Things to Do
Buxton lies 300 metres above sea level and is the only spa town in the Peak District, famed for its natural thermal spring water. Buxton’s hot waters have been enjoyed since the Roman era, who set up a small bath town called Aquae Arnemetiae, located in present-day Buxton. Buxton was later turned into a Spa-town in the 18th century with the building of Buxton Crescent spa, and many other luxurious Georgian-styled buildings that still define the town today. It is the architecture that makes Buxton such an important Peak District destination; from the Victorian grade-II listed buildings that populate the town’s Pavilion Gardens, to the Georgian bathhouse-turned-shopping centre Cavendish Arcade.
The Peak District scenery seeps through the town of Buxton, with two veins of the River Wye flowing through the Pavilion Gardens, Buxton’s pleasure gardens, which is full of wildlife and greenery. Buxton country park also brings wilderness to the town, with dense woodlands and perfect hillsides to climb.
Allegedly the highest-above-sea-level town in England, Buxton is also defined by its hilly streets and rainy micro-climate, so bare that in mind before visiting. However, these town characteristics are worth weathering for the wide variety of things to do.
The Cavendish Arcade- Found in the same building that once housed the original thermal baths of Buxton, the Cavendish Arcade must be one of the most stunning places to shop in the Peak District! With the original bath house tiling still exposed and the baths still visible through glass windows on the floors, the Cavendish Arcade truly retains the glory of its original Georgian architecture.
Having been a shopping mall since the 1980s, Cavendish Arcade has built up a reputation for delivering Buxton with the very best in independent shops, and currently houses boutiques, furniture shops, chocolatiers, jewellers, and soap and candle sellers, amalgamated with high-end restaurants and bars.
The Pavilion Gardens – Buxton’s own pleasure garden is not to be missed, with 23-acres of flourishing, and exquisitely landscaped garden space, the Pavilion Gardens is the perfect setting for a tranquil day out. Two veins of the River Wye flow gently through the gardens and run into the man-made lakes that decorate the park, which are full of wildlife. To the north side of the park lies a collection of Victorian buildings, each of which are grade-II listed with some dating back to the 1870s. The main building, made of glass and cast-iron, is currently home to a café and a large green house, featuring fish and tropical plants. Next door is the Buxton Opera House, where the Buxton Festival is held annually. Other Victorian buildings include the Pavilion Arts Centre and the Octagon Concert Hall- where the Beatles played in 1963.
Poole’s Cavern & Country Park – Located in Buxton, Poole’s country park delivers in more ways than one. The park itself not only offers the chance to walk through amazing woodlands, teeming with wild birds and mammals, but also features lofty hillsides to climb. Including Grin Hill, which is complete with a viewing tower, offers spectacular views within a 15-mile radius.
The Cavern itself is rich with history spanning from as early as the Bronze age, making this a highly educational excursion. Tours typically last around 45 minutes and informatively lead you through the historical stages of the cavern, from prehistoric to Roman era uses, and even the alleged visit by Mary Queen of Scots! The main chamber is lit spectacularly by contemporary LED lights, and exposes visitors both to its alluring rock formations and its gargantuan scale- to the the point where you can’t believe you are still underground!
Buxton Crescent Heritage Experience – Immerse yourself in the rich spa heritage of Buxton, with a tour of the recently restored crescent, natural baths, and pump room, and bath houses. The Crescent was built in 1789 at the request of, then-lord of Chatsworth House, William Cavendish, to establish Buxton as a luxurious, Georgian-spa town. The crescent contained natural mineral baths, thermal baths, and a hotel, with the pump room situated in the forecourt of the crescent.
As of 2020, Buxton Crescent is still under redevelopment construction, however, you can still catch glimpses of its stunning Georgian architecture through the scaffolding. A date for when the project is to be completed is yet to be announced.
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery – Learn all about the Peak District and the important role the region has played to geological, archaeological, and historical research. With a focus on the history of the landscapes that have come to define the Peak District, see how Buxton and greater Derbyshire has evolved over time, from the Roman age to present day. With opportunities for dressing up, alongside fun interactive exhibitions, the Buxton Museum is sure to keep the whole family engaged.
The art gallery contains two permanent exhibitions, the first being a photography collection that captures, in great detail, the changing face of Buxton over the years. The second evergreen exhibition contains a selection of fine art from the 19th through to the 20th centuries and features the work of many European artists such as Edgar Chahine and Frank Brangwyn. The gallery also features two temporary exhibitions that change regularly.