Few feelings beat the thrill of slinging your bags in the boot and hitting the open road. We’re celebrating our long-awaited freedom with an off-grid road trip across the Peak District, sidestepping tourist hotspots in favour of hidden-gem stays and locavore menus, interspersed with under-the-radar hikes and horseback treks.
Our preferred set of wheels? The Volvo XC60 Recharge, the low-emission, plug-in hybrid SUV that’s as dynamic as this itinerary and polishes your eco halo. Better still, tackling the national park’s bends is a doddle thanks to innovative driver-assist technology – think steering assist and brake support – while real-time traffic information helps you plan your journey. It’s about making life less complicated; there’s no such thing as an unexpected U-turn with this ride.
Summer 2020 may have seemed like a write-off, but cancel culture is just not the way we roll. Pack your bags, curate a playlist (this car has concert-worthy Bowers & Wilkins speakers) and get this show on the road.
Day One: Ewden Valley
Welcome to the Dark Peak. An expanse of brooding moors carved by pastured valleys, gritstone escarpments and reservoirs, this lesser-trodden corner of the northern Peak District sets a soul-stirring tone for an adventure. Begin your journey in Holmfirth; this is twee, Last of the Summer Wine territory and the antithesis to the imposing, steep drive over Holme Moss. Pause to admire the summit, crank open the panoramic sunroof and descend through Woodhead Reservoir – stay-on-the-road technology will make sure you always feel safe and in control. Stop at polka-dot-fronted Bank View Café before reaching Broomhead Farm, an isolated B&B and your launchpad for walks across the wildlife-rich Wharncliffe Crags to Wantley Dragon. The customisable, Scandi-style XC60 transitions smoothly between wilderness and city, so we’re nipping to buzzy Kelham Island to knock elbows with Sheffield’s cool crowd over dinner at Jöro.
Day Two: Beyond Bakewell…
Stanage Edge is a small but superb detour on the route south; rock climbers will be in their element here, though we’ll stick with getting snap happy. Low battery? No worries; the XC60 effortlessly charges your smartphone with its wireless charger. Continue through historic Eyam village to Bakewell to wander along the River Wye, peruse markets and devour the town’s namesake pudding – no sticky fingers on the soft Nappa leather seats, please. Looping up to the Chatsworth Estate, you may think you’ve driven into a romantic painting. Once frequented by Fred Astaire and JFK, this country pile is all sprawling parkland and garden-to-plate cafés, though we recommend stocking up at the farm shop and retreating to the secluded, self-catered Gardener’s Cottage. Dinner out? Try Fisher’s at Baslow Hall, the Peak District’s only Michelin-starred restaurant. Going off-grid needn’t mean forgoing luxury.
Day Three: Lud’s Church
For the final leg, head west to the mythical, mossy chasm of Lud’s Church, diverting to gawp at Monsal Head (you’ll need all-wheel drive here). Buxton is nearby, but we say skip it in favour of horseback rides from Northfield Farm and wild swims in Rudyard Lake – check in to the waterside Cool Cabin for a rustic-chic stay. Stock up on craft brews for future picnics at Wincle Beer Company before refuelling with farm-to-fork fare at Old Hall Inn. If you’re a bon vivant who doesn’t mind a longer drive – and frankly, who would say no in the XC60 – make a beeline for Matlock (in the knowledge of minimal emissions and maximum safety), where thermal springs, independent shops and top-notch food are de rigueur. The Cock Inn is our dinner spot of choice. A boutique yurt at Scaldersitch Farm marks the end of your journey; it’s on the cusp of Parsley Hay Dark Sky Reserve, so clamber into a wood-fired hot tub and clink glasses under the stars.
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