Whether it’s secret mermaid pools, enchanting woodlands or unique heritage attractions, discover hidden gems in the Peak District and Derbyshire and get a taste of unique places to explore and unusual places to visit. All found off the usual tourist trail, these serene spots are the perfect place to escape from the crowds.
1. Stare up at the stars from Wirksworth's StarDisc
On the outskirts of Wirksworth, just a stroll through Stoney Wood, the StarDisc, is the perfect spot to enjoy panoramic views over the town and amazing star-gazing opportunities. Carved into black granite, the star chart mirrors the northern hemisphere's night sky and the surface of the stone circle is inscribed with the constellations, their names and a depiction of the Milky Way. By night, the StarDisc is illuminated by 72 lights powered by our nearest star - the Sun.
Don't miss: A visit to the nearby Wirksworth Heritage Centre - a great base for exploring the historic market town of Wirksworth, with fascinating exhibitions, interesting insights into life in the town and the starting place for great guided walks.
Wirskworth Heritage Centre
Business Directory Wirksworth Heritage Centre
A fascinating Derbyshire town on the southern edge of the Peak District, where the geology and landscape have shaped its character and its people for generations.
2. Admire the only Ice Age cave art in Britain at Creswell Crags
You've probably heard of the Peak District and Derbyshire's famous show caverns at Castleton, but did you know that the caves at Creswell Crags, near Bolsover, are home to Britain's only Ice Age rock art?
Nestled in a limestone gorge of caves and fissures, this site of international importance is a peaceful place to explore, with stunning lakeside walks. Discover prehistoric tools and art, learn about how our ancestors lived and see if you can spot the spooky Witch Marks, carved in the depths of the cave to keep away evil spirits.
Don't miss: Make a day of it and discover Creswell's inspiring itineraries for great things to see and do nearby.
Business Directory Creswell Crags
Wooly mammoths roamed the lands around Creswell Crags, and nomadic Neanderthal man sought shelter in Creswell Crags’ caves whilst they were following these migrating animals.
3. Find the dale with a disappearing river at Lathkill Dale
One of the most peaceful Derbyshire Dales, the pretty Lathkill Dale can be found about 3 miles from Bakewell. Lathkill is famous locally for having a stretch of 'disappearing river' which dries up during summer months or in times of drought. This is because of the abundance of old lead mining shafts and workings which draw the water underground.
With crystal-clear waters, the site is a National Nature Reserve with beautiful scenery and a rich variety of wild flowers, so always visit with care. There are riverside paths as well as footpaths over hilltops, through fields of pasture or along quiet country lanes.
4. Discover Derbyshire's 'other' Stepping Stones at Chee Dale
You've probably heard of the famous Dovedale Stepping Stones stretching across the River Dove near Ashbourne, but did you know that Chee Dale, near Buxton, is home to some gorgeous stepping stones of its own? These unique stones can be found just a stone's throw from the Monsal Trail near Miller's Dale. The stones hug a river's edge to take hikers on a journey through a beautiful limestone gorge.
Visit with care and keep a look out for local wildlife; Chee Dale has a protected nature reserve which is overseen by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust.
5. Find the 'forgotten' Magpie Mine near Bakewell
The atmospheric remains of Magpie Mine are one of the most important industrial heritage sites in Derbyshire, but many people don't know they exist! Magpie Mine was the last working lead mine in Derbyshire and the site has a fascinating history spanning more than 200 years, with tales of bitter disputes resulting in the 'murder' of three miners, and a Widows’ Curse that is said to remain to this day. In the village of Sheldon just a few miles outside of Bakewell, the site can be reached by several public footpaths.
6. Discover the wonderful world of Whitwell Wood, near Worksop
Reputed to be the largest wood in Europe, Whitwell Wood, on the Derbyshire border in a lesser-known corner of the county, covers 171 hectares. There are three quiet, signposted walks plus a picnic area, and the site is home to a wide range of flora including over 20 species that are indicators of ancient woodland!
7. Seek out the magnificent Millenium Walkway in New Mills
Rising above the River Goyt, the Millenium Walkway is a long sweep of shining steel that stretches over a fast-flowing weir at a dizzying height. It's the ideal starting place to explore the Torrs and the Riverside Park and to admire the striking Torr Vale Mill, just across the river, began life as a water-powered cotton mill in the 1780s.
Don't miss: Don’t forget to visit New Mills Heritage Centre. It's well worth the effort for the amazing miniature model of The Torrs in its heyday!
8. Discover the deep chasm of Lud's Church, near Leek
Lud’s Church is a deep, moss-covered chasm full of myths; and to walk down its stone steps deep into the cleft is to escape into another world. Close to the Roaches in Leek and Staffordshire’s Back Forest, this 18 metre deep chasm was caused by a giant landslip, which over the ages has been covered from top to bottom in vibrant moss.
Lud’s Church is not only interesting from a nature viewpoint, it’s also known for it’s history as in the 15th century it was used as a secret place for worship for people who would have otherwise been prosecuted. Other local myths say Robin Hood and Friar Tuck stayed in the cleft whilst hiding from the authorities!
9. Tickle your tastesbuds at a 'secret' vineyard in Wessington
Think vineyards are only reserved for southern England? Think again! Offering a complete escape from the outside world in the lovely village of Wessington, the family-run Amber Valley Wines is the perfect place to discover Derbyshire wine. Spend a morning or afternoon finding out how they are producing award-winning English wines on a vineyard tour and tasting session, then let the bubbles tickle your fancy as you take in panoramic views of rolling countryside.
10. Relax in the romantic Renishaw Hall Gardens, near Chesterfield
Discover a tranquil oasis in North East Derbyshire at the romantic Renishaw Hall, home of the Sitwell family for 400 years. The carefully-cultivated landscaped Italianate gardens (open from 31 March 2021) are a delight to explore, and in summer an unmistakably floral scent follows you around the path around the lake. Seek out ornamental ponds, a spectacular fountain, garden rooms, classical statues, and overflowing borders, whilst kids will love the Children’s Garden with its living willow tunnel and areas perfect for hide and seek.
Renishaw Hall & Gardens
Business Directory Renishaw Hall & Gardens
Renishaw Hall and Gardens have been home to the Sitwell family for almost 400 years. The present owner, Alexandra Sitwell, welcomes you to visit her home.
11. Explore the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the Derwent Valley
Set amidst breathtaking countryside, the East Midlands' only UNESCO World Heritage Site is a hidden gem in plain sight: offering fascinating insights into industrial and social life during the 18th and 19th centuries.
Snaking 15 miles down the river valley from Matlock Bath to Derby, it contains a fascinating series of historic mill complexes, including some of the world’s first ‘modern’ factories with plenty of hidden tales to tell.
Discover the world's first water-powered cotton spinning mill at Cromford and enjoy a horse-drawn canal boat ride, find the inspiration for modern skyscrapers at Belper North Mill and wander the peaceful Belper River Gardens and see the most complete 18th century mill complex in the world at Darley Abbey.
Don't miss: Look out for the brand new Museum of Making at Derby Silk Mill, set to open in Spring 2021!
Discover the Derwent Valley
Business Directory Cromford Mills
Explore the history of Cromford Mills and discover the captivating story of how the Derwent Valley changed the world in the 18th Century with the growth of the British cotton industry.
12. Step back in time at the 'unstately' home of Calke Abbey
Poised somewhere between gentle neglect and downright dereliction, Calke Abbey is unlike other great country estates. Peeling paintwork and abandoned rooms tell the story of a country house in decline, while a vast collection reveals the varied interests of an eccentric family who never threw anything away.
Outside, Calke is surrounded by historic parkland with ancient oaks, secluded ponds and miles of woodland walks. Calke Explore – an outdoor recreation area nestled among the woodland – provides the perfect base to begin exploring the wider estate, with a natural play area, refreshment kiosk and access to walking and cycling routes.
Don't miss: The underground tunnels which run beneath the House and a rare surviving auricula theatre in the flower garden!
Discover Calke Abbey
13. Discover the hidden 'Druids caves' near Birchover
A hidden gem in the ancient village of Birchover, the eye-catching outcrop of Rowter Rocks are home to caves, rooms, tunnels, steps and even a stone armchair! Despite being touted to Victorian tourists as the remains of an ancient Druid community, they were actually carved by a local man over 300 years ago.
14. Go wildlife watching at Carr Vale Nature Reserve, near Bolsover
One of the top sites for bird watching in Derbyshire, this is the perfect peaceful spot for nature-lovers: the wetland reserve has a mixture of open water, marsh, wet and dry grassland, scrub and trees, making it an ideal attraction for a rich variety of birds throughout the year.
Carr Vale Nature Reserve
15. Discover the Peak District's first Whisky Distillery
Tucked away in Shining Cliff Woods above Ambergate, White Peak Distillery is the perfect place for cool refreshments served in the stunning surroundings of the old wire works. Don't miss out on the chance to try the aptly named, award-winning Shining Cliff Gin made using locally-foraged botanicals!
Don't miss: Also see the area's newest visitor attraction, the Great British Car Journey, which is set to open in Spring 2021.
White Peak Distillery
16. Explore the ancient capital of Mercia in South Derbyshire
Around 8 miles from Derby, Repton is one of England's most attractive towns and also one of its most ancient. This picture-perfect South Derbyshire town was once the capital of the Saxon Kingdom of Mercia and the local church, St Wystan's, is the burial ground of Saxon Kings!
Don't miss: Soak up the history in the beautifully-preserved Saxon crypt before taking a stroll to the famous nearby Repton School (where famous alumni include Jeremy Clarkson).
17. Sample the healing waters of 'Aquae Arnemetiae'
It was the Romans that first discovered the health benefits of the waters that flow from the limestone hills to the south of Buxton. They referred to these thermal springs as 'Aquae Arnemetiae' - the Spa of the Goddess of the Grove. Buxton has been famous for its healing waters for centuries, but not many people know that you can sample the famous water straight from the spring at St Ann's Well in the town centre. Don't forget to bring your bottle!
Don't miss: Discover fascinating facts about the town's history and heritage on the Discover Buxton tram tour throughout the town; a converted milk float that looks like a double decker bus!
Business Directory Buxton Crescent Experience
Set in nine intimate rooms at The Buxton Crescent, this engaging visitor experience tells the stories of Buxton, The Crescent, its famous water and the many people who came to seek its cure
18. Admire the stunning old sawmill at Osmaston Park
Tucked away just off the A52 south east of Ashbourne, Osmaston is an idyllic village, with thatched cottages around scenic village pond. For an enchanting woodland stroll, take a walk through the glorious Osmaston Park, with its lakes and woodland. Follow the rambling paths and discover a different delight around every corner, including lakes and a picturesque old water mill with its large wheel and Swiss-chalet style roof. Please note: Always treat the area and local residents with respect and park only in designated areas.
19. Delve a little deeper on a heritage walk around Belper
With its award-winning high street and prominent position at the heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Belper might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of hidden gems. But take a heritage tour of the town to discover behind-the-scenes delights that could easily be overlooked. From the tranquil Belper River Gardens to the pretty millworkers' cottages tucked away on Long Row, the 'Old Nick' police station and the former ropewalk used for rope-plaiting, you're sure to discover something new. There are two self-guided walks to enjoy: Belper Heritage Walk 1 and Belper Heritage Walk 2.
Belper Heritage Walk
Business Directory Belper River Gardens
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
20. Learn about the mysterious mermaid pool near Longnor
There are many mysteries surrounding this beautifully located pool, perched on the idyllic Roaches in the southwest of the Peak District National Park. The original attraction to this site was rumours of an evil mermaid haunting the waters. Many also believe that the pool is bottomless, while others claim that it is linked underground to the nearby Blake Mere.
Take the trip to this scenery-engulfed site to appreciate the great outdoors in a different way.
Don't miss: Lookout for the local colony of Wallabies - yes, really! It's said that 5 escaped from a nearby zoo during World War II and there have been sightings and photographic evidence as recent as 2015.
21. Enjoy the picturesque scenery at Poulter Country Park, near Bolsover
This pretty country park is a great place for nature-lovers to see many different birds, wildflowers, butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies. Visitors can walk on waymarked limestone paths and look out for 'art along the way' with various sculptures dotted around the park. Click here to see a video.
Sign up to our newsletter
Receive the latest news, special offers, ideas and inspiration straight to your inbox by signing up to the Visit Peak District & Derbyshire e-newsletter.