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23 things to do in the Peak District with kids

Planning some family days out in the Peak District? Even on a rainy day (and there are a fair few of them), there are lots of things to do in the Peak District with kids, including some free Peak District activities for families!

The Peak District with kids makes for an idyllic weekend away or a week long holiday, and is perfect for outdoor loving families. With the kids dressed in puddle suits and wellies, we love nothing better than a long family walk in the Peaks. But there are also so many other things to do in the Peak District for kids, including exploring underground caverns, wild swimming, canoeing, riding old trams, meeting farm animals, and some super fun theme parks!

So here are our top family days out in the Peak District with kids. Whilst not all of these are within the National Park boundary, some are just outside and very easy to get to if staying in the National Park and include ideas for things to do with kids in Derbyshire. In fact, a handful of these activities in the Peak District are around the Matlock area, and if you are holidaying in or near to Matlock, have a read of our top things to do in Matlock.

Where to stay in the Peak District with kids? Check out our top choices for Peak District family accommodation.

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1. Go for a family hike

Our number one thing to do with kids in the Peak District is hiking. With hundreds of public footpaths criss-crossing the National Park and gentle rolling hills that aren’t too taxing on little legs, it’s the perfect free activity.

best childrens hiking boots

Check out our post on the best short and easy Peak District walks with kids. Our favourites are the Nine Ladies Circle through Stanton Moor Peak or the walk starting next to The Robin Hood pub in Baslow, with spectacular views from Birchen Edge.

Or if you’re after something a little more strenuous, head up Thorpe Cloud in Dovedale, or Mam Tor outside Castleton. Just ensure the kids are wearing good kids hiking boots; wellies just won’t do.

Also check these tips for hiking with kids to keep the whinging at bay.

2. Cycle along old railway tracks

Both the Monsal Trail and Tissington Trail offer a traffic free route for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and wheelchair users through some of the Peak District’s most spectacular limestone dales.  These are old railway tracks that have been transformed into gravel footpaths.

Check out this article for the best Peak District cycling for families.

Monsal Train at Longstone

We tend to do the Monsal Trail more as it’s closer to home. Hassop Station (which has a cafe and playground, as well as a cycle hire) is a good starting point. It’s a short 1km cycle into Bakewell to pick up a Bakewell tart, or it’s an 8km cycle to the cafe at Millers Dale. It’s slightly uphill going towards Millers Dale, making for an easy cycle back to Hassop Station after an ice-cream at the cafe.

Just outside the National Park, Carsington Water is another option for a bike ride. There is a cycle path that loops around the lake, as well as a big playground and restaurant. It’s also the place to come for water sports.

3. Heights of Abraham

Heights of Abraham is perhaps one of the best days out in the Peak District for kids. A cable car takes you up to Heights of Abraham for some stunning views, and your ticket also gives you entry to two caverns where you venture deep under ground and learn about the history of lead mining in the area. You can also hunt for fossils and there are two adventure playgrounds. On our last visit, we were here for a good 6 hours, so plan to spend a full day if visiting with kids.

heights of Abraham

Check the website for opening times and ticket prices. Heights of Abraham closes for winter. You can buy tickets in advance online, but you still have to queue in the same queue on entry, so you don’t really save any time. Also, note that the only parking is at Matlock Bath Station. You have to pay extra to park here and it does get busy at peak season, so get there early.

Check out our full review of Heights of Abraham here.

4. Crich Tramway Museum

Our personal favourite Peak District attraction for families. Enjoy unlimited rides on the electric vintage trams, woodland walks with kid-friendly activities, and an indoor and outdoor playground.

There is also a large exhibition hall of old trams, although you’re only allowed inside a couple of these, and a stroll along the recreated period street is a must. Many of the buildings along the street have been rescued from towns and cities across the UK, such as the Derby Assembly Rooms façade which came to Crich after a tragic fire, and the Red Lion Pub and Restaurant came all the way from Stoke and was re-built brick by brick.

Crich Tramway Museum

Check the website for opening times and ticket prices. Adults are £18 and children are £11. Children under the age of 4 are free. Also note that your ticket includes FREE return admission for 12 months! Crich Tramway Museum is also closed over the winter months. There are also regular period events that are worth checking out.

Check out our guide to a family day out at Crich Tramway Museum.

5. Peak Rail

Ride an old steam train on this preserved railway line between Rowsley South Station and Matlock Platform 2.

There are special events running through the year from dining experiences to Santa Specials and an Easter Treasure Hunt, and they also have Kids Go Free Days throughout the year.

Steam Train at Peak Rail

For an all day unlimited ticket price, adults are £9.50, children aged 3-16 are £4.50, and children under 3 are free. Check the website for up to date ticket pricing and timetables.  A return trip takes 50 minutes.

6. Explore underground caverns

The caverns and caves of the Peak District are fascinating and unique places to visit, with their amazing rock formations, rare stones and amazing atmospheres. They are perhaps one of the best things to do in the Peak District when it rains as you are underground and the weather doesn’t matter! Although do wrap up warm for the caves and wear footwear with a good tread, as it does get rather chilly down there even in the height of summer.

In addition to those at The Heights of Abraham, The Castleton caves are some of the best show caverns in the country, and is home to:

In the latter two, you will find deposits of the rare Blue John stone. And fun fact for the kids – Peak Cavern is also known as The Devil’s Arse, so called because of the flatulent-sounding noises from inside the cave when flood water is draining away.

But if you asked us which is the best Cavern in Castleton, I’d have to say have to say Speedwell Cavern. Visitors descend 105 steps from the almost hidden cave entrance, down to an underground canal to board a boat to take you deeper into the cave system.

Castleton makes for a lovely family day out in the Peak District. Check out our post about things to do in Castleton.

There are also the vast limestone caves of Poole’s Cavern, outside Buxton, to explore. Above ground here you’ll find some lovely walks along marked footpaths to Solomon’s Temple viewpoint, as well as GoApe (although this GoApe is for kids aged 10+).  Check out the website for tickets prices and opening times. Poole’s Cavern is open all year round.

7. Canoeing

The River Derwent offers some fantastic canoeing opportunities for absolute beginners through to advanced rapids! For families and beginners, try out the ​Flat Water Canoe Adventure with Peaks and Paddles. Instruction and safety equipment is provided (including helmets, buoyancy aids, jackets, paddles and boats), although do note that the minimum age is 5. Make sure you pack a change of dry clothes and wear shoes with grip that you are happy getting wet.

You can start from Cromford Wharf (allow 2 hours) or Peak Forest Canal (allow 2 hours 45 minutes). The water along these routes is flat and calm. To get an idea of pricing, a family of four canoeing on the Cromford Canal for 2 hours is £110.

8. Wild swimming (or just paddling)

The Peak District may be pretty land locked, but when it comes to wild swimming spots, there’s plenty to offer. Unless it’s a scorching hot day, pack the wetsuits as this is cold water therapy! The huge advantage of this activity is that it’s one of the free things to do in the Peak District for families!

wild swimming at Lathkill Dale

Some of the best spots for a paddle or dip are:

  • Chatworth House – you can paddle in Emporer Fountain or take a dip in the River Derwent by Paine’s Bridge.
  • Dovedale stepping stones (click here for location)
  • Youlgreave – there’s a man made designated swim area in the river (click here for location)
  • Lathkill Dale – featured in photo above (click here for location)
  • Mermaid’s Pool – This can be found just off the main path towards the summit of Kinder Scout. Apparently, anyone who sees the mermaid in the water at Easter is guaranteed attain immortality!

If you’re needing some warmer waters though, head to the heated outdoor pool at Hathersage. There are also indoor swimming pools in Matlock, Buxton and Bakewell.

9. Abseiling

Get your abseiling adrenaline rush jumping off Millers Dale Bridge! The challenge here is to abseil over the arch, which is above the River Wye. This gives you an 80 foot abseil of which 70 feet is free hanging! There is no age limit as it’s really down to the parents. But age 8 and above is recommended. Check out Abseiling in Derbyshire for more information and pricing.

Peaks and Paddles also do abseiling at Black Rocks, just outside Cromford.

10. Matlock Farm Park

On weekdays during term time, there are structured times for events such as small animal handling, meerkat feeding and pony grooming (with lamb bottle feeding from Spring to mid-summer too). At the weekends there is ferret racing, wallaby encounters and short pony rides for the little ones available too!

They also have a riding school that is also open all year round and offers lessons or hacking for all abilities.

Check out their website for opening times and ticket prices, and also the Facebook page to see what events are on.

11. Blaze Farm

Blaze Farm is another one of our favourite places to visit in the Peak District with kids. Entry is FREE and there are lots of farm animals to meet (cows, peacocks, donkeys, geese, ducks, sheep). If you’re visiting during the lambing season you may even be lucky enough to see a lamb being born in the lambing shed (arrive early).

lambing at Blaze Farm, Peak District

There is a short and long nature walk following the way-marked footpath around Blaze Farm. The short walk is only 1km, and crosses the meadows, through the woodland (where you’ll come across carved animals in the wood and a den) and back up to the farm. Just follow the signs.

On return to the farm, head to the cosy tea room and treat yourselves to some ice-cream made on the farm from A2 milk. Behind the tearoom you’ll find a slide and a tractor to play on.

Blaze Farm is open 10am to 5:30pm Tuesday-Sunday all year round and Bank Holiday Mondays. Check out some photos and more information on Blaze Farm here.

12. Matlock Meadows

Matlock Meadows is similar to Blaze farm in that it is a farm open to visitors with a play area and cafe. As they are both similar, your decision as to which one you visit may be down to where you are staying in the Peak District. Indeed the homemade ice-cream is equally delicious at both.

Matlock Meadows indoor play

However, whilst Blaze Farm offers a lovely nature trail and the lambing shed in season, Matlock Meadows has a bigger outdoor and indoor play area. The indoor play area includes a small soft play for toddlers, a large wooden train track set up in the cafe, and small pedal tractors. So if it’s a wet day, perhaps head over to Matlock Meadows. Read more here.

13. Peak Wildlife Park

Come face to face with exotic and endangered animals from across the world at this small and manageable wildlife park just to the south of the Peak District in Staffordshire. There are penguins, lemurs, meercats, zebras, deer and lots of farm animals, many of which you are able to feed. Plus there are walk through areas meaning you get walk amongst the animals without being separated by a fence.

Peak Wildlife Park

You can also book in, at extra cost, for ‘Be a Keeper’ Experience. Work alongside animal keepers at the park, behind the scenes feeding and caring for the animals.

The play areas are fantastic. The outdoor play area includes a large bouncy castle and giant sandpit, and there’s also a brand new indoor soft play area.

Adult tickets are £11.95, children aged 2-16 are £9.95, and under 2’s are free. Check the website for opening times. 

14. Chatsworth Farmyard and Adventure Playground

Chatsworth House is a grand estate in the heart of the Peak District. Set in expansive parkland where wild deer roam and backed by wooded hills, it’s been chosen as Britain’s favourite country house several times.

Whilst the interior of the house is boasts impressive galleries and stately rooms, it’s likely to be the farmyard and adventure playground that your little ones will appreciate more. The outdoor adventure playground is one of the best we’ve ever been too, complete with water and sand play area, a huge zip line, and rope park. My boys also love feeding and petting the farm animals.

kids playing with the farm animals at Chatsworth

There are children’s activities and trails set throughout the year, as well as beautiful gardens to explore, and lots of eateries.

Check the website for ticket pricing. But note that walking through most of the grounds is totally free.

15. Haddon Hall

Just 2 km outside of Bakwell, Haddon Hall is a 900 year old stately home which retains many original features and is open to visitors. Explore the medieval kitchens, chapel and chambers before wandering around the exquisite Elizabethan walled gardens. Family events are often held in the school holidays, including archery and treasure hunts. Traditional English Tea is served in the cafe and there’s also a restaurant on site.

Entry for adults is £18.50, but kids under 16 are free. Parking is £2 per car and is a little walk away from the main entrance (366 metres). Check the website for further details, including opening times.

16. Gulliver’s Kingdom

Gulliver’s Kingdom is a theme park aimed at children aged 3 to 13 just outside Matlock. There are 20 rides across 6 themed areas, including a log flume, a Drop Tower, Dino Explorer Cars, and a Cycle Mono Rail. Climb high above the Crows Nest Quest or take a ride on the log flume, 300ft above Derwent Valley.

Gullivers Kingdom in Matlock
Photo credit: Our Bucket List Lives (read their full review of Gullivers Kingdom)

The theme park is set upon a steep hill side. To save an uphill hike, most visitors start at the top and work their way down. There is then a cable car to bring you back to the top.

There is also themed accommodation available within Gulliver’s Kingdom Resort at The Explorers Retreat and Fairytale Retreat, which include pirate, princess and wizard themes. Family cabins can sleep up to five people and packages include access to the main theme park.

Opening times are seasonal, so check the website for up to date information.

17. Alton Towers

Just 4 km south of the Peak District boundary is the UK’s biggest theme park, Alton Towers. Open from mid-March to early November, there are thrills galore, as well as more sedate rides for smaller visitors.

CBeebies Land
Photo credit: Twins and Travels

There is also a water park open year round, themed accommodation available (the CBeebies Land Hotel is very popular with little ones), and a spa for parents to retreat to if it all becomes a bit too much.

There are events on throughout the year, so it’s worth checking out the website in advance of your visit to the Peak District with kids. The website also details ticket pricing and opening times, although there are often offers on UK cereal packets and online, so it’s worth looking around.

18. Buxton Pavilion and Gardens

Demonstrating the Victorian splendour of Buxton, The Pavilion Gardens is a beautiful historic venue dating back to 1871. Set within 23 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens you will find play areas, a boating lake, and on weekend and school holidays, a miniature railway.

Inside the Pavilions there are two cafes (The Pavillion Cafe has a small soft play area for toddlers), The Retail Arcade with items sourced from local suppliers and craftspersons,  and The Conservatory, which houses beautiful plants, several of which are extremely rare to find anywhere else in the UK and feels like a small indoor rainforest.

Octagon Hall in the Pavilion Gardens

Next door is the Buxton Opera House, which operates as a cinemas and showcases both old and new films.

Check out our guide for things to do in Buxton with kids.

19. Visit the Plague Village

In 1665 a flea-infested bundle of cloth arrived from London for the local tailor of Eyam. This single flea led to the spread of the bubonic plague throughout the village. To prevent the spread of the disease, the entire village was quarantined (a rather apt topic considering the events of 2020).

The plague ran its course over 14 months and at least 260 villagers died, with only 83 surviving out of a population of 350. However, the plan worked and the plague was contained.

The tragic history of this village has not been forgotten. However, as the topic here is rather bleak, parents will need to decide if it is a suitable topic for their children. Plaques by houses and grave sites dotted around the village are a stark reminder of those who lost their lives, and inside Eyam Parish Church of St Lawrence, which dates back to Saxon times with an eighth-century Celtic Cross, there is a book with all the names of those deceased from the plague. Eyam Museum is a good place to visit to learn more about this tragic time, and there’s also a small free information centre next to the village stocks.

It’s also worth taking the 1km walk out to the Boundary Stone, which affords stunning Peak District views. This acted as a marker by separating the residents of the plague affected village of Eyam from the non-affected villagers of nearby Stoney Middleton. Here, money soaked in vinegar (believed to kill the infection) was placed by the villagers of Eyam in exchange for food and medical supplies.

Read: 12 things to do in Eyam

20. Eat Bakewell Pudding

Idyllically situated on the banks of the river Wye, Bakewell is a lovely market town for an afternoon stroll, and is the place where Bakewell Puddings originated! There are a handful of bakeries selling the pud. Grab one to enjoy along the river, or perhaps head to Bakewell Recreation Ground where there’s space for the kids to go wild, kick a ball, or play in the playground or splash park.

A visit to the Farmers Market on the last Saturday of each month is also worthwhile. There are over 70 stalls selling foods and artisans, but the best bit is watching the livestock being auctioned.

Read: Top things to do in Bakewell for kids

21. Head to the pub

Now this isn’t the most obvious things to do in the Peak District with kids. There are some charming pubs in the areas, but it’s unlikely little ones will sit long enough for you to finish your pint of Peak Ale. So check out these pubs with a playground in the Peak District and keep all the family happy.

If it’s a rainy day though, you may want to go armed and ready with our Peak District activity sheets for kids.

playground at the Travellers Rest, Hope Valley, Peak District

22. Go camping!

Visiting the Peak District with kids is all abut exploring the great outdoors, and what better way to do that than by camping!

Check out these favourite family campsites in the Peak District and suggested by members in our Peak District Kids Facebook Group. There’s a range of campsites, from basic ones by a river where you just rock up and pitch your tent in a field without prebooking, to more managed site that have shops, playgrounds and WiFi on site. The higher end sites do get booked up quickly in the summer and bank holiday weekends, so booking ahead is advised.

Family camping Peak District

23. Indoor Play for a rainy day

The Peak District is stunning, but it is also prone to unpredictable weather. You can expect four seasons in one day, and often there are very grey and wet days. Whilst the caverns and Buxton Pavillion and Matlock Meadows are good options for wet weather days, sometimes you just need to let the kids go wild at an indoor softplay.

The below map shows the indoor play areas in the Peak District. Our personal favourites are Peak Adventure in Rowsley (also known as Peak Village soft play), and Little Monkeys Play Centre in Matlock.

Also check out our top things to do in the Peak District when it rains.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these suggestions for days out in the Peak District with kids, and it’s given you some ideas for days out with kids in Derbyshire. 

You may also like to read:
Best family walks in the Peak District
Best Peak District cycling routes for families

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