A weekend in the South Peaks

Dovedale Peak DistrictIt was a tough walk up the side of the ridge, picking our way through a huge patch of thistles and getting hot in the summer sun. But as we reached the top, the land fell away to the valley of Dovedale below, the river a winding ribbon of silver, the crowds of visitors we’d encountered along its banks invisible from such a distance.

To the left and right curled the hills of this southerly point in the Peak District, and a strong breeze rushing up the side of the ridge was refreshing and welcome. It was the perfect place to pause before heading back down the valley.

I was on a weekend trip to the Peaks with my dog and sister, camping and exploring a tiny pocket of this national park. We started with a walk from Dovedale, neither of us quite expecting the popularity of this pretty spot. But heading away from the river, we were able to leave the crowds behind and enjoy green views for miles from the hilltops.

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We’d have stayed out walking for longer had it not been for the temptation of a drink and barbecue back at our campsite, Common End Farm in Swinscoe. Overlooking the hills we’d just been hiking, the camping field really was the perfect spot to crack open the wine.

The facilities at this friendly campsite were great too: clean loos and showers, plenty of drinking water taps, a dog walking field, fire baskets and other things for life outdoors.

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After a blustery night and coffee looking at the view one last time, the next morning we slowed the pace with a visit to Ilam Park, a National Trust estate close to Dovedale. Ilam Hall would have been fun to explore, but with a dog, we stuck to the grounds.

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We began with a walk along the River Manifold, which winds around the estate to the west and south. Woodland kept us cool in the sun, and away from the other visitors it was very peaceful. Our walk eventually took us back to the Hall, where we admired the Italian gardens (pictured above) from the comfort of a bench.

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Soon, our rumbling tummies told us it was time for lunch, so we found a table outside at the Manifold Tea Room and sated our appetites while people-watching and putting off having to leave and make the long drive home.

The weekend, as they tend to be, was over far too quickly, but it was long enough for me to fall in love with the Peaks. I’m already looking forward to the next time I’ll be back to explore another pocket of this special place.

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