Castleton village in Derbyshire is a treasured destination for our family members and has been for many years now. This historic location is renowned for its picturesque qualities and uniqueness which makes it a real gem in this stunning little valley, Hope valley in Derbyshire. The area is extremely photogenic, the landscape is beautiful and has a rich history that captures the imagination. Dominating the quant little village is Peveril Castle next to Cave Dale, a scenic valley walking trail that I’ve previously written about.
Castleton itself, is surrounded by Rugged hills and ridges, all recommended walking places by my own experience. One of my family’s utmost favourite times of the year in this pretty village is Christmas time when the tiny streets are lit up with delightful little Christmas trees all along the main street and throughout the cobbled back roads, my family and I always get excited about visiting our favourite place in the lead up to Christmas.
As the kids were growing up, we made it a tradition to make a trip to Castleton village and experience the Christmas lights, but most of all the warm atmosphere that’s always created at Christmastime in the village. We would always take them to see Santa in his grotto which of course was their highlight of the day, then we would try to find a family sized table free at one of the pubs and enjoy a family dinner together, it never was an easy task to get a dinner table without a reservation.
Our favourite places for dinner were usually The Castle or The George, and back in the day when the kids were small, my mum often joined us for the day. We have many happy memories of our visits to see the Christmas lights and to watch the kids eyes light up with joy as they saw Santa in his grotto.
Accommodation in the area
There were times when we gave thought to staying over for a weekend in accommodation in Castleton but we never actually got around to fulfilling our ideas. Some of the pubs have rooms and there’s plenty of B&B’s in the area, there’s also a Youth Hostel in the village too, just along from Peveril castle entrance. Maybe we will spend a weekend in the village some day, of course in the current covid-19 situation there’s no such plans for us to be staying in accommodation. Our Hope valley long summer weekends were always a camping or caravan kind of holiday with lots of miles underway every day.
Once in the village we would most often buy some of our Christmas gifts there in some of the amazing bespoke shops along the main street or in one of the hiking stores at the time, I can’t vouch for the shops available at the present time but we were always able to buy such individually crafted items, the kind of gifts you wouldn’t find anywhere else.
Most years we would pick an item from one of the Blue John jewellers’ shops. Castleton area is renowned for its blue John, a semi-precious mineral, a form of fluorite, a beautiful stone that in the UK can only be found in the Treak Cliff Cavern or in the Blue John Cavern, it contains bands of stunning blueish purple or tones of yellow.
The area and parking
Parking is best found earlier in the day if at all possible, in the visitors centre car park or in the parking bays along the roadside towards the Devils Arse cave entrance and more parking space higher up the length of the road. We always make a special day of it and explore more of the area while we are there. A visit to one of the caverns is always a really fun experience, even though we have been to all of the local caves at one time or another we always have a great time.
We have walked all the local landscapes, one such local high point is Mam tor is a 517 m (1,696 ft) and is a refreshing location, sometimes called “the Shivering mountain” or “Mam Tor” due to its multitude of landslips which have created mini hills below it. This is a dominant feature near Castleton and is the location of The hill is crowned by a late Bronze Age and early Iron Age univallate hill fort, and two Bronze Age bowl barrows and an Iron Age hill fort. The Road through Castleton splits after a while, directly up to a bus turning circle where once the road would have continued onward, until re-occurring landslides made it impossible to keep open after 1979 when it officially closed.
If you take the road to the left towards Speedwell cavern you will be entering Winnats Pass which, since the closure of the main a625 road takes more traffic than before. The narrowness of the road and its maximum gradient of over 28% (1 in 3 1⁄2) has caused it to be closed to buses, coaches and vehicles over 7.5 tonnes in weight. I can recommend hiking over the top of Winnats Pass for excellent views and lots of fresh air or up to Mam tor and along the great ridge.
We have been visiting Hope valley for so many years and built a multitude of wonderful memories but the yearly visit to see the Christmas lights has always been a big highlight. Even if I’m not able to see them this year, since 2020 has been a year of unprecedented circumstances in my life time, these will still be the best memories and photographs for now.