
Drive time: 30 minute drive from Bakewell
Parking: head to Lud’s Church car park
Walk time: schedule a couple of hours for this one
Remember to bring: layers, plenty of water, snacks/food, a map and walking poles if you need some extra help with the inclines
More information on difficulty for Lud’s Church
This looked so cool! Unfortunately it was a bit cloudy that morning, but I bet the views are even more stunning in the sunshine. We climbed Hen Cloud, which was a fairly easy to moderate walk depending on your fitness levels. The views were amazing and we sat and watched the rock climbers for a bit (and I had a panic every time one of them fell, thank God for their crash mats!). The Roaches tearoom is just a little further down the road if you need refreshments and there are plenty of longer walks around this area if you fancy it.
Drive time: 35 minutes from Bakewell
Walking time: 20 minutes – 1.5 hours depending on how far you go up and along The Roaches
Parking: along the side of the road, just head to The Roaches on your sat nav or map
Remember to bring: layers (it can be windy at the top) and the usual camera/snacks/water
More information on difficulty for The Roaches
Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud
One of my favourites! I loved the stepping stones across the river. We did our own thing and followed the signs to Thorpe, walking through the valley and fields. We spied a pub on the way there so decided to head in that direction. The hill to the pub is a bit on the steep side, but very much worth it! The pub is called The Old Dog and they did great food and gluten free options too.
With full bellies, we ambled back down the hill and back the way we came, stopping at the foot of Thorpe Cloud. The sun was out, so we decided to walk up Thorpe Cloud as it was so clear. The views were amazing but two things to note: firstly, the wind whipped up and the closer we got to the top, the harder it was to stay on your feet! Secondly, this isn’t the one if you’re scared of heights. I hate heights and I did have a few ‘bloody hell this is high’ moments. And I did cling onto a rock at one point…not my finest hour!
It’s around 300m high and the path up is quite steep. Unlike the other walks I’ve mentioned, this one was very much up the edge of the hill so you do feel a lot more exposed. I still loved it and would do it again, even with my terrified jelly legs!
Drive time: 35 minutes from Bakewell
Parking: head to Dovedale car park (Ilam)
Walking time: 2-3 hours if you do both the route to the pub and Thorpe Cloud
Remember to bring: camera or phone, layers as usual, water, snacks, walking poles if you want to do Thorpe Cloud
More information on difficulty for Dove Dale and Thorpe Cloud
Bakewell is a gorgeous, old town full of pretty side streets teeming with independent shops and well-known chains, such as Millets, Mountain Warehouse and Boots to name a few.
There are plenty of pubs and cafes in Bakewell, more than enough to keep you going if you choose Bakewell as your base, as well as a Co-op and a Spar. The town is definitely busier than I expected it to be, so bear this in mind if you decide to stay in the centre!
One place you have to visit in Bakewell is The Old Original Bakewell Pudding shop. It’s a beautiful little shop nestled along one of the quaint old-brick streets. The shop has plenty of homemade cake, including the famous Bakewell puddings and Bakewell tarts. We bought a giant Bakewell tart, thinking it would last us a few days…but we ate it within a few hours! Oops. They also have gluten free cakes, which were very nice (I’d recommend the gluten free date and walnut cake).
How to check the weather
I would recommend using the MetOffice Peak District site or the Mountain Forecast site (or both), as they seemed very accurate. We started off using the weather apps on our phone but they didn’t give us enough information, plus the weather can really vary depending on how high up you are and other weather sites didn’t take this into account.
What to bring with you
- Layers! Even in the spring/summer, as the summits tend to be cooler. If you’re going in winter, remember a warm hat, gloves and a neck buff.
- Waterproof – the weather changes so quickly in the Peaks so it’s worth taking a waterproof coat or jacket with you.
- Walking boots – these are a must. Some people were trying to walk in trainers but it looked very uncomfortable and slippery! You need to be comfortable and be able to walk across a range of terrain, such as paths, slippery mud, steep inclines and rocks.
- Snacks and water – have a bottle on you and a spare in the car, as well as some snacks or a packed lunch. We walked to a pub on the first day but some of the other walks are very rural and have no amenities. Always pack more water than you think you need!
- Maps! We didn’t use maps and just winged it, which was fine most of the time, but we did get lost on a couple of occasions and our phones had no service and no GPS! Luckily we just followed the landmarks to get us back on track. I would definitely get some maps or download the OS app.
- Thermos flask – if the weather is cold, fill up a Thermos flask with hot water and pack some milk and tea bags for a hot drink. We used the Arla Lactose Free UHT milk pouches, super handy as they don’t need to be refrigerated and they fit nicely in a backpack. The flask also doubles up as a hand warmer when it’s chilly!
- Power bank – cold weather and constantly checking your phone can chomp through battery life. Take a portable power bank with you to charge on the go.
- Foam roller – I wish we’d taken ours to leave at the apartment. Some days we walked 7-8 miles uphill (or up 71 floors one day, according to my phone!) so our legs did get a bit stiff and achey.
- Comfy socks – one thing I learnt from skiing a few years ago was to only ever wear one pair of socks. Wearing two pairs can actually make your feet colder by cutting of the circulation. Pack some warm, thermal walking socks and opt for wool or wool-blend for extra warmth.
- Change of clothes and shoes – handy to have in the car if you end up caked in mud! We also took a towel and some bags for our dirty boots/socks.
We absolutely loved our time in the Peak District and I know I definitely want to head back at some point. For now, I’m going to try and explore a bit more of the UK. We’re very much guilty of always booking holidays abroad, but this trip has shown us how good a staycation can be!
Hope you enjoyed this travel guide. Please comment below with any more recommendations for the Peak District or any suggestions for more outdoor holidays in the UK 🙂
Until next time,
P.S. If you liked this, check out my other travel posts!