My backyard is a world renowned destination for hiking, so you can’t blame me when I say I’m picky about hiking. Growing up in a state with the tallest peak in N. America I tend to overlook other perfectly good options when it comes to outdoor exercise. So, when my boyfriend asked me to get out of London proper and head out Peak District, you can bet I was a bit skeptical. The British countryside is known for rolling hills, farm lands and adorable cottages, not hiking. So, I was rather curious to check out this part of the UK and I was pleasantly surprised. My day was filled with plenty of exercise and brisk fresh air in Britain’s first National Park!
Peak District is a charming national park nestled in the heart of the U.K. It’s littered with cottages, farms and lots of history dating back to the old railroad and mill houses.
Length of Time: 8 hour-Full Day (Monsal Trail)- Multi day trekking.
Skill Level: 20HP for most things 80HP for multi-day treaks. Peak District offers something for everyone from cycling, trekking, hiking (leisurely walking), climbing, history tours and of course adorable British pubs with beer!
- Good active shoes-hiking boots or tennis shoes with good traction
- In the winter it tends to rain and become quite cold here, so check the weather as you may need rain gear, long pants, hat, gloves and a warmer jacket. In the summer you should be able to get away with shorts and a light jacket
- Backpack large enough for a change of clothing, plenty of water, snacks and rain gear. Or a backpacking pack with room for camping gear.
- Easy to pack snacks, on the go meals like canned veggies, PB&J or soup.
- Extra socks.
- Plenty of water or camelback.
- Bicycle and cycling gear, unless renting.
- Camping Gear for multi day trips.
Getting to Peak District there can be rather tricky. I would highly recommend renting a car for the day. My boyfriend and I were able to rent a small car from Enterprise. We picked it up in London as soon as they opened and hit the open road. The rental cost about 60 pounds a day. Once you’re in Peak District you have the flexibility to alter your course based on information you will gather from locals or Peak Information stations. To drive hop on the M1 North from London and pretty much head straight for 40 minutes before taking exit 29. Follow A 617 until you reach Peak, from there, there could be up to 45 minutes of extra drive time depending on where you want to start you day.
There is a bus option that takes the same amount of time and will set you back about 45 pounds, give or take, depending on what part of the district you are going to. There are three main stops, each one involving a change of bus and a walk of about 2 minutes from one stop to another, the last stop is a 15 min walk to the lower part of the District its self where you can catch smaller buses to various areas of the district. To catch the bus hop on the East Midlands Trains toward Sheffield from St. Pancreas Station in London. Continue to Derby, then change to the East Midlands Trains toward Matlock continue until you reach Matlock. Change to the Transpeak toward Buxton departing at Opp Brushfield and then walk up to the district. From here you can catch busses from various parts of the district.
Looking for something to do in and around London instead? Check out the Noah’s Ark for Plants!
Peak National Park is large place with tons of options! Which makes it a great destination to stay over night. There’s tons of camping sites sprinkled throughout the district as well as cozy lodges and inns. I’ll cover a few of the basic trails in the area, but be sure to stop by a visitor center for more details and a custom trip. There are four trails in the Lower District that are good for both cycling and walking at an easy going pace.
HIGH PEAK TRAIL
High Peak is best for Cycling. It’s a 17.5 mile ride from Dowlow near Buxton and continues toward the High Peak Junction passing through NewHaven and Minninglow. If you’re renting a bike there are two rental places 1.5 miles in from either end of the trail. If you have your own bike both of these shops can provide service or tips for you ride. Middleton Top is the rental place near the south end of the trail where you can stop and check out an old engine house with a beam engine.
Perhaps the easiest trail to get to with convenient parking located right at the head near Bakewell, the bike rental or any of the hotels. Coming in at only 8.5 miles this trail is perfect for walkers, horseback riding or bicycling. The trail runs from Bakewell to Blackwell Mill. The Monsal cycle hire is just a short walk from Bakewell. There’s lot of variations on this hike from very leisurely flat walking to a strenuous hike up hill to view some of the mill ruins. Some of this walks best features are the old tunnels that were built for the rail. The paved trail runs through two or three of these tunnels that are only lit during the daylight hours. After a hard day of walking or biking stop at the Monsal Hotel and Pub for some traditional British food and beer! Dogs are allowed 🙂
This trail either starts or ends outside of Peak at Ashbourne and runs to Parsley Hay for 13 miles. The bike rentals are at Parsley Hay and Mapleton Way. This trek has a great variation to fork off at Tissington Way and head for some off-road walking or biking around Carsington Reservoir. The loop around the reservoir is 8 miles, so to combine that with the entire Tissington trail may be a bit much. The Reservoir has kayak rentals if you want to add some boating to your day.
This track was once used to transport dairy on a light train rail, so the trail is a bit off the beaten road. The actual track is only 9 miles from Waterhouses to Hulme End, with bike rentals at both ends. This is a shared trail with traffic and is lit, but can still be quite dark when cloudy or dusk. If you want to challenge yourself for more than 9 miles you can divert at Harlingtonand and connect with the Tissington Trail.
Check out more information, including more trails, maps and other ideas at the Peak District Website! Peak District Info
If you’re looking for more of a challenge or to get away from it all here are some ideas for multi day treks. The 360 degree panorama views and the frequent visits by wandering sheep make this area par to none and worth the time if you have it. I HIGHLY recommend if you’re planning one of these trips you do independent research to make sure you’re physically able and well prepared. Plan out your stops based on resources and ability. There’s plenty of camping, bus stops and towns at your disposal, so don’t stress too much, but it’s always better to be prepare.
Take the bus to Hope Valley or drive to Plantation Carpark. From there head to Stannage Edge as the starting point for your trip. Begin heading north to LadyBower Damn for about 4.5 miles, there are Inns and and places to rest here, but the real treat is the view of the British country side reflecting on the reservoir. Head west for 8 miles cutting through Ashton, Lose Hill, Backtor Wood and stop at one of the Edale Campgrounds for the night. Head west for 6 miles to the Hayfield campsite. If you want to challenge yourself for more than 6 miles you can extend this day by wandering out to the Madwomen’s stones and back to Hayfield for the night. For the final and third day continue back north toward Crowden via Pennine Way for 11 miles, you’ll have to make sure you find a crossing for the river that runs through the area. You can catch a bus from Crowden back to your car. This trek can get rather soggy, especially if it has recently rained, so PLEASE check the weather before going!