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Live on the edge... visit the Peak District

20th September 2012

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Often overlooked, but boasting breath-taking scenery and an abundance of cultural opportunities, the Peak District should be a definite contender if you’re looking to get away for the weekend. Why? Well there are the Bakewell Tarts, to start with...

1.     The Great Outdoors

The Peak District National Park extends across northern Derbyshire, into parts of West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Staffordshire, and is the second most visited National Park in the world – allegedly, after that which contains Mount Fuji in Japan. It’s easy to see why the area holds such an attraction: caving, abseiling, kayaking and mountain biking are all outdoorsy activities that you can pursue here... if you’re into that sort of thing. If you’re feeling less adventurous, you could just walk – the scenery is quite nice...

2.     The Film Connection

Did you know that the Peak District has been the shooting location for some of the biggest British films of recent years? Nope, us neither. And then we went there and discovered Chatsworth House, setting for 2005’s Pride & Prejudice. And Kedleston Hall, where they filmed The Duchess. And Haddon – setting for three versions of Jane Eyre, plus the discovery of Lizzie Bennett’s trampy, I’ve-just-failed-to-elope little sister Lydia in, yes, 2005 Pride and Prejudice.  Can you see a theme emerging? Haddon, which dates from the 11th century, is currently holding an exhibition of costumes from every version of Jane Eyre that has been filmed there – Franco Zefferelli’s 1995 film, the 2006 BBC mini-series and the 2011 film starring Mia Wasikowska.

Also, at the Peacock Hotel at Rowsley you can flick through the guestbook until you find the signature of the actual Colin Firth, who had a stay that was “marvellous, as always.” I recommend you do this. It's a highlight. 

3.     The Food

A weekend visit to the Peak District may be characterised by some or all of these things: Derbyshire fudge from the gift shop at Chatsworth. Locally sourced white wine whilst picnic-ing during an outdoor film screening (courtesy of the Summer Nights Film Festival) in front of Kedleston Hall. The Peacock Hotel, which is where the actors pitch up whilst they’re filming, and which I can (almost) guarantee will provide you with the best lunch you’ve had all year. Cupcakes left in your room at Breadsall Priory, where I would also recommend you stay if you’re looking for a few days of relaxation. Afternoon tea at Edensor, the village built for the workers of Chatsworth and now home to the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire... need I go on? Yes? Ok. The village of Matlock Bath has 27 different places to buy chips. Allegedly. Although maybe this won’t be a highlight of your trip.

4.     The History

You’ve probably heard of Chatsworth, home to multiple generations of the Devonshire family (if you don’t know who they are I have some choice words for you: Keira Knightly, big hair, Earl Grey, tea, tragedy).  But did you know that Kedleston and Haddon halls hold just as much, if not more, history behind their imposing front doors? Guessed not. Haddon Hall can trace its roots back to Doomsday Book and Kedleston’s former owners, the liberally-minded Curzons, held rivalry with the right-wing Devonshire’s for time immemorial. Which is pretty interesting.

On an entirely different note, visit Creswell Crags (near Worksop) and you’ll be able to view the most northerly cave paintings in Europe. The Crags also host a museum, visitor centre and cafe, and outdoor theatre is hosted there in the summer. Bit of Shakespeare, outside, at the sun sets? Yeah, can’t complain.  

In summary, the Peak District is lovely and relaxing and full of hidden delights, and is also within only a couple of hours of most places in the country (...almost). You should go. It’s got so much more than just Bakewell Tarts.

For more information visit the Visit Peak District website

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