How to get the most out of your trip to the Peak District
We’ve worked in partnership with This Expansive Adventure to create this guide to help you get more from your trip to the Peak District and Derbyshire.
About this guide: We’ve worked in partnership with This Expansive Adventure to create this guide to help you get more from your trip to the Peak District and Derbyshire. This Expansive Adventure is an online resource and blog aimed at making our time outdoors more enriching, enjoyable, safe, and sustainable without the fuss. The founders, Fay & Matt Doyle have a special affinity with the Peak District and Derbyshire. Having grown up and with family in the area, they’ve spent many years familiar with the picturesque views, sense of excitement, outdoors experiences, incredible history, and much more that can be found here.
There is so much on offer in the Peak District & Derbyshire whether it’s your first time or hundredth time visiting. Depending on what interests you or what you want out of your trip, there is something here for everyone. Below, we’ve highlighted our top tips for getting the most out of your trip to the Peak District so you have the best experience you can.
In Brief: How to Get the Most Out of Your Trip of the Peak District:
- Explore Activities That Are Right for You
- Get A Sense of Variety
- Leave Space for Spontaneity
- Plan How You’ll Get There
- Looking After Yourself and Your Surroundings
- Make Your Stay Part of the Experience
- Enjoy Local
1. Explore Activities That Are Right for You
What do You Want from Your Trip?
Whether you’re going to be visiting for a weekend, a week, or even longer, there’s so much to explore that you might find yourself wanting to over plan – we get it! However, we’d really recommend when planning to think about what it is you want from your trip. Is it a sense of peace and quiet and gentle time in nature? Is it a sense of achievement from peak bagging, climbing, mountain biking or tackling a longer distance trail? Is it trying out more accessible trails? Is it experiencing historic houses in the area? Or something more restful and recuperating?
If you can identify what it is you’re looking for from your trip, you’re likely to have an experience which is really memorable and enriching for you.
Discover Something New
If you’ve done any amount of research already around the Peak District and Derbyshire, you’ve likely come across a number of areas that are very popular and well known.
Whilst incredibly beautiful and popular for a reason, there is so much more to the area than just these locations. The chances are, if you’re visiting on a weekend, peak season or in a school holiday, these trails or locations can become extremely busy, overrun, and not actually give you the experience you might be wanting on your visit.
Given that there is so much to explore in the area, there are a lot of lesser-known trails and places that can stir up a sense of adventure, feel incredibly exciting and sometimes like you’re really in the wilderness!
How do you know if you’ll enjoy them as much? Well, that’s party of the fun. We personally find exploring off the beaten path exciting as it can allow you to explore something that a lot of other people maybe aren’t. So, how do you find trails and experiences like this? Here are some starting points for inspiration to explore hidden gems and lesser-known trails in the Peak District & Derbyshire:
- Explore some of our guides on This Expansive Adventure for Peak District hiking and trails for varied abilities with downloadable trail maps
- Get some inspiration on hidden gems in the area by Visit Peak District & Derbyshire as well as lesser explored areas close to popular locations like Kinder Scout such as the Goyt Valley. There’s also an extensive range of walking trails to be downloaded here
- Explore quieter cycling routes such as Manifold Way and the Tissington Trail
- For more accessible trails in the area, you could look at hiring a Tramper. This is a great option if you have limited mobility or additional mobility needs, are recovering from health issues, or want to explore further but may not manage a longer walk or cycle ride. You can find details of where you can hire Trampers in the Peak District here. Some of the accessible trails with flat level access include Monsal Trail, High Peak Trail, Manifold Track (all of which you can also hire bikes) as well as Carsington Water and Upper Derwent Reservoirs
- If you’re more into checking out history and beautiful architecture, consider times that might be less busy or ways you could arrive car free. For example, Chatsworth House is easily accessible via public transport from places like Sheffield, Chesterfield and Bakewell. Whilst places like Chatsworth may be more popular, there are also many other historic houses and hidden gems to explore too, such as Hardwick Hall, Bolsover Castle, Calke Abbey, Kedleston Hall and Hopton Hall to name a few.
Have a Back-Up Plan
It’s always a good idea to have a backup plan for the places you want to visit in case you get to your location, and you find the trail to be really busy or with no parking available. There’s a good chance if something is as busy as that, you won’t enjoy it as much.
As frustrating as it can be when you’ve got your sights set on something with perfect weather, you’ll likely have a better experience somewhere quieter. We always like to have two or three alternatives to what we had planned just in case. Your free time is valuable, so having backups allows you to still have a really great experience (and sometimes even better than what you’d planned in the first place).
If visiting with public transport and you know the place you’re planning to go is likely to be busy, see if you could visit instead mid week when it’s likely to be quieter or look for other options from similar starting points that may not be as busy.
Get a Sense of Adventure
Whether you’re new to the area or not, creating a sense of variety on your trip can be really rewarding and sometimes lead you to explore things that you maybe wouldn’t have before. It can also be a great way to try new things or gain a different perspective.
For example, there are many companies offering guided outdoors experiences such as climbing on world-class crags, mountain bike courses, navigation and much more. If looking into guided experiences and courses, it’s always best to book with local companies who have on the ground knowledge and care for the environment at heart.
There are various companies and organisations in the local area that offer fantastic opportunities to explore in different ways. Some of which include:
- Pure Outdoor who won a gold Ethical, Responsible and Sustainable Tourism Award in 2023 at the Peak District & Derbyshire Tourism Awards in 2023 and were also shortlisted for the prestigious national 2023 Visit England Awards for Excellence due to their sustainability commitment
- My Guided Walks who are a passionate local guided walk provider committed to having a positive overall impact on the environment and winner of Silver Ethical, Responsible & Sustainable Tourism Award at the Peak District & Derbyshire Tourism Awards 2023. They also run photography experience workshops such as the popular Mountain Hare Photography Walks
- You can also book directly with the National Park Authority too for guided walks and experiences in the area.
The Peak District and Derbyshire really does have so much to explore, and it really is worth thinking outside the box for your trip. Other ideas include the many caverns at Castleton, such as Treak Cliff and Speedwell Cavern which offer the chance to enjoy a truly immersive underground experience. There’s Peak Wildlife Park, Heights of Abraham and Denby that all boast great environmental credentials. As well as hidden gems such as Creswell Crags which is home to Britain’s earliest Ice Age Cave Art all the way through to the Churnet Valley Railway which ambles through the peaceful Peak District countryside.
Leave Space for Spontaneity
We’ve all done it before – planned a whole trip out to the very last second as there’s so many things you want to see and do. However, this can often feel like you’re literally running from one thing to the next just to say you’ve been there. It can leave you feeling tired and to be honest, a bit burnt out from your trip. This might not always be possible, especially if you’re only visiting for a couple of days, but we’d always advise planning the parts you need to, but leaving a few days, or even one day aside where you can explore without a plan.
The likely scenario is that whilst you’re on your way to something else, another area will catch your eye. However, if you have everything planned out, you leave yourself no room to change plans and explore a little further afield. Things almost always present themselves to you when you’re on the ground and these can sometimes be the things you remember the most about a trip. This is also the best way to make the most of the weather. If you’re short on time, even leaving a morning free can allow you the space to take things a little slower or explore an area that might be closer by and easier to fit into your day.
Plan How You'll Get There
Whilst travelling by car has its advantages, the Peak District and Derbyshire actually has many options for travelling by public transport. Whilst it might not be possible to get to every trailhead of area with this option, there are many areas you can. This is often very competitive in price when you think of possible fuel and car park costs too. If you’re planning to stay in one of the nearby cities or towns with train links for example, there are actually a whole range of car free walks from train stations that are highlighted here. In fact, getting the train can mean that you’ve less to think about, don’t have to bother driving when tired, and considering the countryside many of the routes below travel through, can be a really nice part of the journey. Some attractions will even provide discounts when arriving by public transport, such as Heights of Abraham in Matlock Bath. Various trainlines serving trailheads and other attractions are:
- The Hope Valley Line (connecting some of the Peak District’s most-loved beauty spots to Manchester and Sheffield). Hop off the train and climb Kinder Scout or visit the beauty spots of Bamford Edge by train
- The Manchester-Buxton line
- The Derwent Valley line that runs from Nottingham & Derby to Matlock through the heart of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
Aside from taking the train, there are numerous bus routes that will take you past a whole range of trailheads and areas which can be found here.
If travelling by car, having backup plans is always a great idea in case you get to the car park and it’s full. This also avoids a build up of parking in areas that may look ok at first glance but are not designated parking areas and can actually stop access for local traffic and worse still, emergency vehicles. You could also look to vary your days and travel by public transport to areas you can, and by car to things that are harder to get to (which also gives you a welcome break from the wheel).
If you fancy something a little more strenuous or simply want to make it part of the experience, you could also look at cycling as a way of getting around the area. There are plenty of areas to leave your bike at many of the trailheads, as well as cycle storage at most train stations in the area.
Looking After Yourself and Your Surroundings
Whatever you’re planning, being as prepared as possible can help you take care of yourself as much as your surroundings. For example, if you’re planning your visit in summer, and depending on the length of your activity, be sure to take at least 2 litres of water per person. Make sure you have adequate shoes or equipment for what you have planned.
If you’re out hiking, make sure you’re wearing shoes with good grip and adequate ankle support, and in winter, are waterproof. If you’re out on a hot sunny day, try to be mindful that you may not feel up for doing as much as usual. Try to seek out shade where possible, and don’t be afraid to switch course if the heat becomes too much and remember sun cream.
Likewise, in less than perfect conditions, be sure to turn back if the weather changes or becomes worse and keep an eye on weather forecasts – remembering that the peaks and remote places can change very quickly. Taking care of these things can not only mean you’ll have a more memorable trip for the right reasons, but it also keeps you safe and cuts down on the need for mountain rescue call outs.
Be sure to keep an eye on the places you visit too and make sure that all you leave are footprints. For example, sticking to trails as much as possible, not lighting BBQ’s or fires and keeping dogs on a lead to help protect nesting birds. It might sound obvious, but being a responsible visitor can all have an incredibly positive impact on the environment and keep it looking great for years to come.
For more information, be sure to check out the #PeakDistrictProud Code for being a responsible visitor. If you’re unfamiliar with #PeakDistrictProud, the code sets out a number of core and simple ways that you can help make your visit kinder to your surroundings. On the website, you can also find ways you can get involved yourself in protecting the landscape, such as being able to hire litter picking kits, or get involved in observations and larger events.
Make Your Stay Part of the Experience
Where you stay doesn’t need to just be somewhere you lay your head for the evening, it can become part of the experience. Travelling and exploring that little bit slower and savoring the experiences around you are going to lead to you having a really memorable trip.
For example, some of the accommodation providers in the Peak District and Derbyshire Dales are part of the Peaks & Dales E-Bike Holiday Hire Scheme, which means guests at their properties can hire electric bikes during their visit. This gives a fantastic opportunity to explore in a different way, up close and personal and potentially without even needing a car.
If you want to feel immersed in nature, the Wildhive Hotel have a living roof whereas the Casa Hotel and Peak Edge Hotel in Chesterfield both use locally-sourced produce grown on the owner’s nearby Walton Lodge farm.
If camping, glamping or log cabins are more your thing there are some great options too. For example, the Rivendale Lodge Retreat offers plant-based menus as well as electric vehicle charging. Hoe Grange Holidays offer eco friendly log cabins which are heated using renewable technologies, including solar and wind power. Whereas Upper Hurst Farm in Hartington is a nature based caravan park and campsite which encourages biodiversity in the surrounding fields and hedgerows with energy provided sustainably.
It's also very possible to use a bigger town or city as your base to explore the Peak District and surrounding Derbyshire. Whilst it may be temping as well to want to stay right on the fringe of the National Park, wider Derbyshire has a lot to offer too. For example, Chesterfield has great transport links to larger cities where other lines can be caught into the Peak District, as well as having easy access by bus to the National Park with reasonably priced accommodation options.
It's not just the most obvious towns and cities like Sheffield and Manchester that you should consider either. Derby has a great feel and unique culture to offer, such as the Museum of Making, Bustler Street Food Market, QUAD, Derby Riverboat and many more. This often overlooked area is a real gem, and offers reasonably priced accommodation with easy access to the National Park.
The Peak District and wider Derbyshire area is abundant with incredible places to eat, drink and shop. Partaking in some of the local goods and wares will not only give you a fantastic experience with some of the best and freshest produce on offer, but it’s also great for the local economy and helps to keep areas thriving.
Even if you are unable to eat out throughout your trip, simply buying local produce where possible helps towards the local economy too. If looking for food and drink offerings that are at the heart of sustainable local production, it’s worth checking out Casa Hotel, Peak Edge Hotel, Wildhive, Tickled Trout, The George, The Maynard and Croots Farm Shop, to name a few.
Whether you’re new to the Peak District & Derbyshire and are visiting for the first time or have been many times and know and love it well, we hope this guide helps you to make the most of your trip to the Peak District for some incredible memories of an incredible place!
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