Let’s Go Peak District is well known for its popular walking routes all over the beautiful Peak District National Park, but now we’re delighted to have teamed up with Retro Mini Hire to bring you a classic Peak District Road Trip route as well, allowing you to discover the highlights of the area on a self-drive tour. With Retro Mini Hire you can hire a classic, iconic Mini Cooper and set off on a trip packed with character, charm and nostalgia, driving her around all the must-see spots.
Hit the road!
On this carefully-curated Peak District road trip, you can start and end at any point to suit you on the circular route. Enjoy the beautiful scenery and pretty villages and towns as you travel, but keep an eye out for the following highlights, where you might want to build in extra time to sit and soak up the surroundings.
So grab the Cooper keys, the road map and retro picnic hamper, and get ready for an adventure!
The picturesque town of Ashbourne is known as the Gateway to the Peak District, and it’s the perfect base from which to explore the spectacular White Peak countryside. The town itself has lots to offer the visitor too, with beautiful architecture, plenty of independent shops and lovely cafés. Park up your Mini Cooper here and enjoy the sights!
Ashbourne is a town steeped in history. The magnificent St Oswald’s Church dates from around 1220 and its towering spire can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the town, standing at 215ft tall.
Ashbourne was granted a charter for a market in 1257 and a market still takes place twice a week in the quaint cobbled town centre. Evidence of the town’s history is literally around every corner, with a wealth of beautiful, ancient buildings lining the narrow streets. The Old Grammar School is well worth stopping to admire. It was founded in 1585, after a group of townspeople convinced Queen Elizabeth I of the need for an educational establishment in the town, and it remained in use for over 300 years.
During the Georgian period the town was a popular stopover point for travellers, with no fewer than six main coaching routes converging here. As a result, you’ll find many fine Georgian houses and coaching inns here.
The lovely village of Monyash is an absolute gem, with pretty stone cottages lining quiet lanes and a country inn overlooking a village green. It is located in the White Peak at the head of the beautiful Lathkill Dale, surrounded by rolling fields and gentle hills.
The name Monyash comes from the Old English words ‘Mane’ and ‘Eas’, meaning many waters. The name arose because of the unusual band of clay running beneath the village, deposited during the last Ice Age. This clay bed allows pools of water to collect in the area, uncommon in a limestone region. The villagers of Monyash in the past used this to their advantage, creating ponds and wells to allow access to fresh water all year round. At one point the village had no less than five ponds and twenty wells. One such pond, Fere Mere, still remains in the centre, and is a picturesque feature worth parking up to admire. It makes a great spot for a picnic too!
The historic spa town of Buxton should feature in the itinerary of every visitor to this area. It has something for everyone, with stunning Georgian and Victorian architecture, beautiful parks, quirky shops, top-class theatre, and fantastic dining. For the kids there are caves to wonder at, woodland trails to explore, and a Go Ape experience with thrilling aerial rope walks.
The Romans settled in Buxton from around 78AD, naming it Aquae Arnemetiae, meaning the Spa of the Goddess of the Grove, and it has been renowned for the healing properties of its spa waters ever since. The town grew in size and influence in the late 18th Century, when it was developed by the 5th Duke of Devonshire as a resort spa in the style of Bath. The graceful Crescent was built in 1780, and echoes the famous Royal Crescent in Bath. Buxton Mineral Water is still bottled just outside the town and is sold internationally. Its source, St Ann’s Well, is a geothermal spring located close to the Crescent.
On a sunny day, park up your Mini Cooper and head straight for the Pavilion Gardens, an impressive Grade II listed building built in 1871, set in 23 acres of landscaped parkland on the banks of the River Wye. The Pavilion Gardens houses Buxton’s Visitor Information Centre, as well as a gift shop and café. It also hosts regular craft and art fairs. The parkland includes a large children’s play area, a miniature train, ornamental ponds and a well-stocked tropical greenhouse.
The beautiful village of Castleton is surrounded by stunning scenery, nestled in the hills at the western end of the Hope Valley, and has something to offer for everyone. Located on the border of the gritstone Dark Peak and the limestone White Peak areas of the Peak District, the typical features of both landscapes can be seen in the hills that encircle the village on three sides.
The many cave systems surrounding Castleton will appeal to adventurous kids of all ages, and the stunning show caverns in the village make a great day out, no matter the weather or time of year. Visitors who prefer a more gentle pace of exploration will enjoy wandering Castleton’s narrow lanes, browsing the independent shops and sampling the fare in the many tea rooms, restaurants and pubs.
Don’t miss a visit to the ruins of Peveril Castle too – one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. A walk up to the castle, although quite steep, offers visitors the chance to admire the breathtaking views over the Hope Valley.
Situated in the spectacular Hope Valley and surrounded on all sides by wooded hillsides and magnificent gritstone edges, the pretty village of Hathersage is an absolute gem! With beautiful old stone buildings lining the streets and a collection of vibrant shops, cafés, pubs and restaurants, it’s no wonder that Hathersage is one of the most popular villages in this part of the Peak District.
Hathersage is a great base for exploring Stanage Edge, a 4 mile long gritstone edge above the village that is famous as a location for climbing. The many moorland and fell trails that start from the edge of the village also offer wonderful routes for running, cycling and hiking.
Hathersage has a number of famous connections too. In the village churchyard don’t miss the reputed grave of Little John, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men, supposedly once a resident of the village. Fans of Charlotte Bronte, who stayed at the vicarage in 1845, may recognise many locations in Hathersage from her most famous novel ‘Jane Eyre’. Hathersage itself is mentioned in the book as the village of Morton, and The George Hotel was also referred to directly as ‘The George Inn’ in the novel. Mr Rochester’s ‘Thornfield Hall’ is widely accepted to be North Lees Hall, on the outskirts of the village.
Drive your Mini Cooper through the narrow streets of Bakewell, the ancient capital of the Peak District. On the way in (or out) take note of the beautiful bridge over the River Wye as you pass across. It dates from 1300 and is one of the oldest bridges in England.
Bakewell has a wealth of historic buildings, shops and restaurants. It’s a wonderful place to park up and explore, with pretty riverside walks, old stone cottages, narrow lanes and hidden courtyards. Don’t miss a trip to one of the many Bakewell Pudding shops in the town, and make sure you sample some of this sweet, sticky delicacy of the area!
Surrounded by wooded hillsides and set on the River Derwent, Matlock is a lovely town to park up and explore. It has plenty of independent, quirky shops, particularly on Dale Road, as well as a wide choice of cafés, pubs and restaurants. At its centre is the Hall Leys Park, which has river walks, flower gardens, a small boating lake, tennis courts, and a great children’s play area.
On the border between Matlock and its close neighbour Matlock Bath, a cable car service stretches across a steep limestone gorge and takes visitors up to the visitor attraction of the Heights of Abraham. The spectacular trip offers fabulous views of the Derwent Valley and rises 339 metres to the top of Masson Hill. Once at the summit, enjoy impressive show caves, a geology museum, a restaurant, an adventure playground, shops and beautiful woodland walks.
Enjoy the route for yourself!
You can follow this beautiful Peak District road trip route for yourself and enjoy the twists and turns of the best roads around the area’s must-see spots.