River Wissey Lovell Fuller

A week in the Derbyshire Dales

September 2004

Graham Forster gives us a delightful look at their first ever holiday in the Peak District

A holiday in the Peak District was a "first" for us and we were not sure what to expect. What we got was stunning scenery, so many places to visit that we are going to return, and the town of Bakewell where we stayed. We know nothing about the town or the area but we were certainly not disappointed.

Bakewell is an enchanting small town where nearly all the buildings are built from local stone. Indeed, it is very difficult to find any red bricks anywhere. The shops were varied and good and the Monday Market was excellent. There is also a cattle market on Mondays which is open to the public. The River Wye runs alongside the town and there are some lovely riverside walks.

The Dales are great walking country. There are many booklets of suggested walks most of which are well within the average person's ability. The countryside is reminiscent of the Yorkshire Dales but far more lush. Trees abound everywhere and there is not the severity and harshness of Yorkshire. However, do brush up on your hill-starts as some of the minor roads are quite "interesting". If you are into caves, there are three that you can visit, the most fascinating, probably, being Treak Cliff Cavern where Blue John stone is mined.

If you are into Museums, Bakewell boasts the Old House which we found interesting, whilst Sir Richard Arkwright Museum at Matlock Bath should be well worth a visit when it is finally completed for next year. There is also the Crick Tramway "Museum" which the kids should love as you can ride on old trams from London and around the country.

Whilst mentioning children, they would certainly appreciate a visit to Gulliver's Kingdom, a theme park similar to Alton Towers but on a smaller scale. Also, I am sure they would like the Wind in the Willows Attraction at the Peal Village Retail Complex at Rowsley.

Finally, the area is home to so many stately homes, ruined castles, etc., many under the auspices of the National Trust and English Heritage as well as some, such as Chatsworth, privately owned. The major attraction is the latter, owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, a magnificent house in the grand manor that hosts a great number of functions as well as outdoor concerts. (Cliff Richard was on whilst we were there.) Hardwick House is certainly worth a visit, not only to learn of one of England's most remarkable women, Bess of Hardwick, but also for the grandeur, gardens and staggering views. Among the other places to go are Haldon Hall, Bolsover Castle, Peveril Castle and the amazing Wingfield Manor (very difficult to find but well worth persevering). This is built on one of the highest points in Derbyshire and, although virtually a ruin, can still be appreciated by use of one's imagination and the audio facility that is provided. Don't be faint-hearted, do climb to the top of the tower which magically is still complete, and take in the view - it's worth every penny of the entrance fee.

It may sound as though I am getting a commission from the Derbyshire Tourist Office in this article (they have an excellent shop in Bakewell!!) but I have just reported the district as I found it. The hotels and B & B's get booked up quickly, so it's as well to make arrangements early if you intend going to this lovely area. And finally, on your way home, stop off at the little village of Hartington where there is a cheese shop that is not only stacked with many varieties of cheese, but also offers very reasonable process. Bon appetite!

Graham Forster

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