In 1951, the Peak District became the first area of Britain to be designated a national park. Most of the park is in northern Derbyshire, but it also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Yorkshire. It is split into the northern Dark Peak, which is mostly moorland, and the southern White Peak, where most of the population lives.
An easy commute from Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, the Peak District is the perfect location for a long weekend to recharge the batteries. There are lots of things to do in the area, so we’ve picked our top 10 to help you plan your break at a Peak District holiday cottage.
Cyclists who aren’t afraid of the odd hill or two couldn’t ask for much more from the Peak District. Pretty villages, amazing views, interesting history, fascinating wildlife and geology – it’s all there to be appreciated from the saddle of your bike. Both mountain bikers and road cyclists are catered for in the Peak District. The official website for the national park provides the following guidance for cyclists that caters for all abilities and requirements, ensuring that you choose the right route:
- Easy Going – ideal for beginners, family and leisure cyclists these are gentle, mainly traffic-free routes
- Explorer – multi-terrain circular rides for those wanting to explore the real Peak District
- Extended – multi-day routes designed for the cyclist who wants more of a challenge
The Peak District is a walker’s paradise and there is something for everyone. You can explore steep-sided limestone dales and dramatic high moorlands on a challenging hike, or take a short stroll around a pretty village.
Follow national or local trails, or create your own routes by taking advantage of the 202 square miles of open access land and the 1,867 miles of rights of way. If you like a challenge, take on the 268 miles of the Pennine Way National Trail, which follows the Pennine chain from Edale. If that’s not difficult enough, The Trans Pennine Trail is part of the E8 European Walking Route, which connects Cork in Ireland to Istanbul in Turkey – a mere 2,500 miles, so one for that extended sabbatical rather than a long weekend!
- Bird watching
There are a lot of nature reserves in the Peak District and some of these are home to rare or unusual species. The moorland areas of the Dark Peak are great places to spot bird life including golden plover, merlin, and the rare and protected hen harriers. Peregrine falcons have taken up residence in a number of active and disused quarries in the area, and curlews, lapwings, skylarks and green woodpeckers are often heard or seen too.
Blue tit perched on a branch
There are lots of options for keen cavers in the Peak District, including heading to Castleton to explore the depths of Titan Cave, which at over 141m is the highest natural cavern in the UK. If caving is something you would like to have a go at, there are several activity centres in the Peak District such as Dolomite Training; they offer day courses under the guidance of a qualified instructor and will provide all the necessary equipment. All you need to remember is warm clothes and your sense of adventure!
- Gliding, paragliding and hang gliding
As if there isn’t enough to do on the ground, you could try hang gliding or paragliding and gain a fresh perspective on the Peak District. There are several BHPA (British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association) schools in the region, including the Derbyshire Flying Centre in Bretton. Book a tandem flight or sign up for a training course.
If you aren’t willing or able to go gliding yourself, you can watch other people taking to the skies at Mam Tor which is a major local centre for hang gliding and paragliding.
- Fell running
Fell running is a popular pastime in the Peak District and one of the most infamous races is the High Peak Marathon, a 42-mile night time navigation endurance challenge for teams of four. The route traverses the Derwent Watershed, starting and finishing at Edale, Derbyshire. Would you attempt to undertake such a mission?
- Horse Riding
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced, confident rider, exploring the Peak District on horse back is well worth a try. It allows you to either relax and soak up the scenery on a gentle hack or get adventurous on a self-guided ride on the bridleway network.
Horse riders are welcome on the dedicated 65 miles of off-road shared use trails in the Peak District. If you are staying at Hawksmoor Barn, you are a short drive away from the Tissington Trekking Centre, on the beautiful Tissington Estate. Run by a small, friendly team, the trekking centre caters for all abilities and offers escorted treks through some of Derbyshire’s most stunning scenery.
- Rock Climbing
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced rock climber, the Peak District offers everything from taster sessions on indoor climbing walls to advanced, multi-pitch climbing days. Among other things, Rock Climbing Peak District offer group rock climbing days and help with the transition from indoor climbing wall to real rock, so they are a great starting point if you would like to explore the possibility of rock climb during your Peak District holiday cottage break.
Rock climbing in the Peak District
- Water Sports
It may be a land-locked county, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy water sports in Derbyshire. Take to the waters at one of the Peak District’s reservoirs in a powerboat, canoe, kayak or on a surf board. Carsington Sports and Leisure offers taster sessions for a variety of watersports, and also offers equipment hire and a variety of courses that cater for all abilities, from absolute beginner to advanced.
Sailing clubs operate on many of the reservoirs in and around the Peak District in stunning surroundings including Carsington, Rudyard, Combs, Errwood, Dovestone and Torside.
If you would prefer a quiet swim to an action-packed day out in a boat then there is a heated open air pool at Hathersage in the Hope Valley which, during the summer months, offers the opportunity to swim amidst the glorious Peak District scenery.
- Sheepskin’s Peak District Collection
We are very proud of our collection of holiday homes in the Peak District. Each of the Sheepskin properties in the area has its own unique character, but all of them share the common theme of having been finished to an exceptionally high standard. Whether you are looking for a romantic bolthole for two or a spacious family holiday home for six, our Peak District collection has something to offer everyone.