The Greatest Things to Do in Derbyshire
From getting active outdoors to experiencing history and culture, Derbyshire is full of exciting activities
Derbyshire is a magnet for nature lovers. Home to a large chunk of the Peak District National Park, it’s no wonder that outdoor activities are so popular here. With your options ranging from embarking on picturesque walks to exploring the depths of caves, you're guaranteed to find something to dive into. Alternatively, if you’re not looking to break a sweat, you’ll be relieved to hear that there are plenty of things to do which are slightly less active, but still just as enjoyable. If there’s an expert in things to do in Derbyshire, it’s us at Plum Guide, so heed our expert advice and enjoy a trip to remember. Take a look at these fun activities to add to your Derbyshire itinerary.
Take a trip to Hardwick Hall
Want to play royalty for the day? Hardwick Hall is one of the finest country houses from the Elizabethan era. It was created in the 1500s by the formidable Bess of Hardwick, who married four times (note that each time was to a wealthier man) and acquired power and influence - totally uncommon for a woman at the time. Good for her, we say. This house tells the story of all her descendants and everyone who has made Hardwick their creation. The grand rooms are full of architectural and artistic charms - feast your eyes on Elizabethan tapestries and embroideries, decorative plasterwork, antique carved furniture, Ming dynasty ceramics, and countless paintings and portraits. Sounds like it would be right at home in our Plum Guide collection. Learn more about the hall through the two exhibitions, or head onto the extensive grounds for a stroll through the peaceful Derbyshire countryside.
Spend a day at Carsington Water
You may be smack bang in the middle of the country, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun on the water. Carsington Water is a reservoir that has everything you need for a memorable day out with the family. Try your hand at a range of watersports such as rowing, canoeing, windsurfing and kayaking. Newbies can book lessons and pros can rent equipment, so there are no excuses not to give it a go. Not quite ready to don the wetsuit? Carsington Water is also a popular spot for fishing, and you can hire a boat to show off just how much rainbow trout you can catch. If you prefer to admire the water from dry land, you can do so by walking, cycling or horse riding around the reservoir and through the nearby villages.
Embrace the culture of Buxton
Known for its natural thermal springs (and the many plastic bottles filled with that water), Buxton has been attracting visitors since Roman times. The spa town offers some of the very best things to do in Derbyshire, with something of interest around every corner. Culture vultures (yes, we're looking at you) will love the Buxton Opera House. With roughly 450 performances each year, this beautifully decorated Edwardian theatre is jam-packed with dance, comedy, children’s shows, drama, music, pantomime and opera. The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery is also one one for the culture enthusiasts, where you can learn all about the town and the Peak District.
If you’re looking to unwind, a must-see is the Pavilion Gardens, an historic venue set within landscaped gardens which include play areas, lakes and a miniature railway. And of course, no trip to Buxton is complete without a spa experience. As well as many health shops and hair and beauty salons, the town also has three spas where you can spend the day being pampered. We thought you might like the sound of that.
Try your hand at cave exploring
Home to some of the most impressive caves and caverns in the country, it makes sense that one of the most popular things to do in Derbyshire is cave exploring. Composed of limestone, the caves are made up of weird and wonderful natural sculptures. This is definitely one for the adrenaline junkies. Make your way through the labyrinth of passageways, marvel at the vast chambers, squeeze through narrow gaps and wade through underground rivers. The Castleton Caves are some of the best show caves in the area, and consist of Peak Cavern and Speedwell Cavern, as well as Blue John Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern - the only two places you can find Derbyshire’s semi-precious metal Blue John. See, we told you we’re the experts on all things Derbyshire.
Jump back in time at Cromford Mills
Here’s one for the history nerds (enthusiasts). Part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site, Cromford Mills is the world’s first successful water-powered cotton spinning mill. Founded in 1771 by Sir Richard Arkwright, the mill became known as the birthplace of the modern factory system. There are a range of tours where you can learn more about the story behind the mill, as well as the wider Derwent Valley and its many places of interest. The Arkwright Experience lets you meet Sir Richard himself through CGI technology, so you can listen to the fascinating tales behind his inventions. Back outside, take a narrow boat ride down the canal or set off on one of the trails.
Take a ride on the Midland Railway
It’s hard not to feel at least an ounce of joy when you’re sitting on a train, especially if it's a heritage railway. The Midland Railway starts at Butterley and meanders through the tranquil Derbyshire countryside, finally pulling up at Swanwick. Here you can discover the museum complex boasting plenty of things for train enthusiasts to get excited about, including a large railway museum, a demonstration signal box, the Golden Valley Light Railway, and Butterley Park Miniature Railway. Midland Railway has special events throughout the year too, such as a Victorian train weekend and a transport festival full of vintage vehicles. In short, it's the perfect spot for trainspotters and kids alike.