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Peak District National Park, England

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Sunrise bathes Higger Tor, a rock outcropping in the Peak District, in warm light.

Name: Peak District
Location: England
Date Established: 1951
Size: 555 square miles (1,438 square kilometers)

Did You Know?

Britain's First National Park The Peak District was the first national park to be established in Great Britain. As late as the early 20th century most British countryside lay in the hands of wealthy landowners who restricted or banned public access. But the 1932 Kinder Mass Trespass, held in what is now the park, was a milestone event in the campaign that led to increased public land access and the eventual establishment of national parks.

Peac Park The park’s name derives from peac, an Old English word meaning hill. Peak District’s high point is on Kinder Scout, a moorland plateau some 2,088 feet (636 meters) above sea level.

Private Owners Over 90 percent of Peak District is privately owned land. The National Trust owns 12 percent, and three water companies own another 11 percent. The Peak District National Park Authority owns only 5 percent. About 86 percent of the total is farmland, which is used mostly for grazing sheep or cattle.

Within Reach About 38,000 people live inside the national park—an area about the size of Greater London. Some 16 million more people live within an hour’s drive of its boundaries. Peak District lies between Sheffield and Manchester, surrounded by industrial cities in the geographic heart of England.

Mixed Bag The park can be divided into three sections. The Dark Peak features high moors covered with thick, dark peat. The White Peak, so named for its 300-million-year-old limestone filled with fossilized corals and other seafloor creatures, is a lower region of rolling farmlands. The South West Peak is a patchwork landscape of moors, woods, and pastoral valleys.

Millstones Peak District National Park’s symbol is a millstone. Quarries have been operated here since prehistoric times and the local gritstone was once a popular choice for millstones. Hundreds of them still lie scattered across parts of the park.

Caves to Explore The Castleton Caves are a popular sightseeing spot. “All this country is hollow,” Arthur Conan Doyle once said, “could you strike it with some gigantic hammer it would boom like a drum.” Four former lead mines offer access to this subterranean realm, which in Speedwell Cavern is accessed by an underground boat ride.

Chatsworth House Peak District is home to Chatsworth, premier among all the stately country homes that dot this part of England’s countryside. The house, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, is a historic showplace of architecture, art, and lush landscape gardens.

How to Get There

Regular train services run from Manchester, Sheffield, Derby, Matlock, Buxton, Glossop, and many other communities. Bus services are regular and include even more stops. Check out the park’s Peak Connections guides for itineraries to top attractions.

When to Visit

As expected in a region with so many diverse attractions, from hill walks to stately homes, festivals, feasting, and concerts—there is always something happening. Check out What’s On in the Peak District.

How to Visit

Why not travel to the park by train and then stretch your legs on the free, guided Transpeak Walks? This voluntary group organizes walks of all types that begin and end at train stations in Peak District. Buses also travel the length and breadth of the park, and a historic steam train runs between Matlock and Rowsley. Cyclists can enjoy several traffic-free cycle routes set up in the park, and bikes can be hired from three different. Visit Pedal Peak District for details.

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