Lucy Thorpe tells us why we need to head out of the city where the air is clear and ale is cask...
Head down the A6 out of Stockport or jump on the train towards Sheffield/Buxton and you’ll hit High Peak - just head for the hills. As more people have ventured out to the countryside during lockdown (So. Many. Walks.) and summer’s coming up, let’s explore the best that the region has to offer.
From cute cafes to country pubs and bars, it’s totally worth the trip
First of all, be prepared for a place that Uber Eats and Deliveroo forgot if you stay over. Unless you want to be the designated driver between locations, it’s best to head out on foot and enjoy some local food, good booze and friendly service. Bring your dogs too as, thanks to the Peak District National Park, 90% of spots are dog-friendly.
From cute cafes to country pubs and bars, it’s totally worth the trip.
Whether you’ve spent the day hiking across hills at Castleton, visiting Chatsworth House or chilling in the rooftop pool at the 5* Buxton Crescent Spa Hotel, here are the best places to eat and drink in High Peak.
Head here for honest, home-cooked food in a gorgeous setting near Combs Reservoir. This rustic, traditional pub is a hit with visitors and locals alike. It’s tucked away location between Chapel-en-the-Frith and Whaley Bridge with beautiful views of the surrounding hills. This feels like what a country pub should be like, especially in winter when the open fires are roaring.
Food-wise, check out the local Combs oatcakes, a Derbyshire speciality, which the pub serves stuffed with either mushrooms, haddock or stilton. The pub classics such as steak and ale pie or gammon (with pineapple ring, naturally) are also present and correct, as well as a good selection of cask ale.
The Beehive Inn, Combs, High Peak, SK23 9UT
If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on The Bridge Bakehouse. Based in Whaley Bridge (yep, the village where the dam almost burst a couple of years ago), there’s no end to the sweet treats on offer. From brownies to custard slices, scones to pavlova and cheesecake to rocky road, it’s all here.
Top tip: try a bouchon – imagine a brownie and chocolate muffin had a baby, and that baby rolled around in cream - it’s far more delicious than that description makes it sound. There’s limited seating and you can expect to queue on weekends - go for a stroll down the canal to work off the calories.
The Bridge Bakehouse, 42a Market Street, Whaley Bridge, SK23 7LP
The Garden at Buxton Brewery is a great spot to grab a pint, some food and watch High Peak go by. Tucked away on an industrial estate with the brewery next door, its garden location has great views over the spa town of Buxton. Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday serving pints, the distillery’s own gin and wines, spirits, soft drinks and cider. Food is provided by a rotating cast of street food vendors from around the Peak District and beyond, serving dishes heralding from Cyprus, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia and Mexico.
The Garden at Buxton Brewery, Staden Lane, Buxton, SK17 9RZ
Like whisky? Hate to be near people? The Cat & Fiddle is for you. It’s in the middle of the hills with amazing views (the height above sea level is perfect for the on-site whisky distillery). Owned by the people behind Forest Gin – who also have a spot in the Macclesfield hills and Buxton Pavilion – this remote pub was rescued following a successful Crowdfunder bid. Forest Whisky was named the Best World Whisky in the Independent Indy100 so it’s not just about getting away from it all either, it’s seriously good stuff.
The Cat & Fiddle, Buxton Rd, Macclesfield SK11 0AR
The Chakra Lounge combines Indian and western dishes for a modern approach to the cafe. Try Punjab-inflected cooked breakfasts with cumin sweet potatoes and masala beans, light bites such as aloo tiki or the tiffin dishes for a real taste of what’s on offer at this little gem. There is also a great selection of hot and cold drinks (rose and cardamom milkshake anyone?) and vegans will certainly be happy they stopped by. It’s a little blast of vibrancy in an otherwise grey high street.
FYI, Buxton has been awarded a much-needed £6.6 million to regenerate the town so expect more food, drink and leisure options popping up here.
The Chakra Lounge, 50 Spring Gardens, Buxton, SK17 6BZ
Nestled in the quiet village of Chinley, The Old Hall Inn combines the look of a traditional country pub with a love for fresh produce and an excellent beer garden. The menu is filled with contemporary dishes from around the world and perfectly executed pub favourites such as whitebait with preserved lemon mayo. The Old Hall Inn’s sister pub, The Paper Mill Inn, is just across the road serving street food, pizza, brunch and loads of beer on draft along with local gins and spirits. It does get busy, especially in good weather, so best to book ahead.
Old Hall Inn/Paper Mill Inn, Whitehough, Chinley, High Peak SK23 6EJ
If you’re a Sunday dinner fiend then The Pack Horse in Hayfieldis the place to head. Hayfield itself is super-quaint, with cobbled streets, old mills and Kinder Scout on the horizon – and the pub is just as traditional inside.
Sunday roasts aside the menu is a modern British treasure trove, with Lindisfarne oysters, North Sea mackerel, venison loin and Yorkshire asparagus among the star ingredients. The kitchen uses local, sustainable and seasonal produce wherever possible, championing British growers and producers.
3-5 Market Street, Hayfield, SK22 2EP
Like a mini version of The Refuge in Manchester, RedWillow in Buxton sits in a converted bank and has been lovingly refurbished to keep its fiscal origins to the forefront (bonus points if you manage to grab a seat in the old vault). It’s a great place to meet for cocktails with a very extensive gin menu. Naturally it stocks a fantastic range of beers from its own brewery just down the road(ish) in Macclesfield.
Red Willow Buxton, 1 Cavendish Circus, Buxton, SK17 6AT
This restaurant and bar located in the Hope Valley features in the Michelin Guide, AA Restaurant Guide (two rosettes), Hardens and the sadly defunct Good Food Guide - but don't just take their word for it. More importantly, it's got the Confidentials Insider's Guide seal of approval. It’s absolutely worth a visit for the great food and hospitality that doesn’t break the bank, with a range of tasting menus as well as three-course set menu featuring featherblade steak, chalk stream trout and caramelised bread and butter pud. You can also stay here so it’s ideal if you’re visiting and want to spend a few days exploring what the area has to offer (or just need to sleep off that pudding).
The Samuel Fox Country Inn, Stretfield Road, Bradwell, S33 9JT
The Shrub Club sits in the old Torr Vale Mill – if dramatic locations are your thing, head to the terrace as it oversees the Torr Ravine, River Goyt and Millennium Bridge (maybe not if you don’t like heights). Easy to get to from New Mills Central station, this bar and restaurant offers bao buns, burgers and brownies (and some other food that doesn't begin with 'B') to soak up the seriously extensive range of cocktails and cask ales.
The Shrub Club, Torr Vale Mill, New Mills, SK22 3HS
This Kettleshulme pub mixes up the old and the new with its village location, old-fashioned bar area and more modern restaurant seating. With a menu featuring fresh ingredients cooked in a specially made Josper oven built in Barcelona, this pub offers a variety of ales, alcohol and fantastic food in a quaint setting between Macclesfield and Whaley Bridge. The hospitality and service here is great, but it's the fresh fish menu, with sustainable seafood treats such a bouillabaisse, Catalan zarzuela or Megrim sole (depending on what's good at the fishmongers) that really make it worth the trip.
The Swan Inn, Macclesfield Road, Kettleshulme, SK23 7QU
Opening hours are more uncertain at the moment due to staff shortages so please call ahead and check social media before you travel.
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