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1951 heralded the designation of the Peak District as the first National Park in the British Isles. Close to Manchester and Sheffield, with easy access by car and railway, the Peaks are an area of great diversity, ranging from the northern ‘Dark Peak’, so-called due to the prevalence of moorland and rugged gritstone geology there, to the contrasting limestone of the southern ‘White Peak’, which is more densely populated.
In addition to its dramatic landscape, this National Park is also an area with great historic significance, stretching back to the earliest times of human activity. Evidence from caves in Dovedale and elsewhere suggest Mesolithic life, and the barrows (burial grounds) on Margery Hill represent our Neolithic ancestors.
The mysterious stone circles of Arbor Low (not far from Youlgreave) contain evidence of Bronze Age habitation, and the ancient population is thought to have farmed the area extensively. This site is hailed as the ‘Stonehenge of the North’, since it is the largest ancient monument in the county, while Mam Tor, a popular destination for tourists, is an example of the hill forts constructed in the Bronze Age and on into the Iron Age.
The Peaks are a haven for the avid explorer, as well as those simply in need of a peaceful break from the hustle-bustle of the everyday. For hikers, climbers, cavers, pot-holer’s and all those who enjoy the outdoor life, there are campsites everywhere, from Hope Valley to Ashbourne. Kinder Scout is the highest point in the area, standing at 2087 feet (636 metres). This is a naturally stunning choice of location for walkers and cyclists alike; as well as Kinder Scout, visitors can join the Sett Valley Trail from Hayfield or go for a ramble up Lantern Pike.
This National Park is culturally rich, and there are many attractions to visit. The Blue John Cavern at Castleton, for example, is a national gem, containing eight varieties of this rare stone. Animal Farm, also in Castleton, houses rare British animal breeds that are nearing extinction and visitors can try their hands at dry-stone walling and panning water for precious fragments of Blue John.
Chatsworth House, the ‘palace of the Peak’, and its stunning thousand-acre grounds were the setting for the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’, and are open to the public all-year-round. The Heights of Abraham, a tourist attraction since 1780, was the site of Britain’s first alpine-style cable-car system in 1984, which enables visitors to enjoy the views of Derwent Valley and the surrounding area with ease as they ascend.
write by Vera