Car-free guide to the Peak District
As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Peak District, here is our guide to how to travel to and around the Peak District National Park without a car.
The Peak District is one of the most visited National Parks in the world. Slap bang in the centre of England, close to the cities of the Midlands, it is well connected by rail and coach both north and south of the country. Huge efforts are also underway to establish it as one of the UK’s top cycle destinations.
A. Travelling to the Peak District without a car
By Train: Well positioned between Manchester and Sheffield, the Peak District has great rail connections from both cities, as well as Derby and Stoke-on-Trent. To any of these cities, it’s easy to make connections on fast mainline trains from across the rest of the country.
The Derwent Valley line runs from Derby up through Duffield, Belper, Ambergate, Whatstandwell, Cromford and Matlock Bath to the former spa town of Matlock.
The Hope Valley line runs through the High Peak area, connecting Sheffield and Manchester via various stations in the park, including Hope itself, as well as Edale (for the Pennine Way).
The Glossop line connects Manchester to Hadfield and Glosso
p, the pretty ‘gateway to the Peak District’.
The Buxton line links the famous honeypot town of Buxton (and key hub for Peak District accommodation) to Manchester via some of the steepest railways – and prettiest scenery - in the country.
By Coach or Bus: National Express runs a direct service (route 440) from London and Leicester to Derby. At Derby it’s possible to get buses onto Matlock, Bakewell and Buxton with TransPeak buses. Both National Express and Megabus run various services from around the country to Manchester, Sheffield, Derby, and other towns in the surrounding area; from here you can make onward connections into the National Park.
Many local services connect the surrounding towns with destinations within the Peak District - see below for more information. The principal long distance service across the National Park is the TransPeak from Manchester to Derby, via the area’s main towns, Buxton, Bakewell, and Matlock.
B. Travelling around the Peak District without a car
By Train: The four train lines that connect the Peak District with Manchester, Sheffield and Derby also stop at various points within the national park, the Hope Valley line in particular has several rural stops, which make ideal starting points for a hike, stroll, or cycle.
If you want sample a slice of local heritage, there are two special railway services: Peak Rail runs authentic steam trains between Matlock and Rowsley, and has disabled access; whilst ‘Folk Trains’ run from Sheffield to Edable, and from Manchester to Hathersage or Glossop. Local folk musicians play on the train, and when it reaches its destination, passengers are all invited to alight and hear further music in a local ‘hostelry’.
By Bus: The Peak District has a comprehensive bus network across the National Park that links with railway services at major centres such as Matlock and Buxton. Your bus ticket can often entitle you to reductions across a range of attractions in the National Park. Full bus timetable information can be found here: Derbyshire County Council bus timetables. High Peak Buses serve wide swathes of the park with regular services throughout the week. Have a look at High Peak bus routes and timetables; here are some of the key services for visitors:
6.1: Bakewell – Matlock – Wirksworth – Belper – Derby (for Haddon Hall, Peak Rail, and Cromford Mill)
66: Chesterfield – Baslow – Nether End – Eyam – Tideswell – Buxton
140, 141: Matlock – Matlock Bath – Cromford – Crich – Alfreton (for the National Tramway Museum)
17, 110, 111, 112: Sheffield – Chesterfield – Matlock – Matlock Bath – Carsington Water – Ashbourne
173: Bakewell – Great Longstone – Monsal Head – Tideswell – Castleton – Chesterfield – Bakewell (circular route, take for Peveril Castle)
63, 64: Chesterfield – Ashover – Matlock
70, 77: Renishaw Hall Gardens – Cresswell Crag
58: Macclesfield – Buxton – Bakewell – Chatsworth
170: Chesterfield – Bakewell
215, 218: Sheffield – Chatsworth House – Matlock
For more information and links to timetables, check out the Peak District Bus Routes. Here, you can also find PDF leaflets detailing walks and trails accessible by bus, with exact directions for how to reach them.
C. Cycling: The Peak District has ambitious plans to become one of the UK’s leading cycle destinations, and it is already well on its way. With over 65 miles of off-road cycling trails and a network of quiet country roads, huge amounts of the National Park’s glorious scenery are easily accessible by bike. Of course, the Peak District didn’t gain its name for nothing, so have a careful look at any intended routes and think about what you can manage and realistically carry with you before setting off up those hills!
National rail services to the Peak District can carry (a limited number of) bicycles, but it is highly advised to call up the rail operator to reserve a place for your bike on the train: this is mandatory on many mainline services. Unfortunately, most bus services in the Peak District are not equipped to carry bikes - fold-up bikes can be stored in the luggage area when there is room (though this remains at the discretion of the driver); however only Staffordshire's Moorlands Connect services have space for bike storage. These services connect the Peak District hubs of Buxton and Ashbourne with the Staffordshire town of Leek and some of the south-eastern parts of the National Park, so it is worth considering arriving by train to Buxton if you wish to make onward bus travel with your bike. The bus is an on-demand service and needs to be booked in advance by phone or email.
The Peak District National Park has four cycle hire centres, offering a range of different bikes, in Ashbourne Town Centre, Manifold, at Parsley Hay, and in Derwent. There are various private cycle hire centres, including Monsal Trail Cycle Hire, which connects to the long distance Monsal Trail, a cycle route taking you through some of the National Park’s most breathtaking landscapes.
As part of its plan to become a premier cycling destination, the Peak District has helpfully gathered together a wide selection of the best cycling routes, for cyclists of all abilities, and has helpful information about accessibility. On the cycle routes page you can browse the different routes by difficulty and download PDF leaflets packed with information and clear but detailed route maps. Further information, maps, advice, and facilities can be found on-site at the Peak District’s four cycle hire centres (above).
Maps and further information For maps and more information about travelling in the Peak District without a car, or for general advice about your visit, head to one of the National Park’s four visitor centres.
The Peak District National Park website also has some handy maps of the Peak District, a range of information on car-free access to the area, and more.
For great places to eat and stay, as well as ideas for days out in the Peak District, see our: Green Traveller's Guide to the Peak District