Macclesfield to Matlock
Take a trip through the Peak District National Park and the White Peak
Macclesfield to Matlock itinerary
Follow the route - Macclesfield to Matlock
> Leave Macclesfield by the B5470 to Rainow, then in 4 miles (6km) cross the A5004, taking the B5470 to Chapel-en-le-Frith. Take the unclassified road signed Rushup and Edale, then turn right and shortly left, signed Castleton Caverns for Castleton.
Dominating this pretty Peak village is Peveril Castle, built by William Peveril, illegitimate son of the Conqueror, and immortalised in Sir Walter Scott’s 1825 novel Peveril of the Peak. Although roofless, Henry II’s huge keep still stands. Castleton has a 200-year history of visitors, who come mainly to see the spectacular caverns in the limestone hills. Follow the stream to Peak Cavern, which has Britain’s largest natural cave entrance. You can still see evidence here of the rope-makers who lived and worked in the cavern: their speciality was nooses for the hangman. There are other local caverns, carved out by miners looking for lead and the lovely Blue John Fluorspar. Treak Cliff, Speedwell (explore it by boat) and Blue John Caverns are all open to visitors.
A trip behind Mam Tor, ‘the shivering mountain’, leads to nearby Edale, which lies snugly in the Noe Valley and is the starting point of the Pennine Way footpath.
> Go east on the A6187, then turn right on to the B6049. Soon turn left on unclassified roads to Great Hucklow, through Foolow to Eyam.
In 1665, the year of the Great Plague in London, a chest of clothes was sent from the capital to the village of Eyam, high up among the moors. Soon four out of every five villagers were dead. But what made Eyam special was the extraordinary sacrifice that these villagers made. Led by the rector, William Mompesson, they resolved to isolate themselves and prevent the disease from wiping out neighbouring communities. The churchyard’s graves reflect this sad story and every August a service is held in a nearby dell, known as Cucklet Church, where Mompesson held his open-air services. Near his wife’s grave is a unique sundial, telling the time throughout the world.
Places to stay in Eyam
> Turn right on to the B6521, then left on to the A623. At Baslow turn right on to the A619, then shortly left on to the B6012. In 5 miles (8km) turn left again at Edensor for Chatsworth.
Chatsworth is one of the grandest country houses in England, popularly known as the ‘Palace of the Peak’. The Elizabethan house, built in 1555 by Bess of Hardwick, was virtually replaced with the 1st Duke of Devonshire’s baroque mansion of the late 17th century, finished by the 6th Duke in the 1820s. Although Capability Brown landscaped the grounds, their crowning feature is Joseph Paxton’s stunning Emperor Fountain, at 260 feet (80m) the tallest in Britain.
When you rejoin the main road, take a look at the golden stone village of Edensor. Before 1839 the village lay in full view of the big house, so the 6th Duke had Paxton demolish it and rebuild it out of sight!
Places to stay in Chatsworth
> Leave Chatsworth and turn left on to the B6012. At Rowsley turn left on to the A6 for Matlock.
Visiting Matlock and Matlock Bath
Matlock is the administrative centre of Derbyshire, a busy town built around an ancient stone bridge across the river. Next door is Matlock Bath, a 19th-century spa town, where the water still bubbles up at a constant 68°F (20°C), although the Pavilion where Victorians used to take it is now an entertainment centre. Commanding the heights above Matlock Bath are the Victoria Prospect Tower and the strange folly of Riber Castle. The Peak District Mining Museum can be found alongside the River Derwent.
A mile (1.6km) from Matlock is Cromford, an important benchmark in the development of England as an industrial nation. Here, in 1771, Richard Arkwright built the world’s first mechanised textile factory. It survives today, with the new village he built for his workers.