Ruff Guide to… the Peak District

The Peak District is a walker’s paradise. This beautifully unspoilt area at the southern end of the Pennines has plenty to see and do. It is home to the historic spa town of Buxton and Britain’s first national park, which was officially recognised in 1951. Spanning 555 square miles, the Peak District National Park covers most of Derbyshire and also extends into Staffordshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and South and West Yorkshire. Ready to explore with your four-legged friend? Read on…

Buxton Opera House
Buxton Opera House © Eugene Birchall

Dog-friendly Peak District: the must-sees

Start with the historic spa town of Buxton, which is described as “the gateway to the Peak District National Park”. There has been a settlement here since the Roman times but the town became a big hit with Victorian tourists who were keen to benefit from the “healing powers” of its thermal waters.

There is lots to see and do in Buxton. Dogs will love the rambling Pavilion Gardens, while owners will enjoy admiring grand buildings like the Opera House and The Crescent. But a great way to see the main sights is on a quirky Discover Buxton tour. Climb aboard a Victorian tram – or converted milk float – to be whisked around the town and check off the local landmarks in an hour.

Discover Buxton tram, made from a converted milkfloat
One of the converted milk floats used for the Discover Buxton tours

The Wonders of the Peak tour runs between March and October and costs £7.50 per adult. Dogs are welcome, provided no other passengers object, and travel for free. The small tours are suitable for up to eight people so book in advance if you can.

Poole’s Cavern – a two-million-year-old cave – is an optional stop on the tour but dogs are not allowed inside. If you don’t mind taking a later tram though, you can stroll along a beautiful woodland trail to Solomon’s Temple, which boasts great views over Buxton.

Vintage tram at Crich Tramway Village
All aboard! A tram at Crich Tramway Village

For a great dog-friendly day out, head to the Crich Tramway Village. Here, you can ride a range of meticulously-restored trams. Adult tickets cost £17. Visitors all get an old penny that can be exchanged for unlimited tram rides on the mile-long track. There is no charge for dogs.

The hub of the village is the recreated period street, with its cobbled road and old-fashioned shops and cafes. Many of the buildings you see have been rescued from towns and cities across the UK. Once upon a time, the Red Lion pub stood in Stoke-on-Trent and was painstakingly rebuilt in Crich brick-by-brick.

Ernie onboard a tram at Crich Tramway Village
Ernie checks out the Red Lion pub from the comfort of a tram

Visitors can also stretch their legs on the sculpture trail and walk up to the Crich Stand war memorial. Be aware that you can only access it from the Glory Mine stop and will have to wait for a tram to come back.

Dogs are, of course, allowed on the trams provided they stay downstairs. They are welcome almost everywhere else in the village too. When we visited, we bumped into about ten other pooches, which was fantastic. Full-price tickets also give you unlimited entry for a year so you can go back time and again.

Cable cars at the Heights of Abraham
Cable cars at the Heights of Abraham

If you have an adventurous pooch, check out the Heights of Abraham, near Matlock. Here, you can ride a cable car up Masson Hill for fantastic views over the Derwent Valley. The alpine-style cable cars have been operating since 1984 but the attraction has been welcoming tourists for hundreds of years.

It has more than 60 acres of land to explore and plenty of interactive exhibits, as well as a cave and play area. Adult tickets cost £17. Although dogs are allowed to travel in the cable cars, they are not allowed in any of the buildings onsite.

Ernie and Chris outside Bloomers of Bakewell
Ernie and Chris outside Bloomers of Bakewell

You can’t come to the Peak District without visiting the home of Bakewell tarts and puddings, either. Bakewell is a great place to pick up Peak District souvenirs and enjoy a peaceful riverside stroll – but make sure you visit one of the famous bakeries.

The town’s delicious pastry-based treats are almond-flavoured but come in a variety of different shapes of forms. Some are filled with jam while others have icing. It would be rude not to try them all and find your favourite!

Authentic Bakewell tarts
Two delicious examples of authentic Bakewell tarts

We loved The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop and Bloomers of Bakewell, which has been in business since 1889. Many bakeries also offer a “post-a-pudding” service so if you want to take a taste of the Peak District home, you can.

Bakewell is also close to Chatsworth House. Home to the Cavendish family, it has been voted the UK’s favourite country property several times. Dogs are not allowed inside the stately home but are welcome to explore the 105-acre garden. Adult tickets to the house, garden, farmyard and playground cost £23, while entry to the garden is £13.

The dog treat section at Edward & Vintage in Tissington
The doggy treat section at Edward & Vintage

If you’re anywhere near Tissington, stop off at Edward & Vintage – an old-fashioned sweet shop and “fantastical fudge factory”. Dogs and their owners will be in heaven here, thanks to retro delights such as barley sugars and popping candy.

The shop, which is named after the owner’s beloved late border terrier, even has a special dog treat section. Be sure to take your credit card – your pooch will love you for it.

Sign on the Monsal Trail
A signpost close to the Monsal Trail

Dog-friendly Peak District: the best walks

Whether you’re looking to hike for hours or enjoy a short circular stroll, you’ll be spoilt for choice here. You can’t come to the Peak District and not see any of its famous peaks, though – so start with Mam Tor.

When you have climbed the 517m to the top, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views north over the Edale Valley to Kinder Scout and the Derwent Moors. The National Trust website recommends a three-hour circular walk at Mam Tor, which should take you approximately two hours.

The Roaches in the Peak District
The Roaches on a sunny day © Graham Hogg

For something a bit more adventurous, head to The Roaches where you can put your climbing skills to the test. This rocky ridge, above Leek and Tittesworth Reservoir, is steeped in legend. Doxey Pool, at the top of The Roaches, is home to mythical mermaids while the deep chasm of Lud’s Church will take your breath away. Visit on a clear day and you’ll be able to see all the way to Mount Snowdon in Wales, too.

If you prefer to stick to paved paths, check out one of the Peak District’s traffic-free trails. Not only are these great for hikers, dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders, but you’re never far from a pub or cafe, either.

Headstone Viaduct in the Peak District
The Headstone Viaduct, which is part of the Monsal Trail

The Monsal Trail, which runs between Bakewell and Blackwell Mill, would be my first choice. It’s spectacularly scenic and follows an 8.5-mile section of the former Midland Railway line. Most of the trail opened to the public in 1981 but four former railway tunnels were out of bounds. They were finally opened to the public in 2011, however, after millions of pounds of investment.

The tunnels, which are around 400m long, are lit from dawn to dusk and serve as great landmarks. I did think Ernie might be a little wary of them but he proved me wrong! Combine at least one of the tunnels with a stroll across the Headstone Viaduct and you’re in for a great time.

Cyclists on the Tissington Trail
Cyclists on the Tissington Trail © Graham Hogg

The Tissington Trail is another lovely traffic-free route, running for 13 miles between Buxton and Ashbourne. This also follows an old train line – the London and North Western Railway – and is close to the Edward & Vintage sweet shop mentioned above.

Some great walking opportunities can also be had near the Ladybower Reservoir. Beneath it lies the remains of a village flooded during the Second World War to make way for the Derwent Dam. See the best of the area on a four-mile walk through the Derwent Valley, that also takes in some local farmland and the moors.

Burger from Buxton Brewery
One of the burgers on offer at Buxton Brewery Tap House

Dog-friendly Peak District: the best pubs and cafes

If you’re into your craft ales, check out the Buxton Brewery Tap House. This dog-friendly bar usually has 18 brews on draft and 16 on keg, plus a great selection of bottles. Many of the locally-produced brews will knock your socks off as they are at least 6% ABV!

The tap house – and the experimental cellar bar – are just moments from the Pavilion Gardens. Foodwise, expect to chow down on hearty American-style bar food such as burgers, brisket and mac and cheese. It’s all great for helping soak up a pint or seven.

Rewd Willow Brewery and Bar, Buxton
Red Willow Brewery and Bar in Buxton

Alternatively, check out dog-friendly RedWillow just around the corner. This stylish bar, housed in a former bank, is operated by a Macclesfield brewery. Work your way through its range of beers while relaxing on one of the Chesterfield sofas. Make sure you try one of the stone-baked pizzas, too.

For boozy souvenirs to take home, head to Buxton’s Beer District shop. It is packed full of fantastic Peak District products from craft ale to artisan gin and coffee. One of the best things about the shop is the staff, though. They really know their stuff and love having visiting doggos stop by.

If it’s a traditional country pub you’re after, try The Manifold Inn in Hulme End. This popular place serves everything from steak and ale pies to vegan delights. Dogs are welcome in the bar area and conservatory but not the more formal restaurant. The pub also has a beer garden with views over the Manifold River. And if you like it that much, you can even book a room and stay the night.

Exterior of The Old Dog in Thorpe
Enjoy hipster-style pub grub at the Old Dog in Thorpe

Hipster-style dining can be enjoyed at The Old Dog in Thorpe, which has an old facade but a modern outlook. The pub serves burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches with a trendy selection of sides. Think halloumi fries, chipotle sauce and avocado salads. Dogs are welcome throughout.

And if you’ve been out and about walking the Monsal Trail, stop by The Crispin Inn in nearby Great Longstone. Here, you can enjoy a lovely traditional meal in front of a roaring log fire. Dogs are allowed everywhere inside, as well as in the garden area. The pub also hosts a great quiz night every Friday evening.

Exterior of Alison Park Hotel, Buxton
Alison Park Hotel in Buxton

Dog-friendly Peak District: where to stay

For a central town location, you can’t beat the Alison Park Hotel in Buxton. This family-run hotel is housed in a beautiful Edwardian building near all the shops, bars and attractions. Dogs are welcome and there’s no extra charge for them. 

Alternatively, try Birch Cottage in Warslow, which is just over the border in Staffordshire. This lovely self-catering cottage sleeps three, plus up to two dogs. The garden has fantastic views over the surrounding fields and plenty of good walks start from the doorstep.

Ernie in the garden at Birch Cottage, Warslow
Ernie enjoys the garden at Birch Cottage in Warslow

How do I get to the Peak District?

The Peak District is approximately three hours from London via the M1. By bus, the National Express 441 service runs daily from London to Manchester and calls at a number of towns in the area, including Buxton and Bakewell. From Derby and Buxton, you can also catch the TransPeak bus service, which runs right through the heart of the Peak District.

By rail, the Hope Valley Line between Manchester and Sheffield passes through the Peak District. It stops at several villages in the beautiful Derwent, Hope and Edale valleys (Northern Railway). To the south is the Derwent Valley Line. It runs from Derby to Matlock, where the Derbyshire Dales meet the National Park (East Midlands Trains).

Train runs through the hills of the Peak District
The Peak District is served by several train lines © Wayland Smith

To the west is the Manchester to Glossop line and the Manchester to Buxton line, for access to Dark Peak moors and White Peak dales (Northern Railway). To the north is the Manchester to Huddersfield line, which stops at Greenfield and Marsden for access to Dove Stones, the Wessenden Valley and the open moors (TransPennine Express).

If you plan to arrive by air, look for flights to Manchester Airport. From there, regular rail services run to Manchester city centre, where you can jump on a connecting train to the Peak District. Alternatively, take bus service 199 from the airport direct to Buxton.

Where can I find out more?

For further information about visiting the Peak District, check out the official tourism website. If you’re looking for more details about walks in the area, visit the Peak District National Park website.

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