Growing up in North Wales, I never could understand why the city dwellers of the North West chose to spend their Friday nights towing caravans down the A55 at 5 miles per hour, just to be surrounded by their northern neighbours and recreate the comforts of home a bit nearer to some hills. I appreciated how green and idyllic it was, but that’s the last thing you want when you’re a rebellious teenager. I craved living in a cool city where you could do wild things like catch a bus after 10.30pm, eat nachos and drink crazy things like cocktails or you know, heaven forbid, buy a pair of jeans without driving for 45 minutes to Chester! I felt that the lucky city folk were misguided to want to leave all that cosmopolitan living behind to come and stare at some sheep for the weekend. I figured they’d fallen prey to the ‘grass is greener’ mentality.
Now older and a little wiser, having lived in this wondrous city for 9 years, I can appreciate that sometimes, maybe, you might just want to fill your lungs with smog-free air and perhaps it’s not such a bad thing to be more than 100 metres from your nearest Starbucks. So despite being an ardent urbanite these days, I can appreciate the benefits of a little weekend escape to the country. In fact, sheep are remarkably cute when you don’t see them every day.
But where to escape to? There seems to be two stubborn options for Mancunions: North Wales or the Lake District. I consider visiting North Wales as “going home” so I don’t really class it as a holiday or a weekend getaway, especially if I’m seeing my Nanna. It is beautiful though (for those not haunted by memories of Welsh teenaged angst.) So I thought the only real option was the well-liked lakes until this weekend…
Was I the last person in the world to realise that Derbyshire / the Peak District is ‘properly WELL nice’? It appears to be the case. I’ve recently had weekends in Cumbria where, although the scenery is pretty, it’s absolutely heaving with tourists, the roads are jam-packed with traffic, the buses are expensive and you have to beg, steal or borrow to get a reservation at a trendy tapas bar or whatever the latest foody craze is. By the state of my finances after 2 days there, it hardly felt like I’d been on a rural retreat. It’s got almost everything you can get in an urban sprawl, but isn’t that missing the point?
So I was pleasantly surprised to discover that right on our doorstep (an hour’s drive away) you can indulge your Thomas Hardy fantasy and escape city life good and proper. The Peak District is stunning (in a low traffic, lots of goats, dark forests and sweeping green hills, kind of way.) And there is lots to do – outdoor pursuits, history trails, walking, biking etc etc. If you really miss home, you can even get yourself some proper British grub (by which of course I mean Indian takeaways and Thai restaurants, oh and the ubiquitous fish ‘n’ chips.) Campsites cost a mere £5 per night, there’s loads of lovely stone cottages to rent and it’s so far from the nearest city (Derby – is that even a city?) that you really can switch off and recharge your batteries in sheer tranquillity. Next time I’m due a bit of sheep-staring, I know where I’ll go.