The Peak District is a walker’s paradise – which is just as well if, like many people, you develop a taste for the locally-produced Bakewell tarts and puddings. This beautifully unspoilt area at the southern end of the Pennines is great for outdoorsy types and 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…
WHAT ARE 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 – which has grown up around the River Wye – 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 taking in the fine architecture of 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.
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 at a time so it’s advisable to book in advance if you can.
Poole’s Cavern – a two-million-year-old cave – is an optional stop on the tour but be aware that dogs are not allowed inside. If you don’t mind taking a later tram though, you can take the opportunity to stroll along a beautiful woodland trail to Solomon’s Temple, which boasts great views over Buxton.
For a great dog-friendly day out, head to the Crich Tramway Village where you can ride a range of meticulously-restored trams. Adult tickets cost £17 and once you’ve paid the entry fee, you will be given 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.
Visitors can also stretch their legs on the sculpture trail and walk up to the Crich Stand war memorial – but be warned, you can only access it from the Glory Mine stop and you 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 and when we visited, we bumped into about ten other visiting pooches, which was fantastic. Full-price tickets also give you unlimited entry for a year so if you like what you see, you can go back again and again.
If you have an adventurous pooch, check out the Heights of Abraham, near Matlock, where 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 system and adventure play area. Adult tickets cost £17 but although dogs are allowed to travel in the cable cars, they are not allowed in any of the buildings onsite.
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 so it would be rude not to try them all and find your favourite.
There are countless bakeries to visit but we were particularly taken with The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop and Bloomers of Bakewell, which has been in business since 1889. Many of the shops 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, which is home to the Cavendish family and has been voted the UK’s favourite country property on several occasions. Dogs are not allowed inside the stately home but are welcome to explore the 105-acre garden, complete with water features, sculptures and a maze. Adult tickets to the house, garden, farmyard and playground cost £23, while entry to the garden is £13.
And if you’re anywhere near Tissington, be sure to stop off at Edward & Vintage – a delightfully old-fashioned sweet shop and “fantastical fudge factory”. Dogs and their owners will be in heaven here, thanks to retro delights such as fish and chips, 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 with gravy bones, marrowbone rolls, chews and the suchlike. Be sure to take your credit card – your pooch will love you for it.
WHERE’S GOOD FOR WALKIES? The Peak District has some really fantastic walks so whether you’re looking to hike for hours or enjoy a short circular stroll, you’ll be spoilt for choice. 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.
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 your map-reading isn’t up to much or 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.
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 for safety reasons. They were finally opened to the public in 2011, however, after millions of pounds of investment.
The tunnels, which are around 400m long, are well lit from dawn to dusk and serve as great landmarks on any walks. 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.
The Tissington Trail is another lovely traffic-free route, running for 13 miles between Buxton and Ashbourne. This also follows an old train line – this time The London and North Western Railway – and is, of course, close to the quirky 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. You can 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.
BEST PLACE TO GRAB A BITE? 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 and other beverages. 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 and great places to refuel after a walk in the park. Foodwise, expect to chow down on hearty American-style bar food such as burgers, brisket and mac and cheese – great for helping soak up a pint or seven.
Alternatively, check out dog-friendly RedWillow just around the corner. This stylish bar, housed in a former bank, is operated by a Macclesfield brewery and has a great selection of beer at very reasonable prices. Work your way through the range while relaxing on one of the Chesterfield sofas – and 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 – not what you’d expect in the middle of the countryside. 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.
Hipster-style dining can be enjoyed at The Old Dog in Thorpe, which has an old facade but a very modern outlook. The pub serves a range of 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 afterwards. This popular pub has an award-winning cellar and serves great food, which can be enjoyed 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.
WHERE SHOULD I STAY? For a central town location, you can’t beat the Alison Park Hotel in Buxton. This small, family-run hotel is housed in a beautiful Edwardian building just a short stroll from 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 cute enclosed garden boasts fantastic views over the surrounding fields and there are plenty of fantastic walks that start from the doorstep.
GET ME THERE: 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, stopping at villages in the beautiful Derwent, Hope and Edale valleys (Northern Railway). To the south is the Derwent Valley Line from Derby to Matlock, where the Derbyshire Dales meet the National Park (East Midlands Trains).
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), and 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.
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.