Caving and climbing, cycling and, above all, walking, are the main activities in the district.
Caving & Climbing
The limestone sections of the Peak District are riddled with caves and caverns, including a series of 'showcaves' in Castleton, Buxton and Matlock Bath. The website www.peakdistrictcaving.info, run by the Derbyshire Caving Association, has comprehensive information. Peaks and Paddles runs caving trips, along with canoeing and abseiling expeditions.
England's top mountaineers train in this area, which offers rigorous technical climbing on a series of limestone gorges, exposed tors (crags) and gritstone 'edges' that extend south into the Staffordshire Moorlands. Gritstone climbing in the Peak District is predominantly on old-school trad routes, requiring a decent rack of friends, nuts and hexes. Bolted sport routes are found on several limestone crags in the Peak District, but many use ancient pieces of gear and most require additional protection. Contact the British Mountaineering Council (www.thebmc.co.uk) for advice and details of local resources.
Plunging dales and soaring scarps provide a perfect testing ground for cyclists, and local tourist offices are piled high with cycling maps and trail guides. For easy traffic-free riding, head for the 17-mile High Peak Trail, which follows the old railway line from Cromford, near Matlock Bath, to Dowlow near Buxton. The trail winds through beautiful hills and farmland to Parsley Hay, where the Tissington Trail, part of NCN Route 68, heads south for 13 miles to Ashbourne. Trails are off-road on dedicated cycle paths, suitable for road bikes.
Mirroring the Pennine Way, the Pennine Bridleway is another top spot to put your calves through their paces. Around 120 miles of trails have been created between Middleton Top and the South Pennines, and the route is suitable for horse riders, cyclists and walkers. You could also follow the Pennine Cycleway (NCN Route 68) from Derby to Buxton and beyond. Other popular routes include the Limestone Way, running south from Castleton to Staffordshire, and the Monsal Trail & Tunnels between Bakewall and Wyedale, near Buxton.
The Peak District National Park Authority operates cycle-hire centres at Ashbourne, Derwent Reservoirs and Parsley Hay. You can hire a bike from one location and drop it off at another for no extra charge.
Peak Tours delivers bikes throughout the Peak District for seven different self-guided cycling tours.
The Peak District is one of the most popular walking areas in England, with awe-inspiring vistas of hills, dales and sky that attract legions of hikers in summer. The White Peak is perfect for leisurely strolls, which can start from pretty much anywhere. Be sure to close gates behind you as you go. When exploring the rugged territory of the Dark Peak, make sure your boots are waterproof and beware of slipping into rivulets and marshes.
The Peak's most famous walking trail is the Pennine Way, which runs north from Edale for 268 miles, finishing in the Scottish Borders. If you don't have three weeks to spare, you can reach the pretty town of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire comfortably in three days.
The 46-mile Limestone Way winds through the Derbyshire countryside from Castleton to Rocester in Staffordshire, following footpaths, tracks and quiet lanes. Many people walk the 26-mile section between Castleton and Matlock in one long, tiring day, but two days is better. Tourist offices have a detailed leaflet.
Other popular routes include the High Peak Trail, the Tissington Trail and the Monsal Trail & Tunnels. Numerous short walks are available.