I first stopped by Bakewell for lunch on one of my first days driving into Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. Thereafter I meant to change it up and stop at other towns, and see other Peak District attractions, but I found Bakewell somehow just… easy to come across on the way to places. And so I ended up dropping by Bakewell finding different things to do, each time.
It’s such a charming little English town.
Here are the 4 highlights of my combined trips in and around Bakewell.
1. Browse around the shopping streets of Bakewell
I thought Bakewell was a reasonable size, considering it’s within a National Park. Mind you, not that I’m an expert on how big things ought to be, in a National Park.
Parking is relatively easy to find (paid parking), and it’s a walkable town. In fact, you really want to ditch your car so that you can start to wander about the pedestrian streets. There are many, and much nicer, and you can better explore the many curious shops.
If you’re like me, you would find yourself in the shops making handcrafted beeswax candles and soaps, and the jewellery shop that sells jewellery made of miniature flowers encased in resin. It looks like this (note: this is not the shop).
However, the BEST shop of all was the most amazing candy store I’d ever seen.
I don’t typically take pictures of the insides of shops. But I asked permission to photograph the Georgian House Sweet Shop, because… well look. I don’t even have a sweet tooth but just… wow.
2. Try the Bakewell tart
My friend from Chesterfield recommended that I try some Bakewell tart during my time exploring the Peak District. I wandered for a while about the town, disdaining the cafes that were more prominent on the main streets, because I have a thing for being cosseted away in an obscure alley somewhere. (I should probably get that checked.)
Luckily, this being a cute little European town, I found a little nook of a courtyard where there was a little cafe. They had a decent lunch menu, with vegetarian options – and even gluten free options! And the Bakewell tart was on the menu. So I had it for dessert.
It was ok. I mean, I don’t have a sweet tooth, so it didn’t ring my chimes.
3. Bakewell has the most beautiful bridge in the Peak District
It’s hard to miss this bridge when you’re in Bakewell. Or if you somehow did, do kick yourself. Kick yourself now.
Wandering to the riverbank which – of course – has a weir across it, Bakewell Bridge’s curiously geometric span grabs your attention.
Engineering should always be beautiful like this. I think it’s probably the loveliest bridge I’ve ever seen.
The riverbank itself is a very nice walk. Fringed with green, the river Wye flows calmly through, quite civilly pouring over the weir to scatter over the riverbed rocks after.
Ducks glide about, swim, and dip down to feed in flocks. People stroll about at leisure.
It isn’t really a surprise that I kept coming back to Bakewell, is it?
4. Go off-the-beaten-path to Ashford-in-the-Water
This was an inside tip from my friend, whose childhood rambling grounds were the Peak District.
Near Bakewell is a little place called Ashford-in-the-Water. Drive all the way down the little road to its end, where there’s roadside parking in a sort of semi-circular cul-de-sec near a well.
Here you will find a clear, calm pond that my friend recalled was pleasant to splash in. He recommended it as a nice stop to cool my heels after a long day of going on Peak District walks.
It was late afternoon when I followed his advice, and it was still pleasant – a rare sunny day in England. There were ducks here as well, just as in Bakewell. But some of them were already tucked in by the shade and under their wings for a snooze in the dappled sun.
The day I found my way there, I had indeed been walking some. Sitting down on the grassy bank, I took off my boots and my socks and dipped my toes in. The water was chill.
But I left them in the water, even though I am easily cold, and kicked about a bit. It’s the best feeling, don’t you know?
5. Things to Don’t: Feed the swans
There was a pair of swans in the pond together with the ducks who weren’t asleep. Big and graceful, long curving necks as they glided with that poise of swans, heads tilted to glance curiously at me. I smiled to see them.
As I sat, I thought I might as well have the snack I brought with me. I think it was some fruit – I can’t remember what kind – and Jaffa cakes. I love Jaffa cakes! If only I could get them here in Malaysia. (Yes, I know I just said I didn’t have a sweet tooth. But Jaffa cakes have their own category, ok?)
But the swans seemed to love Jaffa cakes too…. They became interested as soon as I started on the Jaffa cakes. They swam over. I was, like the nerdy girl, so excited that these awesome beautiful popular creatures were like, coming over to talk to me! OMG OMG OMG!
OK I don’t know if I should have (that’s a lie; I shouldn’t have), but I gave them some Jaffa cake.
Just the cake bit, not the orange chocolatey bit, because I recalled something about not feeding chocolate to dogs. (Look. I don’t know what that has to do with swans. It’s just what came to mind, and I thought it was best to err on the side of dogs = swans. Get all the way off my back!)
It all went downhill from there.
Kids, never feed the popular kids.
Their duck posse came over too and wanted a share. So I shared with them too.
And then, the swans wanted more. And more. They pressed in on me, bleating in that decidedly ungraceful voice of swans, quite a mismatch to their lovely appearance. And MORE! MORE NOW!!
How rude! So I gave them the stern talking-to that totally worked on the cattle mobs.
The ducks were reasonable. They gave up when it was clear that no Jaffa cake was forthcoming, waddling back into the pond.
But it did not work on the swans. When I stopped giving them more cake, they began to snap at the Jaffa cake in my hand before I could eat it myself. Off it flew from my surprised fingers into the water. Then, when they’d finished picking at it from the water, they returned and nipped at my hand, pinching it between their beaks.
I tell you I scrambled away from the bank like lightning. But these swans are something else. They came out of the water after me, snapping at my calves wherever I went. I couldn’t decide whether to be thankful or distressed that no one else was around at the pond to see me be chased about by a pair of irate swans – not sure whether embarrassment or assistance was the priority here….
In the end it occurred to me to put the Jaffa cakes back into my backpack. I zipped it up.
They gave up, went back in the water, and swam away in that deceptively stately way of swans. As if they had never been ugly, and certainly not just two seconds ago.
How like people.
The thought suddenly crossed my mind. Often those who are fairest on the outside, are the least grateful, and the cruelest to those who are kind.
But because mankind is addicted to glamour, we excuse it and let an ugly character slide when it is possessed by attractive people.
Carbon offset information to the United Kingdom
A return flight between Kuala Lumpur and Manchester via Amsterdam produces carbon emissions of approximately 8,815 lbs CO2e. It costs about $44 to offset this.
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Love Bakewell, and love the Peak District in general. Especially the Chatsworth estate! If you’ve not visited already, you should come to Lincoln (my home city) which has buckets of character and history, all packaged up in quaint, cobbled streets. I think we’ve got the most magnificent cathedral in the world! :)
Yes! You can get happily lost in the Chatsworth grounds! I’ve not been to Lincoln though. I think I only knew it as the ‘Lincoln green’ worn by the Sherwood forest Merry Men :D
P.S. I thought the Chesterfield cathedral spire was awesome – albeit not intended!