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In 1951, the Peak District – comprising most of Derbyshire and parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire and Staffordshire – became Britain’s first national park.
The park is made up of two contrasting regions. To the north is Dark Peak, a wild and open landscape of heather and bog and black granite outcrops. While to the south lies White Peak, where picturesque mill towns sit among lush valleys and limestone caves.
The Peak District was designated as a national park in 1951 ©Getty
Discover the Peak District – from the valleys of Dovedale and Lathkill Dale to the heights of Kinder Scout – with our guide to the best walks in the national park.
Butterly Reservoir, seen from the path, is just a short walk from the main route ©Getty
Enjoy this inspiring 12km walk across England’s great watershed, the Pennine Divide, linking the villages of Marsden and Uppermill via boat-horse trails. This walk links the Colne and Tame valleys, typical South Pennine countryside with distinctive architecture and robust history. Local trains make this linear walk between white and red rose camps a real pleasure,
In early summer, the banks of the River Wye bloom with meadowsweet ©Neil Coates
Deep in the White Peak east of Buxton is a captivating area of countryside; a union of natural bounty and majestic engineering that together create a truly astounding landscape. Although it may have its challenges, this 6.8km loop walk is readily accessible to all with a measure of agility and a sense of adventure.
The old bridge at Chatsworth, Peak District ©Getty
One of our favourite mid-winter rambles is this easy 12km circular walk from the home of the delicious Bakewell pudding and across Calton Pastures to visit the Duke of Devonshire’s home and parklands. Winter is one of the loveliest times to take this walk, because you’ll often have the frosty meadows to yourself, and have a better chance of seeing wildlife, such as the herds of deer that graze in the mature Capability Brown-designed grounds.
Late-summer heather on the Roaches ridgeline in the Peak District ©Getty
Look out for wallabies while enjoying folklore and oatcakes amid striking Staffordshire gritstone outcrops with this 9.3km walk in the Peak District National Park. Late summer is a wonderful time of year to walk The Roaches ridgeline as it flushes purple with flowering heather.
The upturned limestone reefs of the Dragon’s Back ©Alamy
The Dragon’s Back range are often cited as the only true peaks in the Peak District; a line of pinnacles said to resemble the ‘plates’ along the spine of a stegosaurus dinosaur. This exhilarating 10km walk includes seven short, steep climbs to each summit.
The road past the Cheshire Cheese Inn was a key trade route for salt sellers and sheep drovers in medieval times ©Carys Matthews
Traditionally, the sign of a Cheshire cheese swinging in front of a pub was used to show it offered a warm welcome, and that a roaring fire, hearty meal and tankard of ale awaited within. This is certainly true of the Cheshire Cheese which lies nestled in the village of Hope in the Peak District. This is the sort of cosy pub you long to stumble across after an invigorating day in the hills.
Kinder Scout in snowfall ©Getty
Sandwiched between Manchester and Sheffield in Derbyshire, the bleak but beautiful upland plateau of Kinder Scout is a landscape of wind-swept waterfalls and rocky crags, perfect for hikers and scramblers alike.
No matter what the season, Padley Gorge is a magical place ©Getty
The river Derwent arcs through the eastern Peak District in a wooded vale with looming moorland shoulders. Tributaries tumble from the tops, foaming amid wizened woodlands little-changed in centuries. Padley Gorge has the best of these, draining Burbage Moor to the Derwent at Grindleford. An enchanting stroll explores this chasm, pausing midway along to route at a cosy inn, before looping up through woodland-shrouded industrial heritage.
Haddon Hall in winter, Derbyshire ©Getty
Roaring fires, glimmering lights and verdant garlands transform the austere atmosphere of this ancient manor house and its stern fortifications into a place of warmth and cheerful celebration. Leaving the manor house behind, you can follow the meandering River Wye to Bakewell for more delights at All Saints Church and Vernon Chapel.
This walk takes you through the River Wye’s twisting, wooded gorge, deep in the White Peak ©Getty
Ramble the high tracks and waterside paths of Monsal Dale in the Peak District National Park to revel in an explosion of seasonal colour, especially in autumn.
Robin Hood’s Stride, Harthill Moor, Peak District National Park ©Alamy
Surrounding the Peak District village of Birchover is a haunting landscape of gritstone bluffs, standing stones, burial mounds and Bronze-Age stone circles, hidden in inky woodland or exposed on windswept upland. The paths here are littered with the history and mythology of the south-east Peak, from the hermit of Cratcliffe Tor who led travellers to safety off the ancient Portway trail, to the notorious outlaw who leapt across the soaring pillars that straddled Robin Hood’s Stride. Explore this prehistoric landscape on a 8.6km walk.
Worship has taken place on the site of St John the Baptist church in Tideswell since the 11th century ©Alamy
Enjoy a winter wander from Tideswell’s ‘Cathedral of the Peak’ into the depths of Miller’s Dale and Monk’s Dale in the Peak District National Park. Visit in spring, summer and autumn for a different perspective.
A beautiful landscape of deep green woodland on steep hillsides on the border of Derbyshire and Staffordshire ©Getty
Explore Dove Dale and its surrounding countryside with a three-hour walk, starting at the pretty village of Ilam. Along the way you will discover the Church of the Holy Cross, beautiful Peak District meadows and stepping stones across a the River Dove.
Farmland around Hollinsclough, Derbyshire ©Getty
A 9km hike through the Peak District, starting at Earl Sterndale then climbing over Parkhouse and Chrome hills towards the village of Hollinsclough. The route starts at the Quiet Woman pub in Earl Sterndale, a 400-year-old inn with hand-painted signs of a decapitated barmaid.
The Bradford River in Bradford Dale ©Alamy
Enjoy a 4.5km poetry walk from Middleton to Youlgreave. a literary treasure hunt created as a millennium project by Middleton and Smerrill Parish around its boundary.
Hollins Cross and Lose Hill ridge, Castleton, Peak District National Park, Derbyshire ©Getty
An 8.5km hike from one of the Peak District’s most beautiful villages to the top of Hollins Cross and Mam Tor. The route begins by crossing pastures alongside the Odin Sitch stream to meet the ‘Coffin Road’.
A sunny day below the rocky edge with a group of children taking part in a rock climbing exercise ©Getty
Follow in the footsteps of the Bronte sisters with a 9.5km walk from Hathersage to Stranage Edge in the Peak District National Park. In spring and summer the sweet song of a skylark fills the air.