There are three things I look for in a trip – history, great walks and a bit of nature. Castleton, in the heart of England’s Peak District, has it all. I can’t believe this amazing place was only 2.5 hours away from where I live and I’d never been! Visiting The Peak District was also really special because it was our first trip staying in a hotel since August 2020! I was giddy with excitement at the prospect as we set off for our trip. We stayed in Bakewell (post coming soon), but the first stop on our itinerary was beautiful Castleton.
History of Castleton
Castleton was recorded as early as 1086 in the Doomsday Book, as home to William Peverel’s castle. Castleton’s main industry from the 1100s was lead mining, and this mining created and enlarged local caverns, four of which are now open to the public. One is even called ‘Devil’s Arse’ in reference to the horrible smells it produced, though it was renamed ‘Peak Cavern’ when Queen Victoria visited to save offending her! Today Castleton is a village well catered to tourism; the castle still stands, it’s surrounded by beautiful walks and the village itself is picturesque.
Things to do in Castleton
1. Hike Mam Tor
Mam Tor is one of the most famous Peaks in the Peak District. It’s known as the ‘mother hill’ as there have been multiple land slides, meaning lots of mini peaks all around it. It’s broadly considered one of the most beautiful ridge walks in England, and I can see why. It provides stunning views out across the surrounding landscape including Edale, Castleton and Hope Valley.
For this walk, we decided to follow in my parent’s footsteps – we did a 5 mile route from a book they bought in 1986. My dad had annotated it in pencil very clearly and apart from a stile now being a gate – nothing had changed! We had a beautiful walk from Castleton, up to Hollins Cross, across to Mam Tor, and down through Winnats Pass back to Castleton. In total the walk took us 2.5 hours, and you can find the route we did HERE (though the 1986 book did the job for us!). If 5 miles is too long for you, then you could do the shorter, more direct route HERE.
2. Drive or walk through Winnat’s Pass
We walked through Winnat’s Pass on our walk (and actually drove through it getting lost trying to park whilst having an argument), and it is STUNNING. It’s one of the most beautiful roads in the country and if you really want the best photos you can hike up either side. We didn’t do this as it was really steep and we already had 5 miles in our legs, but there were plenty of people scrambling up and standing on high rocks for photos.
3. Explore Castleton village
Castleton is pretty touristy – it’s full of shops, restaurants and pubs. But it’s well worth a stroll and is the perfect place for lunch. We ate at Rose Cottage, which served tasty meals and we were able to sit outside. At the end of our walk we also went for a drink in the beer garden behind The George pub at the foot of the castle. There is also a lovely little river running through the village so we took a walk along that and found lots of beautiful cottages too.
4. Visit Peveril Castle
Peveril Castle is a ruined Norman fort which was originally built in the 1000s! Multiple Kings of England have visited here, but from the late 1300s the castle started to decline as it was deemed less important than some of the others nearby which were prioritised. It’s a real shame as Peveril Castle is stunning – the views out over Castleton and beyond are breathtaking.
Oh my word though, the walk up is steeeeeep. I had to stop on a bench half way for a short breather – just as a couple in their sixties in full bikers’ leather swept past me like gazelles. It was a sweltering day so I asked them how they were coping in leathers and the woman said ‘Oh this is nothing love, we used to live in Gibraltar and bike to Spain and hike in the 30 degree heat. I have cotton trousers underneath if I get too hot’. Well….that told me!
5. See the caves
As I mentioned above, the caves created or enlarged due to mining activity are still around today and 4 are open to the public – Peak Cavern (Devil’s Arse), Speedwell Cavern, Treak Cliff Cavern and Blue John Cavern. All are broadly the same, so we opted for the least commercialised and least busy and went for Treak Cliff. It was actually fun to head in to the passages and see the rock formations inside.
And that brings a close to a little tour around Castleton. What do you think? The Peak District, and the whole of Derbyshire, is such an underrated part of England. I’ll also be posting about another perfect Peak District spot, Bakewell, in the coming weeks. Stay safe and happy travelling!