The Peak District was the first of the UK’s National Parks to be established (1951), and has since gone on to become not only a leading UK attraction, but also the world’s second most visited national park after Mount Fuji National Park in Japan. Despite its name, the Peak District’s 1438 square kilometres (555 square miles) contains no mountains – the highest point is Kinder Scout (636 metres).
Visitors from around the world come to the Peak District to see its areas of stunning natural beauty that offer fantastic walking and mountain biking opportunities between some of the 457 listed ancient monuments, and the unique hamlets, villages, and towns that are home to the Peak District’s 38,000 inhabitants.
Due to its central location, the Peak District National Park is easily accessed by road and rail from all parts of the UK. The Peak District’s main settlements are Bakewell and Castleton, traditional conurbations that cater for the modern-day visitor.
The name Bakewell is said to have originated from the area’s warm springs – the Domesday Book lists the town as ‘Badequella’ which means bath-well. The origins of the town date back to Roman times, with the next identifiable period of occupation traced back to Saxon times, with the original town church built in AD920. Today Bakewell is both the administrative and spiritual home of the Peak District, with many restaurants and numerous accommodation options including a Youth Hostel.
Castleton is a pretty village in the centre of the Peak District, and is a UK attraction in its own right, surrounded on three sides by steep hills, one of which is home to Peveril Castle, named after William Peveril, who was given the castle in 1086 by his father – William the Conqueror. Castleton is also home to four other UK attractions – Speedwell Cavern, The Blue John Cavern, Treak Cliff Cavern and Peak Cavern (also known as the Devil’s Arse).
Peak Cavern is source to the village river and a magnet for cavers. Speedwell Cavern is unique because it has to be reached by underground canal, while Blue John and Treak Cliff caverns are famous for the unique blue and yellow fluorspar – called Blue John - they contain which was previously mined and turned into grand ornaments, vases, and jewellery for the wealthy. Castleton also has a bounty of restaurants, pubs and accommodation choices.
Spanning the counties of Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire, and West Yorkshire, the Peak District’s moorlands and grit- and limestone geology are surprisingly well-preserved considering it receives over 22 million visitors a year. Much of the grit-stone area - Dark Peaks – is covered by heather moorland and blanket bogs, and is used for rough sheep farming and grouse shooting. The limestone area – White Peaks – is used intensively for dairy farming. There are 2,700 farms within the boundaries of the Peak District National Park.
Visitors to the Peak District can enjoy myriad activities from gazing at the remains of bronze age forts, to caving, climbing, mountain biking, horse-riding and canoeing. There are a number of equipment hire centres in the Park, and these can be found online or by visiting the Peak District National Park information centre in Bakewell.