Peak District National Park is the UK’s original National Park, and we’ve got everything you need to know about exploring this incredible piece of land! Start by planning your trip with our planning tips, what to see and do, historical sites, awesome caves and castles, and moors!
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Peak District National Park
Peak District National Park is located centrally in the heart of England and covers more than 550 square miles. It reaches into five counties, making it a vast area. The terrain of Peak District is very diverse, from rivers and waterfalls to rocky cliffs, rolling hills, valleys, lush green lakes, and reservoirs – thanks to England’s constant rainfall. It’s a fantastic park for hiking, biking, and walking.
Peak District was the first designated National Park England in 1951. And is one of the most popular parks in England, with around 13.25 million visitors every year.
Peak District is easily accessible from both the north and south and great for day trips. It’s about a 2 ½ – 3-hour drive from London via the M1.
National Parks in the UK
There are currently 15 National Parks in the UK – ten in England, three in Wales, and two in Scotland. Each National Park is administered by its own authority, but that authority does not own all of the lands in the park – 90% of Peak District is privately owned. National Parks are free except for specific sites, and sometimes parking fees are required. There is no annual pass system like there is in the US.
Planning a Trip to Peak District National Park
When visiting a new area, it’s always best to do a bit of research on the site. If it’s historical, research its history-based sites. And if it’s a hiking trail, research where to park and what trails are available. It’s also important to understand what to expect to see along the way. And if you’re hiking on trails, AllTrails is a good app to use. At Peak District, you can take a picture of the map located in the parking lots as a reference.
The Peak District website is also a great resource to use, especially for real-time park updates. Booking in advance is needed only in specific cases of visiting fee-based attractions; otherwise, it’s free, and no booking is required.
For families looking for kid-friendly places in the park, @peakdistrictkids on Instagram is another fantastic place to look.
A good strategy for exploring the park is:
- First, decide what activity you want to do or sites you want to see – hiking, spelunking, climbing, picnicking, etc.
- Search for suitable locations in the park
- Coordinate parking near your location
“I would always recommend bringing water, rain jacket, and healthy snacks – double down on the snacks if you have kids!”
Weather in England
The weather in England is very unpredictable, so the best advice is to layer and be prepared for anything. Even if the forecast calls for sunny skies, still pack your rain jacket and boots! You will probably need them at some point. It can be very warm and extremely cold all in one day.
What To Do and See at Peak District National Park
There are so many things to do and see at the park! Peak District really offers so many opportunities for all types of interests.
Caves at Peak District National Park
Peak District is famous for its cave network. There are many caves visitors can explore, with some free ones and others fee-based.
- Peak Cavern (aka Devil’s Arse): Located in the picturesque town of Castleton, the cave is Englands largest open-mouthed cave. Unlike the other caves in the area, Peak Cavern is almost entirely natural. It was initially called “Devil’s Arse” due to the flatulence-like sounds that come from within the caverns. The name was changed in Peak Cavern in 1880 to avoid causing Queen Victoria any offense. The cave was inhabited by people who lived in “houses” built inside the cave mouth and made a living from rope making until 1915. During the guided tour, there are rope-making demonstrations as well as a few of the “houses” to explore.
- Great Masson Cavern and Great Rutland Cavern: Located in the Heights of Abraham, these two caves were both previously mined for lead. They are both awesome places to explore.
- Titan Cave: Located in Castleton, it’s the highest natural cavern in the UK and was discovered by local pot-holers in 2000.
Tip: If you plan a trip to Peak Cavern – don’t forget rain boots as it’s wet and muddy inside!
Heights of Abraham
The Heights of Abraham is a hilltop park on top of Masson Hill in Peak District. It is located in Matlock Bath, a quite-essential, picturesque English village. It’s a great tourist attraction and can be reached by either the Heights of Abraham cable car or a very steep zig-zag path. There are several attractions in the park: cavern and mine tours have been open since Victorian times, nature paths, dramatic views of the River Derwent valley, kids playground, restaurants, bar, and an ice cream shop. For 360 degree views, you can climb the spiral staircase of the Victoria Prospect Tower, built in 1844 in honor of Queen Victoria. From there, you’ll have panoramic views of the surrounding Derbyshire Dales.
Stanton Moor is another beautiful area for easy nature walks through changing terrains. Throughout one walk, you can enjoy ancient mossy trees, open areas overgrown with gorgeous seas of purple Heather, birch growth, and a path taking you through the lush tall fern.
There are also more than 70 ancient burial mounds upon the moor, and Bronze Age stone circles, constructed by the people who lived and worked there 4,000 years ago. According to legend, the small circle stones represent nine ladies who turned to stone as a penalty for dancing on Sundays.
Upper Derwent Valley
The Upper Derwent Valley is also a great place to visit, with three reservoirs and many hiking and biking trails. In the Visitors Center or the parking lot near Derwent Dam, you’ll find information about the various trails through woodlands, along the river, and around reservoirs – all with beautiful views! There are also bathrooms and a snack shack there too.
Derwent Dam is quite a masterpiece of architecture and absolutely worth a visit. The Lancaster bomber pilots used the dam to practice low-level flying and target practice because of its close resemblance to the German dams. For history buffs, it’s a MUST-SEE.
Out of all the reservoirs found at Peak District, Ladybower Reservoir is perhaps the best known of the three. Partly because of the infamous drowned villages of Derwent and Ashopton that lie beneath its waters.
Is Peak District Family-Friendly?
Peak District is exceptionally family-friendly, with many places including stroller or wheelchair paths. There are so many activities that are fantastic for families, including:
- Family hiking
- Exploring caves
- Bike riding – Monsal Trail is great for cycling, and it’s traffic-free and relatively flat. Plus, with all the long tunnels to cycle through, it makes for an enjoyable ride! It’s also a good option for strollers or wheelchairs.
- Crich Tramway Village and Museum – an excellent place for a fun family day out (fee-based)
- Steam train rides – check out the Peak Rail on the preserved railway line
- Farm visit
Hiking Tips at Peak District
There are several paved hiking trails – easy for children and all ages. There are also many hiking trails through the woods for more advanced hikers. And of course, there are also rugged trails for extreme hikers, such as rock climbing in the Heights of Abraham. The trails in Stanton Moor are incredible and definitely recommended to visit.
Can Wildlife Be Seen at Peak District?
When it comes to wildlife, the positive aspect is that there are no large predators in the UK that you need to worry about like in other parks. Peak District is home to many different types of deer, a variety of birds, and small animals like hedgehogs, rabbits, squirrels, etc. It’s a perfect park for children to feel safe while spotting a small animal here and there.
Unique Park Features
Peak District also has some really cool unique features to discover, such as medieval castles, stone circles, villages, and caves. It’s also quite the English experience to have a nice lunch at an old English pub. When in the UK, do as the British do!
Peak District Recommended Lodging
There are many options you can choose from in the Peak District areas. If you are looking for non-camping lodging, there are many quaint family-run Bed & Breakfasts, hotels, holiday homes, and Airbnb options to choose from.
For campers looking to spend more than one day at Peak District, there are camping, glamping, and RV sites throughout the park, as well as cabins to rent. There is no wild camping inside the park – you need to camp in one of the designated areas.
What Can Be Found in the Surrounding Area of Peak District?
One site that should be on your list to see is the Bolsover Castle. It is a fairy-tale 17th-century castle with stunning views over Derbyshire. You can wander through the lavish rooms of the Little Castle, explore the ruins, and walk around the extensive grounds. They even have a fun play area there for younger kids.
Tip: Advanced booking is required, so make sure you book online before arriving.
Do Not Miss Moments at Peak District National Park
For our family, there were three different do-not-miss places.
- Stanton Moor and the Standing Stones: It’s an incredibly mysterious place to see.
- The Derwent Dam in the Derwent Valley: especially for WWII history lovers
- Peak Cavern Cave: The cave is so cool, and it gives kids the chance to freely say “arse” – which is always a hilarious word to them.
About our Featured Guest:
Inna was born in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and dreamed about traveling since she was a young girl. At 21, she moved to Germany to study, where she met her husband. Inna and her family lived in the US for 13 years before moving with their two children to England, where they are now living and exploring historical places, cultural centers, and national parks.
National Trippers Podcast
Did you know we also have a podcast all about Peak District National Park? Get ready for even more nuggets of this awesome National Park!