Peak District beginners guide
An insight to this magnificent region

Peak District beginners guide

Ashbourne, which sits on the southern edge of one of the UK’s most popular national parks, is known as the Gateway to the Peak District. Here’s everything you need to know about this wonderful region.

From its name you might think the ‘Peak’ District is full of mountains, but it’s not. ‘Peak’ comes from Pecsaetan, which was the name of the Anglo-Saxon tribe who settled the area.

The Peak District National Park was the first of Britain’s 15 national parks and was founded in 1951. The park covers an area of 555 sq miles, but only 38,000 people live within the park boundaries.

The park stretches into five counties: Derbyshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester.


There are two distinctive parts to the Peak District. The northern Dark Peak is wilder with wide open spaces, bogs and black granite. In the south is the White Peak, where there are limestone caves and lush green valleys.

Popular with walkers and cyclists, the Peak District has more than 1,600 miles of footpaths, bridleways and tracks and 65 miles of dedicated, off-road, cycling and walking trails.

More than 30 miles of disused railways have been turned into dedicated walking and cycling paths. These include the Tissington Trail, High Peak Trail and Monsal Trail. There are cycle-hire centres at Ashbourne, Parsley Hay, Derwent Valley and Middleton Top.

One of the Peak District’s quirkiest traditions is Well Dressing, which experts think was introduced by Romans or Celts. Village teams create intricate mosaics from natural materials such as leaves, moss and flower petals on a bed of moist clay and display their masterpieces next to wells from May to September – more than 80 towns and villages take part.



The Peak District’s largest town is Bakewell (30 minutes from Ashbourne Heights), which is a medieval market town with a famous agricultural market. Its most product is the Bakewell pudding, which has a flaky pastry base, moist almond and jam filling. Several shops claim to have the original recipe – they’re all worth trying!

Listed buildings in the Peak District include Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall, Peveril Castle, ancient farm-buildings, cottages and a medieval bridge in Bakewell. Pretty Castleton has four spectacular show caves, the Peak, Blue John, Treak Cliff and Speedwell, and is centre of production for the unique semi-precious mineral, Blue John.

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Explore the Peak District with a break at Ashbourne Heights holiday parks. See out latest special offers here:

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