Perfect Peak District Weekend: What To See/ Do In Castleton | Budget Travel Guide
Updated: Dec 1, 2020
The Peak District was our favourite holiday destination when I was growing up. We spent many weekends hiking the Monsal Trail and wandering around Bakewell, but I haven't been back there in about 10 years! The amount of uncertainty in travel abroad this year lead us to look more into UK staycations and the Peaks was straight in at the top of the list.
From Manchester you can jump on the train and be in the National Park in less than an hour, so it's perfect for a mini-break away from the city. If (like us) the park sounds like your idea of countryside bliss, but you don't drive to be able to access some of the more remote areas, here's how experience the perfect Peak District weekend with no car needed:
Where To Stay?
After doing some research we settled on Castleton, a gorgeous little village surrounded by lime stone valleys, underground caves and the famous Mam Tor. We ended up staying in the loveliest pub hotel called The George Inn and have to say I can highly recommend; the staff were amazing, the rooms are gorgeous and the restaurant and beer garden there are great- they even leave you some snacks and a little bottle of wine in the room! I know Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn is also famous in the area, and the YHA hostel at Losehill Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings and grounds I've ever seen, plus we all love a YHA!
How To Get There?
By Car: If you drive, Castleton is around an hour outside of Manchester City Centre, or just 35 minutes if you're coming in from Sheffield on the other side of the park.
By Train: Castleton doesn't have a train station in the town itself, but you can either travel to Hope station and walk 20 minutes down the road into the heart of the village, or get off the stop before at Edale (famously the start point of the Pennine Way for any walk lovers out there) and hike the 3 mile route up to Hollins Cross/ The Great Ridge before heading down past Dunscar Farm and into the top end of the village near the Ramblers Rest.
By Bus: During Summer months, the H2 'Hope Valley Explorer' bus runs between Edale, Hope and Castleton, and the H1 route runs again to Hope and Castleton via Fairholmes and Bamford. Both of these services run from 9am- 7pm between July 21st and August 31st. You can find out more information on the website here.
Where To Eat
Despite Castleton being a small village, it gets a fair amount of tourists passing through due to the well known walking routes and caverns that surround it. It never feels busy or crowded, but it does mean there are a few pubs and restaurants to choose from which is great! First up we have the famous Fish & Chip shop which is a must visit; the food and staff are equally as amazing, but beware of their very scarce opening times. If you're looking for pub grub I can again recommend The George where we stayed, or try Ye Olde Nags Head if you get the chance- we ate here twice it was so good! If restaurants are more your thing, try 1530 The Restaurant, this small venue serves authentic Italian cuisine and has incredible reviews on TripAdvisor. One thing we did struggle with was breakfast. Most of the pubs around are also hotels and so tend to serve breakfast for residents only, or at least only with advance bookings. If you need a spur of the moment brunch you're best heading over to Tilly's, the traditional English tea room that has become somewhat famous in the area.
What To Do
Despite being so rural, Castleton is the most famous and fun of all the villages in Hope Valley. There are lots of outdoor activities you can do to fill up a weekend visit, including the following:
Visit A Cavern
The most popular thing to do here and for good reason. Castleton is surrounded by show caves of all different shapes and sizes, and you'll definitely want to pay a visit to at least one of them during your stay. Have a browse through the list below to help you decide which suit you best:
Blue John Cavern- Probably the most widely known in the area and the home of the infamous Blue John Stone, one of the most sought after minerals you can find in the UK. Entrance into the cavern is £14 per adult and tickets cannot be purchased in advance; also be aware that there are 245 steps down to the cave and back up again so this particular cavern may not be suitable for everyone. To find out more visit their website here.
Speedwell Cavern- Discover this 18th Century lead mine by sailing across underground canals. Yes you read that right, this cavern is toured via boat, 450m underground, and ends with a visit to the 'Bottomless Pit', a massive subterranean lake inside the cave. Entrance to the cavern is £17 per adult and can be bought online here from 2 weeks in advance.
Peak Cavern- Speedwell's little sister, Peak Cavern has been nicknamed 'The Devil's Arse' because well... when it floods each year it sends out echoing noises that sound a lot like passing gas! A tour through this cavern will tell you all about the rope makers that once lived there, as well as lots of haunting stories- you can visit the 'Devil's Staircase' that people used to believe was the actual staircase to hell! The outside of this cavern is also my favourite, it looks like Jurassic Park, and fun fact: it's the largest natural cave opening in the UK and the 2nd largest in Europe! Entrance will cost you £15 per adult and can be pre-bought online here 2 weeks in advance.
Treak Cliff Cavern- Possibly the prettiest of the caverns, Treak Cliff is filled with pillars of raw Blue John stone and beautifully formed stalactites, as well as areas known as 'Aladdins Cave' and 'Fairyland' so you can imagine how great they are. Entrance to this cavern is £12.50 per adult and can be bought online here. Be aware that the cave is home to various species of bat and a colony of Orbweaver spiders, the 'gentle giants' of European spiders.
Marvel at Cave Dale
Not a cave, a beautiful valley! This gorgeous walking route is hidden out of sight from the town; you'll head down a small dirt path until the route opens up to reveal a secret valley outlined by huge limestone cliffs. It's one of the most incredible landscapes I've ever seen. The full Secret Valley walk loops round and back down to Castleton and is around 4.5 miles long. The incline is really nothing too difficult, and won't take more than a few hours even with stops to oggle at the scenery.
Shop For Antiques at Carlton Emporium
Castleton is not the place to go if you're wanting a shopping holiday; it offers little more than a few gift shops, a sweet shop and one small food shop. That being said, you have to take a second to visit Carlton Emporium and sift through the various wonders that they have on offer. From little trinkets to antique homewares and even the occasional fashion item, they have something for everyone!
Walk to Edale & Back
As I've said above, Castleton doesn't have a train station so you may end up doing this walk on your way to the village. However even if you decide to get off at Hope instead, I still recommend doing the hike over to Edale and back anyway. Head up over the hills to Hollins Cross where your route meets the Great Ridge, and down into the centre of Edale via the visitor centre. Here you can have a wander around or grab a bite to eat (I recommend sitting for a drink outside the Rambler Inn on a nice day) before heading back the way you came. The walk is a good couple of hours each way so make sure you take some water!
Play Royalty at Peveril Castle
The remains of this Norman Fortress are a highlight of any trip to Castleton. Explore what life may have been like shortly after the Battle of Hastings for William Peveril, Keeper of the Royal Forest. A visit here costs £6.90 per adult, and parking is available at the visitor centre with access via Market Square. Read more about the castle of book your visiting slot here.
Climb Mam Tor via the Great Ridge Walk
Mam Tor, meaning 'Mother Hill' is one of the best walks in the area and offers great views of both the White (limestone) Peak and Dark (gritstone) Peak as well as the infamous Winatts Pass- make sure you bring your camera for this one! You can walk here via Hollins Cross, similarly to the Edale walk, but I recommend walking down to Hope and then up through the entirety of the Great Ridge Walk. This route offers views over the whole of Hope Valley, and is something I think everyone should try to do whilst here!
And there we have it, the perfect Peak District weekend. Is Castleton on your list of UK staycations? If not, it definitely should be, I can't wait to get back there. Until then, make sure you follow me over on Instagram to see my adventures in real time.