Buxton visitor guide
...the highest market town in England
BUXTON in Derbyshire – famous for its scenery, its architecture and its water – and now poised for a revival as one of the key tourist destinations in Britain.
GETTING TO BUXTON
From the M1
Take junction 28, then A38 towards Derby. At roundabout join A61 towards Chesterfield, then turn left on to A615 to Matlock. In town centre join A6 towards Bakewell and continue on A6 to Buxton.
Take A52 towards Ashbourne, at roundabout take second exit to Ashbourne town centre, then join A515 (one way system) and continue on this road via Tissington, Newhaven and Harpur Hill, into Buxton.
Take the A6 Buxton Road through Chapel-en-le-Frith, at roundabout take second exit and continue on A6 to roundabout in centre of Buxton.
Head north on the A53 towards Leek, continue on A53 to Buxton.
Numerous bus services pass through the town including Trans-Peak from Derby or Manchester; Mainline 218 or Doyles 65 from Sheffield; TM Travel 66 from Chesterfield; for more details call Busline on 01298 23098
National Express 440 service between Manchester and London stops at Buxton Market Place.
There are regular inter-city trains from London Euston to Manchester, Stockport and Macclesfield with connecting services to Buxton.
The nearest airport is Manchester (direct train and bus links), others in the area include Robin Hood Doncaster, Birmingham or Nottingham East Midlands.
Check out the latest and first of our full HD Buxton Videos
BRIEF HISTORY OF BUXTON
Buxton – famous for its scenery, its architecture and its water – and now poised for a revival as one of the key tourist destinations in Britain.
The thermal spas on which the town is founded are at the heart of an ambitious project to revive its reputation as an exclusive holiday resort.
Preparatory work is currently under way and, if all goes according to plan, the new Buxton Crescent Hotel and Thermal Spa should be up and running by 2011.
The Crescent was built in 1780 by the 5th Duke of Devonshire and York architect John Carr. Fashionable Georgian folk flocked to the elegant spa town to ‘take the waters’ – as the Romans had first done nearly two thousand years before, naming the place Aquae Arnemetiae.
Buxton blossomed throughout the middle ages: illustrious visitors included Mary Queen of Scots, who spent several summers imprisoned at the Old Hall, then home of the Earl of Shrewsbury.
Its popularity was boosted even further with advent of the railways, which brought Victorian visitors by the train-load. This boom time led to the development of the Pavilion Gardens and the Octagon concert hall – a focal point that was further developed with the addition of the Paxton Suite and the Buxton Opera House at the turn of the century.
The Pavilion Gardens, originally designed by Joseph Paxton’s pupil Edward Milner, have recently been the subject of a seven-year restoration programme and are now blooming once again, complete with bandstand and miniature train rides.
Frank Matcham’s magnificent Opera House too has undergone major refurbishment and is now the setting for a programme of 450 shows each year, including dance, drama, music and comedy.
Also enjoying a new lease of life is the Devonshire Dome, built as a stable block for guests visiting the Crescent spa and later covered by Britain’s largest unsupported dome, to become a hospital. Now, thanks to inspired vision, it is the University of Derby’s latest campus – with public facilities including café, beauty salon and spa.
Other landmarks around Buxton include the ancient market cross, the hilltop folly known as Solomon’s Temple, the subterranean wonders of Poole’s Cavern and St Ann’s Well, where Buxton spring water is freely available to anyone with an empty bottle.
GEOGRAPHY OF BUXTON
Buxton lies in a natural basin, scooped out by glaciers, at around 300 metres above sea level – making it the highest town of its size in England.
Though located at the heart of the Peak District, it is excluded from the protection and restrictions of the National Park.
Lead, coal and copper are found in the area, but it was Buxton’s thermal springs that attracted the Romans. Warm mineral water emerges beneath the Old Hall complex at a constant temperature of 28 degrees Celsius. There are also a number of cold springs and chalybeate wells.
The River Wye (among others) rises on nearby Axe Edge and flows through the centre of the town, flanked by parks and gardens. Many of the trees are protected by preservation orders.
Buxton is built on a bedrock of limestone, with mudstone outcrops. This gives way to gritstone in the west, rising to the bleak moorland of Axe Edge and the Cat and Fiddle pass.
The surrounding area is important for agriculture, but because of the climate and soil quality is used primarily for sheep and cattle farming.
ATTRACTIONS IN BUXTON
Opened in 1903, amid great celebration, the theatre is among the best surviving examples of work by leading Edwardian architect Frank Matchem. Later turned into a cinema, it fell into disrepair until being restored and reopened in 2001. It now presents around 450 performances each year, including dance, comedy, drama and music, and is home to an annual programme of festivals including the prestigious Buxton Opera Festival and the International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival.
A green oasis in the heart of the town - 23 acres of beautifully restored and landscaped gardens, including lakes, flowers, trees, bandstand, adventure playground, miniature railway and newly reopened Victorian conservatory. The buildings, which house a café and the Tourist Information Centre, are currently being redeveloped.
Originally built as the Concert Hall, this is the main exhibition venue in the Pavilion Gardens. Adjoining the smaller Paxton Suite theatre (currently undergoing renovation), this historic venue offers a year-round programme of fairs and events, specialising in everything from antiques, toys and books to art, gardens, vintage cars and regional produce.
Now home to the University of Derby’s Devonshire campus, the striking circular building was originally built by John Carr of York as a stable block. The dome – the largest unsupported example in Britain – was added when it was converted into a hospital; a Foucault pendant now swings from its apex. Visitors are welcome to call in for coffee or dinner, to take advantage of hair and beauty salons, or indulge in a spa treatment – all run by students.
BUXTON MUSEUM & ART GALLERY
Based in the imposing former Peak Hydro building in Terrace Road, the museum offers a chance to discover the history, geology and culture of the area. Permanent collections include a display of Derbyshire police memorabilia. There is also a changing programme of work by local artists, including regular workshops. Admission free.
One of the finest show caves in the country, surrounded by beautiful woodland. The natural limestone cavern, extending more than 300 metres into the hillside, features amazing stalactites and stalagmite formations. An adjoining visitor centre tells of its Bronze Age cave dwellers, Roman metalworkers and other fascinating details.
BUXTON COUNTRY PARK & SOLOMON'S TEMPLE
Once a sprawling limestone quarry, Grin Low – near Poole’s Cavern - is now the perfect place to picnic, play or simply pass the time. Flora, fauna and woodland walks abound. One of the most popular is the uphill trek to Solomon’s Temple…
Also known as Grinlow Tower, this two-storey granite folly dominates the skyline towards the south of the town. Marking the site of a Bronze Age barrow, it was built around 1890 by public subscription, on land owned by local farmer Solomon Mycock – hence its name. The walk is worth the effort for the view from the platform at the top of the winding stone staircase.
Opened in 2007, this high-wire adventure course is set 40ft above ground in the tree-tops of woodland adjoining Poole’s Cavern. The course of rope bridges, Tarzan swings and zip slides takes around three hours to complete.
Built by the Duke of Devonshire in 1780 and designed by John Carr to rival the famous Royal Crescent at Bath. Originally comprising two hotels, assembly rooms, and seven lodging houses, with a number of shops beneath the arcade. The building is still a remarkable sight, though currently undergoing redevelopment as a 21st century hotel and spa.
Opposite the Crescent, this building was by Henry Currey in 1884 and the well can still be seen. Until the end of 2008, it houses a display by local artists and crafts people – who will move to a new home in the Pavilion Gardens, ready for redevelopment work to begin. Admission free.
Tel: 07849 673 058
ST ANNE'S WELL
Once a pilgrim shrine and today a fountain, located at the foot of The Slopes overlooking the Crescent. Focal point for the town’s annual wells dressing celebrations in July. A free supply of Buxton spring water runs at a constant 28 degrees Celsius – go armed with an empty bottle!
EVENTS IN BUXTON
Buxton is undoubtedly the cultural capital of the Peak and is home to a number of national and even international events…
Leading opera festival, with associated literary and arts programme and the largest fringe in England (second only to Edinburgh in Britain). Attracting around 40,000 visitors, it takes over the entire town for three weeks each July. Featuring hundreds of performances from comedy and drama to music and film.
Usually follows Buxton Festival and presented by the Opera House in conjunction with Funny Wonders. Featuring British and international artists, with performances and workshops for all ages, at the Opera House and surrounding venues.
INTERNATIONAL G&S FESTIVAL
The world’s largest Gilbert & Sullivan festival, attracting competing productions and audiences from all over the globe. Established in 1994 by Ian Smith and son Neil, it takes place annually at Buxton Opera House during the first three weeks in August.
BUXTON WELLS DRESSING
A Derbyshire tradition that has been celebrated in Buxton since 1840. Coinciding with Buxton Festival, it begins when groups gather to ‘dress’ the town’s wells – in the Market Place and the Crescent - with intricate designs of petals, seeds and leaves pressed into wet clay. A week-long programme of events culminates in the annual carnival.
Well dressing week ends in mid-July with the town’s annual gala. This starts with a procession of floats and bands through the main streets and ends with a fete in the Recreation Ground.
FOUR-FOUR TIME FESTIVAL
Live music featuring a diverse programme of rock, pop, folk, blues and jazz music. Based at the Opera House and the Pavilion Gardens in February. Artists since the festival’s launch in 2003 have included Jools Holland, Courtney Pine, Elvis Costello, The Osmonds, Paul Carrack, Joan Armatrading, Richard Hawley, Bill Wyman, Boy George, and The Stranglers.
ACTIVITIES IN BUXTON
Buxton has been dubbed the outdoor capital of England. Though outside the National Park boundary, the town is located at the very heart of the Peak District, making it the perfect base from which to explore...
Buxton Spa Pool is a 25-metre pool, part of the Pavilion Gardens complex. Special sessions for 50+ and people with disabilities; public swimming most afternoons; crèche; children’s activities. (St Johns Road: 01298 25427)
Cote Heath Recreation Ground in Higher Buxton has two football pitches, a bowling green, a playground and a skate park – a popular local centre for roller skating and skate-boarding. This free facility is open to all, but take your own skates.
Ashwood Park, opposite Spring Gardens, is an attractive open space alongside the River Wye. It offers bowling, tennis, a nine-hole putting green and a children's play area.
Peak Practice Golf at Fairfield Common, off the A6, features a 340yd floodlit driving range suitable for all ages and abilities. (Fairfield: 01298 74444)
Buxton & High Peak Golf Club, founded in 1887, is the oldest club in Derbyshire. The well-drained, par 69 course is one of the most consistently playable courses in the area. (Town End: 01298 26263)
Cavendish Golf Club, commissioned in 1823 by the Duke of Devonshire, occupies an undulating and partly-wooded site with several marvellous holes and wonderful scenery. (Gadley Lane: 01298 79708).
Perched high in the Peaks, between bleak moors, lush woodland and the slopes of the Pennines, Buxton is a perfect centre for walkers. There are plenty of routes to choose from: stroll along flat, well-surfaced paths – like Broad Walk in the Pavilion Gardens, or the riverside Serpentine Walk – or test your stamina with more challenging terrain, from rolling moorland and tranquil dales to steeply climbing of hills and rocky edges. Try a few of our Buxton Walks
Buxton is a biker’s paradise, with hundreds of miles of mountain bike trails, covering all levels of challenge and ability. The best family cycling routes follow the site of former railway lines, like the Tissington, High Peak and Sett Valley trails, all offering traffic-free routes just a few miles from the town. Cycle hire available at Parsley Hay, off the A515, at the junction of the two trails, tel: 01298 84493. Buxton Cycling Club gathers for a 50-mile run each Sunday: www.buxtoncc.org.uk
The gritstone edges and limestone cliffs of the Peak District make it a honeypot for rock climbers of all abilities, offering everything from beginners’ routes to E10 classics. Stanage Edge, Froggatt Edge and The Roaches are all within a few miles of Buxton.
Local riding centres offer lessons, livery, treks and riding holidays. Try Buxton Riding School at Fern Farm: 01298 72319; Foxheys Stud at Grinlow: 01298 213464; Northfield Farm at Flash: 01298 22543.
Flagg Races point-to-point steeplechase takes place on Easter Tuesday.
WINING & DINING IN BUXTON
Buxton’s social scene is looking up, thanks partly to the arrival of Derby University and partly to the imminent arrival of the new hotel and spa.
Developers of the five-star project have also bought the Old Hall hotel, which will become a sister four-star hotel and restaurant, and the neighbouring George – currently undergoing refurbishment and due to open in 2009 as a three-star hotel.
Meanwhile, gourmets will be thrilled to discover Columbine (Hall Bank), a cosy classic restaurant and the only one in the town so far to merit a place in the Good Food Guide.
Right next door is Beltane, a contemporary café-bar that offers decent food and drink in a vibrant atmosphere, with regular live music sessions.
Another culinary highlight is Simply Thai (Cavendish Circus), an independent restaurant, run by a local family and offering an authentic taste of Thai cuisine.
Just up the road are St Moritz, a new Swiss-themed eaterie, and Monk, a trendy new cocktail bar. Also newish is The Place, a family-run restaurant up the hill in Market Street.
More established favourites include Project X (George Street), another modern café-bar that offers casual food, big squashy sofas and live music, and neighbouring Lonestar, a popular Tex-Mex venue.
Traditionalists will appreciate No 6 The Square, an atmospheric tea rooms overlooking the Opera House. It has twice been named tea room of the year in the Derbyshire Food & Drink Awards.
Or soak up the atmosphere at the Cavendish café restaurant, beneath the arching stained glass roof of the Cavendish Arcade – or the Art Café in the Pavilion Gardens.
For the multi-cultural experience, there’s a choice of Indian (Indian Palace in Cavendish Circus), Chinese (Kwei Lin in Lower Hardwick Street is recommended), Italian (Firenze in Eagle Parade), Spanish (Flamenco tapas bar in Concert Place) and, for those who must, the Coach House fish and chip shop in Scarsdale Place, just off the Market Place.
There is also a growing number of upper-end chains – including Pizza Express and Caffe Nero – as well as any number of traditional cafés around the town centre.
For those in search of alcoholic refreshment, there’s no shortage of pubs and bars, with a choice of more than 20 within a few minutes’ walk, many of them Grade 2 listed.
SHOPPING IN BUXTON
Buxton is a town of two halves: Higher Buxton, the old town centre, set around the Market Place, and the more affluent modern centre at the bottom of the hill.
This stretches along a fairly typical high street, with a range of unremarkable shops and one or two real gems – notably Colin Cross’s Violin Shop and Scrivener’s second-hand bookshop, a treasure house featuring five floors of old books, a museum, a café and a restoration service.
Alexander’s furniture is at one end of the road, while at the other is Jo Royle outdoor specialists. In between are ‘finds’ such as Romance at Florence House, a stylish accessories specialist, and quirky clothing store Divine Trash.
Hidden in the backstreets is card-maker’s paradise RU Crafty2, and Arnametia’s purple shop, selling everything from goddess clothing to crystal balls.
At the top of Hall Bank, opposite the Town Hall, is Infinity Toys – an Aladdin’s cave for children from 2 to 92 – and David Russell art shop, Buxton’s only picture framer.
Down the hill near The Crescent is the Cavendish Arcade, an exclusive mall created in the old thermal baths – the Victorian plunge pool and chair can still be seen. The building, with its original Minton tiles, is now home to a variety of independent boutiques selling everything from jewellery and antiques to babywear and hand-made chocolates.
The crowning glory is a barrel-vaulted glazed roof, the largest stained glass window in Britain when it was installed in 1985. Designed by artist Brian Clarke, it was inspired by the River Wye and the sycamores which line it.
Round the corner in George Street is the Old Court House, another collection of individual outlets, including music specialist First Choice, gift shops and therapy centres.
The principal shopping street is Spring Gardens, where you can find long-established family businesses juxtaposed with a range of major chain stores, including Waitrose and M&S.
SELECTED BUXTON ACCOMMODATION
Buxton boasts an enormous range of holiday accommodation choices for the visitor or holidaymaker. Choose from the large selection of bed and breakfasts, holiday cottages, pubs, hotels and campsites either in or very close to Buxton itself. See the full list of Buxton accommodation.
The Old Hall Hotel reputed to be the oldest hotel in England, as Daniel Defo wrote in 1727 while staying at the hotel ...'This is indeed a very special place'... this ancient building with many tales to tell and the oldest of all hotels in the Peak District, has 38 very comfortable and sympathetically furnished bedrooms, all with en- suite bathrooms, satellite TV, hairdryer and radio, direct-dial telephone and hospitality tray. There is a lift to all floors.
The fantastic Bats’ Belfry is one of several luxury barn conversions in the area, sleeping six in 3 bedrooms.
Fernydale Farm offers four star bed & breakfast in three spacious and comfortable rooms.
Banktop Cottage, sleeps 4 in two bedrooms in this stone cottage tucked away in a leafy hillside overlooking dramatic and very attractive Millers Dale with the River Wye below and Monsal Trail opposite.. At the other end of the size scale is Quarnford Lodge – a huge property, new in 2009, which sleeps 20-24 in ten en-suite bedrooms.
Buxton bed & breakfasts
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS & TOWNS
As the largest town in the area, Buxton is well placed as a base for numerous beauty spots and tourist attractions including:
- Tissington Hall and Gardens
- Chestnut Centre for otters
- Chatsworth House and Farm Shop
- Haddon Hall
- The plague village of Eyam
- Peveril Castle at nearby Castleton
Tourist Information Centre:
Pavilion Gardens, St John's Road, Buxton SK17 6XN
Tel: 01298 25106
On-street parking is at a premium, particularly while regeneration work is ongoing, but some is available – expect to pay around 80p per hour. Public car parks are provided in the Market Place and by the Town Hall in Higher Buxton, at the Pavilion Gardens, Poole’s Cavern, or off Bridge Street.
- Sylvan car park
- Market Place
- Buxton Cemetery
- Pavilion Gardens car park
- Trinity Church, Hardwick Mount
- Parish church of St John the Baptist, St John's Road
- St Anne's Church, Bath Road
- St Mary's Church, Dale Road
- St Anne's R.C. Church, Terrace Road
- Methodist Church, Market Place
- Baptist Church, Cemetery Gate, Ashbourne Road
- Pentocostal Church, London Road
- First Church of Christ Scientist, Holker Road
- Spiritualist Church, Holker Road
- Church of God, Hardwick Square South
- Jehovah's Witnesses, Darwin Avenue
- United Reform Church, Hardwick Square East
- Taxi rank in The Quadrant
- Allied Taxis: 01298 72123
- Holmes: 01298 22968
- Premier Cars: 01298 77767
- Sapphire Taxis: 01298 23793
- JAM: 01298 72333
- Crescent Cars: 01298 73515
- Buxton Radio Taxis: 01298 23457
- Swan Taxis: 01298 70423
- County Cars: 01298 22866
- Buxton Medical Practice: 2 Temple Road Tel: 01298 23298
- Elmwood Medical Centre: 7 Burlington Road Tel: 01298 23019
- Stewart Medical Centre: 15 Hartington Road Tel: 01298 22338
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Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015