The Peak District Villages and Hiking

The Peak District – England’s National Treasure

The beautiful Peak District is one of the busiest National Parks in the world. And for good reason – it has a stunning variety of landscapes, from wild heathland to limestone hills, and dramatic moorland to peaceful meadow.

It encompasses a picturesque 524 square kilometres, or 202 square miles, of open access land and 3005 kilometres, or 1867 miles, of rights of way for all to enjoy. 

The park has a wide range of activities for all ages and abilities to try. Walking and hiking are the favourite things to do here, but the Peak District has ideas for the more adventurous.

Popular and Attractive Villages

Climbing and potholing are becoming increasingly popular for those who love an adrenaline kick. There are cycle hire facilities through the park to enjoy the miles of cycle path that were once industrial railway lines! For those looking for a quieter break there are plenty of wildlife watching opportunities among the rich diverse habitats. 

One of the most popular villages to explore is enchanting Hathersage which lies at the East tip of the Hope valley. The river Derwent passes just to the South of the village and the Derwent Valley Heritage Way runs nearby. Hathersage is set in spectacular countryside and offers a wide range of accommodation for all budgets.

Little John, one of Robin Hoods men, was said to have been born here and his grave can be found in the church of St Michael. Robin Hood’s Cave, Well, and Stoop are all to be found in Hathersage. The area has a strong literary connection. Charlotte Bronte visited nearby North Lees Hall with her friend Ellen Nussey and found inspiration there for the fictional Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre. 

Longnor is a large village with an attractive cobbled market place. It is nestled at the top of a ridge between the Dove and Manifold valleys and so offers the hiker a good starting point for walks in the surrounding area. 

Hartington has been a village since the middle ages and is located in some of the best hiking country that the Peak District has to offer. It is an attractive village where impressive limestone houses are built around a central square which once housed a bustling market. Many of the ancient trackways and routes across the Peak District still converge on Hartington. Hartington Hall was built in 1611 and retains its original character. It is now a popular youth hostel. 

Rural road leading through green hills in Peak District UK
Green hills in Peak District UK

Walking and Hiking

The more confident hiker can orienteer through the open access land, but there are ranger led walks and easier trails for the less experienced to enjoy. The Pennine Way National Trail follows the Pennine chain starting at Edale, taking in Kinder Scout and finishes 268 miles away in Kirk Yetholm. 

Kinder Scout is an upland gritstone plateau that is popular with walkers and climbers. Its highest point is Crowdenhead, the highest point in the Peak District, 636 metres above sea level. The Kinder Scout circular walk is a long day but an enjoyable one. The river Kinder flows dramatically off the edge of the plateau in a spectacular waterfall at Kinder Downfall. 

Mam Tor is a very popular accessible walk with well laid footpaths and easy ascents. It is situated at the West end of the Hope valley and from the summit the wonderful view stretches over the Edale valley, across to Kinder Scout and the Derwent Moors. 

Stanage Edge is another popular choice for walkers and climbers alike. It is known for its dramatic rock scenery and its wild open moorland. Climbers have mapped 1200 different routes to climb and more are added each year. This particular area supports an internationally important area of heather moorland and blanket bog that is protected by Site of Special Scientific Interest status.

Stanage Edge has become victim of its own popularity and is suffering from increasing erosion which the Park volunteers are working to rectify. Stanage also incorporates a Special Protection Area for upland birds, most notably the Ring Ouzel, but other species such as the Snipe, Curlew, Reed Bunting, Whinchat, Wheatear, and Linnet are also protected. Stanage Pole is a popular point on the walk. There has been a wooden pole stood on the site for centuries marking the border of Derbyshire, South Yorkshire, Hathersage and Sheffield. 

river Dove at Dovedale in the English Peak District
River Dove at Dovedale in the English Peak District

Restful meadow lands

The Peak District has large areas of restful meadow lands which are maintained by the farmers. These areas form a valuable crop as winter feed for the livestock, but as a flower rich grassland from May to July they offer a home for many types of rare flowers including : Early Purple Orchids; Wood Anemone; Vetch species; Ox-eye Daisy; Hay Rattle; Rough Hawkbit; Common Spotted Orchid; Field Scabious; and Knapweed.

This area of biodiversity encourages insects and the birds which feed on them such as the Short Eared Owls; Merlins and Red Grouse.