Is the end in sight?
With UK lockdown restrictions imminently anticipated to ease, including the re-opening of campsites, I’d tentatively wager that spring planning can commence.
Presently, amidst other updates, April 12th remains poised to permit self-contained accommodation, which includes campsites. With this potential in mind, where better to explore than the Peak District? This beautiful gem in the heart of England provides magnificent open spaces suitable for social distancing, whilst camping is a great way to connect with the landscape sustainably and inexpensively.
Last summer, I thoroughly enjoyed camping in the Peak District. Following the hopeful re-opening, I’m planning on reigniting my dormant passion for travel, beginning with these rolling hills.
If you’re looking for inspiration too, enjoy the reserved majesty I experienced from my most recent visit!
This post also appeared on Tales from a Tent.
Camping in the Peak District
I’ll admit I understand it’s not universally appealing, but I always maintain that tented camping is a blissfully enriching experience, whatever the weather. Well, provided that weather is sunshine.
In the Peak District, there’s certainly no shortage of available campsites. Currently, any search might yield disappointingly ‘closed’ results, but they will likely resume normal service soon. Given the over-abundance and potentially overwhelming choice of locations, when choosing a campsite, perhaps narrow your options by specific requirements.
The first and easiest consideration is your preference in accommodation – tent, or motorhome. Whilst several campsites permit both, which might be undesirable in itself, check that your pitch won’t be excluded.
Where exactly you’ll be situated is also important. Don’t underestimate the size of the Peak District, wrapping around both Manchester and Sheffield. In some areas, navigable roads prove sparse. Aim to find a campsite relatively close to your direction of travel, so when you arrive in the Peaks, you can set up quickly. Additionally, plan to be within the proximity of any activities or walks you might want to participate in, to reduce extra driving time.
Cost will likely also influence the decision. Thankfully, most campsites are relatively cheap, though there will likely be some discrepancies.
Last summer, I spent two nights at Combs Valley Campsite, delicately nestled in the outskirts, close to Manchester. Arriving from Bath, as part of a wider road trip, was also relatively painless (from someone accustomed to the near-constant congestion of the M25). Easy to find, and positioning us close to Mam Tor, a peak we aimed to summit, we paid £15/night for a pitch covering two adults and a vehicle.
Whilst views from any campsite will likely be spectacular, we overlooked Combs Reservoir, erupting each night in dazzling sunsets.
Walking in the Peak District
Since many attractions in the Peak District remain closed owing to COVID-19 precautions, walking is a fantastic, free activity. Even in regular times, it’s a brilliant method of enjoying the incredible landscape, which facilitates exploring.
Traversing the inexhaustible number of routes is deeply satisfying, most of which are complete with additionally interesting items scattered along the way, all providing stunning views.
Spending only two nights, and one full day, my trip was unable to encompass a comprehensive list of different, available walks. The highlights I did experience offered a glimpsed at how remarkable the Peak District can be, fuelling a hunger to return.
Mam Tor – a Peak District matriarch
It would simply be remiss to neglect Mam Tor, the Peak District’s ‘shivering hill’, so-called for her frequent landslides. Despite that daunting title, the ascent is danger-free and moderate. Easily accessible from either the National Trust car park at the base, or from nearby Castleton, it’s a short but steep 517m climb.
With each step, the views grow only more impressive. For those seeking an additional challenge, from the Mam Tor peak, you can also follow a breath-taking panoramic ridge past Back Tor, and tackle a shallower but longer ascent to summit Lose Hill, at 476m.
Whilst in the area, the town of Castleton represents a delicious pocket of perfect tranquillity. It’s also centred around a popular underground cave network. This includes Speedwell Cavern, offering boat tours through the damp ambiance, or Treak Cliff Cavern, boasting impressive stalactites.
Furthermore, the Devil’s Anus, the only cavern visible externally, and Peveril Castle can also be found here. Though they will all likely open no sooner than May 17th, they might make worthy additions in a proposed itinerary.
Stanage Edge – a towering Peak District feature
Another picturesque member of the Peak District collection is the staggering Stanage Edge, an imposing ridge gloatingly peering over the dipping valleys either side. The intriguing rock formations encourage interesting walking.
From the quaint town of Hathersage, a lovely nine-mile route curls into the hills, breaking into a rock staircase that completes the journey onto the ridge. This initial section carries you past North Lees Hall, apparent inspiration for Mr Rochester of Jane Eyre’s home. Harbouring a unique history, it was during the 16th dwelling for a real Eyre family too.
The flat ridge enables adventurers to leisurely absorb the undulating panoramas on both sides, exposing unchecked visibility for miles in good weather. Exhibiting another curious historical episode, the valley itself is littered with now-discarded old millstones and grindstones, an artefact of the area’s former industry.
For the most intrepid, the route can also be covered on mountain bike, whilst limited sections of the final ascent also host rock climbing.
The scenery around Stanage Edge is incredible, and not to be missed.
Why explore the Peak District?
The entire mass of the Peak District is deceptively enormous. My limited expeditions barely scratched the surface of this rich area, containing hidden intrigue and unbelievable vantage points.
With appropriately cautious optimism, it also appears the UK, through having actually been careful, might be finally turning the tide against the pandemic. We have persisted with some of the toughest global lockdown conditions, now predicting a time when restrictions might realistically be ceased.
It’s obviously not time to be reckless, desperate though I am for a holiday, the Peak District being a very suitable candidate. Always consider official guidance, whilst applying your own common sense and adhering to social distancing measures wherever relevant.
The Peak District was, of course, subject to intense scrutiny in the emerging weeks of last year’s lockdown. Drone surveillance was conducted against hikers, whilst the (genuinely toxic) Blue Lagoon was dyed black, to diminish its appeal as a beauty spot.
It’s now time, however, to fully enjoy the Peak District, sensibly. Camping is a brilliant means of venturing into the wilds with jeopardising the national effort to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts.
Thanks for reading! Where are you most excited to travel this summer (assuming it’s possible)? If you enjoyed this, I regularly post other travel blogs, alongside short stories, and contemporary commentaries!
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