Mountain hares on Bleaklow
Start the New Year with a ramble on Bleaklow. Where better to walk off any Christmas excesses than on this high level moorland massif – with possible sightings of the mountain hare now dressed in its snowy-white winter coat. Map-reading skills, compass, boots and suitable outdoor clothing are all required.
Eat, drink and be merry in the Arts and Crafts town of Leek
Stave off the winter blues and head for Leek Food and Drink Festival. It’s worth extending your stay to take in Leek’s other markets: apart from the food stalls stacked high with local produce, there’s the historical Butter, Trestle and Charter markets selling everything from crafts to collectables. For those who want to feed their soul, grab the Architecture Trail pamphlet and discover the art and design of Morris & Co tucked away in Leek’s backstreets, public buildings and churches.
This is a good time to explore Ashbourne and Dovedale – when the crowds have melted away. Flanked by crinkle-cragged hills (once tropical reefs) and rocky pinnacles, it’s easy to see why Dovedale is a honeypot in the high season. If the rain is lashing down, check out the beautiful churches of St Oswald’s in Ashbourne, St Edmunds in Fenny Bentley and the Church of the Holy Cross in Ilam – all within a few miles of each other. They’re crammed with local history, interesting tombstones and story-filled stained-glass windows.
Woodland bluebells and birdsong
In Marsden, the locals celebrate the end of winter with the Cuckoo Festival. April is a wonderful time to explore the Peak District woodlands, when nature comes to life. Birdsong fills the air and wild flowers start to push their way through the rain-softened earth – wood sorrel, anemones and bluebells. Bow Wood at Lea Bridge offers a very fine wildflower walk with bluebells carpeting the open hillside as well as under the trees.
Well dressings and open gardens
The Peak District villages are at their best in early summer – starting in May when the well dressing and open garden season commences. Wells and fountains are dressed with pictures of local scenes, recreated with petals and seeds. From late May, lovingly tended gardens and vegetable plots are opened up to the public. Relax in a cottage garden with a cream tea.
The Peak District from a bike
This is the time to pedal along the dismantled railway tracks. The Monsal, High Peak and Tissington trails are at their best in June, the verges splashed with the colour of wildflowers and herbs. For those who like all things vintage, the Eroica Britannia Festival in Bakewell gives you the chance to dig out that old bike and don some plus-fours before heading out into the Peak countryside. Along with retro cycling, the three-day festival offers street food, stalls, music and entertainment.
Music, drama, opera, comedy, literature and story-telling, it’s all happening in the spa town of Buxton – a fine setting for an arts festival with its elegant opera house, pavilion gardens and grand dome.
Mid to late August is the time to head for the Dark Peak when the uplands are covered in purple heather. From the edges above Hathersage, Grindleford and Baslow to the Pennine Way that cuts across Marsden Moor, Bleaklow and the Kinder Massif, the paths offer extensive views across the rolling moorland now awash with colour.
Wirksworth Arts Festival
Paintings, art installations, sculpture, pottery, music and street entertainment at are all to be found around the centre of Wirksworth and in the ‘jitties’ above the town during the Wirksworth Arts Festival. Drop into the hillside cottages for a cup of tea and a cake and wander through the tiny puzzle gardens cut adrift by the maze of narrow paths – and view the exhibits at your leisure.
Music and all that jazz
The days are short and the nights long, so October is a good time to draw up your chair at a pub fireside and listen to live music. From the Fishpond in Matlock Bath to the Three Stags at Wardlow Mires, you’re spoilt for choice in the Peak District. Best of all, perhaps, is the Marsden Jazz Festival offering up a fine cocktail of folk, blues and jazz music.
Winter walks in the grounds of stately homes
Wrap up warm and choose a bright, sunny day to walk in the grounds of the Peak District’s stately homes, now that most of the tourists have gone home. Chatsworth House and Lyme Hall offer acres of woodland and open parkland, dotted with hunting towers and herds of deer. Rent one of the available estate cottages and enjoy a winter break in the solitude of the estate park and woodland.
Christmas in Castleton
The whole of Castleton is illuminated with festive lights throughout December. Late night openings offer atmospheric Christmas shopping, while Treak Cliff and Peak Caverns on the edge of town put on candlelit carol singing and concerts accompanied by mulled wine and mince pies. If you’re in luck, the hills above town might even be covered in snow.