The English countryside is know for its beauty; luscious green fields, rolling hills, and majestic forests. The north of the country is no exception, and when it comes to rugged English countryside Yorkshire and the neighbouring counties are unbeatable. The Peak District National Park sits between Sheffield and Manchester and boast some incredible scenery, and tucked away in amongst this are some quaint villages really worth a visit. Here are 5 of the many charming villages there are to explore.
Bakewell is known for its delicious pudding, the Bakewell tart (a type of jam tart), but has plenty more to offer. Located on the banks of the river Wye, it is the biggest town in the area to be made in the Peak District National Park’s mellow stone, and the medieval five-arched stone bridge and quaint courtyards are stunning. The town offers shopping and specialist markets, as well as a bustling Monday market and even a livestock market to for those looking to experience a bit of rural life! The ideal town for relaxing strolls, enjoy wandering around, stopping at various bakeries and cafés as you go. A visit during Bakewell Carnival Week or Well Dressing in July is particularly impressive, or for the Bakewell Show in August, one of the oldest agricultural events in the country. Additionally the nearby Monsal Trail offers some lovely traffic-free walking, cycling or horse riding in some of the prettiest scenery in the Peak District.
2. Ashford in the Water
As the name suggest, one main feature of picturesque Ashford in the Water is its watery surroundings. Located on the River Wye just north of Bakewell, three bridges cross the river throughout the village, including the photogenic medieval Sheepwash Bridge. This is where farmers used to drive their flocks of sheep into the water to wash them, and you can still spot the small walled enclosure used to pen sheep on the river’s broad, grassy banks. Filled with lovely limestone cottages and beautifully-tended gardens, the village was actually once the centre of production for Ashford Black Marble, which was extracted from both quarries and mines in the area. Another village perfect for visiting during the Well Dressing celebrations in early June when villagers create living art works made of natural materials around the water wells. The village boasts a variety of restaurants and pubs as well as a traditional English tea room and a well-stocked village shop, and for outdoor activities there is of course the nearby Monsal Trail leading to Monsal Head and its incredible views.
Another charming village on the list is Castleton, nearby mysterious Mam Tor, locally known as the ‘Shivering Mountain’. The village is beautifully-situated in the White Peak, with fabulous views all around and has something to offer visitors of all ages throughout the year. Climb the steep steps up to the Norman ruins of Peveril Castle, completed in 1086 for William Peverel a favoured knight of William the Conqueror, or take a trip to one of its many caves. Castleton is also the only place in the world where the semi-precious stone Blue John can be found, with some of the best examples, including The Pillar, the largest known single piece of Blue John, can be found in Treak Cliff Cavern an old lead mine where you can explore a fairytale underground world of stalactite and stalagmites. Peak Cavern has the largest natural cave mouth in Europe, with cottages and even an inn built inside it long ago, and you can take a trip into the cave which it is also used used for special events and concerts. Speedwell Cavern offers an underground boat ride to the eerie ‘Bottomless Pit’, while Blue John Cavern, opposite Mam Tor, is the deepest of the caves and also contains examples of Blue John. With numerous cafés, tea rooms and pubs, enjoy a stroll round the village before relaxing with a pint and some hearty English food.
Buxton, home of Buxton Water, is certainly a must see, although it is technically a town. The thermal spa town is nestled in the centre of the Peak District and it is worth taking some time to enjoy the world-famous Georgian and Victorian architecture and visit the stunning ornamental gardens. There is also a rich cultural scene, with a vibrant range of music, theatre, Buxton Opera House and several festivals, all contributing to make the town one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. The wealth brought to the town in the past thanks to its natural spa is visible in the grandeur of the place, and there are lot of independent shops, cafes, bars and restaurants to enjoy. Be sure to visit Cavendish Arcade, originally Buxton Baths but now home to an array of stylish and independent shops and cafés. Nearby natural wonders include Poole’s Cavern, a two-million-year-old natural limestone cave on the edge of Buxton which visitors can explore.
Located at the eastern end of the beautiful Hope Valley, Hathersage is a large and busy village with rich historical, industrial and literary associations. The village has become a popular place to visit for fans of legendary literary figures, such as Little John, Robin Hood’s lieutenant, whose grave is by the south door of the church of St Michael and who was reputedly born in Hathersage. Robin Hood’s Cave, Well and Stoop are also nearby the village. Charlotte Bronte has close connections with the village, which is said to be featured it in her novels, and North Lees Hall is thought to have been the model for Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. Historically speaking, Hathersage was once an important centre for the manufacturing of millstones, needles and pins. The village boasts several local shops and eateries, and is conveniently close to some outstanding areas of natural beauty, including Stanage and Burbage Edges (as seen in the Pride and Prejudice film adaptation starring Keira Knightley, when she stands dramatically on the cliffs with her coats blowing in the wind), Offerton and Abney Moor and Bretton Clough. The river Derwent passes just south of the village at Leadmill, where there is a picturesque bridge and old country inn.