This elegant Georgian town is less than an hours journey from the cities of Manchester, Sheffield, Stoke on Trent and Derby and an hour and a half from Nottingham. Set 1000 feet above sea level amidst the dramatic Peak District landscape, Buxton has been a popular holiday resort for centuries, blessed with stunning scenery, magnificent architecture, a wealth of shops, a thriving arts scene and its world-famous spa water.
Buxton is the largest town in the Peak District & lies on the divide between the limestone White Peak & the gritstone of the Dark Peak. The Romans name for Buxton was Aquae Arnemetiae – The Spa of the Goddess of the Grove. The water is famous for its purity & rejuvenating properties & you can fill your bottle up from the spring which still bubbles up, opposite the Tourist Information Centre near to the Colonnade.
Buxton Country Park
Poole’s Cavern lies to the south-west of Buxton centre, below Grin Low and Grin Low woods. The whole area is a country park in the care of Buxton Civic Association.
The cavern was formed by the action of the river Wye, which rises on Axe Edge (The name ‘Axe’ is derived from the old English word Isca, which is also where the word ‘whisky’ come from).
The cavern gains its name from ‘The robber Poole’, who is reputed to have lived in the cave in the 15th century. However, the cave has been used by Man since Neolithic times and archaeological digs have revealed Stone Age tools and artefacts, Bronze Age pottery and a wealth of Roman material. It seems that at one time in the Roman period the cave was used as a workshop by a craftsman who made bronze brooches and other metal items. Many Roman coins and pottery were also found.
The cavern has attracted visitors for hundreds of years, and there is a local tradition that Mary Queen of Scots came to visit on one of her trips to take the waters at Buxton during her imprisonment at Chatsworth.
The top of Grin Low, which once had a Bronze Age tumulus, is now capped by Solomon’s Temple, a folly built in 1895 by public subscription to provide work for the local jobless. It makes a fine viewpoint.
The Cavern is open to visitors from mid-February – end of October from 10.00 – 5.00 daily. Adult £7.00, Child £4.00, Concessions £5.50 and Family ticket £20. Entry to the country park is free. 01298 73563.
In the late 18th century Buxton followed the fashion of Bath and other centres and was developed as a spa by the great local landowner, the 5th Duke of Devonshire. At the time, he was making vast profits from his copper mines at nearby Ecton in the Manifold valley, and these are reputed to have paid for his building work in Buxton.
The most famous building of the time is The Crescent, consciously modelled on that of Bath. It was built for the Duke between 1780 and 1784 by John Carr, out of locally quarried gritstone, and included a ballroom and an Assembly Room as well as a town house for the Duke and shops along the ground floor.
Above it, on the west side, he built a fine circular set of stables, which the 6th Duke gave to charity in 1859 to be converted into the Devonshire Royal Hospital. The architect, Henry Curry, covered the circular exercise area in the centre of the stables with a huge iron-framed dome covered in slate. Until recently this was the largest unsupported dome in the world.
The hospital has recently closed and the building has been sold to the University of Derby, to be used as the centrepiece of their new Buxton campus.
Next door to The Crescent are the former Thermal Baths (built 1851-3), now the Tourist Information Centre, and then the Old Hall Hotel – once the town house of Bess of Hardwick and her husband the Earl of Shrewsbury, the jailers of Mary Queen of Scots. This is where she stayed when she visited Buxton, though the building has been much altered since.
Buxton Museum is housed in the buildings of the former Peak Hotel, almost opposite the Town Hall. It is small but well worth a visit.
It is an excellent place from which to begin to appreciate the landscape and history of the Peak. Upstairs there is the Peak District display, which deservedly won a ‘Museum of the Year’ award in 1990 – this is an excellent show which illustrates how the landscape of the Peak District developed, and the animals and people who lived here in ancient times.
Also upstairs is an art gallery used for regular exhibitions of work by local artists, while downstairs there are a range of important geological and historical finds (such as the Boyd-Dawkins material), but displayed in the familiar musty cases of traditional museums.
The museum is opposite the Town Hall in Higher Buxton.
Buxton Opera House
Designed by Frank Matcham in grand Edwardian style, was completed in 1905. Following a period when it had fallen into disuse, it was lovingly restored in 1979, and re-opened as an opera house. In the same year the Buxton International Festival of Music and Arts was born, which has developed into one of this country’s largest opera-based festival.
Tel. 0845 12 72190
The Opera House stands in 23 acres of ornamental gardens in the heart of Buxton. Laid out in 1871 by Edward Milner, with money donated by the Duke of Devonshire the Pavilion Gardens are a pleasant place to wander.