Eyam guide

...the famous plague village

Just five miles north of the Bakewell is the peaceful, attractive and storied village of Eyam. Its well-documented history has led to it being primarily known as ‘The Plague Village’ – on the face of it not the most alluring of monikers, granted, but a respectful nod to a macabre, tragic and yet noble past.

In 1665 a delivery of cloth from London to an Eyam-based tailor was infested by fleas carrying the dreaded Black Death plague, and within a matter of days the recipient, George Viccars, was dead.

Many villagers subsequently fled, but as the lethal disease rampaged through the village, remaining locals elected to isolate themselves in a bid to ensure the virus did not spread.

This heroic act of humanity meant many villagers paid the ultimate price – with the figure believed to be around 260 of a remaining population of only 350.

Today, the plague’s legacy in the village is still manifest. Commemorative plaques can be found all over the village, mainly adorning the outer walls of the cottages in which the victims lived - and died - over three hundred and forty years ago. Their harrowing tale is told at the Eyam Museum – a bargain at £6 for a family ticket – and also exhibited, in pictures, at the village church, St Lawrence. Gravestones of plague victims can also be found here.

Eyam – pronounced ‘Eem’ – is beautifully-preserved, with other remnants of its past still visible. The village green stocks, at one time used to punish local petty criminals, are immaculately kept and provide a further glimpse into Eyam’s history.

Opposite the the stocks is the 17th century Eyam Hall, the majestic manor house which has been the home of the Wright family since it was built in 1676. The hall is still lived in, but guided tours are available during the summer.

Just one surviving pub, The Miners Arms, is situated in the heart of the village and is a classic country inn dating from the 17th century. Just up the road in Bretton is the highest and also one of the oldest pubs in the Peak District, The Barrel Inn.

Said to date back to the 12th century, The Barrel is perched at over 1,150ft on Eyam Edge, providing breathtaking panoramic views across the White Peak – and the pub itself is every bit as wonderful as the spectacle outside. A pub for all seasons, with the roaring open fire an absolute joy in colder months, while the outside seating area is made for clear summer days as you drink in that majestic view.

Great walking opportunities are aplenty in Eyam, with one route in particular giving us an excuse to call in for a well-earned pit-stop at the aforementioned Barrel Inn.  The five mile stroll across Sir William Hill and Eyam Moor descends into Bretton Clough, before returning to the village via Bretton and Eyam Edge. The greatest challenge with this lovely walk is dragging oneself out of the pub to complete the route.

A unique facet of Derbyshire life is the Well Dressing, and coinciding with the Plague Commemoration Service and the village carnival - on the last Saturday of every August - is Eyam’s Well Dressing. Three wells or springs in the village are dressed and the beautiful designs attract a healthy tally of visitors year on year.

Accommodation in the village isn’t in short supply, and a handful of fantastic Eyam cottages provide your base for what is sure to be a memorable stay. Lark Cottage is a 4 star self-catering cottage sleeping six, including an en-suite room. This 250 year old abode has been lovingly refurbished and welcomes dogs.

Brand new for 2011 is Innisfree Cottage, a small yet delightful B&B accommodating four guests in two rooms. Replete with all mod cons plus great views from the rooms, it looks set to become a favourite for years to come.

For such a diminutive village, Eyam manages to shoehorn in a healthy dose of history, things to do, places to see and places to stay. An historic holiday awaits.

Sean Cummins

January 2011

Last Updated: 28 Apr 2015