Derbyshire’s Fascinating Past: 5 of the Best Historical Days Out in the Peak District
Derbyshire and the Peak District have always played a significant role in British history, from the prehistoric era to the birth of the modern world during the industrial revolution. The county’s rich limestone, rivers and natural resources have always been a driving force behind Derbyshire’s role in British history. Today, Derbyshire takes great pride in its history and there are a variety of local museums, stately homes and landmarks that are open to the public all year round. Here we have highlighted five of the region’s most interesting historical sites and stories, in the hopes that you will visit them during your next Derbyshire holiday.
The Crags, in Workshop near Bolsover, are a set of caves formed from limestone that are home to the UK’s oldest verified cave art. The caves have been an excavation site since the Victorian era and are world-renowned as an archaeological site. Church Hole is perhaps the most famous cave, as this is where the 13,000-year-old cave art was discovered in 2003 and has since become one of England’s most exciting historical landmarks. Archaeologists have also discovered tools that they believe to be evidence of Neanderthals dwelling in the caves and later modern man during the last ice age. To discover more for yourself, be sure to book onto one of Creswell Crags’ cave tours (suitable for all the family) and experience the prehistoric world for yourself.
At the top of Kinder Scout (a significant hike) lies the ‘Mermaid’s Pool’. According to Peak District legend, the pool’s waters have healing powers and are home to a magical mermaid. The mermaid only appears once a year, at midnight on Easter, but if you spot her there at that time and she looks fondly upon you, it is said that she has granted you eternal life. If you’re not there at Easter (or you’re a little sceptical) never fear! The pool is still a great spot for a refreshing mid-hike swim.
Right up until the mid-1950s, mining for Galena (lead ore) was one of the main industries in the Peak District and sustained many Derbyshire families. The Peak District Mining Museum in Matlock Bath aims to educate its visitors on the industry through a series of interactive exhibits, including its functional 1920s Temple Mine, which you can take a trip down. The museum always receives rave reviews and they offer a range of ticket prices, including family trips.
As mentioned in our shopping guide, Cromford Mills is one of Derbyshire’s most significant historical sites. Sir Richard Arkwright built the first-ever running mill at the site after he discovered how to run cotton spinning machines from water. In this very modern experience, a CGI Arkwright tells his story of rags to riches - a fun way to learn about this part of British history. Cromford Mills also offers guided tours and has a visitor centre where you can learn more about Arkwright and his entrepreneurship.
The Cavendish family are one of Britain’s wealthiest aristocratic families and have been landowners for multiple centuries. Most of their acquisitions were in the North and arguably there is none more famous than Chatsworth House. As we discussed in our Towns and Villages guide, Chatsworth was used as Mr Darcy’s house, Pemberley, in the iconic film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley. However, many don’t realise that this is because Jane Austen is believed to have written her legendary romance whilst staying in Bakewell and it is well documented that Chatsworth was, potentially, the inspiration behind Pemberley. Aside from its literary history, Chatsworth is simply a beautiful home and well worth a visit if you’re staying in the East Peak District.