The ancient lead-mining village of Castleton is one of the most popular in the Peak District. The village itself is a delightful cluster of stone cottages and interesting inns, ringed by limestone hills.
It sits beneath the protection of a castle keep known as Peveril Castle. Built in Norman times by William I’s illegitimate son, William Peveril, it was to protect the king’s rights to the forest that then covered vast areas of the Peak District.
Aside from the castle, some of the older buildings in the village are the Castle Hotel, one of 6 pubs, dating back to the 17th century and Castleton Hall.
There are four caverns either in the village or very close to its centre, all with different characteristics;
Just a few steps from the door of the cottage. Unusual rock formations, the eerie sound of running water and echoes of a bygone age all await you here. Deep into the cliff is the Cavern’s imposing entrance chamber – the largest natural cave entrance in the British Isles.
Aside from lead mining, another former local industry was rope making. This took place in the entrance to Peak Cavern until the mid 20th century and the rope walk can still be seen, stretching almost 100 metres into the cave. This industry dates back several centuries and at one time there were several small rope-maker’s cottages inside the cavern entrance. peakcavern.co.uk
Blue John Cavern
Famous for Britain’s rarest mineral, Blue John, first discovered at Castleton by the Romans almost 2000 years ago. The Blue John Cavern is home to 8 of the 14 known veins of this beautiful mineral. Blue John is still mined from Treak Cliff Cavern and Blue John Cavern, both former lead mines. bluejohn-cavern.co.uk
Takes you on an incredible boat journey on its underground canal built to transport lead ore. speedwellcavern.co.uk
Treak Cliff Cavern
Treakcliffe Cavern is of international fame and geological importance. Still a working mine, it has also been a designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest for many years. Tours include its history and geography. bluejohnstone.com
The imposing ruins of Peveril Castle stand high above Castleton. Mentioned in the Domesday survey, Peveril Castle is one of England’s earliest Norman fortresses. A climb to the castle at the top of the hill to enjoy the breathtaking views over the Hope Valley is a highlight of a family day out in the area. Explore the remains of the keep including the garderobe (medieval lavatory)! english-heritage.org.uk
May – Garland Day
Garland Day in Castleton is May 29th. On this day each year a huge garland of wildflowers is created and the ‘Garland King and Queen’ parade around the village on horseback wearing 17th century dress.
The ‘King’ wears the Garland. Maybe ‘wears’ is the wrong expression, because the Garland is large and shaped like a cone, so it obscures the ‘King’ from the waist up! Typically the Garland weighs 25-30kg so the Garland King’s task is quite an ordeal.
The royal couple parade slowly around the village, stopping at every pub (of which there are many). As they process, schoolchildren perform country dances in the procession. The parade eventually reaches the main square, where the garland is hoisted up to be placed on top of one of eight pinnacles on top of the church tower.
May 29th is the anniversary of the Battle of Worcester, when Charles II hid in an oak tree and it is traditional for the audience to wear sprigs of oak leaves in their lapels. However, the Garland tradition long pre-dates the Civil War period and is probably some sort of ancient fertility rite, though its exact origin is obscure.
June/July – Hope well dressing
The true origins of Well Dressing are lost in the mists of time. According to many sources, it developed from a pagan custom of making sacrifice to the gods of wells and springs to ensure a continued supply of fresh water. Like many folk traditions, it was later adopted by the Christian Church as a way of giving thanks to God for His gift to us of water. Tradition has it that it took on a special significance in 17th century Derbyshire as various villages, notably Tissington, gave thanks for their deliverance from the Plague which had decimated nearby Eyam
August – Hope Show
A truly traditional country show for all the family; sheepdog trials, show jumping, heavy horses, cattle and sheep, rare breeds, gundog competitions, vintage cars and motorbikes, vintage tractors and engines, horticultural tent, crafts plus lots of children’s attractions.
November/December – Christmas in Castleton
Christmas lights, carol concerts, children’s rides and late-night shopping transform Castleton into a welcoming winter wonderland from mid November each year. Carol singers, a silver band and roast chestnuts also help spread some seasonal magic, and Santa’s grotto is open every weekend until Christmas. For the musically-minded, Treak Cliff Cavern has Carols by Candlelight and Peak Cavern has Christmas Carol Concerts throughout December. Watch out for impromptu street entertainment too – such as bagpipes, traveling carol singers and morris dancers.
Castleton is popular with walkers as the area is very beautiful and there are many public footpaths leading from the village. There are easy walks along the river to Hope and beyond or there is a short strenuous walk up onto the Great Ridge, where magnificent views can be enjoyed before descending to Edale or returning to Castleton. Castleton is also the starting point for the Limestone Way.