The eastern gateway to the Peaks, Chesterfield is worth a stop to see the astonishing crooked spire rising atop St Mary & All Saints Church. Dating from 1360, the 68m-high spire is twisted in a right-handed corkscrew and leans several metres southwest. It's the result of the lead casing on the south-facing side having buckled in the sun.
One of the most complete Elizabethan mansions in the country, Hardwick Hall was home to the 16th century's second-most powerful woman, Elizabeth, Countess of Shrewsbury – known to all as Bess of Hardwick – who amassed a staggering fortune by marrying wealthy noblemen with one foot in the grave.
Like an enormous, long-neglected cabinet of wonders, Calke Abbey is not your average stately home. Built around 1703, the house was occupied by a dynasty of eccentric and reclusive baronets. The result is a ramshackle maze of rooms crammed with ancient furniture, mounted animal heads, dusty books, stuffed birds and bric-a-brac spanning three centuries.