Friday turned out to be a stunningly beautiful day, with blue skies and warm temperatures. Perfect for a drive out to the Peak District National Park and a visit to Chatsworth House.
But first, we head out of Salford, GPS (satnav) fired up and pointing us to the town of Castleton in the heart of the Peak district. As is often the case, the GPS sometimes gets it wrong and at one point, very near Castleton, it took us in a circle that included a narrow track not much bigger than a driveway. We weren’t sure so we followed the route but when we realized we’d come back around again, we didn’t go around again even though it wanted us to. Technology!
This area is also known for the Blue John mines. You can visit them and go down into the caverns to see how they mine this rare stone. The “Blue John” name comes from the colours in the stone, shades of blue and yellow and purple. Blue in French is Bleu and Yellow is Jaune, thus, Blue John.
The stone is really lovely but not plentiful and in fact is unique to Castleton. You can’t find it anywhere else in the world, so the decorative items they make, including really pretty jewelry, is not really cheap but it’s very different and a nice local souvenir. It wouldn’t be a good attraction to visit if you have any mobility issues or heart problems due to stairs. I’m not great on too many stairs so that’s out for me.
Anyway, we took the turn off for Peveril Castle which was just next to the mine visitor centre. We drove down a steep hill into a valley, with the steep hills rising on both sides of the road. The scenery in the Peaks is really lovely, very nearly as nice as the Lake District, just without the beautiful lakes!
At the bottom of the hill we arrive at Castleton, a nice little town which is central for walkers and hikers. It’s got lots of lovely shops and pubs and cafes and most of the shops feature the Blue John items, the other reason the town is a visitor attraction.
We parked, paid and displayed for an hour to stretch our legs, have an ice cream and walk down the high street, window shopping and then we were away to Chatsworth itself, about 20 minutes’ drive from there. Near the parking lot, we even saw a small grassy area with a few sheep, right there in town. While this isn’t anything to get all excited about, I did enjoy watching the lambs skitter about.
Castleton is a very pretty town, too. Some of the oldest cottages and buildings are over 400 years old. The remains of an 11th century castle, Peveril, looks over the town and can be visited but you have to climb up there on a trail and a staircase. Again, not for the faint of heart or mobility impaired. The square keep that is standing today dates from about the middle of the 1100s. There’s a pretty church in the town with a Norman arch. If we hadn’t been heading to Chatsworth, we might have taken more time to look around there.
We’ll continue that in another blog post.