Exploring the Peak District in Our Motorhome
Growing up in the UK, I often heard people talk about the Peak District. They would do worthy things there like biking and rambling. They would wear waterproof clothes and woolly hats. I am sure that there would have been real ale drinking along with some pie consumption. I knew it was one of "those kinds of places" but, even if you had a gun to my head, I couldn't have pointed to it on a map. These days with the wonders of Google you don't have to know where somewhere is on a map to go visit it and it was a perfect fit for our first proper travel in our new motorhome.
I now know that the Peak District is mostly in Derbyshire, nestled between Derby and Nottingham on one side and the Greater Manchester area on the other. We decided to spend eight days in the area to get some mud on our hiking shoes and try out our new bikes.
Our first stop was the town of Bakewell. Sounds familiar we thought. We are certainly aware of its delicious namesake Bakewell Tart for which it is famous... or is it? After some quick research there seems some dispute over a Bakewell Tart and a Bakewell Pudding. They are both sweet pastry, egg, custardy confections but seemingly different things. One seems to come from Bakewell, one probably doesn't. My wikipedia reserach didn't do much to clear up the murky history. So we gave up and just went for a pot of tea and a Bakewell Pudding instead. I can confirm it was just as delicious as its related/not related tart.
The town of Bakewell is a great base for touring the south eastern corner of the Peak District. We stayed at Greenhills Holiday Park about a mile from the pretty town that has the excellent Monsal Trail running through it. The Monsal Trail is an 8.5 mile traffic-free path that was formerly the Midland Railway's route between London and Manchester. There are fantastic tunnels to cycle through, viaducts to cycle over and generally gorgeous scenery to be admired all the way along. A perfect spot to christen our new bikes.
Because biking is our only means of transport apart form the motorhome and our legs, we decided to treat ourselves to electric bikes. I'll write a post about them later but, the basic takeaway is, we felt with eBikes we could go further and over more challenging terrain without Iain having to hear me constantly whining about how I hate hills.
They turned out to be perfect for the Monsal Trail. Over the flat ground we barely used the assist, for the hills we gave ourselves a little boost. We joined the trail almost at the end, at the old Bakewell station, and travelled most of it's length and back. It was an awesome ride and the tunnels were super-cool... literally they were bloody freezing. As it was a warm sunny day I had donned sandals for the ride and during the tunnel sections I was sure that I would have to go back and collect one of my frozen-off toes.
As well as the Monsal trail, there are tons of pretty walks in the area. We headed for a stroll from the campground to the pretty villages of Ashford in the Water and Sheldon. Stopping for a Ploughman's Lunch half way round at the Cock & Pullet. Yes that really is the pub's name. Also while in Bakewell we thanked our lucky social media stars that one of my oldest friends who was visiting the area from Massachusetts saw we were in Bakewell and joined us for a cream tea on a sunny afternoon.
After Bakewell we decided to head to the High Peak area of the Peak District. Basing ourselves at the Castleton Caravan and Motorohome club site between the charming villages of Castleton and Hope, we did some more serious walking. Just like in Bakewell we were blessed with beautiful weather and took the opportunity for a Monday morning walk up the beautiful Mam Tor. It was stunning day and the lush green scenery had me singing my Sunday School hymns as we walked. Iain is well used to my frequent outbursts of Jerusalem as we stroll over England's green and pleasant land!
Our final stop in the Peak District was at the Lime Tree Holiday park which is walking distance the historic spa town of Buxton. I wanted to visit Buxton because I had heard good things and many comparisons to Bath and Harrogate. Unfortunately for me it was nowhere near the calibre of these two great locations. Maybe because the town is under some major redevelopment at the moment, we didn't see it in it's best light. It was pleasant enough and there were some lovely historic buildings but my expectations were higher.
The eight days we spent in the Peak District were fantastic. Great walking and biking, farm shops selling tasty sausages and cheeses, and welcoming pubs with fantastic craft beers. And I didn't even mention that gorgeous weather meant we could leave our woolly hats at home. Magic!