Nestled within the beautiful Peak District National Park lies the charming Hope Valley. This scenic valley is home to picturesque villages, ancient caverns, stunning natural landscapes, and traditional English pubs. With so much to see and do, Hope Valley makes for an ideal day trip from Manchester and the surrounding area.
In this article we’ll take you through how to spend an amazing day exploring the highlights of Hope Valley, including visiting the famous Blue John Caverns, taking an underground boat tour of Speedwell Cavern, and stopping for a hearty lunch at one of the best family-friendly pubs in Castleton.
- An Overview of Hope Valley, Peak District
- Start Your Day at the Blue John Caverns
- Next, Take a Thrilling Underground Boat Tour of Speedwell Cavern
- Refuel With a Hearty Lunch at One of Castleton’s Best Pubs
- More Hope Valley Highlights If You Have Time
- Plan Your Amazing Day Trip to Hope Valley!
An Overview of Hope Valley, Peak District
Hope Valley is located in the northern Peak District, approximately 30 miles from Manchester. It stretches from the village of Hope in the north, through Castleton, down to the Derwent Valley in the south.
The valley has a rich history dating back to Roman times when lead mining first began. Remnants of ancient mines and caverns can still be explored today. The valley is also home to beautiful natural landscapes, including Winnat’s Pass with its towering limestone cliffs.
Popular attractions in Hope Valley include:
- Blue John Caverns – Ancient cave system with stunning Blue John fluorite formations.
- Speedwell Cavern – Historic lead mine offering thrilling underground boat tours.
- Peak Cavern – Impressive natural cave known as the Devil’s Arse!
- Peveril Castle – Medieval castle ruins with panoramic views.
- Mam Tor – Dramatic natural hill with an abandoned medieval village.
- Castleton Village – Charming village with traditional pubs and shops.
Start Your Day at the Blue John Caverns
The first stop on your Hope Valley adventure should be the magnificent Blue John Caverns near Castleton village. The Blue John Caverns are named after the unique, deep blue fluorite mineral found on the walls and formations inside.
Formed over 300 million years ago, the ancient cave system features towering pillars, fascinating banded seams, and wondrous geological structures. Mila and Sam loved spotting different shapes and objects in the rocky walls including one that they described either as a fox, or the devil!
The family-friendly walking tour covers just a small section of the massive caves. It descends gradually for around 150 meters underground. Sturdy rails and good lighting make it safe for kids and adults, however the entrance to the caves is challenging and Sam (aged four) only just managed that first set of steps independently. There wasn’t enough space to walk side by side, and it wouldn’t have been safe to carry him.
Highlights of the Blue John Caverns include:
- The atmospheric entrance tunnel lit with bulbs.
- Finding the giant fox shaped rock structure.
- Marveling at the mineral formations like the limestone ‘miners snot’.
- Spotting the underground river.
- Climbing up and down 245 stone steps!
The caves stay a chilly 10°C all year so bring warm clothing. Arrive early on weekends as parking is limited in Hope Valley.
Allow 1-2 hours to visit Blue John Caverns. Guided tours run daily from 9:30am to 3pm. You can’t pre-book your tour, you have to just turn up and wait for the next available (however we’ve never not been able to get onto a tour).
Next, Take a Thrilling Underground Boat Tour of Speedwell Cavern
After working up an appetite exploring the Blue John Caverns, head over to Speedwell Cavern just a mile away for their adventurous underground boat tour.
First opened in 1771, Speedwell Cavern operated historically as a lead mine. Miners would blast rock by candlelight under flooded conditions. Today, you get to discover this subterranean world aboard a unique boat tour.
The Speedwell Cavern boat tour journeys through narrow passages over 105 meters underground. Along the way, guides share tales of the mine’s past and point out fascinating geological features like stalactites.
A highlight is exploring the legendary ‘Bottomless Pit’ – a 20 meter deep pool! Kids will love shouting across to other boats.
Top tips for visiting Speedwell Cavern:
- Pre-book tickets online as tours sell out fast, especially on weekends.
- Be prepared to wait even with pre-booked tickets.
- Wear warm layers as it’s 9°C down in the cavern.
- Use the loo beforehand! There are none underground.
Tours at Speedwell Cavern run daily from 10am to 4pm in winter or 5pm in summer. Allow 1-1.5 hours for parking, your tour, and exploring above ground. Buy your Speedwell Cavern tickets here.
Refuel With a Hearty Lunch at One of Castleton’s Best Pubs
By late morning you’ll have worked up quite an appetite exploring the underground caverns of Hope Valley! The quaint village of Castleton offers the perfect opportunity to refuel and relax at one of its renowned traditional pubs.
We recommend 3 of the best family and dog-friendly pubs in Castleton:
The Bulls Head
A favourite of ours, The Bulls Head combines classic English pub fare with a welcoming atmosphere. Tuck into tasty fish and chips or steak and ale pie in the cozy interior. Or enjoy the views from their outdoor beer garden!
The Castle Inn
The Castle Inn offers great value pub grub like burgers and light snacks. Relax with a pint in the friendly bar or lounge area. They also have stunning views of the countryside.
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn
Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn is a traditional pub on the edge of Castleton village perfect for Sunday roasts. Their seasonally changing menus use fresh locally sourced ingredients.
Whichever pub you choose, you’ll find a warm Peak District welcome and hearty, freshly cooked food. Most pubs in Castleton are very family-friendly but it’s best to book ahead on weekends.
More Hope Valley Highlights If You Have Time
If you have more time to spare, consider exploring these other Hope Valley highlights:
- Peveril Castle – The ruins of this medieval castle sit atop a hill overlooking Castleton. Climb to the keep for panoramic views.
- Mam Tor – Hike up this iconic Peak District hill for dramatic views over the Hope Valley. Spot the remains of an ancient settlement.
- Winnat’s Pass – This dramatic limestone gorge has walking trails along cliff edges and climbing spots.
- Chatsworth House – Just 25 minutes from Hope Valley lies the expansive estate of the grand Chatsworth House, well worth a visit at any time of the year from the summer exploring the gardens to visiting its Christmas events!
Plan Your Amazing Day Trip to Hope Valley!
An adventure to the Hope Valley in the Peak District promises a day packed with family fun, fascinating sights, and new discoveries.
Start by descending into the magical Blue John Caverns before taking to the water for an unforgettable underground boat tour of Speedwell Cavern. After refuelling on hearty pub fare in Castleton, spend the afternoon exploring the area’s ruins, caverns, and natural landscapes.
Hope Valley offers the perfect blend of learning, adventure, and quality time together. Don’t just read about it, get out there and experience the magic for yourself!
For more inspiration and guidance, check out these additional Hope Valley resources:
Let us know how your family adventure exploring the wonders of Hope Valley goes! We hope this guide helps you plan an unforgettable day in the Peak District.