Get an adventure sports adrenaline boost!
If you want to get your heart rate pumping in the Peak District, you have plenty of options! All within easy reach of the nearest major train station to the Peak District, Sheffield, here are just a few of the many adventure sports possibilities in the area.
Water sports in the Peak District
Water sports, you say? Yes. Although located in the Midlands, miles from the coast, the Peak District has no shortage of water sports, thanks largely to its many reservoirs and lakes. You can find tours and rental operators for kayaking, canoeing, sailing, and speedboating at popular Peak District reservoirs like Tittesworth in the Staffordshire Moorlands and Staunton Harold in South Derbyshire. The River Derwent also flows through the Peak District from the Upper Derwent Valley to the city of Derby in the south, and if you fancy some rafting, you'll find some challenging white-water rapids along this stretch.
Climbing and caving
The Peak District is renowned for its potholing and underground caving. While there are many places you should go only with expert caving experience, some of the region's underground attractions are accessible to all. Most caving and climbing destinations are centred around Castleton, Matlock, Eyam, and Buxton in the White Peak area, and it's easy to find professional guides and tour operators in these towns.
Ziplining and adventure theme parks
See the forest at a different speed by going ziplining in the woods near Buxton! Even if you've never tried ziplining before, this is a safe spot to do it with professional operators, and the views you get make it pretty memorable. If you'd rather go on an adrenaline-fuelled day out, then spend the day at Alton Towers, the UK's biggest adventure theme park. The nearest station to Alton Towers is Uttoxeter, easy to reach by train from Manchester, Sheffield, and Liverpool in under 2 hours.
Pitch a tent and camp under the stars
While camping or staying overnight on the designated Access Land that crisscrosses the Peak District is forbidden, you can find public camping grounds at Edale, Hayfield, and Hope.
Strap your boots on and go walking
Although the name is a bit of a misnomer given the lack of alpine peaks, the Peak District certainly has its share of high points. These have their unique charms and ensure there are plenty of Peak District activities for those who love the outdoors. Chief among them are fantastic hiking and walking opportunities. Historically and geographically, the Peak District is split into two geologically diverse areas, which we discuss next.
The White Peak
The area of the White Peak, in the Derbyshire Dales, is a limestone plateau, characterised by rolling hills, green fields, and several sharp jutting rock features. The White Peak is also renowned for its habitat of distinctive flora, including seasonal orchids and the rare Jacob's ladder. Some pleasant walking trails in the area include the walk from Ilam Park to Dovedale Stepping Stones, which provides the chance to spot heron, ducks, and brown trout along the river. For a greater challenge, tackle the 10-mile trek from Ilam Park to Wetton, which offers far-reaching views over the entire area.
The Dark Peak
The Dark Peak, also known as the High Peak, features more peaty moorlands, characterised by higher, wilder, and boggier gritstone plateaus than the White Peak. The Dark Peak is home to red grouse, golden plover, ring ouzel, curlew, and other unique bird species. As well as being a bird lover's haven, the Dark Peak region has plenty of enjoyable, family-friendly walking trails. The circular day walk below Kinder Scout skirts Kinder Reservoir and has sweeping mountain views up on the Kinder plateau, while the shorter Mam Tor circular walk gets you straight up to a staggering viewpoint over Edale Valley and the Derwent Moors.
Relax at ancient spa towns
It's only 1 hour by train from Manchester Piccadilly to Buxton. This photogenic town is known worldwide for the bottled spring water carrying its name. Fill up your bottle from the public well near the Royal Crescent in the town centre to see what the fuss is about. There's a lot more to Buxton than just bottled water, though. The economic and administrative centre for the High Peak region, Buxton is also an ancient spa town whose long history as a centre for rest and relaxation oozes from its architecture. Visit Poole's Cavern, a local landmark, where you can walk to the limestone hill topped by the Solomon's Temple tower for great views of the town and surrounding landscape.
Matlock station serves a bustling little town on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Matlock offers pretty buildings and provides great views over the river and surrounding countryside. However, the main attraction at Matlock is the historic spa complex at Matlock Bath. Separated from the main town by a dramatic sheer limestone crag called High Tor, Matlock Bath features Victorian charm in a stunning natural setting, yet with a more understated feel than other spa towns. A truly relaxing retreat, it's only 30 minutes by train from Derby to Matlock!
Visit quintessential old country towns
The Peak District is dotted with country estates and quaint rural villages, as well as several charming towns that boast more atmosphere and amenities. If you're looking for what to do in the Peak District through a historical lens, have a look at these destinations.
Home of the famous pudding and tart, this picturesque old market town on the River Wye is the archetypal Peak District destination. Stone houses, a central church, the ancient bridge, a traditional house-cum-museum, and many leafy riverside walkways all contribute to Bakewell's small-town charm. If you're looking for things to do around Bakewell, don't miss out on Chatsworth House, a famous 17th-century mansion with its renowned garden, or the medieval manor house of Haddon Hall. You can also take a bus to the nearby town of Rowsley and take a ride on the Peak Rail historic steam train to Matlock, always a hit with kids.
Mentioned in the Domesday Book for having a prominent church and priest, Hope has a long religious history visible in the surviving buildings. The most famous is the 13th-century church dedicated to St. Peter, which features a unique Norman font, eye-catching gargoyles, and a rare Saxon cross in its courtyard. To delve further into history, visit the ruins of Navio, an ancient Roman fort, found just outside Hope in the village of Brough. Return to enjoy a pint or meal at one of many cafes, pubs, and restaurants near the pretty banks of Hope's riverside area.