BAKEWELL INSIDER'S GUIDE
Capital of the Peak...
BAKEWELL – ancient 'capital of the Peak'.
World famous puddings, the area’s premier agricultural show, a thriving economy and a whole honeypot of attractions for holidaymakers and locals alike – Bakewell is the administrative centre of the National Park and a 'must see' destination at the heart of the Peak District. Let's Stay PEAK DISTRICT invites you on a tour of this delightful town...
Where is Bakewell?
From the M1: take junction 29, then A617 to Chesterfield, A619 Chatsworth Road to Baslow. At roundabout take first exit, turn right, and follow A619 into Bakewell.
From Derby: head north towards Little Eaton, take the A38 to Ripley, follow A610 to Ambergate, then join A6 northbound towards Matlock, Rowsley and then Bakewell.
From Manchester: take the A6 Buxton Road through Chapel en le Frith, at roundabout take first exit, A623 to Sparrowpit and Peak Forest. Continue on A623 and bear right towards Wardlow at B6465. At Ashford-in-the-Water turn right briefly on to A6020, then left to rejoin the A6 towards Bakewell.
From Stoke-on-Trent: head north on the A53 towards Leek, continue on A53 through Buxton. Take first exit at roundabout, bear right and take second exit at next roundabout on to the A6. Follow A6 via Taddington to Bakewell.
By Bus: Numerous bus services pass through the town including Trans-Peak from Derby or Manchester; X18 or 240 from Sheffield or 170 from Chesterfield.
By Coach: The National Express 440 service between Manchester and London stops in Bakewell.
By Rail: The nearest railway stations are at Chesterfield, Buxton, Matlock or Grindleford.
Airport: The nearest airports are Manchester, Robin Hood Doncaster, Birmingham or Nottingham East Midlands.
Brief history of Bakewell
Bakewell grew up around a cluster of warm springs and wells which attracted Anglo Saxon settlers who named it Badecan wiellon, which means “Baedeca’s spring”. There is also evidence of prehistoric, Iron Age settlement in the eathworks of the Ball Cross hillfort, above the town to the east, where a cup-and-ring marked stone was found and is now in Sheffield’s Weston Park Museum.
The crossing of the River Wye, where the medieval five-arched bridge now stands, was obviously important, and the site became established both as a meeting and crossing point. The original fords were eventually replaced by bridges and two of these still remain: the 800-year-old town bridge, one of the oldest still in use in the country, and the narrow, 18th century Holme packhorse bridge further upstream.
In 924 the Anglo Saxon Chronicle records that Edward the Elder built a ‘burgh’ or fortification in the valley of the Wye near Bakewell. Later the Normans built a motte and bailey castle above the main river crossing, marked today by the mound known as Castle Hill. Later the manor of Badequella was important enough to merit a mention in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it was stated that there was land for eight ploughs, 33 villagers and nine smallholders and, in an unusual distinction, two priests and a church.
The Romans set up a station on the fertile meadows along the banks of the River Wye and the site became established as a meeting and crossing point.
Three original fords were eventually superseded by bridges and two of these remain: the distinctive five-arched bridge, at around 800 years old one of the oldest in the country, and the old packhorse bridge further upstream.
In 924 Edward the Elder built a fortification on the river banks – today the spot is marked only by a mound, known as Castle Hill – and a century later the manor of Badequella merited a mention in the Domesday Book.
A market charter was granted by King Edward III to Bakewell in 1330, so the local farming community has come to town on a Monday for the weekly sale of livestock, domestic goods and provisions for nearly 700 years. That tradition continues into the 21st century, with regular livestock markets and popular monthly farmers’ markets now taking place in the ultra-modern Agricultural Business Centre (which opened in 1998) instead of in the Market Square, where they were originally held.
Traditionally livestock farming and lead mining were the town’s key industries, but the coming of the Industrial Revolution, fuelled by improvements in communication and waterpower, brought new ventures including several cotton mills. The construction of Lumsford Mill by Richard Arkwright in 1777 triggered a further surge in prosperity and eventually led to the rebuilding of much of the medieval town.
In the late 17th century the Duke of Rutland spotted the potential of Bakewell’s thermal springs and built an elaborate bath house, with showers, pools and even a reading room, in a bid to establish the town as a spa. The water, at 15°C, was a touch chilly in comparison with rivals like Buxton and Matlock and the spa never really took off. But the remains can still be seen in Bath Gardens, where the bath house still stands and the water bubbles up through a fountain.
PEAK DISTRICT NATIONAL PARK
Today, Bakewell is the administrative centre of the Peak Park. As the largest town within its bounds, it was the obvious choice of location when the Peak District became Britain’s first national park in 1951. The Board’s headquarters is at Aldern House, a listed building just outside the town centre on Baslow Road.
ANNUAL SHOW AND FESTIVAL
Another claim to fame is the annual Bakewell Show, dating back to 1819 and the town’s biggest event of the year. A two-day agricultural bonanza and celebration of rural life, it has its own picturesque showground on the meandering banks of the River Wye and attracts around 60,000 competitors and visitors each August.
It is generally followed by the Bakewell Arts Festival – a more recent event, launched in 1999, which features art, dance, music and drama. Find yourself some good Peak District accommodation and come and join in the fun at Bakewell!
But the town is perhaps best known as the home of the Bakewell Pudding, a delicacy supposedly invented by accident in the 1860s, when a cook at the White Horse Inn – now the Rutland Arms – spread egg mix on top of her strawberry tart instead of stirring it into the pastry.
The story is almost certainly false, as the pudding was already well known at that point; in fact its roots can be traced back to medieval times. The matter is further complicated by the popularity of ‘Bakewell tart’, which is a different confection altogether, owing more to Mr Kipling than the White Horse Inn. Whatever the truth, the dessert has made Bakewell a household name and at least two local shops claim to be the sole owner of the original recipe.
GEOGRAPHY OF BAKEWELL
Bakewell nestles at a crossroads in the heart of the Wye valley, where mellow carboniferous limestone to the south meets grey shale and rough gritstone edges to the north.
Considered to be part of the White Peak, it is built on sedimentary rock deposited 350 million years ago, when the land lay under a warm tropical sea. Today the town is nearly 400 feet above sea level, but it is by no means among the highest in the Peak District – parts of which rise to 2000 feet.
Bakewell owes its existence largely to the River Wye, on whose banks it stands. The river rises high on Axe Edge and flows down through Buxton and Bakewell before joining the River Derwent at Rowsley.
Its bedrock has also played an important part in the town’s fortunes, not only as a result of quarrying for limestone and gritstone, but also because of the rich deposits of minerals such as lead and chert found beneath the subsoil.
The area borders the Derbyshire Dales National Nature Reserve where five limestone valleys – Lathkill, Cressbrook, Monk’s, Long and Hay – are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna.
ATTRACTIONS IN BAKEWELL
There is much more to Bakewell than the pudding and the agricultural show for which it is best known...
ALL SAINTS' CHURCH
Dominating the skyline from its lofty position above the town is Bakewell's imposing All Saints’ Parish Church, with its unusual octagonal tower housing a peal of eight bells.
OLD HOUSE MUSEUM
Behind the church is the Old House Museum (Cunningham Place), originally a 15th century parsonage, that was earmarked for demolition until being saved 50 years ago by the Bakewell Historical Society. With its blacksmith’s shop, millworker’s dwelling and wheelwright’s shop, it oozes atmosphere, bringing the past vividly to life.
For the mechanically minded, the M & C Collection (Matlock Street) is an enthralling display of historic horsepower. Assembled by local men Peter Mather and Phil Crosby, it features everything from scramblers and road bikes to sleek racing machines. Proceeds go to their Motorcycles for Charity.
Another landmark is the town’s historic almshouses (King Street) – among the oldest buildings in Bakewell. The classic sandstone terrace was built by charity 300 years ago to give shelter to destitute townsfolk. The Grade 2 listed buildings have recently been restored and modernised as part of an award-winning project and now provide ‘affordable housing’ for today’s residents.
OLD MARKET HALL
Also worth a visit is the Old Market Hall (Market Street), originally open sided and used variously as a wash house, dance hall and library before taking on its latest lease of life as tourist information and visitor centre.
OLD TOWN HALL
The Old Town Hall (King Street) has a similarly chequered history. Built in 1709, it has served as a buttermarket, courtroom, grammar school, working men’s club, fishmonger’s, antiques showroom and fire station and has recently become a country lifestyle store.
The riverfront itself is a popular destination for visitors who want to feed the ducks, amble along the picturesque banks, or simply sit and watch the world go by. Nearby the recreation ground, with its children’s playground and tree-lined park, is the perfect place to while away a sunny afternoon. Or wander through Scots Garden, signposted from the bridge. This tranquil watermeadow was given to the town in the early 1930s though no-one can remember how it got its name.
Not all of Bakewell’s attractions are immediately obvious. Take the ‘pink building,’ tucked away behind the walls of a picturesque medieval courtyard. With its lopsided walls and latticed windows, the house (now a florist’s shop) has all the charm of a gingerbread cottage – and Kings Court is just one of many secluded squares to be discovered in the higgledy-piggledy backstreets of Bakewell. Somehow it captures the essence of the place with its mix of bistro, boutiques and historic picture-postcard appeal: a harmonious blend of old and new, guaranteed to intrigue and delight.
EVENTS IN BAKEWELL
The fact that many of the town’s original springs have disappeared does not deter locals from ‘dressing’ their remaining wells each summer. Taking place in the last week in June, the well-dressing festival is an annual highlight. This Derbyshire tradition involves pressing petals, seeds and bark into panels of wet clay to form intricate pictures and designs.
Well dressing week comes to a climax at the beginning of July with the town’s annual gala. This starts with a procession of floats and bands through the main streets and culminates with a fete in the Recreation Ground. Other events include racing everything from Jack Russell dogs to rafts and even wheelbarrows, which are pushed around a circuit of the town’s pubs.
The town is famous for its annual agricultural and horticultural show – the largest tented event of its kind in the UK – which celebrates its 180th anniversary in 2010. Staged on its own 32-acre showground in the town centre, the event attracts around 60,000 people on the first Wednesday and Thursday of every August. There are hundreds of competitive classes for cattle, sheep, dogs, goats, pigeons, poultry, floral art, horticulture and crafts. Other attractions include fairground rides, bands, centre ring entertainment, a food hall and a shopper’s paradise among the dozens of specialist trade stands.
This recent addition to the calendar celebrated its tenth anniversary last year. Taking place the week following Bakewell Show, it features theatre, music, dance, poetry film and workshops, staged at various venues around the town.
Activities in Bakewell
The only major town in the Peak District National Park, Bakewell makes the perfect base from which to enjoy a whole host of outdoor activities...
WALKING: Dozens of walks are centred around the town, ranging from flat paths alongside the river or the Monsal Trail, for those who want an easy stroll, to more taxing routes around the surrounding hills and dales if you want a challenge.
BIKING: There are miles of country lanes and bridleways to explore, as well as four miles of well-surfaced track along the Monsal Trail where the local cycle hire centre is based. Details: Parsley Hay Cycle Hire 01298 84493; Middleton Top Cycle Hire 01629 823204
CLIMBING: The gritstone edges north of Bakewell have become a mecca for rock climbers, offering everything from beginners’ routes to E10 classics. The White Peak provides a different climbing experience, with its steeper rock faces offering fewer cracks.
GOLF: Bakewell Golf Club, founded in 1899, is a testing 9-hole/18-tee course running along the hillside to the east of the town.Visitors are welcome; green fees are £20 during the week, £25 at weekends. Tel: 01629 812307
EQUESTRIAN: The nearest riding centre is Edwin Mosley’s Haddon House Stud at Monyash Road, Over Haddon, a couple of miles outside Bakewell. Tel: 01629 813723
OUTDOORS: A full range of activities aimed specifically at groups is available at the Thornbridge Outdoor Centre Tel: 01629 640491
Wining and Dining in Bakewell
Bakewell pudding is a ‘must’ for any visitor but there is much more on offer for avid foodies...
Gourmets will be thrilled to discover Piedaniel (Bath Street), the eponymous French-style bistro and restaurant of respected chef Eric Piedaniel. The Lime Lounge (opposite Brocklehurst's outfitters) is well-worth seeking out for coffes, tasty snacks & cakes. 2015 saw Riley's restaurant open in the centre of town. Locally reared produce from New Close Farm at nearby Over Haddon is the speciality here.
For the multi-cultural experience, there’s Rajas Indian on Bridge Street, takeaway only Chinese (Bamboo Cottage), Italian (Ricci’s) and even Austrian (Tiroler Stuberl coffee shop where apfelstrudel and weiner schnitzel are available alongside its Bakewell puddings), as well as the Bakewell Fish and Chip shop and Wye Plaice.
There’s no shortage of pubs, with a choice of six around the town centre, including the Red Lion, the Peacock, the Queen’s Arms, the Castle Inn and the Manners Hotel.
If it’s Bakewell Pudding shops you're after, there's a clutch – choose from the Old Original, the Pudding Parlour or Bloomers. Others recommended include Wilkinson’s coffee shop in The Square; Brandy Snaps in Water Lane; and Thornton’s coffee and chocolate shop in Matlock Street.
Down by the river, another updated addition to the town’s culinary experience is the Pointing Dog and Duck (fromerly Felicini), an Italian-style eaterie & bar in the Old Marble Works, overlooking Bakewell Bridge. It’s worth dropping in, if only to see the water rushing down the old mill race beneath a glass floor in the bar.
SHOPPING IN BAKEWELL
Bakewell’s intriguing variety of independent stores and boutiques leaves the average shopping centre in the shade.
You won’t find rows of lack-lustre chain stores here, nor those predictable, run-of-the-high-street regulars. Instead, tucked away in the back streets and clustered around quaint courtyards, is a veritable Aladdin’s cave of old curiosity shops, galleries and specialist outlets.
There’s something for everyone, from original artwork and stylish accessories to hand-crafted jewellery and designer fashions.
Locals mourn the recent demise of Sinclair’s, a traditional English china and glassware shop renowned for its collectibles, and also Skidmore’s which, until the turn of the century, was a local landmark with its fresh gamebirds hung along the shopfront.
But recent additions include the Original Farmers’ Market Shop (Market Street) – a foodies’ heaven with its amazing range of chutneys, oils, herbs, bread, locally-grown tree quince, more than 12 different kinds of flour and a stock of meats that includes wild hare, mallard, rattlesnake and even crocodile – presumably not locally sourced.
Camping and outdoor shops abound, as do antiques specialists and interior design stores, but it is the independents which pull in the visitors. Check out the Wee Dram whisky specialist, the Stamp Shop, the Fly Fishing Shop and Bakewell Bookshop.
Other favourites include Brocklehurst country gentlemen’s outfitters; Orvis fishing supplies; Ag Gallery contemporary jewellery.
BAKEWELL HOLIDAY ACCOMMODATION
The popular 'Capital of the Peak' town of Bakewell has plenty of holiday accommodation choices for the visitor or holidaymaker. Choose from the large selection of Bakewell b&bs, holiday cottages, pubs, hotels and campsites either in or very close to the town itself. See the full list of Bakewell accommodation
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS & TOWNS
As the Peak District's largest town, Bakewell is well placed as a base for numerous beauty spots and tourist attractions including:
Chatsworth House and Farm Shop
TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRE (photographic gallery too):
Old Market Hall, Bridge Street Tel: 01629 816 558
Plenty of parking available around the Agricultural Business Centre, Coombs Road, Market Street, Granby Road and Bakewell Station – around £1.50 for a couple of hours.
Agricultural Business Centre
All Saints’ Parish Church, Church Lane
Bakewell Methodist Church, Matlock Street
Friends' Meeting House, Chapel Row, Matlock Street
Roman Catholic Church, Matlock Street
Neil Chapman Private Car Hire, Bakewell Tel: 01629 812454
R H M Cars, King Street, Bakewell Tel: 0800 169 1422
Medical Centre, Butts Road, Bakewell Tel: 01629 812871
© Let's Stay Peak District
Last Updated: 24 Apr 2017