Free things to do blog

Free things to do in the Peak District and Derbyshire

From free attractions to great activities, here’s our guide to some of the best free days out in the Peak District and Derbyshire to keep the whole family entertained.

The Peak District and Derbyshire is an outdoor paradise, packed with things to see and do. Better still, the area has a wealth of free attractions and activities for all ages to enjoy.

From fantastic places to picnic, to play areas and nature sites to go wild in and plenty of wonders to admire, the Peak District and Derbyshire is the perfect destination for any budget.

With this in mind, here’s our guide to some of the best free days out in the Peak District and Derbyshire to keep the whole family entertained.

Kinder Scout

1. Enjoy great walks around Kinder Scout

The highest point in the National Park boasts unforgettable views, unique moorland and even a waterfall. Kinder Scout also offers some of the most challenging but rewarding walks in the Peak District, where you’ll encounter gentle streams, dark gritstone, steep rocks to scramble up, unique peat and the glorious Kinder Downfall. Accessible from the villages of Edale (where there's a well-linked train station) and Hayfield in the High Peak, walks around Kinder offer a breathtaking – and free – journey through many different landscapes, illustrating the diversity of the Peak District.

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Business Directory Kinder Scout


2. Explore the 'Plague Village' of Eyam

Step back in time in the atmospheric village of Eyam, known to visitors and residents alike as the 'Plague Village'. Discover the incredible story of its selfless villagers, who sealed themselves off from the outside world in the 17th century to prevent the deadly disease from spreading to neighbouring communities.

Trace the fascinating tale of how the Plague was brought to this White Peak village in a bolt of infected cloth from London in 1665, and take in key locations such as the church of St Lawrence, Plague Cottages, Cucklet Delf – where outdoor church services were held during the Plague and - just outside the village - the Riley Graves and Mompesson's Well.

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3. Discover great traffic-free cycling trails

Did you know there are over 260 miles of traffic-free cycle trails to explore in Derbyshire? Enjoy fun for the whole family on a gentle bike ride on some of the area’s finest biking routes. From easy-going trails along former railway lines to scenic routes through rolling hills, we’ve got it all. Plus, if you haven’t got your own bike there are plenty of places to hire bikes too!

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Trails Monsal Trail

Padley 2 2129641453 1

4. Explore the Longshaw Estate and Padley Gorge

Trails Longshaw Estate & Padley Gorge Walk

The picturesque Longshaw Estate is home to a network of footpaths and bridleways with ancient woods, gritstone crags and heather moorland. This dramatic landscape is the perfect backdrop for a walk or a more adventurous hike, and provides a stunning landscape for an adventure in the great outdoors. It’s also a great hub to start from before you explore Burbage and the Eastern Moors, where you can enjoy the view from Dukes Seat or take a walk through Padley Gorge, known for its pretty streams and waterside walks.

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Trails Longshaw Estate & Padley Gorge Walk


5. Step back in time at Creswell Crags

Walk in the footsteps of early humans and woolly mammoths through the dramatic gorge of Creswell Crags, home to Britain’s only Ice Ace cave art! The gorge has changed little since the Ice Age and visitors can enjoy exploring amongst the timeless beauty of their woodland, meadow, and reflective lake. Visits to the Gorge itself are free, but you can also book a cave tour or visit the fascinating on-site museum for just £3 per adult.

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Business Directory Creswell Crags

Chris seddon

6. Visit Derby Museum of Making

Celebrating the area’s rich history of innovation, the Museum of Making in the Derwent Valley Mills UNESCO World Heritage Site tells Derby’s 300-year history of making on what is widely regarded as the site of the world’s first factory. Designed and made by the people and industries of Derby with exhibits, workshops, activities and events, there’s something for everyone. Entry is free, with the exception of some temporary exhibitions.

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Business Directory Museum of Making

Cromford canal

7. Amble along Cromford Canal

Now a picturesque and relaxing place for a countryside walk, Cromford Canal was once a buzzing hub of Derbyshire’s industry. The northern stretch of the canal lies within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site and is an attractive visitor destination, with five miles to explore along the towpath. Because of the rich diversity of wildlife, the canal is designated as a site of special scientific interest.

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Business Directory Cromford Canal

Upper derwent

8. Discover the Upper Derwent Valley

The Peak District’s Derwent and Howden Reservoirs boast some of the Peak District’s most spectacular scenery, and are sometimes referred to as 'Derbyshire’s Lake District'. Take a waterside walk or bike ride from Fairholmes Visitor Centre, run by the Peak District National Park Authority, and complete a circuit of both reservoirs, soaking up stunning views along the way. There’s a beautiful old packhorse bridge as a great halfway point and picnic stop, plus a cycle hire station at the start as well as a café and toilets.

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Business Directory Upper Derwent Valley

Curbar Edge

9. Explore the Peak District's famous edges

Britain’s original National Park is widely known for its dramatic gritstone edges which offer stunning views, walks and the ideal terrain for rock climbers. Curbar Edge, Stanage Edge, Bamford Edge and Derwent Edge are some of the most popular gritstone edges to explore and provide a stunning year-round setting for a walk.

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Business Directory Stanage Edge


10. Walk the Great Ridge from Mam Tor to Lose Hill

This exhilarating ridge walk near the picturesque village of Castleton connects some of the most admired and stunning parts of the Peak District. Voted one of the best ridge walks in the country, the walk gives stunning views over Edale, the Hope Valley and even Kinder Scout. There is also an option to extend this route to an 8 mile walk to include a stroll by the river on the way back.

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Trails Castleton, Mam Tor & The Great Ridge Walk

Buxton museum

11. Learn about local history at Buxton Museum

Buxton Museum and Art Gallery focuses its collection on history, geology and archaeology primarily from the Peak District and Derbyshire. The museum is free to enter and there's lots of information about the history of the area with over 1,200 objects on display, plus a changing exhibition programme, ensuring there's always something different to discover for visitors of all ages.

Belper river

12. Take a picnic to Belper River Gardens and enjoy a Heritage Walk

These unique riverside gardens have been offering visitors a tranquil setting to view the River Derwent for over 100 years. Located within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, adjacent to Strutt's historic North Mill, the riverside promenade allows flat easy access to the gardens and riverside. As well as gardens with a central bandstand, there's a large play area for children inspired by the history of Belper and the cotton mill industry. Enjoy a picnic and a relaxed walk, taking in some of the area's fascinating heritage.

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Trails Belper Heritage Walk


13. Take a stroll around Elvaston Castle Country Park

With over 300 acres of open parkland to explore, including woodland and historical formal gardens, there are plenty of places to stretch your legs at Elvaston Castle Country Park. Located just outside of Derby city, at the heart of the estate lies Elvaston Castle, a gothic revival masterpiece (not open to the public) designed by James Wyatt in the early 1800s. Whatever the season there's always lots to see and do in and around the park including walking, cycling, horse riding, bird watching, picnicking, kite flying, photography and much more.

New Mills

14. Cross the Millennium Walkway

This 175-yard aerial walkway spans a cliffside above the River Goyt linking to Torrs Riverside Park, the starting point for several of the area’s most stunning walking and cycling routes. Head to the nearby New Mills Heritage Centre to pick up maps and guides for great walks including the circular town trail and the iconic Kinder Trespass Trail.

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Business Directory Millennium Walkway


15. Explore the Erewash Valley

The Erewash Valley is a lesser-known part of Derbyshire, bursting with hidden gems, a highlight of which is the engineering marvel of Bennerley Viaduct. This Grade II* listed railway viaduct was built in 1877 and stands 20m above the Erewash Valley, at a quarter of a mile long! It's the longest wrought iron viaduct in the country and was recently reopened to provide an eye-catching walking and cycling route.

16. Stroll through scenic Shining Cliff Wood

Discover the rich history of Shining Cliff Wood, and look out for a diverse array of flora and fauna, in this ancient woodland which was once part of the royal hunting forest of Duffield Frith. Now a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the wood supports a diverse bird community including warblers, flycatchers and bramblings. In the spring, coppiced sycamore trees provide a canopy for a carpet of bluebells. There is a circular waymarked trail for visitors which pass by the remains of the Betty Kenny Tree which is said to be 2,000 years old!

Buxton pavilion

17. Buxton Pavilion Gardens

With a combination of walks, lakes, play areas and a miniature train, these charming Victorian gardens at the cente of Buxton - renowned for its 'healing spa waters' since Roman times - are a firm favourite with visitors of all ages. In the summer, there's a programme of regular events including music in the bandstand, and there's also a year-round programme of markets and fairs.

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Business Directory The Pavilion Gardens

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