Playful Peaks: Ultimate guide for things to do in the Peak District
Smack bang in the middle of the country and stunningly beautiful, the Peaks are a brilliant place for a quick and easy escape packed with adventure, beauty and fun. Here’s our ultimate guide to the best family days out in the Peak District.
Sail, Swim or KayakStunning Carsington Water reservoir is a brilliant place to experiment with water sports, with 90-minute tasters on offer for families to try out stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, windsurfing and kayaking.
With views of surrounding hills, Stanage Edge and Hathersage Church, Hathersage outdoor swimming pool is wild but warm, the large open-air pool is heated to 28 degrees during the summer.
ClimbThe Peak District is the place to abseil, climb or boulder, and there are plenty of instructors who will take out families for a first climbing experience. Friends took us out to the Roaches over the summer, we also had a great time with Chris from ‘Peaks and Paddles’ kayaking in Cromford, who also offers family abseils and caving.
See ChatsworthIconic Chatsworth House is where opulence meets rugged wilderness, and you can choose which elements you want to include to keep the cost manageable. It’s only £4 to park and just enjoy running wild in the grounds, but the farm might also appeal to families, the gardens are beautiful, one day I will see the house at Christmas, and we always like to pop into the cafe for tea and cake.
Visit a CavernYou are spoilt for choice for caverns to explore in the Peaks, the perfect adventure for rainy days. Poole’s Cavern is in Buxton, and with its paved walkways and 28 steps, is easy going for all ages.
Speedwell Cavern, near Castleton, at the foot of the spectacular Winnat’s Pass, is an old lead mine which you travel around by boat, through the network of natural caverns to an underground cathedral-like cavern containing a lake called Bottomless Pit. Suitable for all ages, although there are 105 steps.
Set in the middle of Castleton, the approach to Peak Cavern is awe inspiring so it's also great territory for a family ramble. You will see the remains of an ancient village where a whole community lived and worked, hand making ropes for the local lead mines.
Britain’s rarest mineral, Blue John, can be seen at Treak Cliff Cavern and in its natural state along with stalactites, stalagmites and huge caverns at Blue John Cavern. Perfect for little treasure lovers!
The Temple Mine in Matlock is a still fully operational lead and fluorspar mine from the 1920s and 50s plus a hand mine section some 200 years old, with guided tours and gold panning.
WalkIlam and Dovedale are our favourite places to enjoy a gentle family stroll. We’ve ventured across to Lud’s church, an amazing chasm in the rocks, and the mystical rocks at the Roaches. Clambering on the rocks passed a happy afternoon at Robin Hood’s Stride near Bakewell. Mam Tor near Castleton is an exposed but impressive stretch and Stanage Edge is on our hit list too.
TownsIf you fancy a day pottering in one of the Peak Districts pretty towns, for families, why not try…
Buxton: The go-to place for family days out when I was growing up, Buxton has grown up too, it has a newly refurbished museum and art gallery and a Treasure Trail. I love the beautifully laid out Pavilion Gardens with it’s stunning Pavilion which often has craft, book and antique fairs, and has an atmospheric restaurant.
Bakewell: You must go to Bakewell for a legendary Bakewell pudding, we also love the cafes, gift shops and found some great bargains in the charity shops. If you like a second-hand bargain, the Sunday car boot is also worth getting up for. There is a museum and treasure trail too.
Eyam: In 1665 a tailor from the village of Eyam ordered a large bail of cloth from London in a move that proved to be a fatal both to him and to the village. Eyam is a moving and beautiful place to visit, discover the story of the village that cut itself off to stop the plague spreading.
Matlock: Matlock feels like a seaside resort, it’s cafes, shops and chip shops line the river and there are loads of fun things to do as a family here. In the Winter there are illuminations and fireworks. You can take a treasure trail to find out more.
Gulliver’s Kingdom is a smaller scale but fun-packed theme park for little ones, they are guaranteed a thrilling day but you could still have time leftover to enjoy exploring Matlock too.
An exhilarating cable car ride takes you across the valley to explore underground caverns, exhibitions, shops, play areas, picnic spots, cafe and restaurant all with stunning views and in acres of beautiful woodland.
There is lots to see in the Victorian Aquarium building but it is the Koi Carp in a giant thermal pool which never cease to amaze.
Being in Arkwright’s working cotton mill always reminds me of learning about his inventions during the industrial revolution, in GCSE history. Much of the mill is now dedicated to gift and pocket money shopping, which, with the museum, makes a fun combination with something for everyone.
The Lead Mining Museum is another opportunity to learn about history and to see an incredible collection of minerals and rocks.
TrainsIf you have a steam enthusiast in your midst, check out Crich Tramway Museum, Rudyard Lake Steam Railway, Churnet Valley Railway and Peak Rail.
Encounter wildlifeWildlife is everywhere in the Peaks, but if kids are too impatient to sit still and wait for it, then why not visit Chestnut conservation centre which specialises in rescuing animals, particularly otters and owls. Or Peak Wildlife Park, a small park that allows visitors to come very close to small animals. Or book in with Peak Llamas to walk a Llama through the countryside.
Theme ParksI’ve mentioned Gulliver’s Kingdom for the little ones already. It didn't take my kids long to work out Alton Towers is just a handful of miles South of the Peak District, where there is both the theme park and the water park. I have to say I prefer the waterpark with it’s indoor and outdoor pools, slides and rapids, more than the rollercoasters, but my 11-year-old would disagree completely.
What have you and your family enjoyed in the Peak District?