Ever since I was little, I’d always loved heading to the properly beautiful rural spots that are dotted around England. It’s always been such an adventure to me.
Over the years, as I’ve grown ‘longer in the tooth’, I’ve been able to visit so many more of these stunning spots in England… but one was always missing. The Peak District.
I’m not sure how (or even why) but somehow I’d managed to miss the Peak District when planning trips around England. That being said, as soon as we started to think of our microgap, I couldn’t think of anywhere else. It’s as if it was seared into my mind.
And with that, we finally headed off to England’s oldest national park!
Now, I knew I wanted our microgap to be somewhere pretty rural, somewhere where we could stroll around the gorgeous English countryside, but also head back to cosy bed with a hot brew… and biscuits in hand, naturally. 😉
For me, the Peak District seemed to be just that. It has that lovely mix of tiny little villages, loads of local treats to try (here’s looking at you, Bakewell Pudding) and whole mountains of northern charm.
That’s the thing, for me, I’ve always found ‘Northerners’ so down to earth, properly sweet and totally funny! It can’t be just me? Everyone is so friendly and makes you feel right at home.
Now, I have to caveat this and say my mum is a northerner (from Yorkshire) so I’m pretty sure she’s drummed into me how amazing Northerners are, even before I could walk. 😉
Anyway, I digress, after all our plans came into place, we hopped up on the morning train from London to Chesterfield, which took just under 2-hours. In no time at all, we’d left the hustle and bustle of London and reached the start of our adventure into England’s first (and oldest) national parks. I couldn’t wait.
After jumping off the train, we picked up our wheels and headed right out into the countryside itself. We decided to hire a car as we wanted to explore as much of the national park and the gorgeous villages as possible, which was a godsend when heading to some of the more rural spots.
As we left the station (relying on Yaya’s terrible ability to read a map), we made it to Bakewell for the start of our adventure.
Now, I’m not really a ‘car person’, but there’s just something about riding around in a vintage car that gets me every time! They’re just so cool and I can’t get enough of them.
This is why I really wanted to book and head out exploring with Steven and his Model A Ford that’s almost 100 years old!
You see, Steven runs one of the only vintage adventure tours in all of the UK.
As soon as we pulled into Bakewell, we spotted Steven a mile off! The car was a total showstopper and, as you can imagine, we hopped right in.
Now, Steven runs quite a few different tours around the Peak District and you can tailor your day to be around the things you want to see. This suited us perfectly as there were a few spots I’d been itching to explore.
With a splutter of the engine, piping hot water bottles and some fluffy blankets, we were on our way. These came in totally handy as soon as we started driving as our good friend, the rain decided to show up.
Rather than putting a dampener on the trip, it actually made it so much cosier. We were wrapped up like bugs in a rug, admiring all the lush green hills of the area which apparently were once upon a time (we’re talking like millions of years ago) all underwater.
Without delving into a whole geography lesson, millions of years ago, the Peak District National Park was actually situated down by the equator. Yeah, you read that right!
Apparently, over millions of years, this area rose out of the seabed and left the coral, shells and animals stranded out of the water. Today, these animal remains are what forms most of the chalky and limestone landscape that is hidden just below the rolling hills. However much I try to understand tectonics, it still fills me with awe when I hear stuff like this.
By the time my mind processed all this, we’d arrived at our first port of call… Monsal Dale.
As we took a little stroll, we noticed the Headstone Viaduct to the left, it almost looked like the bridge that Harry Potter used to take on the train to Hogwarts and looks pretty gorgeous.
As the weather got a little chillier, the vintage car and the hot water bottle became that bit more inviting.
After hearing all about the history of the viaduct and valley from Steven, we drove through some of the smaller villages, upland highways (which are single lane roads) and stopped off at one of the most haunted houses in all of the Peak District.
Owned by the Eyre family from since the 1300s, Highlow Hall was home particularly to Nicholas Eyre who was apparently a bit of a love rat and tyrant. A winning combination, eh? 😉
Apparently, after Nicholas got married to his wife, Elizabeth, he proceeded to have a pretty sordid affair with her sister. His wife was none the wiser and when she found out, a Pandora’s box was opened, with Elizabeth never to be seen or heard of again.
To this day, it’s said that Elizabeth still wanders the halls of Highlow Hall as the white lady. Occasionally, bumps down the stairs can be heard in the night… apparently from when Nicholas was moving her body. Gulp!
Whether you believe the tale of the white lady or not, that whole story sent a huge chill down my spine.
Thankfully, it wasn’t all doom and gloom as we headed over to North Lees Hall. Now, the hall itself might seem pretty iconic, but the thing that makes this really famous is that Charlotte Bronte stayed here and came up with the idea of writing the classic, ‘Jane Eyre’. (Notice the resemblance to the real-life family name?)
It’s this very spot where Charlotte Bronte really brought the idea of Jane Eyre to life.
After a little gander, and a quick pet of the lamas, we hopped back into our vintage ride and popped into David Mellor’s Café for a proper cuppa, salted caramel cake and a heart-warming broth.
With our tummies full, our next stop was to find the eeriest plague-village, Eyam.
As our vintage wheels rode into Eyam, Steven began explaining what made this village so famous, which became even spookier as the fog rolled in. That’s the thing with English weather; it’s pretty unpredictable but never really stops the fun.
Anyway, back to Eyam!
During the plague (in the 1600s) that wiped out about one-third of the population of Britain, Eyam became a hotbed of infection.
It’s said that a local tailor had ordered some cloth from London, which inadvertently arrived infested with fleas. Over a few weeks, people in the village began to die, killed by an unknown illness that was ravishing London.
The villages decided to take a stand and began to quarantine themselves from the rest of the world. No one was to enter, leave or interact outside of the village. They became totally isolated.
Boundary stones were placed around the village to stop people crossing the area. This also warned outsiders of the danger of the plague village within the stones grounds. Over a period of years, most of the villages were sadly killed by the plague.
Now, it might sound like a pretty macabre tale, but with the village choosing to isolate themselves, they actually stopped the spread of the plague within the wider region of the Peak District. It was a selfless act that’s celebrated even today by Plague Sunday (in August).
As the night drew closer, the wind began to pick up and we decided to call it time with our vintage wheels and decided to check into the Peacock at Rowsley.
It’s a beautiful and cosy historic manor house that feels so delightfully English. As soon as I walked through the door, I could hear the crackle from the roaring fire, smell the mulled wine and instantly felt at home.
The rooms were pretty cosy to boot, with a big tub, which I immediately jumped into to warm my cockles. That’s the thing about a bath, I never seem to have one at home but it almost feels obligatory on a holiday.
After a pretty bubbly dip, I came out to the loveliest surprise. Some warm mulled-wine and tasted mince pies. It was a delicious treat that I now insist upon after every bath! 😉
Anyway, I’m digressing, after warming up, my tummy really started to rumble. The thing is, we’d been looking for some local joints to visit and we’d been given a recommendation that Fisher’s at Baslow Hall was the place to go.
By the time we arrived, I was ravenous. It was one of those moments where I just wanted to slap a few notes on the table, point to my tummy and say ‘fill me up’. 😉
After a little chill in the snug, we chose our dishes and were taking over to our table. I think our waiting staff must have seen the hunger in my eyes… they reassured me I’d be in for a treat. How right they were!
Within a jiffy, the chef has crafted a delicious mix of amuse-bouches for us to devour… which disappeared in an instant!
Quickly after, our next courses arrived. For the starter, I went for the Pumpkin soup and Yaya went for pasta.
For mains, we both went for the roast beef with beets, broccoli and onions. We had the most amazing freshly-baked loaf brought to the table, too. I quickly lathered it in the salted butter and mopped up my remaining gravy… it was so yummy!
By now, we were both stuffed and couldn’t fit in a pudding. This was a total shock to both of us… until we remembered we’d gorged on mince pies before leaving for dinner! 😉
With our tummies stuffed, we headed back to the hotel like bears gearing up for hibernation. It was the perfect end to the day, before our adventure tomorrow.