Having grown up and lived most of my life in the Midlands, the Peak District National Park was always nearby and my go-to for a weekend getaway in the UK. To this day, I look forward to seeing those rolling hills, amazing views and beautiful villages.
I sometimes feel the Peak District is overlooked as a UK weekend getaway destination, when actually it’s the perfect option, being so central in England! So I’ve put together this itinerary of things to do on a weekend in the Peak District to help you plan your Peak District weekend away.
Where is the Peak District National Park and how to get there?
The Peak District is one of the UK’s 15 National Parks. The Peak District in England can be found in the county of Derbyshire which is part of the Midlands (literally in the middle of England!)
The Peak District is a huge area and as a result there are plenty of ways to get there. If you’re coming from the north or south, the M6 runs along the west side of the National Park, while the M1 runs along the east side.
Sheffield and Chesterfield sit to the east of the National Park so if you’re taking a train, both are large hubs to arrive at via train and you can transfer to local bus or train services to reach various towns and villages within the Peak District. Manchester and Macclesfield are both to the northwest of the National Park if you’re coming from the north.
For more things to do in the East Midlands area, check out my 30 day trip ideas from Nottinghamshire.
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Where to stay in the Peak District?
There are countless options for places to stay in the Peak District. I personally prefer to use websites like Airbnb or CoolStays to find unique cottages or converted barn properties to stay in.
On my family trip, we stayed at this beautiful converted barn which is in a stunning secluded location and is just a short drive to some of the main sights like Buxton, Bakewell and Mam Tor.
I also love this beautiful cottage for 4 people.
This is another cottage option if you’re a couple looking for a romantic getaway in the Peak District. Peak District romantic breaks are a great excuse to stay somewhere cosy, light a fire and enjoy the escapism!
Things to do on a Peak District weekend away
Whether you’re a history buff, an avid hiker, a fair-weather walker or just looking to cosy up in the English countryside, this list includes 13 ideas for a weekend break in the Peak District, whether you choose to do one of them or all of them, these are some of the best ways to make the most of a short break to the Peak District.
Weekend breaks in the Peak District wouldn’t be complete without visiting the beautiful village of Castleton in the High Peak district of the Peaks.
Castleton is centrally located in the Peak District and is very near to the famous Mam Tor and Winnats Pass, so it’s worth stopping at Castleton if you’re doing walks at either of these places.
TIP: There is a large car park in the village which is Pay & Display. Although it’s not expensive, it currently doesn’t accept card payments, so many sure to have cash with you.
Enjoy a warm drink at the Three Roofs Cafe, or grab a drink at Rose Cottage Castleton. Go for a stroll along Peakshole Water, a stream that winds through the village and enjoy the quaint cottages and local shops.
If you continue along the Peakshole Water path and through the houses, you’ll reach Peak Cavern, making Castleton a great base if you’re planning to explore some of the Peak District caves.
Caving in the Peak District
Although visiting the caves isn’t cheap, if you’re visiting Castleton in the Peak District for the first time then it’s a great activity, especially if you have kids.
Peak Cavern can be found in Castleton village and is the largest natural cave entrance in the UK. Here you can go on walking tours through the natural caves and learn about the historic rope makers. You’ll see huge stalactites and explore the amazing cave network hidden underground.
Speedwell Cavern is just outside of Castleton village, by the entrance to Winnats Pass. Speedwell Cavern cave network is toured by boats and takes you 450m underneath the hills of the Peak District into the old mining caves.
There are several other caves to explore and visit include Blue John Cave and Cave Dale. Learn more and book tours of the caves here.
Drive or climb Winnats Pass
If you’re near the caves or Castleton, don’t miss the spectacular Winnats Pass. The road from the west that leads to Castleton will take you through the spectacular pass, so even if you’re not a walker or hiker, you can still enjoy the drive as the sheer gorge and rocky cliffs rise up either side of you.
If you choose to climb the cliffs on either side, it’s possible by leaving your car at either end of the pass and walking up the grassy hillside. There are also small rock caves to explore as well as beautiful views of the Hope Valley from the top.
TIP: wear good footwear as the hills can be slippery in wet or cold weather.
Enjoy the scenic walk at Mam Tor
Mam Tor is my favourite walk in the Peak District and in my opinion, one of the best places to go in Peak District National Park, I come back every time. I’ve been lucky to see it on sunny days, snow days and even seen a cloud inversion at sunrise from the top!
Mam Tor is just a few minutes drive from Castleton. You pass through Winnats Pass and you’ll see the Mam Tor hill to the right.
The hill is big but not huge and the path is mostly paved so it’s totally doable for families and young children. On the walk up, make sure to look out left to enjoy the view over Edale as the road snakes into the valley.
The view from the top over the Hope Valley is really incredible to see.
There is a National Trust car park at Mam Tor which is often very busy and cars end up parking along the side of the roads in the surrounding area, so arrive early if you want to get a space in the car park.
I just mentioned Edale views when you climb Mam Tor and it really is one of the classic Peak District views. But driving through the Valley and Edale in the Peak District is just as beautiful.
If you follow the road into Edale Valley, there is a short loop that I love to drive and only takes about 30 minutes. Follow the Edale road from Mam Tor which will bring you through the valley where you’ll eventually reach Hope. At Hope, turn right and take the Castleton Road back to Castleton or Mam Tor.
I used to go to Buxton a lot as a child but never really appreciated it until I was an adult. This spa town in Derbyshire has the highest elevation of any market town in England and its market square is great to visit on a market day and explore the local stores.
Buxton is home to two famous golf courses, the beautiful Pavillion Gardens and one of my favourite book stores - Scrivener's Books and Bookbinding. I also highly recommend visiting the Buxton Brewery and Tap House, I love their Ace Edge IPA.
A Peak District weekend getaway isn’t complete without spending some time walking in the beautiful English Countryside. Chrome Hill is definitely one of those places and is instantly one of the most recognisable landscapes in the Peak District, with the ridge of the limestone hill resembling the spine of an ancient dragon or dinosaur, the hill is often called the Dragon’s Back.
You can do the walk as a loop from the Quiet Woman pub in Earl Sterndale (so you can enjoy a refreshing beer when you get to the end!). The walk is around 5.5 miles and is easy-moderate.
This is one of the best walks in the Peak District and perfect for photographers who want to capture dramatic landscapes, you really get a feeling of being in the Peaks of the Peak District.
TIP: For another easy hike that photographer's will love, check out the epic Thor’s Cave.
If you’re looking for a short walk that’s an easy win, then the Bamford Edge walk is for you. Bamford Edge is without a doubt one of the best views in the Peak District and the short 2 mile circular walk is worth it for spectacular views across the reservoir and Win Hill opposite.
The rocky cliff faces make for great viewpoints and great photo opportunities, just be careful up there on a windy day!
Ashford in the Water
Ashford in the Water has always been a special place that I visit with my family because it’s where my parents started their honeymoon.
Ashford in the Water is one of the most beautiful places in the Peak District and is full of the quaint countryside charm you’d expect from a rural village.
Park on Fennel Street near the church and wander around the beautiful streets and houses (although be respectful, these are people’s homes!). Head over to the bandstand just along the street from the church and cross the old stone bridge behind it.
This stone arch bridge crosses the River Wye and from the other side the view of the cottage along the river, with ducks quacking and the village in the background is my favourite spot in Ashford on the Water.
Visit the Headstone Viaduct at Monsal Dale
Just a couple of minutes drive from Ashford on the Water, along the B6465 is the Headstone Viaduct. The viaduct is part of the Monsal Trail, a traffic free trail which is accessible for walkers, cyclists and wheelchair users through the beautiful scenery of the Monsal Dales.
If you have the time, then this friendly 8.4 mile route is beautiful to do. But if you’d like to just see the viaduct, you can park at the car park just by the main road and walk down the path to see and walk across the viaduct itself.
The car park is pay and display and there’s also a lovely little cafe if you need some refreshments. This is one of my favourite spots to enjoy a picnic lunch with a view over the viaduct.
Visit Eyam - Derbyshire’s plague village
In this village tucked in the heart of the Peak District, there is one of the most famous stories in English history. In 1665, a parcel of cloth arrived from London where the Black Death was already killing thousands.
Within days, the fleas in the cloth had killed the tailor’s assistant and dozens more were infected. People tried to escape, but the Reverend realised the only way to stop it spreading to surrounding villages was to make the entire village isolate themselves. The village was cut off from the outside world for 14 months until the Plague was eventually declared over, it never infected any other nearby communities.
You can visit the Eyam museum and see dozens of plaques and graves around the village to remember the families who lost their lives to the Plague.
Visit the beautiful Chatsworth House
A visit to the Peak District wouldn’t be complete without seeing Chatsworth House. This spectacular stately mansion and gardens is home to the Devonshires and has been since the 1500s when it was built by the famous Bess of Hardwick and her husband Sir William Cavendish.
You could easily spend a whole day exploring the estate’s grounds, gardens and walks, as well as visiting the house itself. Plus there are events all year round with my favourite being the Chatsworth House Christmas Fair.
Visit the gardens in spring, summer or autumn for incredible flowers and colours. The walk up to the Hunting Tower is also a great way to see the estate from a different perspective if you have some more time to explore.
Book your tickets to visit here.
Dovedale and the Dovedale Stepping Stones
Dovedale is perfect for children, families and experienced walkers alike because there’s plenty of walking routes and options to explore.
The Dovedale Stepping stones hold some great memories for me of school trips to this area playing on the stepping stones and I remember a boy in my class losing his shoe on the stepping stones and watching it wash away down the river!
You can park at the Dovedale Car Park for a short walk down to the river dove and to see the stepping stones.
If you’re looking for a longer walk, start from Ilam Park which is a National Trust car park with toilets and refreshments. This walk is about 1.5 miles to the Dovedale Stepping Stones.
If you want a longer walk then the Dovedale walk is for you. The Dovedale walk is one of the best walks in the Peak District, taking you on an 8 mile walk along the River Dove to Milldale then the return takes you up along the top of the valley to the likes of Bailey Hill and Thorpe Cloud.
Peak District weekend breaks are a great way to enjoy a UK staycation if you love the outdoors and are looking to escape the city in the UK. With some amazing walks, quaint towns and villages as well as lots of history, I hope this guide gives you some ideas for things to do in the Peak District National Park and has helped you to plan your Peak District weekend away.
Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: I currently use SafetyWing Nomad Insurance. Which allows me to pay a rolling monthly fee to cover my long term travels.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.