The Peak District

A couple of weeks ago Chelsea and I continued our weekend exploration of England went up North a bit to Manchester.  We actually went up to visit our graduate school friend Abbie, and luckily for us she was a fantastic tour guide. Traditionally thought of as an industrial city, Manchester has quickly grown to become what many consider the #2 city behind London.  We took a whirlwind tour of the city and I didn’t get to take many pictures, but I think it will suffice to say that we enjoyed our time and will definitely be going to visit Abbie again – so more on Manchester when it happens.

On to the peak district.  One of the activities Abbie had planned for us was a nice walk.  I can’t remember the last time I went on a nice walk other than down the beach and back, so the idea sounded like fun.  Manchester is conveniently located just West of the peak district, and most of the areas were a short train ride away.  The Peak District is actually the first National Park in the British Isles, and is an area of approximately 550 square miles.  The highest “peak” is only 2000 feet, but this is a bonus as most of the peaks are scalable in a short amount of time and provide for some amazing views.  Abbie was outfitted with an amazing surveyers map and compass and we were off.

I took this video just after we left the train stop, on the way up our first path.  As I hope you can see, we had a beautiful day ahead of us, and the setting was really quiet and peaceful.  You might even be able to hear the sheep nearby.  I really enjoyed the visual effects the sun created by shining on the hills closer to the horizon.

This second video I stopped to grab at a higher elevation on our first climb up.  Hopefully you can appreciate the distance we have traveled up just by the views, as well as the wind.  The temperature dropped a bit up there, but I was kept warm by always playing catch up with Abbie and Chelsea (you might be able to hear me catching my breath).

Somewhere along our trek we ran into a caravan of rented Land Rovers, which was very funny to me and stereotypically British.  The third car above is pausing in order for one of the passengers to get out to film it flying through a mud puddle.  We narrowly avoided getting hosed.

Probably one of the most interesting facts of our walk was that we actually were going through other people’s land.  The property lines were clearly delineated by these really cool and very old stone walls.  Apparently here in the UK the public has what is considered “the right to roam” and we could jump from one territory to the next using the handy built-in steps (above) or gates.  I’m pretty sure this would never happen in America.

Not all of the paths were easy to navigate though, and an example of a challenging one is pictured above.  This path was mostly rocks, and became all the  more challenging due to the rain beginning to fall causing the rocks to be quite slippery.  I was just surprised at the number of sheep up those steep pitches.

After walking about 5 miles or so and expending plenty of energy not falling down the slippery path above, we had managed to work up a mean appetite and needed to avoid the rain.  Luckily for us, the town of Castleton was a good midpoint in our journey, and happened to be home to the pub of the year in the peak district two years running.  A nice warm pub lunch was EXACTLY what we needed, and we refueled and were ready to go again.

We did plenty of walking again getting out of Castleton, but it was well worth it to climb the biggest peak in front of us.  Above shows just how steep it was, and how fortunate we were to have stone steps built in to the path.

And at the top of that hill was this little guy playing king of the mountain.  This sheep made us laugh a lot as he just proclaimed his dominance to anyone within bleating distance.

As with all of our trips recently, I took a few minutes to snap a panorama on top of this hill.  If you look closely at the left third of the picture, you can hopefully see a smokestack, and if you click to zoom in I think you can see Castleton.  This entire area looks like this, small little towns in the valley of these peaks.

And here we are on our return journey.  I have highlighted Edale, the town we were walking toward to catch the train back to Manchester, with a red arrow.  The walk down was also quite pretty, but it went by quickly.

Overall, our eight mile walk in the peak district was a lot of fun.  We got to see the pretty countryside, stop for a pub lunch, hang out with some sheep, and experience a National Park.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a fun activity to do here in England, but only with the right gear/guide.   Thank you very much Abbie, it was something we would not have done by ourselves.  We’ll definitely be back to visit.

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