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Lancashire and the Peaks Travel Guide

  • Photo: Keith Gentry / Shutterstock

Plan Your Lancashire and the Peaks Vacation

For those looking for the postcard England of little villages, the northwest region of England might not appear at the top of many sightseeing lists. Manchester, Britain's third-largest city, bustles with redevelopment, and Liverpool is undergoing significant revitalization. However, the 200 years of smokestack industry that abated only in the 1980s have taken a toll on the east Lancashire landscape.

The region does have lovely scenery inland, in Derbyshire (pronounced Dar-be-sha)—notably the spectacular Peak District, a national park at the southern end of the Pennine range.

Manchester and Liverpool, the economic engines that propelled Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, are sloughing off their mid-20th-century decline and celebrating their rich industrial and maritime heritage through some excellent museums—either in converted Victorian edifices, or, in Manchester's case, strikingly modern buildings.

The cities, each with a population of about 500,000, have reestablished themselves as centers of sporting and musical excellence, and also hot spots for culture and nightlife. Since 1962 the Manchester United, Everton, and Liverpool football (soccer in the United States) clubs have won everything worth winning in Britain and Europe. The Beatles launched the Mersey sound of the ’60s; contemporary Manchester groups still punch above their weight on both sides of the Atlantic. On the classical side of music, Manchester is also the home of Britain's oldest leading orchestra, the Hallé (founded in 1857)—just one legacy of 19th-century industrialists' investments in culture.

The natural scenery gets vastly more dramatic and wild as you head inland to the Peak District, a region of crags that rear violently out of the plains. The Pennines, a line of hills that begins in the Peak District and runs as far north as Scotland, are sometimes called the "backbone of England." In this landscape of rocky outcrops and undulating meadowland you'll see nothing for miles but sheep, dry-stone walls (built without mortar), and farms, interrupted—spectacularly—by 19th-century villages and stately homes. In and around this area are Victorian-era spas such as Buxton, pretty towns such as Bakewell, and magnificent houses such as Chatsworth, Hardwick Hall, and Haddon Hall. The delight of the Peak District is being able to ramble for days in rugged countryside but still enjoy the pleasures of civilization.

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Top Reasons To Go

  1. Walking in the Peak District Even a short hike in Edale or High Peak reveals the craggy, austere beauty for which the area is famous.
  2. Liverpool culture, old and new The Beatles’ home city is already a must-see for fans of the Fab Four, but this once-run-down Victorian city has spent a decade reinventing itself as a cultural hub.
  3. Manchester nightspots Catch the city at night in any of its humming café-bars and pubs; or just enjoy a good beer in an ornate Victorian-era pub.
  4. Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall Engage the past and imagine yourself as a country landowner roaming the great pile that is Chatsworth, or as a Tudor noble strolling through the grounds of the quintessentially English Haddon Hall.

When To Go

When to Go

Manchester has a reputation as one of the wettest cities in Britain, and visiting in summer won't guarantee fine weather. Nevertheless, wet...

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