Chatsworth Fair, Bakewell Show & other Peak District festivals

Country shows in the Peak District

Although not prosperous in the way it once was, farming and agriculture still play a major part in everyday Peak District life, and this is showcased both at Chatsworth Fair and in the further glut of Annual Shows, festivals and carnivals that take place in the Peak District every year.

For a snapshot sample of what life in the Peak District is all about, you’d struggle to beat a day out at a show or country fair. Many of the local events allow young kids in free of charge, helping to make it a truly memorable day out for all the family.

The biggest of them all is probably Chatsworth Country Fair, which takes place every year over three days – always the Friday, Saturday and Sunday following the August Bank Holiday.

Held, of course, in the stunning grounds of Chatsworth House, the show has become one of the largest of its kind in the country. Enormous crowds of up to around 90,000 can be expected over the three days when the weather is kind. Yet, despite the huge numbers, the fair never feels claustrophobic, thanks mainly to the masses of space available and exemplary organisation.

On the agenda are aircraft spectaculars, hot air balloon and parachute displays, massed pipe and military bands, plus more than 300 craft and trade stands. Other highlights include a vintage car parade, terrier and ferret racing, dog agility trials, clay pigeon shooting, blacksmith's demonstrations, archery, sheep-dog trials and much, much more.

Throughout the fair, visitors have access to Chatsworth House itself, its superb collection of art, and also to its stunning gardens.

The 2011 event will take place between Friday 2nd – Sunday 4th September, with the gates opening daily at 9am.

Bakewell is regarded as the capital of the Peak District, and The Bakewell Show is its premier event. With a rich history and tradition dating back to the first show in 1819, The Bakewell Show is one of the oldest agricultural events in the country.

As farming has evolved over the near 200 years since the show’s inception, the event itself has inevitably advanced with it. From its inauspicious roots, the two-day show has grown to such an extent that it now packs in around 65,000 visitors every year.

Said to be the largest tented agricultural event in the country, the show is stuffed with crowd-pleasing attractions. Competitive heats for dogs, horses, cattle, sheep and goats, a variety of children’s entertainment, floral art, over 300 trade stands, show jumping, vintage vehicles (including both cars & tractors) and horticultural treats are just a few of the attractions on display at the show, held every August.

The Ashover Show reaches the grand old age of 80 in 2011 and remains a firm fixture in Derbyshire’s farming calendar. The show in its earliest guise placed a great emphasis on home-made/locally-made produce – and 80 years later those same principles remain.

Held every second Wednesday in August, the show involves many of the local residents and is a major event for the village – attracting around 16,000 visitors annually. Here you’ll find most of the usual country show attractions, and also includes ferret racing and flower shows.

Taking place every August Bank Holiday Monday, The Hope Show is perhaps most noted for its sheepdog trials. Pulling in around 8,000 visitors every year, this show may be smaller than others but provides no fewer thrills and spills. Gundog competitions, show jumping, vintage cars, motorbikes, tractors and engines, horticultural tent and arts & crafts are just some of the attractions that help to make The Hope Show so special.

Normally occurring on the same Bank Holiday is The Froggat Show – a quintessential country fair held in a beautiful setting.

The Derbyshire Food & Drink Festival takes us away from the traditional country show. This foodie festival does what it says on the tin – around 150 stallholders provide a huge variety of locally-sourced treats, while the cream of the county’s chefs host cookery demonstrations...sure to inspire any fledgling cooks. 2011’s renewal will be held at Hardwick Hall and is set to be bigger and better than ever.

Eyam Carnival and Wakes Week is the highlight of the Eyam social calendar and gets underway with the blessing of the wells. Visitors are treated to events such as beetle driving, fell racing, kids’ games and a Sheep Roast. The week is wrapped up with a carnival and finally the annual Plague Commemoration service.

Similar Wakes Carnivals are held in Hartington and also Tideswell, where the event is affectionately known as “Big Sat’dee”.

An intrinsic part of rural life, these annual shows and carnivals were originally created to serve the interests of local residents. To some degree the same still applies today, but they’re also now akin to locals throwing open their doors and inviting us all in – a celebration of country life in the 21st century.

Sean Cummins

February 2011


Last Updated: 15 Jun 2015