CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Derbyshire Life today CLICK HERE

The Wonder-ful Peak

PUBLISHED: 09:00 13 February 2014

View from Eyam Moor towards Mam Tor  the shivering mountain   Photo: Robert Falconer

View from Eyam Moor towards Mam Tor  the shivering mountain Photo: Robert Falconer

robert falconert

Out and about with Roly Smith

The earliest tourists to visit the Peak District often followed a well-trodden Grand Tour, based on the so-called ‘Seven Wonders of the Peak’. These were natural and man-made attractions used by the earliest visitors to echo the fabled Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

This pioneering listing was largely responsible for putting the Peak on the tourist map, and the Wonders soon became a fashionable itinerary, like the Grand Tours of Europe then being taken by the well-to-do.

The first listing of the legendary Wonders of the Peak appears to have been made by William Camden, the 16th century antiquarian and historian, in his Britannia, a history of Britain published in 1586. In fact he described nine ‘wonders’, but appears to have dismissed all but three as deserving of the name:

Nine things that please us at the Peak 
we see;

A Cave, a Den, a Hole, the Wonder be.

The cave was Peak Cavern (then and again more recently known as the Devil’s Arse) at Castleton; the den was Poole’s Cavern, home of the medieval outlaw Poole at Buxton, and the hole was the gaping open pothole of Eldon Hole, on the slopes of Eldon Hill near Peak Forest.

The first writer to list the classic seven Wonders was the Warwickshire-born poet Michael Drayton, in his Poly-Olbion, published in 1622. Drayton added Sandi Hill (Mam Tor, the so-called Shivering Mountain near Castleton); the medieval Royal Forest of the Peak, and the Ebbing and Flowing Well (at Tideswell, or possibly Barmoor Clough) to Camden’s Peak Cavern at Castleton; Chatsworth; possibly Peveril Castle at Castleton, and St Ann’s Well at Buxton.

The first real tourist guidebook to the Peak was written by Thomas Hobbes, the famous philosopher and tutor to the Cavendish children at Chatsworth. His De Mirabilibus Pecci: Concerning the Wonders of the Peak in Darby-shire was first published in long-winded Latin verse in 1636, and in it he listed seven ‘wonders’ which he had visited during a two-day ride. He described how:

Of the High Peak are seven wonders writ,

Two fonts, two caves, one palace, mount and pit.

Hobbes’s Wonders were two fountains (St Ann’s Well in Buxton and the Ebbing and Flowing Well); two caves (Poole’s Cavern and Peak Cavern); a palace (Chatsworth); a mountain (Mam Tor), and a pit (Eldon Hole).

The wonders were written in English for the first time in 1682 by Charles Cotton, the impecunious squire of Beresford Hall in Dovedale, co-author with Izaak Walton of the anglers’ bible, The Compleat Angler.

Daniel Defoe, the satirical journalist and political commentator best known for his novel Robinson Crusoe, toured the Peak in the early 18th century. But he cynically debunked Hobbes’ and Cotton’s ‘Wonders’, concluding that only Eldon Hole and Chatsworth – ‘one a wonder of nature, the other of art’ – were worthy of the name.

Modern wonders might include such features such as Kinder Downfall, Lud’s Church and Arbor Low and The Millennium Walkway at New Mills. What do you think?

Roly Smith’s AA Leisure Guide to the Peak District is due to be published in the spring.


More from Out & About

Nigel Powlson visits Sudbury where a shopping courtyard is attracting even more visitors to this quintessential English village

Read more

If you’re walking in the Peak District, the chances are that you could encounter a reservoir at some point during your ramble. There are dozens of resevoirs dotted around all corners of the national park, we pick some of our favourite walks from our archive.

Read more
Peak District

A five-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme, launched in 2010, was designed to encourage the restoration and conservation of the distinctive landscape character of a large area of north-east Derbyshire.

Read more

Enjoy the wonder of woodland in our glorious Derwent Valley on this park and ride special.

Read more

Paul Hobson reveals some of the fascinating wildlife there is to be found in this month of transition

Read more

From far away constellations to gas clouds, our night skies are bursting with natural wonders – if you know where to look... Viv Micklefield goes stargazing in Derbyshire

Read more

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust works across six Living Landscapes with 46 nature reserves to ensure there is wildlife and wild places for everyone. Reserve officer Sam Willis tells us about one of his favourite places – Ladybower Wood Nature Reserve

Read more

A multi-million pound makeover attracts more leading brands to one of the UK’s biggest shopping destinations

Read more

The first ever National GetOutside Day takes place on Sunday 30 September with the aim of getting 1 million people active outdoors across the UK.

Read more

Derby’s QUAD arts centre has become an important part of the city’s identity over the last decade and it celebrates its impact on the cultural landscape at its 10th anniversary this September

Read more

Interesting architecture, characterful places to shop, drink and dine and a hub of arts, heritage and history are some of the reasons to plan a visit to the town.

Read more

Peter Seddon celebrates the county’s red telephone kiosks

Read more

Ad Feature: Students at Trent College celebrate another year of success

Friday, September 14, 2018

The overall pass rate for A-Levels this year was 99%

Read more

As the starting point of numerous routes, scenic Edale is one of the country’s iconic base camps for hill walkers

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Topics of Interest

Local Business Directory

Property Search