6 quirky Derbyshire attractions

When deciding on a location for a staycation, I have often travelled south to the seaside.  However, more recently I have gone in search of hills and valleys and have fallen in love with Derbyshire and the Peak District.  Not only does it boast spectacular views and walking trails, it also plays host to some of the quirkiest events (well dressing anyone?) and attractions in the UK……

Well dressings

Throughout the summer months of May to September, Derbyshire is awash with flowers as the annual well dressings take place.  Many of the Peak District’s prettiest towns and villages create large scenes and pictures out of flower petals and display them at old wells. This ancient tradition is being kept alive by locals who create these magnificent displays using natural materials like leaves, moss and flowers.  When the well is fully dressed it is time to party as most villages hold a blessing ceremony followed by a carnival.  We were lucky enough to catch a few and they are seriously impressive!

Bonsall Hen Races

As part of the summer well dressing celebrations, in early August, the local pub in Bonsall holds the annual World Hen Racing Championships, yes you read that correctly!  This free event held at the Barley Mow is now in its 29th year and well worth a visit.  You can bring your own hen or ‘rent’ one and there are loads of fun categories like Best Turned out Hen & Handler, Prettiest Hen and Most well-travelled Hen.  There is usually live music and a BBQ so a great way to spend a day of your holiday, especially with the kids.

Matlock Bath Illuminations

From 9th September until the 28th October, you HAVE to take a trip to the Matlock Bath illuminations.  This event has been running for 120 years and if you get the chance to go, you will see why it is so popular.  Every weekend during the 8 week season, the Matlock Bath Venetian Boat Builders’ Association (a bit of a mouthful!) decorate themed boats with a huge collection of coloured lights, which makes for an impressive parade along the River Derwent.  There is also a spectacular firework display on each Saturday. 

World Toe Wrestling  

The rather bonkers sport of toe wrestling comes to its climax at the annual world championship held in the village of Fenny Bentley. Contestants sit down at a toedium to wrestle or fight with their toes.  I am not normally a fan of feet but this is a wonderfully hilarious sight to behold!

Ashbourne Royal Shrovetide Football

Dating back to the mid-1600s, the Shrovetide football is a bizarre match which takes place on the streets of Ashbourne over two days.  Play starts at 2.00pm and lasts until 10pm but if a goal is scored before 5.30 pm, a new ball is released and play restarts from the town centre, otherwise play ends for the day. The ball can be kicked, carried or thrown but usually it moves through the town in a series of hugs, like a giant scrum in rugby, made up of dozens if not hundreds of people  There aren’t many rules but violence is frowned upon and the ball may not be hidden in a bag, coat, rucksack or car!!  It is wild and wacky but loads of fun!

Blue Lagoon of Buxton

All is not as it seems with this stunning lagoon in Buxton.  Formed by an old quarry, the beautiful turquoise water is actually home to old cars, rubbish and dead animals!  The pH level of the water is not dissimilar to ammonia and bleach leading to swimmers getting skin and eye infections, stomach problems and all sorts of other nasties.  However, this doesn’t seem enough to put people off so in 2013 the local council poured black dye into the water to make it less appealing!  Whilst it worked for a while, the water has now turned blue again but our advice is to look but don’t touch!

Written by Laura Wood

August 2017