Nestling in the very heart of England, the Peak District National Park offers the visitor to the UK a real ‘taste of England’. The countryside is stunning, the locals are welcoming and the area offers something for everyone whether you are active or a sightseer. The region boasts a number of stately homes, most notably Chatsworth Hall and Haddon Hall.
The latter was used in the making of the film ‘Jayne Eyre’ which was written by Charlotte Bronte, who visited the Derbyshire town of Hathersage in 1845. It is suggested that this trip to the Peak District inspired her to write the novel. Charlotte visited North Lees Hall which is said to be the inspiration for Thornfield Hall in the novel – it was built by Robert Eyre …
The hills are not particularly high, the highest being Kinder Scout at 636m. They are not particularly ‘peaky’ either, most are flat-topped and several of them are edged on at least one side by crags, well used by climbers. Sometimes, during the summer, it it necessary to form a queue for the more popular climbs! Sadly, that takes its toll on the rocks and care is needed as many of the climbs are becoming very polished and therefore quite slippery. The area is crossed by hundreds of miles of footpaths and bridleways making the area great for mountain bikers and walkers, there are a good number of classic Peak District cycle routes to suit families, groups and the more serious and fit cyclists. Sadly, there is a lot of illegal and irresponsible off-road use of the bridleways which does rather spoil it for others who are wanting to get away to the peace, quiet and fresh air of the countryside.
As befits a major tourist area (the Peak District National Park welcomes something in the region of 20 million visitors each year), there is a wide range of accommodation, ranging from luxury bed and breakfasts, hotels and self catering right down to basic camp sites. There are many web sites which you can use to book your Peak District Hotels or Derbyshire self-catering cottages, a lot of owners are clued in enough to offer online booking. There are also plenty of other amenities, posh restaurants, cafes, tea shops, outdoor shops and Peak District bike shops along with speciality food outlets selling local produce, for example, the Bakewell Pudding shop.
An interesting time to visit the Peak District is during July and August, when the well dressing season is under way. Well dressing is an essentially religious ceremony to bless the wells of each of the villages. The dressing is arranged by a committee who produce the decoration for the well. The decoration is made by using a wooden frame, filled with clay, into which flower petals and other natural materials are pressed to make an image. Some images are purely religious whilst others, such as those seen recently at Ashford in the Water, are more fun (the some of the wells were dressed with images of Disney characters)!