The Peak District National Park is quickly becoming one of my favorite places in England. The scenery is stunning, the villages are charming, and there is so much you can do in terms of outdoor activities. On my most recent trip to the Peak District, I was based in Edale and spent most of my time hiking and exploring the Hope Valley. I visited Bamford, Hope, Castleton, Winnat’s Pass, hiked up Mam Tor, and walked around the Ladybower Reservoir. You can see my favorite photos from the trip here!
I arrived in Bamford via the Ladybower Reservoir (just a bit north). Bamford is a very small town, but they have a town-run pub, café, and post office that I stopped at for lunch (the Angler’s Rest). They also have free public toilets on the main road! One thing you shouldn’t miss are the Bamford Stepping Stones, which let you cross the river and are located right by the mill. Bamford also has a nice church with a tall tower.
Another quaint small town, Hope has a smattering of accommodation, pubs (I think I saw one that even doubles as a Chinese restaurant?!), cafes, and shops. There’s a small church, St. Peter’s Church, which looks exceptionally pretty with the flowers in spring. If you’re starting to get desperate for a store (for snacks or otherwise), there’s a big SPAR that sells what you might need.
Castleton is the shining star of this area of the Peaks. The postcard perfect buildings (like the cover photo for this post) are just one of the attractions the place provides. If you want the picture of Castleton, follow the Peakshole Water stream from the car park/visitor center to where Goosehill street becomes the Stones. The water and the buildings make for a perfect Peak District photo. There’s a small museum in Castleton, which was unfortunately closed when I visited, but is attached to the tourist office. St. Edmond’s Church is another nice country church, and make sure to pop by the quaint Market Place just a few steps away. One of my favorite things in Castleton was Peveril Castle, built by the son of William the Conqueror and used as a hunting lodge. The castle is mainly in ruins today, but gives spectacular views of the entire Hope Valley (including Castleton itself) from the top. It’s run by English Heritage.
Castleton is also famous for its nearby caverns, which you could easily spend a whole day seeing all of them! I visited Blue John Cavern, which is located right by Mam Tor and takes you underground to explore the caves (tours last about an hour). Blue John Stone is still mined here in winter, and I definitely recommend it based on my visit. Peak Cavern is closest to Castleton (and the easiest to access), which has the largest cave entrance in England. It’s known as the Devil’s Arse, which I think is hilarious. Speedwell Cavern is right at the entrance to Winnat’s Pass, with a focus on underground lakes and flooded tunnels. Treak Cliff Cavern, near both Speedwell and Blue John Cavern, is meant to have loads of stalactites and also mines Blue John Stone.
Winnat’s Pass is one of the most spectacular sights in the Peak District. The steep, narrow, twisting road is one of the most dramatic due to the fact that it’s in a narrow valley and surrounded by steep cliffs. It is part of a now collapsed limestone cave system, and is well worth a hike up to the top to see the views (and watch the traffic) from above. This climb was brutal for me, but after getting to the top I had no regrets!
Looking over Castleton (and the whole Hope Valley) is Mam Tor, one of the most popular peaks in the Peak District. It’s 517 meters (1,696 feet) up to the very top, and one thing you absolutely can’t miss in the area. While it’s so popular it might feel a bit crowded, the path from the road has stone steps up to the summit, so it’s easily accessible. The views across the Vale of Edale are simply phenomenal. If you hike only one peak in this area of the Peak District, this should be it! It’s a very popular site for paragliding.
Another quaint village in the area, Edale is the southern end of the Pennine Way (which runs north for 250 miles to the Scottish Borders) and very popular for hiking. Nestled in the valley, there is another charming country church (the Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity), a café connected with the train station, and a fantastic pub (serving excellent food), the Rambler Inn.
Although technically this isn’t in the area of the Hope Valley, I wanted to include it since it was part of my hiking weekend in the Peaks. The Ladybower Reservoir is Y-shaped and located in the Upper Derwent Valley of the Peak District, It was built in the late 1930s to supply the water needs of the East Midlands. There are other reservoirs in the area (like the Derwent and Howden Reservoirs)—it is such a pretty and scenic area of the Peak District!
For my two-day hiking itinerary, I started Day 1 in Hope, and walked from Hope to Castleton, Winnat’s Pass, Mam Tor, and back to Edale (where I was staying the night). On Day 2, I started in Edale, walked to the Ladybower Reservoir, then to Bamford, and finished at Hope (where I caught the train home). Some of the hiking was quite strenuous, but I was never rushing to fit everything in (I spent an hour lost in a field with sheep, and stopped for 2+ hours for lunch in Bamford).
The Basics: The Peak District is a National Park in the Midlands of England. Most of it is located in the county of Derbyshire. The Peak District was the first National Park in the country, created in 1951.
Getting Around: Nearly all of the towns mentioned are connected by the Hope Valley train that runs from Sheffield to Manchester. Bamford, Hope, and Edale are all connected by the hourly (or every other hour) service. While having your own transportation is best for exploring most rural areas, it is possible to get around this area of the Peaks by a combination of train and foot. There are buses that link up the small towns, but as I didn’t take them I don’t have much information to offer.
Where I Stayed: I was based in Edale for this weekend in the Peak District, at an Airbnb. The only downside was that Airbnb mistakenly showed the incorrect location on GoogleMaps—and since I was traveling without a car, it meant a bit of a hassle getting to/from Hope train station (and it was a 20-minute walk down a pitch black road with only cellphone lights to get there from Edale train station). Everything else was lovely though: the room was small but the bed was comfortable, we had our own bathroom (always a plus), our host Michelle was so nice, the breakfast spread was excellent (and eggs and bacon were cooked fresh!), the house was so quaint and the view of the valley was amazing. It was a perfect location for a weekend of walking in the peaks. I would absolutely stay here again, although I would seriously try to get my own transportation!
The Peak District National Park is fast becoming one of my favorite places in England. There is so much to do, see, and explore in the area. If you want to get outdoors, this is one place you can’t miss!
Check out my vlog about my weekend in the Peak District on YouTube!
Have you ever been to the Peak District or another national park? What did you like or dislike?