The Peak District is home to some very wild and natural open spaces, but there are some equally beautiful country parks to discover, especially if you need somewhere to entertain the children.
Buxton Country Park is the home of Poole's Cavern, found deep beneath the limestone hills on the edge of the spa town of Buxton. The cavern is home to spectacular formations from dripping rainwater dissolving calcite crystals, which have caused very long stalactites, ( in fact, the longest stalactite in the peaks), frozen waterfalls and the unique poached egg stalactites. There is a wonderful visitor Centre exhibition, a restaurant, rocks and minerals and a new children's play area.
The country park is 100 acres of broad leaved forest rising above the cavern to over 1400 feet. It's possible to enjoy the full day out strolling through leafy woodlands to the hilltop viewing tower, with panoramic scenery and a wonderful picnic area and play space. The award-winning Go Ape adventure centre can be seen here, with Tarzan swings, treetop balancing acts and exhilarating zip wires on the three hour extreme adventure course. It is open every day from March to November and at weekends at the winter.
Chatsworth House is surrounded by 1000 acre park of glorious gardens, parklands, and woods on the banks of the River Derwent.
Designed by Capability Brown in the 1760s, Chatsworth Park is well known as one of the most beautiful and historic man-made landscapes in Britain. It is totally free to wander around throughout any time of the year during daylight hours, and the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire welcome visitors to walk, play and picnic in the Park whenever they want to. Stand Wood, which is behind the house, is also open all year and historic woodland is a beautiful backdrop for the house, especially in autumn when the changing colours of the rich diversity of trees there put on a truly spectacular display. With spectacular views across the park and over the river, it is home to the Huntingtower, which is a Chatsworth holiday cottage, the aqueduct and the Souter stone, which were both part of Paxton's 19th-century rock and water work in the landscape around Chatsworth, and the lakes, the important water supply for the water works in the garden.
There are two car parks to access the Parkland, one at the house and another open every day at Carlton Lees at the southern end of the Park, off the B6012. Both car parks have a charge and there is also parking for customers at the Chatsworth farm shop in the village of Pilsley. Public toilets are available at Chatsworth farm shop and at the garden centre at Carlton Lees and pedestrians are welcome as always.
Etherow Country Park
Etherow was one of Britain's first country parks established in 1968 around an old cotton mill. It has grown steadily over the years and now attracts over a quarter of 1 million visitors every year. It lies within easy reach of the Stockport and Manchester conurbations and has unspoiled countryside of the Pennines and being the halfway point of the 12 mile Valley Way footpath, it links Vernon Park in Stockport with Woolly Bridge on the Derbyshire border. The Goyt Way, which is a 10 mile footpath to Whaley Bridge also starts here.
It covers an area of 240 acres and offers a variety of leisure pursuits including rambling, birdwatching, sailing, model boating and angling and it plays host to the Marple and District Round Table Raft race each Summer. It is very rich in wildlife is and is home to over 200 species of plants and more than 100 species of birds have been recorded there. It is a designated site of special scientific interest and has its own nature reserve. Woodland in the Park also make great places to walk with the children and is home for a variety of birds of prey, including tawny owls.
It is situated at Compstall on the B6104 between Romiley and Marple Bridge and is well signposted from the road.
Ilam Country Park
Ilam country Park is an enchanting oasis of tranquillity surrounded by the rounded hills of Thorpe Cloud, Hinckley woods and flanked by the River Manifold. A welcome relief from the rugged landscape of the surrounding countryside, the manicured woods of this Park is home to Paradise Walk, a walk which is level with only a few gentle inclines and steps, making it accessible to all. Visit the stable blocks to pick up some gorgeous gifts or purchase some great walk routes in the shop before heading to the tea room for some traditional food.
Ilam is at the southern end of the Manifold Valley and consists of a Hall and remnants of its gardens, ancient semi natural woodland designated as a site of special scientific interest, open parklands with well preserved 'ridge and furrow' mediaeval agriculture. There are large areas of grassland around the visitors car park and the hall and visitors can enjoy the peace and quiet of this beautiful setting. It runs along both banks of the River Manifold with spectacular views towards Dovedale. There is a National trust visitor centre, tea room, shop and youth hostel and a small garden has been created on the site of the old Italian garden situated below the stable block.
Lyme Park Country Park
Lyme Park is a country park of 1400 acres of open moorland, which has many challenging and interesting walks between the historic buildings within the park, The Cage, Paddock Cottage and The Lantern, all specifically cited to offer magnificent views across the park and the Cheshire plain. The park contains a herd of red deer and fallow deer and during the summer season Highland and Dexter cattle can be seen grazing on the moor. The lakes and ponds are popular with duck and wild bird flocks, and especially appeal to younger visitors with a fantastic children's play area.
The park has excellent walking, public toilets, picnic areas and food kiosks, as well as a large car park and is situated at Disley.