9 Things to Do in the Southern Peak District (& Beyond)

If you’re heading to the Peak District, you should feel very excited (and you’re making me feel a little jealous).

We visited many times as children, and I still have grainy photos of my dad crossing the steps at Dovedale, so it was enjoyable to return as a father myself, to explore the area through the eyes of someone who now appreciates these landscapes more than a Game Boy (well depending on if there’s an original copy of Pokémon Red or not).

Here are a few of our favourite spots in the area – which are a mix between cultural sights and things to keep a toddler out of trouble!

It is not a comprehensive list, just a collated collection of places we managed to get to based on our research, and one which I hope you’ll find useful.

Oh, and I know most of these aren’t actually in the Peak District, but they’re pretty damn close, so go easy on me.

Chatsworth House

a large english stately home chatsworth house

This had the potential to be a stuffy old stately home, which children wouldn’t enjoy, but it wasn’t.

The gardens were unbelievable – with a maze, dark coal tunnel, huge glasshouse, exotic rocky area and a fake tree shower. The kids had a great runaround, before heading off for some cake with mum, while grandad and I took a tour through the house.

The farm shop on the way out was also well worth the visit – make sure you pick up some Bakewell Pudding (not tart).


the centre orf a tradiitional peak district town with market cross bonsall

Quirky, brilliant Bonsall.

We stayed here by chance, and ended up looking at places to buy, we loved it that much.

There’s not a huge amount to do here (though there are some fantastic geocaches in the villages if you’re into that), but park up, take a hike up the main street, then double back to the church and on to the views from the quarry, and you’ll see why I sent you here.

Don’t forget to stop in for a sausage cob at The Fountain tearoom, or a pint at one of the two brilliant pubs (the fact that one is haunted and the other hosts an annual chicken race shows you how unique this village is) once you’re done.

Matlock Bath

matlock bath the high street with old buildings and british flags flying

Head to Matlock Bath if you’re looking for some seaside thrills in the Peak District.

The area formed around thermal baths built in Victorian times, and now has a number of penny arcades, along the historic and beautiful old street.

From here you can also access the Heights of Abraham by a scenic cable car ride. The hill-top area has stunning views of the surrounding countryside, cave tours, and beautiful walking trails.

For a family day out, there is also Gulliver’s Kingdom, which is on the edge of town.

Cromford & Masson Mills

cromford mill

I managed to feed my UNESCO obsession whilst in Derbyshire.

I knew the ‘Derwent Valley Mills’ zone was in the area, but I hadn’t realised how many sites it encompassed, or that the main place Google Maps takes you too (Belper), isn’t actually the best one.

Cromford Mills is excellent.

It’s like a National Trust property in many ways, as it’s got the stunning old mill buildings, plus an easy-to-digest museum (IE not too big and with interactive displays for kids), but what made it an enjoyable place to stop was the local business and cafés they’d brought in too.

The cheese shop was exceptional (port derby for the win), but there was also a second-hand store, a great bookshop, and a lovely little café.

Masson Mills is less than a kilometre away, and is the most complete of Richard Arkwright’s 18th century mills.

They have kept most of the cotton spinning machines running here, so pay for a museum ticket to experience the noise and incredible technical innovation that this area is famous for.

Belper Mills Tour

belper mill a large brick building with hundreds of windows and a tower which says east mill 1912

If you’re really committed to learning about the Derwent Valley’s industrial past, then you can also pay for a tour of the larger, Belper Mill, built by Jebediah Strutt which is open for four tours a week between 1030-1430 on a Wednesday and Saturday.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see much of the inside, but Trevor, our tour guide, took us on a 90-minute tour around the edge of the old mills, and taught me more about the industrial revolution and its impact on the world than I learned in school!

This place is only for the real UNESCO or industrial revolution geeks, skip it if that’s not your thing.

Matlock Farm Park

a lady chasing sheep around a circuit for a race at matlock farm

Sheep racing, bouncing pillows, alpaca feeding and bunny hugging – just your standard day out in the Peak District!

We met my sister and her kids here, and it proved to be an excellent decision.

There are heaps of animals to see, but much more than that for the littlies, it was a great way to keep them occupied for the day.


the inside of a church showing the pews at winksworth

We wanted to come to Winksworth to follow the story of T’Owd Man over from Bonsall.

It’s a decent small town, with a spectacular church, a few nice cafés and a well-kept heritage museum.

It’s also the oldest recorded town in the Peak District, having been here since 835. According to a very proud wall display in the heritage museum, it’s been a town since ‘Canterbury was a village and Liverpool was a swamp’. Well, some would argue (rest of sentence removed due to complaints from the northwest – Ed).

Good, but easily skippable, Winksworth is not somewhere we’d highly recommend, and there are many other towns like this in the area.

Crich Tramway Museum

a tram by a hill at crich tramway museum

Crich Tramway Museum has folk tale status in our family, as being the place where my sister and I got stung on the mouth by wasps whilst eating ice creams many years ago.

Without questioning the supervisory skills of my parents (once is unfortunate, twice feels somewhat negligent!), it felt like somewhere I had to bring my daughter to see if I could nurse her through the experience more safely.

Well, I did.

And I’m glad I did.

A tramway museum sounds pretty fucking boring, but it wasn’t for any of us.

The second we got there, they gave little Grace an ‘eye spy’ sheet of things to spot on the way around, that was her occupied!

Three hours later, we’d had a walk through a woodland trail filled with uniquely carved statues, lost her in a huge adventure park, bought her the world’s biggest lolly, taken her to her happy place (a soft play area, in a tramway museum), and somewhere in among all that we took tram rides and went into the great little museum and old sheds to see all manner of different trams.

Whether you care about trams or not (put me firmly in bucket two), is not really the point. This place is a fantastic half day out, packed with a selection of different adventures for everyone.

Just watch out for those bastard wasps.

Sherwood Forester Memorial

the view from sherwood forester tower

Standing like a lost, inland lighthouse on the hill overlooking Crich Tramway Museum, we were drawn up the hill by the promise of a little teashop.

Damn are we glad we went.

This was our final day in the Peaks, and we got to drink in the famous views from atop this perch.

The tea shop was tiny but wonderful, and packed with walkers, but in the most British of ways, everyone found space for everyone else with much politeness, whilst enjoying slabs of buttery things and pots of milky tea on odd china.

And the Memorial itself, erected in 1923 in memory of the 11,409 Sherwood Foreesters who lost their lives in the Great War, can be climbed for the wallet-busting price of 50p, to further enhance the views.

Places On Our List If We Return


I desperately wanted to head back to Dovedale 30-odd years after visiting as a child, but alas, it was not to be.

Some unseasonably (or seasonably, depending on who you ask), wet weather had hit the area, so crossing those old stones was riskier than normal.


I haven’t been here since my sister’s wedding a decade or so ago, so would have loved to get there, but we just ran out of time.

That didn’t stop us from picking up Bakewell tarts and puddings at almost every café and farm shop, so I got there in stomach, if not in reality.

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