A winning weekend in the Peak District
- Recommended for:
- Activity, Short Break, Budget
Castleton may be a well known centre for outdoors adventure, but it’s also a great base camp for a relaxing weekend in the glorious Peak District
My husband Robin is a landscape photographer and always has to be up early to catch the spectacular scenery of this part of the High Peak in its best light. That’s why we stayed at Castleton, as the crisp dawns are superb. Whilst Robin worked, my daughters and I explored. The girls love it here because there’s plenty to do whatever the weather. Just remember to take an extra layer of clothing because you’re way above sea level here; nearby Buxton has the ‘honour’ of being the highest town in England.
The Caravan Club’s site is just five minutes’ walk from Castleton. It lies in the Hope Valley below Lose Hill, from which it takes its name. Geared for year-round use, it’s got heated toilet blocks and a very useful drying room. Lose Hill got its name following a crushing defeat in a 7th-century battle between rival kings. The successful army was entrenched on nearby Win Hill – where else?
Don your walking boots and head through Castleton, taking the old Chapel-en-le-Frith road to Mam Tor for an easy climb up the ancient hill fort. Looking down, you can see why they call this the Shivering Mountain. A dramatic landslip creeps down its side and across the road below. This road was originally built to bypass the steep limestone gorge out of Castleton, called Winnats Pass. Now it’s as buckled and smashed as if it belongs in an earthquake zone. It’s testament to an almost bulldozing force of nature – and one that continues.
Don’t forget to take a picnic to enjoy as you watch the paragliders soaring gracefully in the updrafts off Mam Tor. Castleton is renowned as an outdoors adventure centre, with caving, rock climbing, abseiling and potholing for all ages and abilities. Many people come here just for the breathtaking views in every direction, including the Edale Valley, Kinder, the Derwent Moors and Stanage Edge. Continue walking towards Back Tor and back to Lose Hill (eight miles).
Time to relax, with an evening at the fine Edwardian Buxton Opera House. It hosts a huge variety of shows, from the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre to Cornish comedian Jethro to music with Barbara Dickson or the Grimethorpe Colliery Band. Dine at the very friendly Kwei Lin Chinese Restaurant in Lower Hardwick Street.
Leave your vehicle behind and take the pretty riverside path in Castleton to the mouth of Peak Cavern. It’s an awesome place, with the largest natural cave entrance in the UK. Until the late 19th century this was home to a community of ropemakers. Some of their equipment and what’s left of their tiny homes remain. Having bent over double in Lumbago Walk through the cave, stretch yourself afterwards with a steep climb up to what remains of 11th-century Peveril Castle, directly above the cavern, for more fabulous views.
Drive north to the impressive Ladybower, Derwent and Howden reservoirs and wander through the peaceful pine woods. There are plenty of parking spaces near the water’s edge. Derwent reservoir was famously used by the RAF's 617 Squadron - the Dambusters - to practise low level flying techniques during 1943, to prepare for dropping Barnes Wallis's 'bouncing bombs' on German dams.
On the way back, take a short diversion to picturesque Hathersage, the village of ‘Morton’ in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Brontë stayed at the vicarage here and probably took the name Eyre from memorials to local landowners of that name in the churchyard. The graveyard is also reputedly home to the remains of Little John, Robin Hood’s statuesque friend. In the Scotsman's Pack in School Lane look out for ‘his’ enormous chair. You might need it after trying the Pack’s range of food and ales.