This Midlands county is home to much of the Peak District, meaning there’s a wealth of hills to climb, caves to explore, and views to see from the heights on offer. It’s also the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, and the site of some of the most beautiful stately homes in the country. Visit Derbyshire and explore the towns and villages that helped transform England into how we know it today.
There are many gems to be discovered in Derbyshire, including local villages to find and stretches of greenery to explore. To make sure you don’t miss the top attractions and activities in Derbyshire, we’ve created a list of the best Derbyshire has to offer.
Places to Visit
Derby, on the banks of River Derwent, is a city rich in local history and culture. Derby Museum and Art Gallery houses the largest collection of work by Joseph Wright, one of the most influential painters of the late 18th century – as well as artefacts and treasures from the Egyptian era, all the way up to the present day. Stop by Cathedral Quarter, the city’s most popular shopping district filled with independent stores and idyllic cafés, and, of course, the breath-taking Derby Cathedral. Derby is also the home of many festivals throughout the year, so keep your eye out for celebrations of local artwork and cuisine from photography and film, to comedy, folk music, and locally brewed beer.
Don’t miss an opportunity to visit England’s leading spa town, Buxton. The historic Pavilion Gardens in the heart of the town consists of over 23 acres of Victorian grandeur, brimming with beautiful lakes and flower beds to enjoy. One of the most intriguing attractions in Derbyshire is Poole's Cavern, on the outskirts of Buxton, where caves have been formed over millions of years and reveal evidence of pre-historic life from the Neolithic and early Bronze ages. Once you’ve explored the caverns, the Devonshire Dome is a prime spot for shopping – and relaxation with some luxury spa treatments – all under the might of a dome that dwarfs even St. Paul’s Cathedral in size.
With both Bolsover Castle and Hardwick Hall to enjoy, Chesterfield is a market town rich in history. Constructed in 1612, Bolsover Castle was built as a house for entertainment and pleasure, which can be seen in its fantastic interiors, and even better views of the nearby Vale of Scarsdale. Hardwick Hall is a stunning home, lovingly built by the men and women who served Elizabeth Talbot, known as the Bess of Hardwick. While these two attractions are must-sees, don’t forget to venture into the heart of Chesterfield, where audio trails let you walk through the town’s heritage and local markets deliver the finest local cuisine on offer. And you can’t miss the famous ‘Crooked Spire’, spiralling at the top of the parish church.
The Peak District is a breath-taking expanse of nature that stretches into five counties, with Derbyshire laying claim to the majority of the area. Explore the walking paths and cycling trails that cover over 1,000 miles of the area, and keep an eye out for the beautiful birds that pass over the hills. Known as one of the most popular climbing areas in the UK, there are many visitors’ centres that can help you try your hand at a spot of rock climbing. If you aren’t too tired out, enjoy a panoramic view from the Kinder Scout, the highest point of the district, and the ideal place to photograph the picturesque surroundings in all their glory.
The Heights of Abraham
First opened in the 1780s, the Heights of Abraham has long stood as a popular attraction in Derbyshire. Take a ride up in a cable car and see Derwent Valley and the nearby Peak District as you’ve never seen them before, as you prepare to explore an area rich in mining history. Enjoy guided tours of two caverns, as tunnels wind deep underground and take you back 350 million years. The Rutland Cavern even lets you experience a day in the life of a 17th-century mining family and relive the thrills, and perils, of working in the mines. The Fossil Factory visitors’ centre lets you see some of the fascinating remains found in the areas, and learn how the landscape we see today was slowly formed over time.
Relax at Carsington Water
Sitting just outside of the Peak District is Carsington Water, the perfect location to get active out on the water. Try your hand at a range of sports, including sailing, windsurfing, and powerboating, with tuition and taster sessions available for people of all experience levels. If you’re looking for a relaxing evening on the blue, Carsington Water is also the ideal spot for fishing, with the clear waters holding a wealth of rainbow and brown trout for you to catch. Special events and courses throughout the year make this an attraction not to be missed, no matter your age.
Chatsworth House - Bakewell
Marvel at the eloquence of one of the UK’s premier stately homes, Chatsworth House, just a short trip from the market town of Bakewell. With artwork dating from ancient Rome to the masterpieces of Rembrandt and Reynolds, there are over 30 rooms to enjoy, including the outstanding Painted Hall and Sculpture Gallery. Bring the kids along to enjoy the adventure playground and try their hand at animal handling in the farmyard. Explore the Chatsworth garden, with 105 acres of tranquil waterworks, magnificent sculptures, beautiful flowers and even a Victorian rock garden.
Crich Tramway Village
Be transported into the past with a trip to Crich Tramway Village. An open-air museum that brings the history of transport to life, there’s no shortage of things to see and do. The Great Exhibition Hall and Stephenson Discovery Centre are full of vintage vehicles and exhibits that detail the development and artistry behind a hundred years of trams. The recreated period street lets you enjoy a traditional pub, tea room, and buy retro treats from a vintage sweet shop. Take to the woodland walk and sculpture trail to explore the surrounding nature, and relax with a picnic while taking in views of Derwent Valley.
Gulliver’s Kingdom is the perfect family day out in Derbyshire, with rides and attractions for all ages. From roller coasters and log flume rides to Ferris wheels and carousels, there’s no shortage of attractions. Visit the stagecoach saloon and animal barn in Western World, and learn about prehistoric life at Dinosaur Kingdom. Special events are held in the holidays, meaning kids can experience Christmas, New Year, Easter and a host of other celebrations with special rides and attractions in the park.
National Trust Museum of Childhood and Sudbury Hall
Take an insightful look at the history of children’s lives in the UK with a visit to the National Trust Museum of Childhood. Here, eight galleries explore the challenges and experiences of growing up through different time periods, from Victorian era schools to Second World War homes. Marvel at the array of toys collected from throughout UK history, and our changing ways of celebrating the youth of the nation. The museum is part of Sudbury Hall, which is, in its own right, a marvellous space to discover and enjoy. With rooms and furniture displaying 17th-century craftsmanship, and magnificent paintings on display, the Museum of Childhood and Sudbury Hall are two premier attractions in Derbyshire.
My Perfect Stay
Derbyshire brings back an abundance of special memories for me. My parents have a real passion for the Peak District so this is where we had our annual UK break since I was 8 years old! We stayed in a mixture of lodges and cottages, some of which are actually available to book with Hoseasons!
I love the character of the villages and the spectacular countryside. There are plenty of cycling and walking routes to keep you active, although the route through Dovedale has several incredible home-made ice cream parlours which are an absolute must! Perhaps my fondest memories are relaxing in the grounds of the magnificent Chatsworth House and enjoying the buzz of one of my favourite locations in the whole of the UK, Matlock Bath which is home to the Heights of Abraham and Gulliver's Kingdom Theme Park! A week away was never long enough!
The region has something for all ages and I can't wait to take my kids on their first break to Derbyshire in a couple of months.