Travel guide and things to do in the Peak District and Derbyshire: nine highlights

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THE UNIQUE VILLAGE

The Peak District was England’s first National Park and although it offers a landscape of rolling hills and moody moorland very walkable, the character comes from the patchwork of small towns and villages in the Midlands. If you choose just one, go for the very pretty Castleton in Derbyshire, which offers several lovely old pubs, castle ruins, several starting points and a selection of cave tours. See visitpeakdistrict.com

THE UNIQUE CAVE

Of these cave tours, if you can only choose one, make it Speedwell Cavern. After descending seemingly endless steps carved into the hillside, there is a narrow, claustrophobic tunnel, and the only way to get around it is by boat. The mini-cruise ends once you reach the large underground cavern, where hokey old stories are told next to an underground pool, once thought to be of infinite depth. See speedwellcavern.co.uk

THE ONLY WALK

Mam Tor, the verdant, domed hill that towers over Castleton, can be approached as part of the Great Ridge Walk. Starting from the village, you will also pass Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern, then swing along the ridgeline which offers stunning views of the Edale and Hope valleys. A full loop gives you a 10.5 kilometer workout.

THE ONE CHURCH

For history rather than beauty, Eyam is the best village. Often known as the plague village, Eyam isolated itself from the world in the 17th century in a valiant attempt to prevent the plague from spreading further. Dozens of villagers died and they are commemorated inside St. Lawrence Church. The exhibits inside tell part of the story, though there’s more detail at the nearby Eyam Museum. See eyamchurch.org, eyam-museum.org.uk

THE DELICIOUS UNIQUE

The Bakewell Tart is better known, but the Bakewell Pudding is what the town of Bakewell insists on calling its own. It’s a fairly simple affair – a pastry base topped with a mixture of eggs, jam and ground almonds – but heavens it’s more indulgent. The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop, as the name suggests, specializes in these sweet treats. See bakewellpuddingshop.co.uk

THE BREWERY ONE

Thornbridge was one of the pioneers of the British craft brewing revival and its main production site is on the outskirts of Bakewell. There is a Tap Room on site, with several beers available for tasting. These include the signature Jaipur IPA, as well as some of the more experimental concoctions that can’t be found anywhere near the supermarket shelves. See thornbridgebrewery.co.uk

THE MAGNIFICENT HOUSE

xxPeak One & Only Peak District Derbyshire Cheshire England UK;  text by David Whitley (handout provided by image via reporter for use in Traveller, no syndication) MANDATORY Credit: Visiting Peak District and DerbyshireSee file name for description

Photo: Visit Peak District and Derbyshire

Chatsworth House stands like a grand palace amid a vast estate of grazing sheep, sculpted gardens and dancing fountains. Inside, there are sufficiently high levels of sumptuousness. The tapestries are enormous, the paintings grandiose and the woodwork implacable. But among the very expensive furniture there are some surprising modern touches, like the large, bloody bronze statue of Damien Hirst. See chatsworth.org

THE ONLY SPA

xxPeak One & Only Peak District Derbyshire Cheshire England UK;  text by David Whitley (handout provided by image via reporter for use in Traveller, no syndication) MANDATORY Credit: Visiting Peak District and DerbyshireSee file name for description

Photo: Visit Peak District and Derbyshire

Spring-fed natural thermal pools have made Buxton a destination for the affluent since the 18th century. The original spa pool is located in a beautiful Victorian building and is part of the Ensana Buxton Crescent Health Spa hotel wellness spa. You don’t need to be staying at the hotel to use it, though some day spa prices are uncomfortably high. See ensanahotels.com

THE UNIQUE TRADITION

The ancient tradition of dressing well sees elaborate images made of gathered flowers, leaves and other natural materials. It started as a thanksgiving for the water and the life it brings to the villages. It’s now something done as a source of pride, with a barely concealed rivalry over which village produces the most impressive dressings. These outdoor works of art are usually displayed for a week during the summer, with each village choosing different dates. See welldressing.com

ONE MORE THING

The Peak District is best known as a hiking destination, but the Monsal Trail should satisfy cyclists. Running alongside the River Wye for just under 9 miles, this former railway line passes through tunnels, a dramatic viaduct and past the towering mills that fueled the Industrial Revolution. Bikes can be hired from Hassop station along the route. See hassopstation.co.uk

David Whitley traveled at his own expense.

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