A place of stark contrast, Derbyshire counts as the East Midlands, even though its northernmost towns are at the same latitude as cities like Manchester and Liverpool.
Exciting natural beauty is almost commonplace in the county, much of which is located within the Peak District National Park.
If you’re drawn to palatial mansions, Chatsworth House will transport you to Jane Austen’s novels – 1700s, a UNESCO site.
Put Derby on your agenda too, as this Enlightenment city was where industry swept across England in the 18th century.
Let’s explore the best places to visit in Derbyshire:
There are so many sides to a derby and it can be tricky to know where to start.
Of course, the Derby Museum and Art Gallery must be one of your entry points.
This is because of the many works of Joseph Wright of Derby, an 18th-century master of chiaroscuro and an agent of the Enlightenment because of his passion for laboratories and scientific experiments.
If you’re serious about real beer, Derby is right up your street, and insiders say the city’s pubs have more beer options than anywhere else in the country.
Travel back to Derby’s Georgian days at the Pickford House Museum and experience culture in the historic Cathedral Quarter while your journey is just beginning.
Founded by the Romans, the spa town of Buxton has been a tourist destination for hundreds of years.
But it became very popular in the 1780s when the 5th Duke of Devonshire ordered to make his mark with some glorious items.
One of the exhibits is the magnificent crescent-shaped building, designed by the egotistical Georgian architect James Carr.
It’s right next to St Ann’s Well, Buxton’s famous spring gushing from the ground at 27.5°C. Elsewhere, Pavilion Gardens exudes sophistication, while the Opera House, built in 1903, is an Art Nouveau marvel.
You can also witness Buxton’s unusual geology first hand at Poole’s Cavern, a limestone cave that dates back 2 million years and is open to the public over 300 metres.
The large market town of Chesterfield would not be the same without the peculiar spire.
The spire of St Mary and All Saints is the largest church in Derbyshire, twisting and sloping.
It was added to the church in the 14th century and has various strange interpretations of its unique appearance.
But most likely the lead on the south side of the roof expanded and contracted over hundreds of years of sunny days.
Perched atop a hill with views of the countryside, Hardwick Hall was built for Beth of Hardwick, the richest woman in Elizabethan England after the Queen.
Her house is one of the most prestigious and beautiful mansions in the UK and one of the first Renaissance buildings to be designed in the UK.
4. The Peak District
Derbyshire has more of this national park within its boundaries than any other county.
You’ll learn about the changes in the Peak District, from grassy limestone valleys in the south to barren and uninhabited sandstone wastelands in the north, all within the county.
There are weeks of heartbreaking natural vistas here, from epic cliffs with sheer cliffs to mineral-rich caves only found in this place.
Writers such as Jane Austen, Wordsworth and Charlotte Bronte have all been inspired by this natural beauty, and it is fascinating to see how humans shaped the land through long-forgotten mining and industrial activities.
Bakewell is the only market town within the boundaries of the national park and, as you might expect, is full of stone buildings and grand courtyards.
One of the oldest monuments in town is the Bridge over the River Wye, with five pointed Gothic arches, built around 1254 when Bakewell was granted a market licence. The surrounding limestone valleys are predictably spectacular, and the options for walking trails are plentiful, but the Monsal Trail may be the first choice for families.
This is on an abandoned railway line, so the slope is suitable for hikers of all ages.
Whatever you do, you need to make time to visit two of the UK’s most famous mansions, Chatsworth and Haddon, both locally located in Bakewell.
The lead mining industry began in Wixworth around Roman times, and even in the 18th century, the writer Daniel Defoe reported that there were thousands of mines in the area.
The industry died out in the 1900s, but St. Mary’s Church has a remarkable artifact that clearly shows the history of the practice.
There is a 600’s Anglo-Saxon stone known as ‘Th’ owd Man’ with a carving of a lead miner.
This, combined with the coffin lid, also dates back to the 600s and depicts an angel.
Wirksworth has a lot to offer, and its Georgian inns, tearooms, bars and galleries make it the ideal headquarters for a Peak District holiday.
The town is one of the closest paradises to the Peak District: Dovedale is a steep, wooded valley that promises unforgettable walks and almost unbelievable photos.
No visit is complete without jumping over the stepping stones over the water.
During summer, the reservoir Carsington Water is a honeypot for sailors, anglers, bird watchers and cyclists, all in another wonderful setting.
Sudbury Hall is steeped in history, home to the National Trust Children’s Museum, and lets you don Victorian schoolboy shorts or dresses.
With so many in the area, Ashbourne’s bars and inns are big enough to accommodate many tourists.
It’s also the town’s legacy as a transit point and an important stop on the way from London to Carlisle.
The River Derwent forms some stunning landscapes to the south, and beside the River Derwent, Matlock developed into a spa town after its spring was discovered in 1698. town. When spas were all the rage in the 1800s, tourists came here from far and wide for treatments, leaving Matlock with beautiful architecture to match its beautiful natural location.
A series of paths run along the river, allowing you to stroll to the old resort town of Matlock Bath in the south.
Head to the Abraham Heights for a cable car ride through a river valley and two caves created by nearly 2,000 years of lead mining.
You can trace the first spark of the Industrial Revolution back to Belper, which belongs to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.
In this town, industrialist and innovator Jedediah Strutt used Derwent’s hydraulic power to build some of the first textile mills in Belper in the 1770s.
So in places like Strutt’s North Mill, you go back to what we consider the earliest instance of a modern factory.
Built in 1803, the building was the first in the world to have a fire-resistant iron frame after its predecessor was destroyed by fire.
Also check out Belper’s High Street as it was voted the best street in the UK in 2014.
In the far north of the county, Glossop is an old cotton-spinning town in the northern foothills of the Peak District.
This part of the park is called Dark Peak because of the darker layer of sandstone beneath the soil.
The landscape is more desolate and inhospitable, with eerie moor moors and peat bogs in the valleys.
Glossop’s ornate old cottages are built from this sandstone, and while its history begins with the Romans, the town expanded with mills in the early 1800s.
Now it’s an affluent commuter town, people from Manchester move here to enjoy the country air because you have easy access to national parks.
At the southward transition of Dark Peak and greener White Peak, the delightful village of Castleton is very popular with tourists.
It’s not hard to see why: First go underground, into Blue John and Treak Cliff Caverns, the only mine in the world to have Blue John, a fluorite that’s been made into bowls and ornaments since the 18th century.
Castleton’s visitor center has some items made of this glossy material.
During the day, you only need two feet to conquer majestic places like the contemplative Mam Tor, where an Iron Age fortress stands, or the picturesque ruins of Peveril Castle, built by the Normans in 1086.
12. Swadling Kort
In the 18th and 19th centuries, South Derbyshire, like neighbouring Staffordshire, was a pottery industry.
Everything from bricks and toilets to expanded ceramics for industrialists is made in this town.
Sharpe’s Pottery Museum brings you into contact with this aspect of the Swadlincote story in a beautifully restored bottle kiln, including workshops and outbuildings.
Now the town is located in the newly conceived National Forest, a recent project to replant the vast woodlands that covered much of the Midlands until the industrial age.
To date, 8 million ash, pine and oak trees have been planted.
Gray-haired adventurers planning to walk the full Pennine Way will begin their trek at Edale, the southern trailhead.
This national trail runs through 267 miles of England’s most challenging wilderness and will take three weeks if you plan to do it all in one go.
If you’re only in Edale on the weekends, you can head to the Moorland Centre to learn about the human and natural history of the local wilderness before heading to one of the loop trails.
A demanding local option is Jacob’s Ladder, an old winding pack road that links Sheffield with Manchester and Liverpool.
Work up your appetite on the wilderness before heading to one of Edale’s Pubs for a hot meal and a pint of real ale.
This lovely village in the Peak District is used as a base for walks in the spectacular Valley of Hope.
Not far away is Stanage Edge, a stunning sandstone cliff with 100-meter high walls that is the best rock climbing spot in the National Park.
Hathersage is also steeped in folklore and is associated with author Charlotte Bronte.
At St Michael’s Church, it is said to be the tomb of John Jr., Robin Hood’s deputy.
In the 1800s, Bronte stayed in the village while writing “Jane Eyre”, and locations such as the ornate North Lys Hall (Jane Eyre’s Thornfield Hall) have fictional counterparts in the books.
In the north-east of Derbyshire, Bolsover is a former coal mining town that suffered some losses after its main source of employment left in the 80s and 90s.
Bolsover feels very different from Matlock or Chesterfield, both of which are only a few miles away.
But the countryside is lovely, the people are welcoming, and one of the most striking historic buildings in the county is here.
Boldover Castle started out as a Norman fortress, but in the 1600s was transformed into the distinguished palace that still exists today.
Less than 10 minutes east of Bolsover is the Cresswell Crags, home to the northernmost prehistoric cave paintings in Europe.
Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Derbyshire, England
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