Ancient castles and cute villages: Five car-free walks in the Peak District

today3 September 2022

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The natural beauty in the Derbyshire Peak District is something every resident of the county should be able to experience. However with the entrance to the national park a 40 minute drive from Derby, anyone who doesn’t want to drive can find themselves feeling left out.

Whether you don’t have a car or are trying to conserve fuel due to the current cost of living crisis, it might feel impossible to enjoy the picturesque scenes in the Peak District. Luckily, train connections and bus routes into the national park are easily accessible and can drop you off minutes away from some pretty spectacular spots.

If you are travelling from the north of the county, there is the Hope Valley Line which has multiple stops at some quaint Peak villages, Anyone journeying from Derby has the option of the Transpeak bus service running to Buxton or the Derwent Valley Line.

Read more: We visit Crich Tramway Museum for a step back in time

Below are a handful of our favourite walks in the Peaks which can be accessed without a car and with relative ease on public transport. If you think we have missed a favourite car free walk of yours, please let us know on email or in the comments below.

Monsal Trail

Ever a popular route for walkers and cyclists, the Monsal Trail is one of the most well-known trails in the national park. Following the closure of the Peak and Dales line in 1968, nearly nine miles of the now abandoned railway was transformed into the trail, incorporating railway tunnels as well as the Monsal Viaduct.

With the trail starting (or finishing, depending on where you start) in Bakewell, the walk is very accessible for those coming further afield. If you are travelling from Derby you can catch the Transpeak service at Derby Bus Station which will drop you off in Bakewell leaving you a 15 minute walk to the Bakewell Station, Monsal Trail car park.

Cost: £7.30 single

Travel time: 1h 26m each way

This is a view of part of the very picturesque Monsal Trail
This is a view of part of the very picturesque Monsal Trail

Hope to Edale

A four mile walk between two stunning Peak District villages, this route offers beautiful scenery, impressive hikes and quality places to eat and drink, whichever way around you choose to do the walk. The route takes you through Castleton, famous for its show caverns and caves, and offers great sites to explore along the way such as Treak Cliff Cavern.

There are plenty of different routes between the villages online, but this route outlined on GPS routes provides a comfortable route with lots of amazing sights. Both villages are on the Hope Valley Line and can be accessed easily by train from Sheffield or Manchester.

For anyone travelling car-free this route is best for people from Chesterfield, and surrounding northern Derbyshire towns and villages. A train to Sheffield and then a quick change onto the Hope Valley Line will take you to wherever you decide to start this walk.

Cost: £13.60 return train ticket from Chesterfield

Travel time: 50 minute each way

Bamford – Ladybower reservoir and Bamford Edge

Another village accessed by the Hope Valley Line is Bamford where nature-lovers can find two amazing routes to explore. There is the option for a 30 minute walk to the Ladybower reservoir, a huge expanse of water surrounded by forest and walks beloved by tourists and locals alike.

The other option is Bamford Edge, which provides a bird’s eye view of the water of the majestic reservoir. Providing panoramic views, a two mile round walk is required to reach the viewpoint where you can see some of the most astonishing sights the Peak District has to offer.

Travelling from Chesterfield, means a journey on the delightful Hope Valley Line is needed to get to this destination. Any town with a direct connection to Sheffield as well can reach this spot with relative ease.

Cost: £12.50 return from Chesterfield

Travel time: 45 minutes each way

Train travelling through Bamford Station in the Hope Valley
Train travelling through Bamford Station in the Hope Valley

Caudwell Mill

Located in the picturesque village of Rowsley, Caudwell Mill is a fantastic piece of Derbyshire history which is often overlooked. Set in a beautiful location close by the River Wye, Caudwell Mill was founded in 1874 and continued to operate for 104 years.

When it closed a group of enthusiasts got together to save what was the only complete Victorian water turbine-powered roller mill in the country. There are plenty of trails to explore nearby including a route to the popular Chatsworth estate and the mill even has a cafe serving delicious cakes and sandwiches.

If you are travelling from Derby, yet again the Transpeak service is the best bet, hopping off the bus at the Peacock Hotel in Rowsley. This leaves you a minute walk to the mill, and endless options for walking routes in the area.

Cost: £5.80 single

Travel time: 1h 5m each way

High Tor and Riber

Yes, this route is on the edge of the national park but that doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still a phenomenal hike which can easily be accessed without a car. Starting from the Matlock Bath train station, the route passes the Heights of Abraham cable cars – a great addition to any day out – before travelling past deep chasms, incredible viewpoints and along the perimeter of a castle.

Despite only being a three mile trek, this route is unsuitable for young children due to steep drops and cliff edges, and some fairly strenuous uphill sections. A full route map can be found on the Visit Peak District website.

From Derby, the Derwent Valley Railway line is a great way to reach this spot. The route on the Peak District website starts from the train station car park so you will be literally dropped at the start point for the walk.

Cost: £7.10 return train ticket from Derby

Travel time: 29 minutes each way

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