Many rural communities in England are season-specific and have varying festivals, foods, and activities based on what time year it is, but none more so than Derbyshire. The woodlands, reservoirs, towns, villages, and hilly moorlands give this area of England a different mood and varying vistas depending on when you are there. There’s a rolling calendar of attractions, and there are some things you can do much better, or exclusively, in certain seasons.
Whenever you visit, Derbyshire has something special in store for you. Here are my picks of what to do in each season.
Winter In Derbyshire
Derbyshire is most magical in winter. Villages are transformed into winter wonderlands with impressive light displays and an extra cozy feel to them. The Christmas markets do get busy, but there’s nothing better than grabbing a hot chocolate and stepping into a fairy tale.
Experience Christmas At Chatsworth
Chatsworth House is a 16th-century estate and garden near the town of Bakewell. Its sprawling gardens and vast house are open to the public, and at Christmas, the house puts on a very special display. Each year, Christmastime has a new theme. Last year, when I visited, it was “fairy tales.” Each room I wandered through was dressed to represent a different fairy tale. The Princess and the Pea room had an incredible tower of mattresses! The large Christmas tree in the main hall and the ornaments throughout the house make Christmastime a fantastic time to visit.
Visit Castleton’s Lights
There are many reasons to visit the village of Castleton, and if you go at other times of the year, the caverns are fantastic. But in wintertime, this quaint little village, with its small souvenir shops and traditional pubs, turns into Santa’s Grotto. Every house and business in the village takes part in the lights, and as you walk through the village, it feels like you’re on the set of a Christmas movie.
Enjoy A Cozy Sunday Lunch By The Fire
No matter where you are in Derbyshire, you’ll find a traditional village pub, and there’s no better place to snuggle by a real open fire and enjoy a traditional Sunday lunch. Order your roast beef and Yorkshire puddings and feel as cozy as can be while the snow falls or the rain patters on the old leaded windows. The food will be amazing, and you can stay for a real ale or two.
Pro Tip: Tourism doesn’t slow down in the winter, and many people visit for the Christmas lights and other seasonal displays. If you want Sunday lunch, do book ahead, as it’s unlikely you’ll get a table otherwise.
Spring In Derbyshire
Springtime in Derbyshire is a show of bluebells and daffodils, cherry blossoms and blue skies. It’s the perfect time for getting out and about, as the peak of visitors hasn’t been reached yet. It’s a little quieter, and the scenery is breath-taking.
Hike In The Peaks
If you like a good walk and stunning views, the Peak District makes a great place for a hike. You can take it at your own pace and go as high as you like, or you can simply stroll by the reservoirs and marvel at the hills from the path below. The landscape is dramatic and awe-inspiring, and if you can manage it, you can hike up to the top of a peak and gaze down at the beauty below.
Visit Chesterfield’s Crooked Spire
The Derbyshire town of Chesterfield has a lot to offer visitors, from a local farmers market, a museum, a theater, some peaceful parklands, to an unusual old church with an unusually crooked spire. Chesterfield Parish Church is the largest church in Derbyshire and was built around 1360. The 228-foot spire was built using green timber, which twisted as it dried out, giving it its distinctive shape. This is a working church, and you can attend an Easter service here, or you can take a church tour, which will include going up into the spire.
Walk In The Woodland
Spring, and especially May, is the perfect time to take a walk through the woodland of Derbyshire. Bluebells sweep across the land, and the birch, oak, ash, and alder trees are in full leaf, attracting more birds to their branches. Many of these forests, like Spring Wood and Howden, enjoy meandering streams and are close to reservoirs, making them the perfect place to stop for a picnic and bask in the nature that’s all around.
Pro Tips: Reservoirs are larger than you think, so don’t push yourself to walk all the way around. There is bike hire at Howden, if you like to cycle. Make sure you follow the trails, as woodland, and especially the peaks, can easily become confusing if you go off the paths.
Summer In Derbyshire
Summer is when Derbyshire is at its busiest. The Peak District, in particular, is very popular with tourists and locals alike during summer. But there are still interesting sites to see that are a bit more off the beaten track.
Visit Bolsover Castle
Bolsover Castle, standing proud on the hill above Bolsover, is best visited in the summer. Founded in the 11th century, this incredible castle is now a semi-ruin, and much of the building has no roof, leaving it open to the elements. I’ve visited in both summer and fall, and I can confirm you’ve more chance of a dry, sunny day in the summer, as I was rained on all day for my visit in fall! Events often take place on the grounds, and there’s lots of information in the few interior rooms -- plus a good cafe.
Catch The Open Air Theater At Renishaw Hall
Renishaw Hall was built in 1625 by George Sitwell of the legendary Sitwell family, who still own the house today. There’s a lot to see at Renishaw, and there’s a rolling calendar of events, including garden tours, changing displays within the house, house tours, and even a small vineyard. But in the summer months, the gardens make the perfect location for open-air theater. On selected dates through August, you can book a ticket to watch a classic play in beautiful surroundings while drinking champagne and snacking on treats from your picnic.
Experience Eyam, The Plague Village
Eyam is a small, pretty, historic village in Derbyshire, famous for being a plague village. When the black death arrived in Eyam in 1665, the minister at the church made a drastic decision. He closed the border to the village and declared that no one should be allowed in or out, containing the deadly disease. You can take a look inside the church today and find lots of information about this tragic event. As you wander around the village, you’ll see plaques on some of the cottages telling you who lived, and died, there. There’s also a lovely walk from Eyam to Stoney Middleton that takes you past “the boundary stone” used as a marker for the edge of the village.
Pro Tip: Even though it’s summer, you should still be prepared for some rain. Summer rain is common in the north of England, though it’s usually light and fleeting.
Fall In Derbyshire
As the weather starts to turn and the days become shorter, there are some real delights that are perfect for this season. During the fall in Derbyshire, it’s time to enjoy all the good things in life.
Book A Show At Buxton Opera House
Opened in 1903 and sitting in the heart of Buxton, the Buxton Opera House is a beautifully maintained example of theater architecture by Frank Matcham. There’s a wide range of events to book tickets for, including concerts, plays, comedy shows, and of course, opera. It’s cozy inside, and this is a stunning original building to enjoy a show in. The kiosk in the main auditorium selling ice creams at the interval was one of the highlights for me -- it made the experience feel so authentic!
Eat A Real Bakewell Pudding
If you think you know what a Bakewell pudding is, you’re probably wrong. In the village of Bakewell, Derbyshire, you can enjoy the only real Bakewell pudding in the world. Head to Bakewell Pudding Shop and sample this old traditional pudding recipe from Bakewell. You can eat in, take away, and you can even book onto their Pudding Making Experience, where you get to learn how these unique tarts are made and make your own.
Pro Tip: There’s also a lovely river walk in Bakewell, and a good Indian Restaurant called Rajas.
Visit The Vineyard
The fact that a vineyard can grow in the northern climate of Derbyshire is pretty impressive in itself, and at Amber Valley Wines you can find out how they do it. The vineyard has only been operational since 2011, so it’s a new venture, but in a short space of time Amber Valley has created something quite amazing. The vineyard runs tours and tastings through to October, so it’s the perfect activity to put in your fall schedule.
If you’re visiting the vineyard, there’s also a series of short walks you can book onto. Autumn Footprints, or the Amber Valley and Erewash Walking Festival, takes place from the middle to the end of September.
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