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21 things to do on a Peak District rainy day

21 things to do on a Peak District rainy day

Looking for things to do on a Peak District rainy day? Or more specifically Peak District indoor activities? Then read on…

The Peak District is a dream for families who love the outdoors. Whether it’s a family walk, cycling along one disused railway lines, or visiting a farm or country estate, there are so many fantastic days out in the Peak District for families.

However, a sunny day is never guaranteed whatever season it may be; in fact you may experience four seasons in one day! The weather can be unpredictable and it’s best to pack layers for your days out to be prepared.

Whilst we live by the phrase, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing’, and like to be out and about on a family walk or cycle whatever the weather, there are some days when you just want to shelter from the rain. So, what to do in the Peak District in the rains?

Here are our top things to do on a Peak District rainy day. This guide is also handy if you’re looking for things to do in Derbyshire on a rainy day as the county overlaps much of the National Park.

1. Visit the underground caves

One of the most obvious rainy day Peak District activities is to head underground to one of the many show caverns and caves in the regions, as it really doesn’t matter what the weather is doing when you’re underground!

The caverns and caves of the Peak District, with their amazing rock formations, rare stones and amazing atmospheres are fascinating to explore and a must do Peak District activity. Do wrap up warm though and wear footwear with a good tread, as it does get rather chilly underground, even in the height of summer.

Treak Cliff Cavern
inspecting stalagmites at Treak Cliff Cavern on a self-guided tour

There are a lot of caverns open to the public in the Peak District, and you could easily fill an entire long weekend exploring them.

1. Heights of Abraham: Ride the cable car up to the hill top and then venture underground to either the The Masson Cavern and Rutland Cavern.

2. Poole’s Cavern: vast limestone caves in Buxton Country Park that are open all year round. Pushchairs welcome. This is one of the things to do in Buxton when it’s raining.

3. Castleton caves: some of the best show caverns in the UK, and is home to:

  • Peak Cavern
    With the largest cave entrance in the UK and the only natural cave in Castleton as it is almost entirely natural, carved out by melting glacier waters. This is the only Castleton cave that wasn’t actually a mine. Instead, Peak Cavern was home to the rope makers who supplied the mines. 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.
    Click here for our review.
  • Speedwell Cavern
    Visitors descend 106 steps, down to an underground canal to board a boat that transports you deeper into the cave system. It’s brilliant fun, but not for the claustrophobic.
    Click here for our review.
  • Blue John Cavern
    With 245 steps in (and out!) of the cavern, there is a reasonable amount of fitness required, but the series of caverns you get to explore makes it absolutely worth it. It is home to eight of the fourteen known varieties of Blue John stone, a beautiful and ornamental fluor-spar.  The mineral has been mined here for centuries and continues to be in the winter months.  Do note that online bookings are not possible as there is no internet connection at the cavern. You just have to turn up on the day.
  • Treak Cliff Cavern
    This show cave is perhaps the most impressive for budding geologists. Plus the visit is rather unique as you need to download an app to your phone to follow a self-guided tour. The famous Blue John stone is also found here. Make sure you pre-book online before your visit.
    Click here for our review.

2. Crich Tramway Museum

The big exhibition hall showcasing an array of trams across the past centuries is all undercover at Crich Tramway Museum. There is also a small soft play area here, and during the school holidays there are often craft activities held indoors.

But the best bit about visiting Crich Tramway Museum is getting to ride the trams as many times as you like, up and down the tram line! On a rainy day, the trams on the tracks will all have a roof (open air ones come out on sunny days), so you don’t need to worry about getting wet.

An old vintage tram at the National Tramway Museum at Crich

And if the skies do eventually clear on your visit, take a walk around the nature trail to find giant insects, a wizard, and lots of other magical and mystical woodland creatures along your way.

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

3. Ride the Peak Rail

Ride an old steam train on this preserved railway line between Rowsley South Station and Matlock Platform 2. This is one of our favourite things to do in the Peak District when it rains, as you’re nice and dry on the train!

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 return ticket, adults are £15, children under 16 are free. Check the website for up to date ticket pricing and timetables.  A return trip takes 50 minutes.

4. Brick Corner, Buxton

Read our review of Brick Corner

Brick Corner café

If your kids are Lego fans, then a visit to the family-run Brick Corner café in Buxton is an absolute must (whether it’s a rainy day or not!) Here there are boxes galore of Lego for your kids to play with and let their imaginations go wild, whilst parents sit back with a coffee and slice of cake in peace (although by all means, there are no age limits if parents want to get involved!)

Plus, there are Lego robotic and coding sessions to get involved in. These are 90 mins (approx.) sessions where kids follow a guided Lego build, and then code their build to move! Sessions need to be pre-booked. Click here for further information.

5. The Play Village, Ashbourne

If you’re looking for a unique indoor experience where kids can let their imaginations run free, then you’ll love The Play Village in Ashbourne, just outside of the South Peak District border.

Completely different to soft play, this experience is centred around the magical art of role play. There are eight play pods set up as life-like settings designed to ignite the imagination. 

The Play Village Ashbourne

Whilst the kids play, parents can relax in the tastefully designed cafe and enjoy the amazing food and drink. The menu is really refreshing for a kids’ play centre with everything prepared freshly from locally sourced produce where possible and the coffee is good too!

The sessions are at set times and last for two hours and 15 minutes. Booking is essential to ensure that the maximum number of children per session isn’t exceeded. This is a great Peak District rainy day activity or if you just want some time to relax and enjoy good food and drink whilst keeping the kids entertained.

6. High Peak Bookstore and Café

High Peak Book Store and Café, just outside Buxton, is a charming independent bookstore to while away a couple of hours. There is extensive and eclectic range of books, all very reasonably priced; indeed we noticed that many of the books were priced much cheaper than Amazon.

High Peak Bookstore and Café

Themed in jungle décor, the children’s section is an especially cosy area for young bookworms, you will find everything from baby board books, up to popular teenage reads.

there is also a café offering simple, homemade food, locally sourced where possible, with plenty of vegan and gluten-free options. The cakes are delicious, and there is a fantastic choice of teas.

7. Matlock Meadows

Matlock Meadows is a farm that is partly open to the public and offers both an outdoor and indoor play area, and well as the most delicious Italian gelato! Inside the barn there are small ride on tractors to play on, as well as coin-operated go-carts and, of course, some farm animals. It’s one of the best things to do in Matlock in the rain.

Matlock Meadows indoor play

A taste of the homemade Italian gelato is a must (there are 15 flavours to try from!) On a rainy day in the Peak District, this can be enjoyed in the adjacent seating area with a small softplay area for toddlers, and a large wooden train set to play with. 

8. Head to the pub or enjoy a hot chocolate

If you have ventured on a family walk or bike ride in the rain, the parents deserve a drink and the day off cooking. The majority of pubs and cafes across the Peak District are extremely kid friendly and have specific kids menus. Muddy boots are always welcome. We often leave ours by the front door and walk in just with socks, although some places offer plastic shoe covers.

Some of our favourite family pubs are listed here, but for a rainy day head to The Bulls Head in Monyash (there’s a games room with a pool table) or The Knights Table just outside Buxton. The latter is a knights-themed pub and younger kids will find toys galore to play with! As you walk past the gargoyles out front, and into the foyer, there are shelves of books, toys and games!

If you’re after a hot chocolate, check out our guide to the best hot chocolate in the Peak District.

Or pick any pub and go prepared with our Peak District activity sheets for kids printed out.

9. Ceramic painting at The Potty Sheep, Blaze Farm

A visit to Blaze Farm is usually about doing the short nature walk and playing on the outdoor slide. Rhere is a small shed that houses some farm animals (perfect for a rainy day) and it’s also good place to come for some homemade Peak District ice-cream!

boy painting at The Potty Sheep

However, also on site is The Potty Sheep ceramics studio. Kids (and parents) can get crafty and paint a masterpiece on mugs, plates, bowls, and tiles. Or for parents visiting with babies, perhaps do a handprint or footprint on a plate!

The Potty Sheep is open Wednesdays to Sundays. You need to pre-book your slot (either 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm). Their website isn’t yet live. So instead, to pre-book your slot you need to either message them via Instagram or Facebook.

Click here for more information on visiting The Potty Sheep. Please not that The Potty Sheep works as a separate business to Blaze Farm.

10. LEVEL Centre interactive exhibition in Rowsley

Open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (not weekends)
Tickets are free, but please book in advance – click here to book

Level Centre is a lovely accessible building and is home to visual art exhibitions and immersive digital installations that change regularly throughout the year. They also have open days and creative workshops.

From January 2024, LEVEL are presenting PlayLAND, a new exhibition by Derby-based artist John Whall. A fun, interactive installation, PlayLAND brings the world of outdoor play inside LEVEL Centre building, inviting you to play, sense and immerse yourself in a playful relaxing world.

11. Watch a show at Buxton Opera House

Enjoy year-round live performances at Buxton Opera House. The annual pantomime is always a highlight on the calendar.

Next door is Buxton Pavillion Arts Centre, which is home to the 360 seat Buxton Cinema, offering daily films and live event cinema. During the school holidays, there is always something on for kids. One of the perfect things to do in Peak District when raining.

Buxton Opera House

Inside the Pavilions there are two cafes, 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.

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

12. Visit a local museum

There aren’t any big science or history museums in the Peak District, but there are a handful of small local museums which are good places to duck in to on a rainy day. These include:

1. Eyam Museum – A good place to visit to learn more about the history of the bubonic plague in the village of Eyam. A series of information panels, film shows and displays help bring this amazing story of isolation and survival to life. You can also rent an audio trail and follow the plague story around the village from here. Check out these other things to do in Eyam.

2. Bakewell Old House Museum – Set in a Tudor House, this award winning museum tells the story of the Peak District. From Tudor artefacts found encased in the walls, to Macedonian ceremonial swords to an elephant’s foot, there are all sorts hidden away in every nook and cranny.  Check out these other things to do in Bakwell.

3. Castleton Museum – Housed at Castleton Visitor Centre, this local museum is a showcase for the history of Castleton and the surrounding area. There are displays featuring the archaeology and geology, the past industries and inhabitants, as well as its significance as a Norman fortified town. Learn about the history of what happened to Castleton during the world wars, see the various tools and clothing used over the centuries, and even see a carved head dating from 1,000 BC which is believed to represent a god worshipped by Iron Age people. Check out these other things to do in Castleton.

interactive display at Castleton Visitor's Centre
Castleton Visitors Centre

4. Buxton Museum and Art Gallery – Discover the archaeology, geology, art and history of the Peak District. Exhibitions are changed regularly, so there’s always something new.

5. Cromford Mills – Visit the world’s first water-powered cotton spinning mill and learn how this changed the world we live in today. Lots of interactive displays, games and puzzles that kids will love.

13. Visit a stately home

The Peak District is home to some of the most spectacular buildings in the UK, including Chatsworth House (pre-book tickets online), and Haddon Hall. The stately interiors are perfect to explore on a rainy day.

Chatsworth House in spring

They may not quite be suitable for younger kids who want to run around the place and touch everything. However, it didn’t seem right to not include them on this list of things to do on a Peak District rainy day though!

14. Indoor bouldering at Substation Macclesfield

The Peak District National Park offers lots of opportunities for kids to scramble and climb boulders in the natural environment, with favourite family walks for this being Robin Hood’s Stride, Birchen Edge, and Higger Tor. But if you want to hone their techniques, and are perhaps looking for a rainy day activity, how about visiting Substation Macclesfield?

Substation Macclesfield is just an 8 minute drive from the western boundary of the Peak District National Park, and offers superb indoor bouldering tuition for all ages. Bouldering is a form of free climbing with no ropes or harnesses.

Substation Macclesfield

The family climbing sessions are ideal for families looking for a little extra introduction to the world of bouldering. A 30-minute private lesson with a coach will leave you confident to conquer any of the climbing walls at Substation Macclesfield.

There’s a £29.00 fixed price is for up to 6 people. This includes a 30 minute lesson, climbing day pass for each person, climbing shoes, and chalk bag hire. All participants under the age of 18 need to be supervised by an adult; 1 adult per 2 children.

15. Matlock Bath Aquarium and Exhibitions

READ: Visiting Matlock Bath Aquarium and Exhibitions

Located in a stunning Victorian building in the centre of Matlock Bath, Matlock Bath Aquarium houses over 50 species of fish as well as one of the largest public displays of holograms in Europe.

A large Victorian pool inside the building has been transformed into a thermal pool for Mirror, Common and Koi Carp. This water is at a constant 20°C and comes from a spring believed to be 2000 ft below ground. Poolside vending machines sell food that you can feed to the carp.

It is also the site of the only remaining petrifying well in Matlock Bath. This is where thermal water was sprayed on to objects to turn them in to stone during the Victorian era. You can see almost 100 objects that have been petrified in the well including a bowler hat and pint glass, which are originals from the old Victorian wells.

Other exhibitions here include a worldwide gemstone and fossil display, the ‘Past Times in Matlock Bath’ Exhibition, and a private collection of Goss and Crested China.

Allow 45 minutes to an hour for your visit. It’s a good idea to combine this with a visit to Bonkers Illumination Golf.

Do note that there are no toilets or baby changing facilities.

16. Bonkers Illumination Golf

READ: Bonkers Illumination Golf REVIEW

Bonkers Illumination Golf is a fun-filled venue, with nine holes of mini-golf, neon-lights, and challenging holes for adults and kids alike. Each hole has a separate theme, requirement a different technique. In the past, some courses we’ve played became a bit ‘samey’ after a couple of holes, but we had no such trouble here.

Bonkers Illumination Golf, Matlock

At the end, you’ll find a licensed bar and café for tasty snacks, giving you the chance to count up the scores and celebrate the winner.

Allow at least 30 minutes for a family of four to complete the crazy-golf course.

17. Go swimming at Hathersage Swimming Pool

So Hathersage Swimming Pool is actually an open air pool (yes, it’s outside!) But our thinking is that, if it’s raining and your wet in the swimming pool anyway, then it really doesn’t matter that it’s raining.

Now you’re thinking the pool must be too cold on a rainy day? Well the pool is actually heated to 28°C. Although we do recommend that kids wear a wetsuit. You can read all about our experience here.

Hathersage swimming pool

Alternatively, here are the indoor swimming pools that are open to the public in and around the Peak District for a rainy day:

18. Indoor Play centres in the Peak District

Sometimes you need a large indoor play space on a rainy day, so that the little darlings can burn off all that energy.

The below map shows the indoor play areas in the Peak District. Our personal favourites are Peak Adventure in Rowsley, and Little Monkeys Play Centre in Matlock.

Peak Adventure soft play
Peak Adventure soft play

19. Peak District woodland walks

But sometimes just layering up in waterproofs and wellies and heading out in the rain will do everyone the world of good. Perhaps take on a woodland walk so that the trees provide a little bit of shelter? Some Peak District woodland walks ideas include:

20. Get crafty

Or you may just want to have a day indoors getting crafty with one of our outdoor craft activities for kids. Using twigs, leaves, fallen petals etc. from a walk, you could make a bug hotel, nature crown, rainbow sticks, sticky nature cards. There are so many ideas in this article.

21. Take the train to Manchester or Sheffield

The TransPennine Express connects the cities of Manchester and Sheffield that lay either side of the Peak District. Whilst these aren’t located within the National Park, if you’ve exhausted this list of rainy day activities in the Peak District, a day trip on the train to a city may be in order!

Hop on the train at Hathersage, Grindleford, Bamford, Hope, or Edale and take in the city sights for a day. If it’s a rainy day, Manchester probably offers the most indoor activities.

A rainy day in Manchester

Manchester has so much to offer visiting families with a range of free museums, loads of outdoor play space, super fun indoor activity centres, and family friendly restaurants and cafes on every corner.

Our favourite museum in Manchester is the excellent Science and Industry Museum (free entry) which has a strong focus on the history of the UK’s first industrial city. It also houses the world’s oldest surviving passenger railway station and the world’s first railway warehouse from 1830. Dinosaur fans should head to Manchester Museum, which is part of Manchester University, to see the huge T-rex skeleton along with other natural and worldly artefacts.

Kids will love the huge aquarium at Sea Life Manchester and LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, which feels like you’ve been shrunk and entered a huge LEGO box. But if you want to get active, head to the the massive indoor activity centre of Play Factore (this place redefines everything you have thought about soft play centres) or visit the snow (it’s real snow, not fake!) at Chill Factore for skiing, snowboarding and sledging. For outdoor bouncy fun, we absolutely love Treetop Manchester; a series of ropes and huge nets in the trees for your little monkeys to run wild.

But what would a trip to Manchester be without visiting Old Trafford? The Manchester United Museum and Stadium Tour offers a behind the scenes look at the world’s most iconic stadium. Get a feel for life in the Premier League and walk through the players’ tunnel towards the hallowed turf and find the seat of your favourite player in the dressing room. A must do for all footy fans and families are very welcome.

A rainy day in Sheffield

The Tropical Butterfly House, Wildlife and Falconry centre is Sheffield’s best family attraction and open all year round. There are exotic animals, a large butterfly house, playgrounds, water splash zone, animal feeds and shows, a café, dinosaur trail and more. However, this is more of an outdoor activity, and doesn’t quite meet our needs for a rainy day.

Instead, you could go trampolining at Jump Inc Meadowhall. And there is also Kelham Island Museum which provides hands on exhibitions taking you through the history of Sheffield and its steelworks. There are work benches, machinery, tools, a working steam engine and a soft play area “the melting pot” which kids love. 

You may also like to read:
Peak District activity sheets for kids
Top things to do in the Peak District with kids
Short and easy Peak District walks with kids