16th April 2019
After clocking up 2500km on our mammoth road trip down to Biarritz last August, we chose to round off our 2018 summer motorhoming adventures with a 3-night trip to the heart of the stunning Peak District National Park.
Determined to cram as much as possible into 72 teenager-free hours, we picked the Castleton Caravan and Motorhome Club Site for its central location & stunning views.
Being blessed with glorious British weather in an area bursting with activities & attractions made it difficult to know where to start. But with Mel’s military-style planning & a bundle of energy we managed to take in large swathes of this breath-taking area in our Advance 76-4 motorhome, on foot & on two wheels in just 2 and a bit days.
Our first day was full of unexpected emotion. We had wanted to visit the historic village of Eyam for many years (pronounced ‘Eeem’, not ‘I Am’ as we naively do in our OvernightersTV Episode 6 pt1 Plagues & Cows!) and parking was free & easy at either end of the village.
Eyam is full of quaint streets & charming cottages, but this chocolate-box village hides a tragic and inspiring past. Also known as the Plague Village, Eyam lost a huge number of its parishioners to this horrendous disease in 1666. But by bravely quarantining themselves from the surrounding industrial towns, the people of Eyam prevented several thousand more lives being lost. Visiting the Riley Graves on an isolated hillside where one woman buried 6 of her children and her husband over a period of 8 days was one neither of us will forget.
The Riley Graves at Eyam
After a few thought provoking hours, we needed some light relief. After a lovely lunch in Eyam, including a Bakewell tart for desert, we headed off towards the Monsal Trail. This former railway line now provides 8.5 miles of traffic free routes through some of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales & railway tunnels. We parked the motorhome behind the Monsal Head Hotel and headed off on foot across the viaduct.
Coming off the trail we walked down to the bottom of the valley where we were joined by a herd of feisty cows. Mel, having just a touch of bovine phobia was a little perturbed, but they were more interested in chewing the grass than chasing tourists.
At a stunning weir we basked in the spectacular dusk sunshine. Before heading back to the campsite, we stopped to take in the views one last time from the nearest pub. Since Mel took part in the C and M Club’s motorhome manoeuvring day, we tend to share the driving. So, it was a pint of the local brew for me and half a weak shandy for Mel.
After doing our ablutions back at the wash-blocks, we walked the half a mile into Castleton and wined and dined in a fine traditional pub, ‘Ye Old Cheshire Cheese Inn’. Lamb shank for Mel and a steak and ale pie for me. Proper pub grub.
Ye Old Cheshire Cheese at Castleton
The next morning we left the motorhome at the site and walked back into Castleton in search of Treak Cliff Cavern. Forty minutes later we were underground in one of Derbyshire’s most famous caverns featuring the beautiful Blue John stone. It was certainly worth the trek. Our tour guide looked about two years older than our absent teenager, yet there was seemingly nothing this young prodigy couldn’t tell us about geology. After the stalactites and stalagmites, we emerged from the cavern to the sight of the most incredible view of the surrounding Derbyshire landscape.
Outside the Treak Cliff Cavern
Strolling back to the campsite we found a bakery in Castleton and bought our lunch. On top of the two large sausage rolls, could we manage another Bakewell tart? We (Mel) had a better idea.
Half an hour later we were in the van and heading back to the Monsal Trail. But this time on 2 wheels, not 2 legs – cycling all the way to Bakewell.
Leaving the van for free at Miller’s Dale disused station, we donned our helmets and set off on our pudding-based mission. The ride was fantastic. Zooming through 400m long railway tunnels is both an eerie & invigorating experience. Despite having walked part of the trail the day before, cycling gave us a different perspective & allowed us to travel all the way to Bakewell. Their famous pudding did not disappoint & a steaming cuppa was also most welcome.
Almost time to go home. But just one more stop. One of our favourite motorhoming perks is heading out on the open road and finding somewhere stunning to prepare breakfast. Hot buttered toast with a view. This time it was the stunning Ladybower and Derwent Reservoirs.
Parking by the Ladybower Reservoir
Arriving before 8am we were treated to uninterrupted views over the ancient village of Derwent, exposed due to the very low water levels. With only a few sheep for company, we enjoyed our breakfast in peace & privacy – allowing us to imagine the pilots of 617 Squadron practising their low-level flights in WWII. You couldn’t help but whistle the Dam Busters March.
And now it really was time to head home. Obviously impossible to cover in 72 hours, the Peak District actually spreads in to 5 counties! But then 72 days would still not cover it all. Yet we managed to enjoy peaks, dales, rivers, cows, caves, plagues & puddings in our short visit.
Just imagine what you could do in a week!