How would you rather spend a weekend – stuck in traffic in a busy, smoggy, crowded city stressed out of your mind, or hiking through beautiful countryside before tucking into a picnic without a care in the world?
I’m fairly sure I know the answer to that question and while there are many, many perks to city living, at heart, I’m a countryman.
I don’t know what it is about the countryside that I find so relaxing, but honestly, when I’m hiking in a National Park, I feel more relaxed and zen than a Buddhist monk listening to a meditation tape whilst getting a massage in a spa on a fluffy cloud in the sky. That’s how relaxing I find the countryside!
Talking of countryside and National Parks, you can’t mention natural beauty spots in the UK without mentioning the Peak District.
If you’re looking for ideas for your next outdoor countryside adventure, here are se7en reasons why the Peak District is one of the UK’s best National Parks.
It was the first National Park in the UK
Those with a keen interest in National Parks and the great outdoors, such as myself, will always have a special place in their hearts for the Peak District.
Why? Because it was actually the UK’s very first National Park. That’s right, the Peak District was the National Park that started it all, and what a way to begin.
In the UK, there are now 15 National Parks, 10 of which are found in England, and the Peak District was the first one to be established here, way back in 1951.
For those of you who love the fresh air and beauty of the countryside, these protected areas simply must be explored.
Back in 1932, at the stunning Kinder Scout, Derbyshire, a group of ramblers arranged for an organized “trespass” to protest the fact that walkers in the UK were denied access to open countryside that technically wasn’t owned by anybody.
As a result of this protest/trespass, less than two decades later, the Peak District National Park was formed. Hoorah!
Lockdown? Invented it, mate
Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on and on about the current goings-on in the world as I’m sure the media is doing that already.
What I am going to do, however, is take you back in time to 1666, to the ‘Village of the Damned’.
That sounds scary doesn’t it, but don’t worry, the real name of the village is Eyam, pronounced ‘Eeem’ though it became known as the Village of the Damned for a very good reason.
It was September 1665, and a local tailor had taken delivery of a bale of cloth sent all of the ways to the Derbyshire village, from London.
The tailor’s assistant unrolled the damp cloth and hung it to dry in front of the fire. The problem, however, was that the cloth was infested by rat fleas carrying the ‘Black Death’ aka the Bubonic Plague.
The tailor’s assistant was the first to become infected, yet as the months rolled by, more and more villagers lost their lives to the disease.
To prevent an epidemic and to stop the spread of the disease, the villagers made the ultimate sacrifice and quarantined themselves from the outside world. Nobody came in, and nobody was to leave.
Around 75% of the village’s population lost their lives, yet their sacrifice saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions.
It’s the ultimate park for a traditional pub lunch
Whenever you find yourself walking in the Peak District, it is an unwritten law that you should top off your day with a visit to one of the park’s many pubs.
The Peak District is home to countless traditional pubs, each one beautiful, quirky, and charming in its own right.
After a long day hiking, there’s no better way to relax and unwind than to call into one of the said pubs, find a spot near a roaring open fire, order a pint of locally brewed ale, and tuck into a traditional pub lunch with all the trimmings.
In truth, you can drink whatever you like and order whatever you like. Myself, I’m partial to a nice cider and a homemade chicken, leek, and bacon pie and chips.
The spa and market towns
It isn’t just rolling hills, mountains, forests, countryside, and villages found in the Peak District. Here, you’ll also find some gorgeous little spa and market towns.
The two most popular examples are probably Buxton and Bakewell.
Buxton is a famous spa town with a selection of shops, amazing views, and plenty of things to do. Personally, I recommend that you visit the Buxton Opera House and catch one of the many entertaining live performances on offer.
Bakewell is a quaint market town complete with its own river and home to the hugely popular Bakewell Tarts and Bakewell Puddings.
Throughout the summer, there are heaps upon heaps of events held here, including the Bakewell Baking Festival and Bakewell Food Festival, whereby you can meet celebrity chefs and bakers, purchase homemade food and drink, and even catch live demonstrations.
Don’t worry, if you are on a diet or for some absurd reason, want to find something to do that doesn’t involve food, there are arts and crafts events, markets, live events, and heaps more besides.
To write a post about the Peak District and not mention the beautiful scenery on offer here would be like writing a post about baking, and not talking about bread.
The scenery in the Peak District is amongst the best in the entire world, I don’t care what anybody says.
One of the best things about the scenery found here is the fact that the Peak District has seemingly something for everybody.
If you enjoy hiking through heather-laden moors, you’re in luck, because there are plenty here. If you prefer your countryside to be mountainous, again, you can take your pick as there are plenty found here.
In truth, there are so many amazing views to be found in the Peak District that I couldn’t possibly list each one because it would take too long.
The Peak District isn’t called that simply because it sounds cool, it is called that because there are so many peaks located here.
For spectacular views, Mam Tor in Castleton offers dazzling views at the summit, as does Winnat’s Pass on the way up there, Curbar Edge, Chrome Hill, and Derwent Valley.
It is the ultimate location for outdoor sport enthusiasts
Now, admittedly I don’t do as much outdoor exercise as I should, in fact, other than a leisurely hike, that’s about it for me.
If I were into my outdoor sports, though, I would definitely make the Peak District my first port of call.
Because of the landscape and the scenery found here, the Peak District National Park provides outdoor sports enthusiasts with an abundance of different activities to choose from.
Mountain bikers love it here, as do cyclists looking for a more leisurely ride out. I have yet to go cycling here but I’ve heard only good stories so far. There are also mountain climbing spots, orienteering, abseiling, kayaking, rafting, fell running, caving, horse riding, sailing, swimming, fishing, and much more besides.
Those of you who weren’t just skimming through the last section will have noticed that I mentioned that the Peak District offers to cave as one of its many possibilities for outdoor sports. Yes, I know technically that caves are not outdoors at all, but it’s my article so I can get away with it.
Not only is this National Park famous for its amazing landscapes, but it also happens to be home to a vast network of underground caves just waiting to be explored.
These interesting subterranean systems make for the perfect day out, as there are heaps upon heaps of show caves which can be explored via guided tours.
Poole’s Cavern, sometimes known as Poole’s Hole, is an ancient limestone cave located at the edge of Buxton and is open to the public throughout much of the year.
The village of Castleton is also home to plenty of caves, including the hilariously named ‘Devil’s Arse’ cave.
This cave gets its name from the fact that water draining away through natural sinkholes would gurgle and bubble, making a noise that sounded remarkably like somebody who had eaten far too many baked beans and was suffering from a bad case of flatulence.
The locals believed that the sinkhole was a portal to hell itself and that the gurgling noise was the devil breaking wind – hence the name ‘The Devil’s Arse’.
Are you ready to spend some quality time in nature? Hope I convinced you to visit Peak District!
Until next time stay safe, stay curious and don’t stop wandering!