A little late in sharing my fun weekend trip to Bakewell — it was Christmas back when I visited! My family and I made a last minute decision to make a trip to the Peak District, and Bakewell came up when I was searching for a classic English town with old stone buildings, cobblestone streets, and a calm peaceful vibe. The charming town is cold and wintry during that time of the year, but it’s still a nice place for a quick getaway and we had a lovely time.
The small market town of Bakewell is located in the district of Debyshire, England; near the valley of the River Wye. It is the second-largest town in the Peak District — England’s first national park filled with hills, valleys, lakes and meadows that spreads across the southern Pennines (known as a the ‘Backbone of England’, separating the northeast and northwest of the country).
Bakewell is a great base to explore the Peak District, with popular walking trails around the area and close to many famous stately homes. Of course, it was a little too cold during winter for hikes over the countryside — but I did enjoy the quiet stroll we had along the river, and most important of all, a taste of the famous Bakewell Pudding!
I am usually based in the city of Manchester whenever I visit the United Kingdom because it is where my brother lives. For our trip to Bakewell, we decided to drive and rented a car the day before so that we could start our journey right after breakfast in the morning. We left Manchester at about 10am for our 1.5-hour trip to Bakewell; passing by small towns and sprawling meadows along the way.
Lunch at the Original Bakewell Pudding Shop
Now, the first thing I had to do upon arriving at Bakewell was to look for the Bakewell Pudding! That was the one thing that everyone (whom I told about my visit) said I had to do. And the place to eat this famous pudding is a place that has the most obvious name — The Original Bakewell Pudding Shop! At the restaurant, we decided to have a light lunch before enjoying the Bakewell Pudding for dessert. The food was commendable, and I really enjoyed the pudding. We also ordered the Bakewell Tart (just remember that the pudding and the tart are not the same thing)!
“The story of the Bakewell Pudding started with a little accident back in 1860, when the mistress of a local inn asked her cook to make a strawberry tart. Instead of stirring the egg mixture into the pastry, she spread it on top of the jam. It was an instant success, and named the Bakewell Pudding. The wife of the town’s candlemaker heard about it, obtained the recipe, and turned it into a business from her cottage. It is now known as The Original Bakewell Pudding Shop.”
Strolling Along the River Wye
After our extremely filling meal, it was time to walk it all off. We headed towards the river that flows through Bakewell, the River Wye — for that peaceful afternoon stroll along the river that I wanted to do so much! I absolutely loved the winter atmosphere by the river as it had all the features that I so imagined — pretty arch bridges (there are a total of five of these bridges over the river, dating back to the 13th century), ducks swimming, naked trees bending over the waters, and Bakewell even has a bridge with love locks all over it. If it wasn’t so cold (and I really dislike the cold), I’d stay out longer with the crowds and have a picnic!
We then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the many shops and cafes inside the old yellow-colored stone buildings all around Bakewell. I just love the vintage vibe of this small town — I felt as if I just stepped back in time to old England, or maybe an Enid Blyton classic. Oh, and I also love all the unique and absolutely British names of some of these shops on their old school signboards. We ended up buying different flavored fudge and bagfuls of candy, and I also got myself some secondhand books. And of course, lots and lots of trinkets and souvenirs!
The Rutland Arms Hotel
And then it was time for check-in and a little rest. I decided to book us into one of the most significant (and prominent) hotel in Bakewell — The Rutland Arms Hotel. The hotel dates back to 1804, and I love that despite the classic setting, the entire place exudes a modern charm. Our Family Room is situated in the main building; and is equipped with an en-suite double bed and a separate single room with its own en-suite. There’s free parking, which was really convenient for us as we were driving. The most awesome fact of the hotel however, is that it is historically linked to author Jane Austen — local legend has it that she stayed here while writing ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
All Saints Parish Church’s Christmas Trees
Later on, we decided to take a late evening stroll to the All Saints’ Parish Church. The church was founded in 920; and though the present building was started in the 12th and 13th century, it was complete rebuilt again in the mid-19th century. Throughout the years, it has been restored, repaired, and expanded. Several prominent local historical figures are commemorated in monuments around the church; and some are buried in the church grounds. All Saints’ Parish Church is an important building in Bakewell — and during our visit in December, there was a Christmas Tree Festival held at the church. Hundreds of trees filled up the entire place, each one lovingly (and very creatively) decorated by the many organisations in town. They were all so pretty, and visitors were allowed to walk around the church to admire all the Christmas trees.
It was dark by the time we left the church. The Bakewell town center was dim and quiet (and most of the shops were closed), so we just dropped by a ‘Fish’n’chips’ shop to takeaway some dinner — and then headed back to the hotel for the night.
Second and final day in the Peak District. We woke up pretty early in the morning, as we wanted to spend a little time in Bakewell, before heading to the famous stately home of Chatsworth House. Our trip was only a short 2-day trip, so time was of the essence! We began the day with a delicious classic English Breakfast meal at The Rutland Arms Hotel (inclusive with our stay), that came with a buffet spread of pastries, fruits and coffee.
Bakewell Monday Market
Our first stop that day was at the Bakewell Monday Stall Market. It’s the largest and only market in the Peak District (but it really isn’t that big), and is said to have begun in the 1920’s. Located on Market Street in the center of town, this Monday only market comes alive with a myriad of stalls selling everything from fresh produce and pastry, sweets and snacks; to clothing and household products. It was nice walking amidst all the bustle of the market — and we ended up buying quite a few trinkets and clothing, and a Bakewell pudding to bring home.
And then it was time to head to our main attraction of the day, the Chatsworth House. Located less than 15 minutes from Bakewell on the banks of the Derwent River; this stately home is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, and has been home to the Cavendish family since the mid-16th century. The original Tudor mansion is enormous, and has a quadrangle layout. It has more than 30 rooms within the house, including a chapel, state rooms, and beautifully painted halls; and has an extensive collection of paintings, sculptures, books, furniture and historic artifacts.
Our visit to Chatsworth House coincided with ‘Christmas at Chatsworth’, where the entire house is decorated with a different theme of Christmas displays every year. The theme for 2018 was all about our beloved fairy tales, and named ‘Once Upon a Time’. It really is such a lovely way to get everyone into the festive spirit; and I felt like an excited little girl as I walked from room to room like the pages of a real life storybook. The house had displays of older tales like Snow White, Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland; and the more recent stories like James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte’s Web. It was so fun trying to identify all my favorite classics, and we spent more than 2 hours exploring the house.
Christmas tickets for Chatsworth House operate on a timed ticketing system (so I booked online in advance); and cost £25~US$32 for adults and £15~19 for kids (inclusive of house, garden and farmyard). Parking is free when booked online.
It was noon by the time we finished exploring Chatsworth House. The house is set within an expansive estate with a vast garden, farmland, an adventure playground and extensive moorland over rocky hills; and since our ticket included a visit to Chatsworth Gardens, we decided to walk around. The garden covers about 105 acres of the entire Chatsworth grounds; and every corner surprised us with something different. There were leaf-strewn footpaths, beautiful water features, art and sculptures; and of course, lots and lots of flowers. There’s also a working farmyard within the Chatsworth estate — but we were rushed for time (want to get home before dark) so we chose to miss the milking demonstrations and trailer rides.
Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop
And then it was time to head back to Manchester. Along the way, we stopped at the Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop, located in the village of Pilsley about 5 minutes away from Chatsworth House. The award-winning farm shop has a huge selection of and quality local products, sold at different sections within the shop — butcher’s corner, fresh seafood counter, fresh fruits and vegetables, and a pattiserie. There’s a cafe as well as to grab a bite to eat, but we decided to just takeaway some pastries (and a delicious bottle of fresh orange juice) for lunch.
We retraced the same route we took from Manchester to get home. It was a relatively smooth ride, and we arrived back just as it turned dark (daylight is shorter in winter). I had a fun and pretty educational 2-day-1-night visit to the Peak District, and I believe that everyone enjoyed this short and sweet trip.