13 Fabulous things to do in Buxton, the heart of the Peak District!
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13 Wonderful Things To Do In Buxton!

Buxton is an absolute must-visit if you’re looking for the perfect place to get away from it all and explore some breathtaking natural beauty. This quaint town in England’s Peak District National Park offers a delightful combination of rolling hills, spectacular countryside scenery, lovely historical sites and plenty of outdoor activities, all wrapped up in a warm, friendly atmosphere full of surprises.

Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventure or relaxation at its finest, this guide to 13 fabulous things to do in Buxton will provide you with ideas for your perfect staycation getaway. So lace up those hiking boots, grab your flask of tea and let’s explore all this fantastic little corner of Britain has to offer!

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Sitting at 300m above sea level, Buxton is the highest market town in England and sits perfectly within the rugged landscape of the beautiful Peak District National Park. Buxton is a fabulous place to visit, not just for its stunning location and hiking trails but also for its history, famous Georgian and Victorian architecture, ornamental gardens, and a wealth of independent shops, bars and restaurants.

It’s no wonder this beautiful town is one of the best tourist destinations in the region! Find out more about visiting this stunning town with my guide to the 13 Best things to do in Buxton!

A Brief History of Buxton:

Not only is Buxton a pretty place to visit, but it’s also got a lot of historical relevance and has grown to fame as a spa town.

The town’s origins date back to the Romans when, around AD80, they built numerous bathhouses. Over the following years, the city became popular with pilgrims who sought the health benefits of the pale blue water that bubbled up from thermal springs beneath the now famous ‘Crescent’. One of the town’s most famous visitors was even thought to be Mary Queen of Scots, who suffered severely from rheumatism.

These springs are still in use today and form the outlets from an underground reservoir, where the water lies for many years before coming to the surface at a constant temperature of 82 degrees Fahrenheit.

St Ann’s Well, located in the centre of town opposite the crescent, was once known as a ‘place of many miracles’ and is still where locals and tourists are queuing to refill water bottles. It’s the same palatable mineral water bottled by Nestlé and sold throughout the UK.

In the late 18th century, William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire, developed Buxton into a spa town to challenge its old rival Bath and set about creating an architectural centrepiece. The Crescent was completed in the 1780s and stands proudly in the centre of the town. It housed a hotel, a glamorous assembly room, and boutiques selling souvenirs.

The 6th Duke of Devonshire further developed the town by rebuilding the Natural Mineral and Thermal Baths. By the late 19th century, the Pump House had also been rebuilt. At this time, the spa town was extremely popular, and tourism was a significant income for everyone involved. 

However, by the 20th century, spa tourism was in decline, and the last baths offering treatments closed to the public in the 1960s.

Although the town no longer offers traditional spa treatments, some recent developments are hoping to bring back the town’s spa status. Most prominent is the opening of The Buxton Crescent in 2020. This multi-billion pound development has seen the crescent brought back from a pretty sorry state to a fabulous five-star hotel with a rooftop spa and pool, as well as a great new Buxton Experience and Heritage Centre. 

13 Best things to do in Buxton:

1. Pavillion Gardens:

One of my favourite things to do in Buxton is strolling around Pavillion Gardens. This beautiful park dates back to 1871 and superbly shows off the Victorian splendour of Buxton. 

Set within 23 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, this park is excellent for a family day out or even a romantic picnic. You will find various features throughout the gardens, including a large boating lake, miniature railway, playground, bandstand, and an array of flower beds and shaded walks.

You will also find a magnificent grade II listed building that houses numerous food venues, an arts centre and a theatre. 

2. Opera House:

Situated in the centre of Buxton, this 902-seat opera house has been hosting live performances since 1903. This magnificent building was designed by Frank Matcham, who also designed the London Palladium. 

Buxton Opera House is one of the finest examples of Edwardian theatre and was painstakingly restored to its former glory in 2001. As well as regular live performances, you can take a guided tour detailing the history and see inside the spectacular auditorium.

3. Poole’s Cavern:

One of the more unique things to do in Buxton is to visit Poole’s Cavern. The Peak District’s famous limestone was formed 340 million years ago; over the thousands of years that followed, limestone layers were lifted, fractured, and folded by massive earth movements as the continental plates drifted apart, giving the Peak District its distinct landscape.

As the limestone was formed overland, water also began to carve out another landscape hidden deep underground, creating large caverns where crystal stalactites have lined the chambers for millions of years. 

The cavern is just a short walk out of town, close to the Pavillion Gardens, and has attracted visitors since the 16th century! 

Some famous visitors are thought to include Mary Queen of Scotts in 1582 and Charles Cotton, a writer who visited in 1681 and listed the cave as one of his seven ‘Wonders of the Peak’, bringing new-found fame to the cavern.

Back then, entrance to the caves was more challenging than it is today! The first visitors had to crawl 10m through a small tunnel. Later, Frank Redfern, the cavern’s first official custodian in 1853, enlarged the cavern entrance by removing tonnes of sediment and blasting away the low roof space.

The cavern remained in the Redfern family for 120 years, who extended pathways into other caverns. In 1857, 17 gas lamps were installed, some of which can still be seen today. Surprisingly, these lamps were still glowing until 1965, when they were shut down after the death of their owner, Mr Lesley Alcock (husband of Frank Redfern’s granddaughter Jessie Alcock).

The cave then re-opened in 1976 after the installation of 100 electric lights. Today’s cave benefits from a state-of-the-art LED lighting system highlighting the delicate crystal formations and creating an incredible effect when the 300m main chamber is fully illuminated. The lights are turned off at the end of the tour so visitors can experience total darkness.

Due to the nature of the cavern, you can only visit it with an organised tour. Tours operate daily and must be booked online in advance.

If you want to learn more about Buxton’s history, archaeology and geology, then a visit to the Buxton Museum & Art Gallery is a must! Not only is it a great museum, but it’s also one of the best free things to do in Buxton!

Take a step back in time and explore fabulous collections, including limestone fossils, Ice Age animal bones and mineral collections such as Blue John. You will also find an extensive collection of historic photographs of Buxton and its surrounding area and 18th, 19th and 20th-century paintings, including work by John Webber, William Marlow, Thomas Hearne, Frank Brangwyn, Edgar Chahine and Duncan Grant. 

5. Devonshire Dome:

Another one of Buxton’s historic buildings is the Devonshire Dome. The original building was commissioned in 1785 by the reigning Duke of Devonshire as part of a broader plan to promote Buxton as a spa town.

In 1858, part of the building was turned into a hospital, and then later, in 1881, the remainder of the building was converted, including its unmistakably spectacular dome. At the time, it was the largest unsupported dome in the world! It’s still believed to be the largest in Europe, although I can’t find anything to confirm this.

The building remained a hospital, and in 1934, after further extensions, it was re-named the Devonshire Royal Hospital and became part of the National Health Service in 1948.

The hospital eventually closed its doors in 2000 and was acquired by the University of Derby. This grade II listed building was home to the Buxton campus; however, it now forms the new base of the Buxton & Leek College.

The Buxton Dome also houses an award-winning spa offering many luxury treatments to improve your well-being. Why not take some time to reconnect your mind, body and soul?

7. Solomon’s Temple & Buxton County Park:

Just across from Poole’s Cavern and sharing the same car park, you’ll find Buxton Country Park. Covering over 100 acres, the park and woodland are home to a fantastic array of flora, fauna and wildlife, as well as stunning views from the top of the summit pastures of Grin Low (437m).

Inside the park, you will also find a GO Ape Adventure, a woodland trail and Solomon’s Temple.

Solomon’s’ Temple sits proudly on top of Grin Low and can be reached by walking approx 30 minutes through the woodland trail. There are three different trails, all marked by colour-coded carved animals. The trails themselves are pretty straightforward, although some steep sections and uneven ground may be unsuitable for those with reduced mobility or pushchairs.

The tower, a folly, was built in 1896 to replace an earlier structure constructed by Solomon Mycock, a local farmer and landowner. Although a folly doesn’t usually represent anything other than decoration, Solomon’s Temple is built on top of what was once an ancient burial mound. In fact, during its construction, several Bronze Age skeletons from the ‘Beaker’ period, along with Roman artefacts, were found, which are now housed in the Buxton Museum.

From the top of Solomon’s temple, you will be treated to amazing 360-degree views of Buxton and the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can see the fabulous Devonshire Dome and Historic Crescent and Mam Tor at Castleton and Kinder Scout, which at 636m is the highest point in Derbyshire and the Peak District.

8. Take the Discover Buxton Tram Bus Tour:

Enjoy a journey through Buxton’s historic landmarks on a unique vintage tram!

The ‘Wonder of the Peak’ tour takes you through the historic old town where you can check out Buxton Opera House, The Crescent, thermal baths and St Ann’s Well. It then takes you past St Johns Church and to the magnificent Devonshire Dome. At the dome you will alight and join a guide who will take you through the dome to experience its marvellous architecture first hand. The tour then takes you to one of Buxton’s oldest buildings, St Annes Church, which dates back to 1625, before finishing at the beautiful Pavillion Gardens.

This is definitely a unique way to see a lot of Buxton within a short time frame, perfect for those just visiting for the day. The company also does many other tours, including walking tours and tours around the surrounding area.

9. Indulge in some retail therapy:

Ok, you can do a bit of retail therapy anywhere, so what makes Buxton so unique? 

Well, I suppose it has all the usual shops you’ll find on any UK high street. However, it has some unique shopping experiences that make it a great place to find gifts, household items, antiques, jewellery or clothing.

There are four main shopping areas in Buxton. The first is the boutique shops around the historic old town, including The Square, Circus Parade and Buxton’s oldest shopping centre, the Cavendish Arcade, within the historic hot baths. Here you’ll find a vast array of independent shops selling homeware, giftware, several fashion stores and food; it’s a must for both visitors and locals. Whilst you’re there, be sure to check out the little cafe out front, Charlotte’s Chocolatier & Cafe; the cakes are amazing!!

The main shopping centre, The Springs, located in the centre of town, is where you’ll find all the usual shopping brands.

If you’re looking for independent bookshops, a traditional butcher and a home decor emporium, then take a trip uphill to Higher Buxton.

Lastly, The Arches is an artisan market nestled within the historic arches of Hogshaw Mill at the western end of Spring Gardens. Family and dog-friendly with a quintessentially quirky collection of stalls and pop-up shops.

You’ll also find various food & drink markets and festivals throughout the year. Some to watch for include the Buxton Night Food & Drink Market held at the Pavillion Gardens during summer. The Buxton Beer Festival is also held in the Pavillion Gardens in October.

10. Buxton Crescent Visitor Centre & Heritage: Experience

The grandest building in Buxton has to be The Crescent! This masterpiece of 18th-century architecture was once the focal point for the town’s visitors wanting to experience the healing properties of its warm spring water. It took ten years to construct and housed several hotels and the elegant Assembly Rooms, which are best described as a ballroom of gilded pillars and painted ceilings, and became home to the town’s glamorous gatherings. 

As the spa tourism declined, the crescent fell into disrepair. However, in 2003, the Buxton Crescent and Thermal Spa project was born in a joint effort with Derbyshire County Council and High Peak Borough Council, as well as help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England. This project brought together two huge private sector development companies which worked together to refurbish and get the building back to its original splendour. The Crescent building is now a fabulous 5-star hotel with a rooftop spa and the new Buxton Heritage Experience.

The Buxton Heritage Experience tells the story of Buxton, the crescent, its famous water and the many people who visited. This isn’t the usual museum encounter; it’s a fully immersive experience with some virtual reality thrown into the mix!

You can only visit as part of a small guided tour, so I recommend buying tickets in advance. It’s a wonderful way to learn more about the building, its history and how it was restored. 

Across the road from the Crescent you’ll find the Buxton Visitor Centre housed in what was once The Pump Room. The visitor centre is free to enter and has a few interesting displays, a gift shop, and a ticket counter for the Heritage Experience over at the Crescent. 

11. St Ann’s Well:

St Ann’s well has been a shine for centuries. There was once a chapel where the well stands today, offering pilgrims a chance to pray and offer thanks. It was so well known for its curing properties that it’s believed pilgrims hung their cast-off crutches and sticks from it. 

The chapel was then dissolved in 1538 on the orders of King Henry VIII, and the well was locked up. However, it was later opened back up again and rebuilt on several occasions over the years. Today’s well was built in 1940 and is a grade II listed structure.

Numerous famous figures visited Buxton and drank from the well, including Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned in nearby Chatsworth House. She was permitted to bathe in Buxton’s healing waters to help with rheumatism, under guard, of course! 

Water has also been bottled at source from the well since the 19th century by the Buxton Mineral Water Company. Nestle, who bought the company in 1992, still bottle the same water you drink at St Ann’s Well. However, it’s now pumped 2 miles down the road at their new bottling plant in Waterswallows.

12. Buxton Raceway:

If it’s action you’re after, then take a trip to the Buxton Raceway, situated just 3 miles out of town.

The track is a 380m tarmac oval with steel plate fencing and a figure of 8 circuit, ideal for stock car and drifter racing. The Raceway has excellent facilities for spectators and runs its own ‘Domestic’ Formulas, as well as ‘Travelling’ Formulas regularly, usually during the summer months.

13. Take a walk in the stunning countryside:

As much as Buxton is a lovely place to enjoy, exploring the surrounding countryside shouldn’t be dismissed! In fact, one of my favourite things to do whilst in Buxton is getting out and about in the surrounding area.

Of course, there are plenty of places to explore within and around Buxton itself, but if you’re willing to travel a little further, the scenery will not disappoint! 

If you have a car, why not take a little trip to Castleton? This quaint little village is a walker’s paradise! It doesn’t matter what direction you start walking; you’ll definitely find yourself headed towards a peak and its amazing views! My two favourites are both pretty short routes, Perveril Castle and Cave Dale, which runs behind it.

For more walking ideas around Buxton check out some of these other popular Peak District walks.

Where to stay in Buxton:

Although you can enjoy a visit to Buxton in just a day, it’s well worth spending a few days in this lovely town. Spending a few days allows you to see all that Buxton offers and visit some of the surrounding attractions, such as Castleton, Chatsworth House, Heights of Abraham or the Crich Tramway Village! 

A few great accommodation options include:

The Buxton Crescent Hotel – A stay at the Buxton Crescent is the perfect opportunity to sleep in a magnificent heritage building with all the service and amenities of a 5-star hotel. The Hotel offers a unique luxury spa experience, combining traditional beauty therapies with wellness and holistic treatments.

Roseleigh – Located in Buxton, 450 yards from Buxton Opera House, Roseleigh faces the Pavilion Gardens and lake and offers free WiFi. This property is a short distance from attractions such as the Pavilion Arts Centre and Buxton Cinema.

The Westminster Hotel – The Westminster Hotel overlooks the picturesque Pavillion Gardens in central Buxton. It offers charming, family-run accommodation, and many rooms have views of the park and lake.

YHA Ravenstor Hostel – Set within 60 acres of beautiful grounds in the heart of the Peak District, YHA Ravenstor sits high above the River Wye between Bakewell and Buxton. If you have never stayed in a hostel before, check out my guide for newbies for more information on whether hostel stays are for you. They are not for everyone, but I find the low cost gives me more money to spend on activities and attractions.

For booking accommodation, I recommend using Booking.com. This website offers the best-priced accommodation catering to all budgets and styles. Just pop in your requirements and it will give you a list of available accommodation. Perfect for picking out the best hostels, B&B or even some luxury escapes.

Final Thoughts

Whether you prefer the great outdoors or staying close to home, Buxton is the perfect place for your next adventure! From its breathtaking views to its array of activities and amenities, Buxton is jam-packed with fascinating diversions and experiences. Why not explore Buxton’s underground charms on a tour of Poole’s Cavern? Or hike around Grin Low Country Park and immerse yourself in the idyllic British countryside. There’s something for everyone in Buxton, no matter what your tastes may be. So grab your coat and hat or walking boots because you won’t want to miss out on all that this magical little town has to offer!

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

Remember to follow our social media accounts for more travel inspiration and updates. 

Happy travels!

13 Fabulous things to do in Buxton, the heart of the Peak District!
13 Fabulous things to do in Buxton, the heart of the Peak District!

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