No more than 15 minutes drive from any Party House is the little known market town of Leek, a hidden gem if you are interested in history or antiques, with many buildings by Sugden and the Grade 1 listed Arts & Crafts church, All Saints. It featured in BBC Countryfiles’s magazine as a great place for a day out.
William Morris (the Victorian designer) spent much time here and in St Edwards Church there are superb examples of his tapestries.
With many antique shops and a Saturday outdoor antique / bric-a-brac market, you may need to leave room in your suitcase for that ‘must have’ unusual find. There is a town heritage trail and local pub trail leaflet available from the Tourist Information Centre in the town’s Nicholson Institute (above the Library) (telephone 01538 483741). There are also local guided walking tours and ghost tours – call the Toursit Information Centre for more details.
Just 20 minutes away (and a most stunning drive), Buxton is renowned for its spa waters. Many visitors bring empty bottles and fill up for free from the constantly running well. Sometimes Buxton has been described as a ‘mini-Bath’, it has such architecture of note as The Crescent, Devonshire Royal Hospital and the Opera House.
Buxton is also well known for its festivals. In February it hosts a Blues Festival, and in July the main Buxton Festival and Fringe is one of the largest in the UK. For more information, call the Opera House on 0845 1272190.
Just about a ten minute drive from Hamps or Merrymeet, Ashbourne is a delightful market town with many galleries, antique shops and tearooms and restaurants. It has fine Georgian buildings, old alms houses as well as cobbled streets and a market. The local Tourist Information Centre in the Market Place DE6 1EU (01335 343666) has town trails, other leaflets and details on Town Walking tours. If you are in Ashbourne at Shrove tide don’t miss the famous Shrove Tode Football Game. The town is divided by those born on the south bank of the Henmore River (the (Down-ards) and those born north of it (the Up-ards). These two teams play a rowdy (more like rugby than football) game trying to score goals in goal mouths three miles apart! Certainly something to behold! In July Ashbourne hosts its own Highland Games and also in August it’s Agricultural Show. There is a market on Thursdays and Saturdays.
You can’t come to the Peak District without trying an original Bakewell Pudding. They have very little resemblance to the Bakewell Tarts known throughout the rest of the UK. Served hot (and, very naughtily, with cream) they are very delicious but very sweet! Bakewell also has wonderful walks by the river and a very good Farmers Market shop, selling local produce. If you are here at the beginning of August the Bakewell Show is a real treat.
The Potteries are a collection of smaller 5 towns. Hanley centre is where you will find all the usual big town shopping names, but the real joy of the Potteries are the factory shops and tours. Wedgwood, Portmeirion, Moorcroft and Royal Doulton and many, many others are all here. We provide maps of where to find them all.
Hartington is only a small village, but it is very pretty and has a wonderful cheese shop, selling local produced cheeses. We buy our cheese here and stop on the way home to buy fresh free range eggs from a local farmer. We arrive home to enjoy the best omelettes in the world!
A little further
If you don’t mind driving for up to an hour and a half, you can reach many larger cities, each with their own characters. For example, the port of Liverpool, the Roman city of Chester, the industrial heritage of Manchester, the steel town of Sheffield, olde worlde Shrewsbury, the beautiful small city of Lichfield with it’s 3 spired cathedral or the brewing centre of Burton, each of which is worth a day out.