Rolling across the southernmost hills of the Pennines is the glorious Peak District. Ancient stone villages are folded into creases in the landscape, and the hillsides are littered with stately homes and rocky outcrops that attract hordes of walkers, climbers and cavers. No one knows how the Peak District got its name – certainly not from the landscape, which has hills and valleys, gorges and lakes, wild moorland and gritstone escarpments, but no peaks. The most popular theory is that the region was named for the Pecsaetan, the Anglo-Saxon tribe who once populated this part of England.
Founded in 1951, the Peak District National Park was England's first national park and is Europe's busiest. But escaping the crowds is easy if you avoid summer weekends. Even at peak times, there are 555 sq miles of open English countryside in which to soak up the scenery.
Locals divide the Peak District into the Dark Peak – dominated by exposed moorland and gritstone 'edges' – and the White Peak, made up of the limestone dales to the south.
Although there are several YHA hostels (www.yha.org.uk) in the Peak District, they're often booked out in advance by groups, so contact them before turning up.