An insiders guide – how to have the perfect day in the Peak District

Recently I was very honoured to have the great company of two fantastic photographers from Sweden; these friends of mine became inspired to visit the Peak District after looking at landscape photographs that I had taken. So, with very, very little encouragement Camilla and Ann-Helen made their way over the North Sea to the Peak District. They stayed in the lovely village of Castleton, this is located at the Western end of the Hope Valley. Castleton is a unique place, you enter to it from the West through the impressive gorge of Winnats Pass pictured below. The gorge is a deep limestone valley and is spectacular from both the bottom looking up at the gorge, and also on top where you can command big views.

Winnats Pass

Castleton is also flanked by Mam Tor and the Great Ridge. The ridge dissects the Hope and Edale Valley’s and offers fantastic and expansive views. In view up on Mam Tor is, at the trig point, a 360 degree view. Looking to the Edale Valley you can see the mighty Kinder Scout plateau raise above the valley. Edale is the beginning (or end, depending on the way you walk it) of the long distance Pennine Way. Swinging around and looking down the Mam Tor ridge you have in front of you; the Great Ridge, the photograph below is captured from there looking out over the Hope Valley; then on the same path is Hollins Cross, an intersection of paths, Back Tor and finally you would reach Lose Hill. The walking is easy on very defined paths upon Mam Tor and I highly recommend taking this walk. Apart from the scenery, on a good flying day Mam Tor is a a Mecca for paragliders and to just have a picnic and watch is amazing.

Mam Tor

Continuing with the 360 degree view. Beyond Lose hill, Win Hill Pike and Bamford Edge are visible, both great places to walk up. Win Hill is a sharp challenging walk whereas Bamford Edge is an easy stroll, both have commanding views back up the valley, and, for the photographers out there, both are ideal sunset location. Between Win Hill and Bamford Edge, but not visible from Mam Tor is the large Ladybower Reservoir and after a walk of both Winnats and Mam Tor I would recommend a drive to Bamford and to visit Ladybower. At times of high rainfall, you must go and check out the 120 ft across bellmouth drains, the ‘plugholes’, see pictured below:

Ladybower Plugholes

Lets get back to our view. Sweeping around and in the far distance Stanage Edge can be seen. This is a long continuous edge accessible from Hathersage. It is a place for easy walking and again spectacular views. Twisting around some more we are back to Castleton, and you can see that it is overlooked by Peveril Castle and that is well worth a visit. Castleton itself is a quaint Peak District village with lots going on. The famous ‘blue John’ mineral is mined from one hillside and, this, the rarest mineral in the UK is fashioned into jewellery in the village. Due to the geology of the area there are a number of show caves to discover in Castleton too.

Camilla and Ann-Helen relied on me to come up with an itinerary that would ensure that they left, 1. happy, 2. tired in a good way and 3. with fantastic photographs. So, to recap, it is the Western end of the Hope Valley for sunrises and the Eastern end for sunsets. That is not completely a rule, but for a visitor wanting an easy guide on where to be, then that is it. Castleton and its high ground for sunrise and Hathersage and the high ground around there for sunsets. If walking, it makes no difference, it all looks nice at any time of day.

Moving away from the Hope Valley, we decided to get into the car and visit Bakewell, Camilla and Ann-Helen simply had to try the local and famous delicacy, the good old Bakewell Pudding. En route, we passed Monsal Head and stopped the car for a look at the view. I pointed out to them the Monsal Trail that runs between Buxton and Bakewell. This is a  walking, cycling and bridlepath and it is lovely to meander along, a very interesting route along this old railway trackbed, it is an 8 mile traffic free route and can be walked in small sections if you want a stroll or easily done in its entirety. Bike hire is available at the Buxton end of the route.

Monsal Trail

After stopping at Monsal Head, we moved onto Ashford-in-the-Water and stopped there just to take in this beautiful little village. Then onto Bakewell. We took a walk through the large park there and found ourselves at the Original Bakewell Pudding shop. This is a must try, it is an indulgence and I for one love them. Mmmmm.

After, Bakewell, the time was drawing near for sunset and I immediately thought of Curbar Edge. Curbar again is another very accessible location with easy walking and great views. If you are lucky you may even see Highland Cattle on the tops of the edge.

Curbar Edge

Finally, the sunset photograph.

Curbar Couple

this would be a perfect day in the Peak District. The visitors I had LOVED this day and by writing this blog I want to encourage others to try out this day, either in part or to do all of it.