Yesterday was my husband’s birthday and instead of spending it at home in London we decided to escape the city and drive up north to Derbyshire, for a weekend of walks in the Peak District National Park.
We left south London early on Saturday morning (rather than on a Friday evening to avoid traffic getting out of the city) and reached the Peak District in about four hours. As we approached Derbyshire and left the motorway, we were surrounded by beautiful country lanes, charming villages and lots of greenery.
Derbyshire is a beautiful and diverse county, with picturesque towns – such as Ashbourne, Bakewell, Chesterfield and Buxton – nestled in breathtaking and unspoilt countryside.
Our first stop was for lunch at The Old Smith in Beeley, a cafe and shop popular with the locals and weekend climbers. We then proceeded to Chatsworth House, a must see in Derbyshire: the gorgeous country house is at the heart of 35.000-acre with restaurants, farm shop, tea room and several accommodations.
You can visit the house and surrounding gardens, but we skipped it to allow us time to go for a walk. We did however stop at the farm Shop, I couldn’t resist snooping around the shop’s aisles and buying a jar of local fruit preserve.
We were already in the Peak District National Park, the first national park to be set up in Britain in 1951, covering over 500 square miles.
The Peak District lies at the southern end of the Pennines, covering most of northern Derbyshire though its boundaries also spread into several other counties. Despite its name, the park doesn’t have sharp peaks, but it’s characterised by moorland, rounded hills and gritstone edges.
There is a huge variety of walks to do in the park; I am not an expert but you can easily find all the Peak District information online.
Our original plan was to take it easy on Saturday, spend the night in a tent in a camp site near Edale and walk the Pennine Way on Sunday morning. Unfortunately the heavy rains of last week turned all camp sites in the area in a mud field and so we were advised not to camp. All B&Bs inside the park were fully booked, so we decided to spend the night at a friends’ house near Leeds in Yorkshire, where we also spent the whole day yesterday.
Since we only had Saturday afternoon to walk in the Peak District we had to skip the Pennine Way. Instead we decided to do the Grindleford Walk, which our guide book described as a beautiful 5-mile walk through Padley Woods and Hathersage Moor.
We parked our car at Grindleford Rail Station, put our hiking boots on, filled the backpack with water and snacks and started the walk. We crossed the railway bridge and walked into the oak woodland of Padley Gorge, walking alongside a stream known as Burbage Brook.
After a slightly steep hike we emerged into an open field covered in heather (“calluna vulgaris“), a plant of pink and purple shades that is dominant in most of the British moorland.
We crossed the A6187 road and continued walking on the path with the “crags” (gritstone peaks that are used for bouldering and climbing) on our right.
We then turned left towards Carl Wark (a hill fort from the Iron Age once stood there) and Higger Tor, the two main attractions of the area.
We climbed to the top of Carl Wark to rest for a bit, enjoy the views and eat the Bakewell Pudding we had bought at the cafe earlier.
A Bakewell Pudding is a traditional Derbyshire cake made with flaky pastry and layer of jam covered by an egg and almond filling. Apparently it is different from a Bakewell Tart which is made with shortcrust pastry. Any experts among my readers that can confirm this?
The view from the top of Carl Wark was stunning, but the wind was blowing strong so we didn’t rest for too long.
I think at this point we had already walked 3 miles. We continued towards Millstone Edge (with the stunning Mother Cap crags on our left side) and that’s when things started to get tricky.
The track disappeared and we got lost for a while, before finally finding the path to go back to Padley Gorge. I wish the paths around here were signaled in a clearer way, with sign posts and path numbers. We knew the general direction in which we had to go and tried to take a shortcut through the woods. Not a good idea, so we decided to walk back to the main road and look for a path or fellow walkers to ask directions to.
What our guide described as a clear track to follow for one-and-a-half miles, was actually just a beaten track in the woods that kept dividing into two ways! We lost about one hour and walked an extra 3 miles, but finally found the path into the Padley Woods and back to Grindleford station.
We walked past a few houses with homemade cakes on sale for £1 inside “honesty boxes”! So cute!
Sadly it was time for us to leave the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire, but I am planning to go back soon to explore more of the area!
Brits are very outdoorsy so there are plenty of walks to do in Britain, in national parks or along the coasts. If you have never hiked before, you can buy equipment at reasonable prices online or from specialised shops like Mountain Warehouse.
I was never into hiking before meeting my husband, but since he introduced me to it, I have discovered I love it too! I enjoy going for walks in the British countryside with friends or climbing high peaks like Mount Snowdon (done in April 2015) and Ben Nevis (done in April 2014). I would love to do the Three Peaks Challenge one day, but I am also scared I would fail…
I have never blogged about hiking because I don’t usually carry my heavy DSLR camera with me, but this weekend I made an exception and I am so glad I got these pictures of beautiful Peak District. I hope you enjoyed this post even though is a bit different from the usual. Have a great week!