Adrian Mourby

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The Peak District is one of Britain’s oldest national parks. It was created in 1951 out of the non-industrial area at the southern end of the English Pennines. Most of it is in Derbyshire but it also includes parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

In Pride and Prejudice it is to the Peaks that Elizabeth Bennet’s aunt and uncle take her on holiday, and it is here that they visit Mr Darcy’s home, Pemberley (thought to be based on the sublime Chatsworth House). Lizzie finds that on his own territory Darcy cuts a much kinder figure. In Andrew Davies’ TV adaptation of 1992 that figure was embodied by Colin Firth, memorably cooling his ardour by diving into a cold Peak District lake. He emerges in a state of undress that still flutters many hearts (male and female), although the scene was actually shot at nearby Lyme Park.

The Peak District consists of the moorland heights such as Dark Peak and White Peak and valleys and gorges that cut remorselessly through limestone plateaux. There are a number of attractive towns and villages including Bakewell, with its five-arched thirteenth-century bridge over the River Wye, Castleton which was a centre for production of a (now virtually exhausted)  semi-precious mineral known as blue john, and  Eyam, known for its self-imposed quarantine during the Black Death (which was turned into the TV play The Roses of Eyam). But it  is for its glorious countryside, fresh, open and inspiring, that the Peak District National Park is celebrated.

Here are just ten places you can stay while exploring this lovely, rugged part of England.

Ringwood Hall was built in the nineteenth century though its neoclassical portico harkens back to an earlier time and its Cavendish Fine Dining Room, just off reception deliberately references Jane Austen.

The first owner of the hall was George Hodgkinson Barrow who owned the nearby Staveley Coal and Iron Company.  In 1864 the Markham family took over  the company and in 1907 Charles Paxton Markham, the second generation of Markhams to run the works bought Ringwood Hall for himself and his mother Rosa Paxton. Rosa was the daughter of Sir Joseph Paxton, the designer of Prince Albert’s Crystal Palace in London. Like her father she was a keen gardener and architect and some of the features of Ringwood Hall and its grounds today were probably built to her designs.  

Charles Paxton Markham was a popular manager. He would open the grounds of Ringwood Hall to his workers on Sundays. He was three times elected mayor of nearby Chesterfield and when he died in 1926 his widow Frances used the extended hall to provide a library, evening classes and medical services for the workers. After her death the mansion, its ground and outbuildings were given as a social club to for the foundry men.  

After World War II the hall was for many years a modest 21-bedroom hotel, promoting itself as a gateway to the Peak District. In 1999 however David Seton of Lyric Hotels took it over and invested £4,500,000, expanding Ringwood into a 74-bedroom hotel with conference and banqueting suites and a health and fitness club with its own indoor pool, sauna, steam room and gym. During this expansion all the old out-buildings were adapted as hotel rooms and suites so today you may find yourself staying in one of the “Bothy” rooms or a “Coach House” suite in a set of rooms in the “Secret Garden”. When he sold Ringwood Hall on in 2016 Seton told Chesterfield News “You never actually own a place like Ringwood, you just look after it until the next person comes along. It has been an honour to have been custodian of Ringwood Hall for such a short time in its history.” 

Today Ringwood is an ideal place to begin an exploration of the Peak District. It is only 3 miles from Chesterfield Station, 16 miles from Bakewell and a mere 14 from Chatsworth the stately jewel of the Peaks.

Chatsworth in Derbyshire is one of the most gracious stately homes in England, hugely popular with locals who take great pride in having it on their doorstep. It’s also proved itself a major entrepreneur, ever since the 11th Duke and his Duchess, the former Deborah Mitford, showed the world how to open a stately home to the public and yet maintain its integrity.

The 35,000-acre Chatsworth estate also operates one luxury hotel, The Cavendish at nearby Baslow and two pubs with rooms, both called The Devonshire Arms (one at Pilsley and the other at Beeley). These three inns lie in a circle around the main house, as do its 25 holiday cottages.

The Devonshire Arms in tiny Beeley is composed of three eighteenth-century stone cottages fronting Beeley Brook in what is rather grandly named “Devonshire Square”. In 1747 the three were merged to create this charmimg coaching inn.  It is said that Charles Dickens stayed at the inn (he did travel a lot) and that King Edward VII often met his mistress Alice Keppel here. This is less credible because they both lived primarily in London and whenever Edward chose to visit Mrs Keppel at 30 Portman Square, her husband George would arrange to be conveniently out.  

Today as you enter the inn it has all the hallmarks of a classic British country pub:  a low-ceilinged wooden bar, working fireplaces, no actual reception area (guests check in at the bar) and a private dining room, up the steps to the right of the bar which is known as the Malt Vault. The vault is also a meeting place for local shooting parties, men -and the occasional woman- in tweeds who fortify themselves against the morning chill with a whisky or two.

There are various dining options in the winding ground floor rooms of the pub, with small tables in cozy alcoves but the main dining room – and breakfast room – is a modern construction. Its big picture windows overlook Beeley Brook and the old school house opposite. This is a surprisingly modern space hung with excellent modern Peak District art by local artist David Naylor. With its purple ceiling lighting and multi-coloured chandeliers, the dining room is quite a surprise after the nooks and crannies of the rest of the pub.

Rather unusually, the Devonshire Arms’ wine list is by country, an old-fashioned way that I still find useful rather than all this grouping by taste. And the mark-up on wines is reasonable so you can wine away your evening without worrying too much about the bill.

Accommodation is not in the Devonshire Arms itself but in the village of Beeley behind cottage doors painted “Chatsworth Blue”. It’s only when you notice how many doors are that colour that you realize that Beeley is a village owned by the Chatsworth estate. Even the old school house is actually pub accommodation.

Losehill House is a beautiful Arts and Craft’s building in between Hope Valley and the Vale of Edale. It was built in 1914 as the Moorgate Guest House, a hostel for members of the Lancastrian Cooperative Holiday Association. This temperance organisation saw its mission “to provide simple and strenuous recreative and educational holidays and to promote friendships and fellowships amid the beauty of the natural world.” In the 1920s guests from big industrial cities like Manchester and Sheffield would be collected from the nearby railway station and deposited in a pastoral setting with sheep in the fields, heather-covered moorland and a swiftly-flowing stream at the bottom of the hotel grounds.

After a number of owners during the twentieth century - including a brief spell as a Shearings hotel for coach parties - Losehill House was taken over and brought considerably upmarket by Paul and Kathryn Roden in 2007. In 2019 they moved their Manchester restaurant Grafene into an extension over the hotel swimming pool (built in 2002) to provide fine dining facilities. Upgrading the hotel also involved turning the original prayer room behind the bar into a private dining facility for up to 12 guests. Today the hotel is popular for weddings but also for a gourmet break for those walking the Peak District.

There are 22 bedrooms, many of which look out across the Noe Valley to beautiful bald hills opposite that catch the light at sunset. The hotel lies off a narrow road that goes on to National Trust’s Dark Peak and the famous Blue John Cavern before dropping down on the other side of Lose Hill to Castleton. Here there is – confusingly - a Lose Hill Hall (in effect on the other side of the Lose Hill) which is now a youth hostel. Be careful when you programme your GPS!

The Chatsworth estate owns 25 self-catering holiday cottages dotted across its massive Derbyshire estate. The most impressive of these is the Hunting Tower, which stands on an escarpment 400 feet above Chatsworth House itself and looks like four vertiginously narrow Tudor towers knitted together in stone. It was built in 1582 for the formidable Bess of Hardwick, the mother of William Cavendish, first Earl of Devonshire and a direct forebear of the current dukes.   The 90-foot tower may have been intended to be a banqueting house or summerhouse, and it was probably used by some of the Devonshire ladies to watch their menfolk hunting in the park below. Certainly, the view from the top of the tower would have been panoramic in the days before nearby Stand Wood grew so tall. Today the roof of the tower sports dishes and aerials that supply TV and wifi to the whole of this 35,000 acre estate.

Chatsworth holiday cottages are known on the estate as “bolt-holes” and have all been refurbished by the style-conscious 12th Duchess of Devonshire, assisted by her daughter-in-law, Laura Cavendish the Countess of Burlington. Inside this particular bolt-hole there are two bedrooms, one in the basement and one on the second floor. They are linked by spiral staircases. The cottage is ideal for two couples and if further accommodation is needed there is a freestanding annex behind the tower that will accommodate two more people.

In front of the tower stand three naval cannons aimed across the Derwent Valley at the estate village of Edensor. There were originally seven, and it’s believed they had been used at the Battle of Trafalgar. In 1843 they were hauled up to the base of the tower and fired to mark Queen Victoria’s visit to Chatsworth. No-one seems to know where the four missing cannons went.

Today there is a direct road up to the Hunting Tower from nearby Chatsworth Farm, accessible to vehicles by a key fob available only to guests. This means a certain level of exclusive access; after hours you can walk down the steep steps past Chatsworth’s stables to have the grounds all to yourself.


Bakewell is the only real town in the Peak District. It’s a lovely stone-built market town lying between the River Wye and the main A6 routeway, known here as Matlock Street. The Rutland Arms, a massive eighteenth-century inn, was named after the local landowner, the Duke of Rutland.  It dominates the centre of Bakewell. Lots of unique shops run in all directions from the hotel:  Big Top Toys, Peggy Ames Sweet Emporium, Hawkridge Antiquarian Books and The Bakewell Tart Shop.

By contrast to the towering Rutland Arms, The Castle is a jovial sixteenth-century pub on the corner of Castle Street and Bath Street just before it crosses the River Wye on Bakewell’s famously ancient bridge. There’s no actual castle in Bakewell these days, just this pub which is owned by the Greene King Brewery.  

Inside The Castle has a relaxed and amiable feel to it with a standard Greene King menu – steaks and pies, cod and chips, gammon, lamb, and mussels and fries. Its six bedrooms are situated in what might have formerly been a garage or stable block, attached to the pub but with separate entrances. The ground floor pair – named Buxton and Hathersage - are pet friendly.

You can hardly move in the Peak District without coming upon property belonging to the Chatsworth estate.  The Dukes of Devonshire own a land mass slightly bigger than Rhodes, the fourth largest of Greece’s islands. Devonshire lands could arguably declare UDI and function just as autonomously as anomalies like San Martino and Luxembourg.

As well as whole villages owned by the Duke of Devonshire there are also several pubs and this one hotel, the luxury four-star “Cavendish” on the edge of Baslow village.  According to local legend William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire won this old coaching inn off the 5th Duke of Rutland whose family seat was at Belvoir Castle in neighbouring Leicestershire. During a game of cards Rutland, a famous racehorse breeder, threw the Peacock Inn, Baslow into the pot and Devonshire cleaned up, taking the Peacock with him and renaming it The Cavendish.

During the nineteenth century this coaching inn continued to be known as The Peacock because that is the bird that sits on a cushion atop the Duke of Rutland’s coat of arms. But after the Devonshire duke installed his own coat of arms it was known for a while as The Cavendish Snake. This was not any reflection on the Duke’s card-playing ethics but a reference to the symbol of the Cavendish family, a serpent lying on a cushion with the punning motto Cavendo Tutus (caution in all things).

Into the early twentieth century carriages and charabancs were drawn up on the road on which the inn stood (today’s A61). Horses were then uncoupled and taken to the stables while travellers ascended the two stone staircases to pass under the Cavendish coat of arms for a good night’s rest. These days the entrance is on the other side of the hotel which now houses a large car park. All the hotel’s bedrooms are aligned to face away from the road into the Chatsworth estate and down the Derwent Valley.

The original inn had thirteen bedrooms and these have been preserved and given the surnames of wives who married into the Cavendish family and became Duchesses in due course. As a result you might find yourself staying in Hardwick, Russell, Cecil or Spencer (the family name of Georgiana, the famous 5th Duchess of Devonshire). Each name is on a plaque attached to the bedroom’s green baize doors.

A 1980s extension to the west of the old hotel was for many years known as the Devonshire Wing because all its bedrooms were named after the 11th Duchess and her five Mitford sisters. Unfortunately, since Unity and Diana Mitford’s admiration and love for Adolf Hitler has become more widely known they have been renamed after famous landscape gardeners who have worked at Chatsworth.

A further six bedrooms have recently been converted in a freestanding house that was originally built for the manager of the Cavendish Hotel but is now just too hot a property to be a staff perquisite. Here the rooms are named after the types of carriage the dukes used to keep – brougham, landau &c.

Today the hotel has 28 bedrooms and two dining rooms. One known as “The Garden” is essentially a modern conservatory on the south side of the hotel with panoramic views over Chatsworth land and which is currently being extended for casual dining. Meanwhile the fine-dining 3 AA rosette “Gallery Restaurant” shares the same view from the other side of reception.

Hathersage is a charming Peak District village lying ten miles southwest of Sheffield.  Literary groupies will enjoy the fact that in1845 Charlotte Bronte visited her friend Ellen Nussey at Hathersage vicarage. (Ellen’s brother was the local vicar.) During her stay Charlotte and Ellen went to visit nearby North Lees Hall on the northern outskirts of Hathersage. This rather grim castellated building had been the home of the Eyre family and there is every reason to believe it was the inspiration for Thornhill Hall in Charlotte’s subsequent novel, Jane Eyre. The Bronte connection is made even more obvious when you read that the first owner of the hall, Agnes Ashurst, was confined as a lunatic in a padded room on the hall’s second floor.

The Plough lies to the south of the Hathersage village over Leadmill Bridge. On the way there you pass the workshop and visitor centre for David Mellor, one of the great cutlers and designers of post-war Britain. In 2007, an extension to his old retort house on the site was opened as a design museum showcasing what an impact Mellor had on the appearance of everyday life in Britain after 1945: Bus shelters, bollards, mailboxes….   

The Plough Inn dates from the sixteenth century and has seven bedrooms plus three shepherd huts (quirky luxury caravans) in grounds outside that slope down to the River Derwent. The Plough’s large, open-plan bar has two log burning stoves and one real fire to help warm up guests during the winter. There is also an outdoor courtyard and a beer garden for drinking in the summertime.

The pub’s head chef Mark Rowan has been in post for the past seven years and The Plough has been Derbyshire Dining Pub of the Year pretty much annually ever since. Come and dine even if you don’t want to stay in a caravan.

The tiny hamlet of Pilsey is one of several Chatsworth villages dotted around the Duke of Devonshire’s sprawling estate. Most of its resident’s work on the estate, from cooks and gardeners to valets and chauffeurs. As result you might easily find yourself at the bar of Pilsey’s Devonshire Arms rubbing shoulders with a gamekeeper or chef. Or even “Bill” the Earl of Burlington, the future 13th Duke of Devonshire. The Earl and his wife treat this pub as their local and with good reason. Under manager Josh Barnsley and chef Adam Thackeray it has become a go-to foodie destination in the Derbyshire Peaks.

The building looks like a seventeenth-century village pub (which indeed it is)! Inside a number of rooms have been opened up and knocked through together but there are old working fireplaces here. And traditional dishes like beef, guinea fowl, and venison on the menu. Josh’s big aim when he took over at Pilsey was to create a venue famous for just a few really English good dishes. So the menu is compact, as is the wine list, which features the Earl of Burlington’s own selection of white, red and rosé (the Pays D’Oc red is a knockout) and the Duke and Duchess’ Champagne and Claret. All these wines are by Corney & Barrow of St Katharine’s Dock, London. Prices reflect a reasonable mark up, rather than the silly sums you’ll be charged in the City of London itself.  And do circumspect about ordering the cheese course. It’s a fantastic meal in itself.

There are seven bedrooms above the pub itself and six in a nearby farmhouse belonging to the pub. Each bedroom is individual and decorated to the high standards of colour and comfort that are the trademark of the current duchess and countess. All are named after farms on the Chatworth estate which is why the unsuspecting visitor may find themselves staying in the wonderfully named Handley Bottom.  

The Pack Horse sits above the Sett Valley with views across to Kinder Scout, the highest point in the Peak District. In 1932, to highlight the fact that walkers in England and Wales were denied access to areas of open country there was a “Mass trespass” by ramblers and members of the Young Communist League across Kinder Scout that made its point: the country is for the people.

This Disley inn is typical of its kind with an adjacent barn in which its first five bedrooms were constructed and then -in the bar- guns, antlers and metal poacher traps decorating. In recent years seven more bedrooms have been added above the pub itself, making twelve in all.

The pub is situated above New Mills, an ancient Derbyshire industrial centre famous for its coal mining, cotton spinning, bleaching and calico printing. In its eighteenth-century heyday the town was served by the Peak Forest Canal, three railway lines and the A6 trunk road. 

Yet only five miles south of the Pack Horse stands Lyme Park which served as Pemberley in the well-loved 1992 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

This is a convenient place to base yourself while exploring the north-western edge of the Peak District.

If you visit The Scotsmans Pack in Hathersage today, you’ll see a pub sign of Scottish soldiers in nineteenth-century tartan with their backpacks turned towards the painter. The name of the pub however comes from the packhorses driven to Hathersage by Scottish traders. This old Derbyshire village used to be an important place for trade while nearby Sheffield was in its infancy.

In the mid-eighteenth century rural Hathersage was famous for its manufacture of brass buttons. The Peak District was a major British source of wealth in the 1700s.  In 1728, Daniel Defoe recorded how the moors around Hathersage were the source of building stones and millstones that were exported to North America, Russia and Scandinavia. Today because of the scenery of the Hope and Derwent valleys and its easy access by train or road from Sheffield and Manchester, Hathersage is a major tourist destination. Visitors come to swim in the open-air heated swimming pool, to climb Stanage Edge (the nursery for many famous British rock and mountain climbers), or ramble in its river valleys. 

The pub itself is squeezed in between – on one side - St Michael’s Church (where the Eyre family – basis of Jane Eyre are buried (as well as Little John of Robin Hood fame (allegedy). It’s a surprising building, twentieth century in design despite obviously having stood here, in one form or another for centuries. The faux half-timbered façade, the terracotta-tiled bay windows and the integral garage – built for touring cars but now used for mountain bikes – definitely reference the 1920s. Inside there is an attractive, low wooden bar on the ground floor with carved panels depicting agricultural scenes and a tartan carpet with understated tartan furnishings. Upstairs there are five bedrooms including one four-poster.

Like so many hotels and pubs in the Peak District, this is a place to base yourself before strenuous exercise the next day, and a place to return to when you have climbed, walked and cycled your very best. 

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