After a short visit to the Peak District while being confined to the UK back at the height of the Covid-pandemic in 2020, I was always hoping to return and see more at some point so when my elderly parents wanted a getaway with me and the family dog Lily over winter half term week, I was excited to find a cheap deal at a Darwin Escapes site at the southern end of the park.
Having taken 2 short breaks at other Darwin Escapes resorts before, we were becoming quite a fan of their spacious lodges on sites where ‘quiet’ and ‘secluded’ is their selling point and our lodge on their Rivendale Lodge Retreat site just north of Ashbourne did not disappoint.
With my dad being unable to walk long distances due to a variety of ongoing health problems and an anxious large rescue dog in tow, I had spent a bit of time looking up possible places to visit where we could take short walks on paved or easily accessible paths but at the same time, not be spending too much time in the obvious tourist sites where Lily would spend her time barking at anyone who happened to walk past and encroach on her space!
With it being just a short journey of just under 2 hours from where we were in South Birmingham to the holiday park, we made it most of the way there without stopping, deciding to call in at the large Ashbourne Park to give Lily a long walk before continuing the short drive from the town to Rivendale in time for check in. Upon entering our lodge, Lily was pleased to find she had been left complimentary dog treats and a tug rope toy to keep her entertained during her stay!
On our first full day in the region, we decided to venture out of the National Park boundaries slightly upon the recommendation of a friend who had suggested Carsington Water as the perfect place for both my parents and Lily to take a walk.
Pulling up on the large car park, we were unsure at first if it would be a bit busy for Lily’s liking but decided to head away from the visitors’ centre area and followed the path that ran alongside the reservoir. For the most part, the path was separated in two with a side for walkers and a side for cyclists. There weren’t too many cyclists out but when we did see any, there was plenty of room to move Lily to the side and let them pass. The path was an easy one for my dad to walk along, often flat and with just a few gradual inclines and declines on the section we walked along and few tripping hazards and there were pretty views across the water along the way. After an enjoyable, leisurely walk for 15 minutes or so, we turned around and retraced our steps back to the car park before finding a quiet bench to sit on overlooking the reservoir to sit and eat our picnic lunch.
After lunch, we walked Lily along to Stones Island, a peninsula that juts out into the reservoir in front of the visitor centre. While this was a busier section of the park, there was still plenty of room to keep Lily away from other people and dogs.
We drove back via Matlock Bath so we could pick up some shopping from a nearby supermarket but as it seemed very busy in Matlock Bath itself, decided not to make a stop in what is a very touristy town. Instead, after our quick shop, we continued our drive through the Derbyshire Dales and spotting a National Park car park on google maps, decided to pull in there and see what we’d find.
The car park was at Minninglow and gave access to the High Peak Trail, one of many former train tracks in the Peak District that has since been turned into a walking and biking trail. Having cycled the Monsal Trail on my last visit to the Peak District, I was worried that this would be as busy but with this being a less well-known track than the Monsal Trail – plus it not being the middle of August! – there were very few cars parked on the free car park and very few people about.
With two directions to possibly go in, we randomly took the path in the direction of Parsley Hay. After a short stretch through woodland, the wide, flat path opened out to views across field and farmland. We walked for about 15-20 minutes in the late afternoon sunshine before turning back and heading back to the car park, my parents and Lily now tiring and in need of a rest. It was just a short drive back to our lodge from here and we spent the evening relaxing in our peaceful surroundings.
The next day, my parents were keen to visit the town of Bakewell to pick up some sweet treats. Knowing it was likely to be busy, we drove in before the midday rush and after a little bark in the car park, Lily managed a walk around town with us without getting too bothered by the passersby and other dogs out for a walk.
After picking up some cakes, we wandered down a back alleyway which lead to the riverside and took a walk up to the historic Bakewell Bridge and then, crossing the road, down to Brookside, a path running along side a narrow offshoot of the River Wye.
From Bakewell, we drove north towards Padley Gorge. Here, we parked for free in a layby on the B6521 and went through a gate down a few manageable steps to a public footpath which runs alongside Burbage Brook. Following the path to the left, we soon left the moorland we’d started in and went through a gate into woodland, still following alongside the brook.
There were a few walkers, families and dogs out for a walk about but it wasn’t too busy and despite having to look for a few roots or stones sticking up, the path was mainly manageable for my parents. After a while, the path became steeper and narrower and we decided to turn back.
After a cup of tea and snack back at the car, we crossed the B-road to the gate on the other side which lead in to the Longshaw Estate, a National Trust site with meadow and woodland walks. We followed the path past the Granby Discovery Barn and up to a small lake then through woodland and out into open meadows before turning back and retracing our steps back to the car again.
With it still being only early afternoon, we decided to make one more stop on our way back to the holiday park – in the historic town of Eyam, often referred to as the ‘plague village’. During the and outbreak of Black Death in 1665-6, villagers here decided to isolate and cut themselves off from the rest of the World in order to try and stop further spread of the plague.
Many villagers died of the black death here while some survived, finding themselves to be naturally immune. Some descendants of these survivors still live in Eyam today! There’s a small museum in the town near the free car park but, having Lily with us, we didn’t visit. Instead, we took a walk around the town and found it to be really interesting and worth a stop with a multitude of information about the town and the black death on placards around the town.
After successful visits with Lily to both Bakewell and Eyam the previous day, on our last full day in the Peak District, my parents decided they’d like to visit the town of Buxton where they’d been on a weekend away many years earlier. Parking up at the Pavillion Gardens car park, we wondered into the picturesque – but very busy – park. With Lily getting agitated by everything going on around her, we exited the main park and crossed the road to a quieter section known as the Serpentine Walk where a path followed the river before crossing a bridge and looping back on itself. We then crossed the road again back in to the Pavillion Gardens, taking a quieter route along the back paths of the park to reach Buxton Town Centre. After a short walk through the town – picking up some more sweet treats for later – we returned past the Pavillion building to the car park.
I had had in mind today that since we were visiting Buxton, we would go to Buxton Country Park for the afternoon, part of which I had been to on my last visit to the Peak District. But having seen how busy Buxton and the Pavillion Gardens were, I was having second thoughts so once back at the car, I had a quick look on google maps to see if there were any National Park car parks not too far away.
I spotted one marked on the map as Goyt Valley car park and not too far from there, could see Errwood Reservoir on the map. A quick google revealed both to be listed as good for walking dogs so I made a hasty decision to head that way instead of to the country park.
And I’m so glad I did! The short drive to Goyt Valley took us over steep hills to reveal sweeping valley views and we found the free Goyt Valley car park at the foot of one of the hills with plenty of parking space. From the car park, we took one of the paths leading past a small lake. The path ran alongside the valley below offering beautiful views across the peak district made even prettier under the blue skies and sunshine.
We walked for about half an hour meeting just a few passers by along the way before returning to the car and driving on to the reservoirs we had seen in the distance.
Arriving at the car park for Errwood Reservoir, I was surprised that there didn’t seem to be a path running alongside the reservoir so instead we took a path up a hill which lead to Errs Wood at the top. We took a short walk through a shady path alongside a stream in the wood but as it started to descend, we decided to turn back as my parents were tiring and unsure they’d make it back up again.
Returning to the top of the hill at the edge of the wood, we enjoyed the views over the reservoir below before returning to the car and driving back to our lodge.
The next morning, we had to check out of our lodge by 10am but not wanting to return home just yet, we decided to pull into the Tissington Trail car park at Ashby de la Zouche right next to the holiday park. The Tissington Trail is yet another of the Peak District’s former train tracks that is now a cycling and hiking trail and similar to the High Peak and Monsal Trails therefore offers a wide and mainly flat path through the Peak District. With Lily apparently tired from her week away and pulling to go back to the car, we walked just a short distance of the trail heading north bound. Like the High Peak Trail, I found the trail to be a lot quieter than the Monsal Trail – we bumped into just a couple of cyclists and one other dog being walked along the way.
As we reached the car, the weather started to change and rain was in the air but I had one more stop I wanted to make before we returned home – Dovedale. This was another recommendation from a friend. Another National Trust site, I knew it would be busy and I was right but with the rain, many people were returning to their cars and we found enough space along the path to keep Lily calm and away from too many people.
The path at Dovedale followed a river running through a glacier carved valley and there were really pretty views on the short walk to a set of Stepping Stones at the far end.
To continue the walk any further, we had to cross the stepping stones but we thought better of it with my parents being wary of getting across and me having visions of Lily ending up wading across the river rather than sticking to walking across the stones but despite this, it was an enjoyable short walk to finish off our trip.
I felt like I’d seen a lot more of the Peak District than I had on my last visit. It was great to have seen different places and taken different walks and especially nice to have found places walks that were manageable for my parents and that Lily could enjoy with us!