As a land spanning 565 square miles, the Peak District is all about breathtaking views and beauty, with a diverse range of landscapes. It has 450 historic monuments and 2900 listed buildings but there are seven wonders of the Peak District, which have been written in history as far back as the 14th century.
A Benedictine monk once described Britain ‘as a land of many wonders’, naming the Peak District as the first. Daniel Defoe toured Britain in 1724 and 1726 that he described it as at ‘howling wilderness’, a criticism according to him. A century earlier, the philosopher Thomas Hobbes visited the Peak, and wrote a lengthy poem where he stated:
‘Of the High Peak are seven wonders writ. Two fonts, two caves, one Pallace, Mount and Pit.’
Pooles Cavern & St Annes Well
He was referring to Poole’s Cavern and St Anne’s Well in Buxton, Peak Cavern and Mam Tor in Castleton, the Ebbing and Flowing Well Tideswell, Eldon Hole and Chatsworth. Only the two caves, Palace and mount would be on the ‘to do’ list of today’s traveller to the Peak District.
When Derbyshire writer Charles Cotton confirmed the seven sites in his own Wonders Of The Peak in 1681, he published the Peak District’s first ever travel guide. He was satisfying themselves but also his readers with the fascination of superstition and all things mysterious. When Jayne Darbyshire wrote in the newly published ‘Wonders Of The Peak District Revisted -In The Footsteps Of Daniel Defoe’, ‘visitors came in search of wild sensational experiences, to be terrified out of their wits and go home with a tale to tell.’
Poole’s Cavern is definitely a wonder on its own, a deep and mysterious cave with some fantastic stalactites to be seen and Cotton’s poetry sums up the experience very well, if not a little overdramatic!
‘So deep, and black, the very thought does make, My brains turn giddy and my eyeballs ake.’
St Anne’s Well in Buxton was described by Charles Cotton’s 17th century verses as a ‘crystal fountain’ that ‘springs in healing streams. ‘He also said,
‘Hither the sick, the lame and the Barren come, and hence go healthful, sound and fruitful home.’
Chatsworth, he described as ‘there stands and stately and stupendous pile.’ Defoe described it as ‘a perfect beauty’ and of course, there has been so much literature devoted to ‘the Palace of the Peak.’
Mam Tor is the ‘mountain’ even though there are no real mountains in the Peak District National Park, the highest ‘peak’ being Crowden Head at just over 2000 feet. Mam Tor is 1700 feet but it certainly has a dramatic look of the mountain. Legend has it that it’s said that although the surface constantly crumbles and slides downwards, the shadow of the hill never grows any smaller.
Peak Cavern can boast to be the largest natural cave entrance in Britain, and the second largest in the world and it seems it scared Charles Cotton witless. ‘A dreadful cave, whose site may well astonish the most brave, and make him pause, ere further he proceed.’
Eldon Hole is 100 feet long, 20ft wide rift in the hillside above the Peak Forest Village and Cotton wrote of ‘A gulf wide, steep, black, and a dreadful one. Which few, that comes to see it, dare come near.’ Both he and Defoe believed this chasm to be a bottomless hole leading to the centre of the Earth.