A Derbyshire cottage holiday usually brings to mind a Peak District holiday cottage and it is true that Britain's first National Park covers some five hundred beautiful square kilometres of the county. Derbyshire's landscape is diverse, from the relatively young county town of Derby to centuries-old rural towns and villages where ancient traditions, such as well-dressing and Morris dancing, are still observed. The scenery is picturesque and ever-changing, from the gently contoured valleys, fertile farmland and miles of dry stone walls of southern Derbyshire's White Peak to the vast swathes of rugged heather moor land, and the weathered, lime and gritstone outcrops of the Dark Peak in the north. A Derbyshire cottage holiday provides the perfect base for outdoor sports, a host of tourist attractions, major theme parks such as Alton Towers on the doorstep and a wealth of charming country towns to discover.
If you're on a longer Derbyshire cottage holiday, then make time to look around the county town. Derby has an important industrial past, showcased in the town's Museum of Industry and Heritage. Ceramics with the Royal seal of approval are on display at the Royal Crown Derby Factory shop; see master craftsmen at work producing the world-renowned fine bone china. Derby's pedestrianised centre makes for a pain-free shopping experience; step back in time with a visit to the town's ancient Gaol and the cathedral or for a little relaxation, Darley Abbey Park offers the tranquillity of the countryside in the heart of town. Close to the city, Elvaston Castle Country Park, Calke Castle and Kedleston Hall - film set for the recent blockbuster film The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley - all make for great family days out. Derbyshire boasts a number of reservoirs where leisure pursuits are to the fore; Staunton Harold Reservoir and Carsington Water being just two such places where watersports, particularly sailing and windsurfing, and family fun are readily available, with walking and biking trails, visitor centres, cycle hire, play areas, picnic sites and more.
Derbyshire's towns and villages have plenty to keep visitors busy. Ashbourne is a thriving centre for the Antiques trade; Bakewell has a vibrant Monday market and Matlock Bath still retains the charm of its Victorian heyday, with parks, tearooms, Gulliver's World theme park and the signature cable car ride to the heights of Abraham, high above the picturesque Derwent valley. In the north of the region, the former spa town of Buxton is worth a visit, while Hayfield is well known for its jazz festival. Visit Tideswell, cathedral town of the Peaks, tiny Eyam, devastated by the bubonic plague, and pretty Castleton in the Hope Valley, where Peveril Castle and the stunning show caves deep underground at Speedwell, Blue John and Peak Caverns will be certain to keep children entertained. Train enthusiasts will enjoy the Midland Heritage Railway near Ripley; visit the Pottery Centre and see how the famous Denbyware is made at Denby, step back in time at medieval Bolsover Castle in the eastern most corner of Derbyshire or puzzle over the origins of the famous crooked spire of Chesterfield's landmark church before sniffing out a bargain at its huge outdoor market. Use your Derbyshire cottage holiday as a base for discovering the many historic castles and country homes of the region, perhaps the grandest of these being the superb Chatsworth Estate near Matlock. Explore further afield; on Derbyshire's border where Nottinghamshire's Sherwood Forest can be enjoyed, whilst at the county's western extreme Alton Towers Theme Park will appeal to those holidaying with children of all ages.
A Derbyshire cottage holiday makes a natural choice for an active break, as the Peak District National Park caters for sports of all types. Walkers, ramblers, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy, amongst others, the Pennine Bridleway or the Manifold Cycle trail, in addition to the miles of permissive footpaths criss-crossing the region where you'll just need your map and compass for guidance. Try caving, paragliding, rock climbing, orienteering, hang gliding or even skiing at the Swadlincote ski centre if you're looking for something a little more adventurous. And for a firmly land locked region, enjoying your favourite water sport is water off a duck's back, thanks to the number of reservoirs and lakes where fishing, wind surfing and sailing can be readily enjoyed.
Whether you're seeking a relaxed Derbyshire cottage break with nothing more taxing on the menu than fine dining on locally produced food, home baked cakes and refreshing real ales followed by a browse around the odd antique shop or two or a leisurely riverside stroll, or a Peak District cottage in the heart of Britain's first National Park for a high-adventure activity break, then Derbyshire and the Peak District will not disappoint. From Castleton to Chesterfield via Chatsworth House and from Derby to delightful Dovedale, a Derbyshire cottage holiday is sure to leave you feeling refreshed and energised. Sykes' collection of handpicked Derbyshire cottages in the very best locations will leave you spoilt for choice.