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Top 10 places to visit in the East Midlands

The East Midlands in England includes the counties of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire, parts of Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Rutland.

Major cities include Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and Northampton. However, the area also features some of the most beautiful countryside in England with the Peak District National Park and Derbyshire Dales located in these counties.

For those who enjoy the countryside, the area provides opportunities for visitors to go hiking on its many walking trails, visit cosy pubs for a pint or two, admire pretty villages, peruse market towns or even tour the odd stately home. It is no surprise that this is a popular destination for visitors from all over the UK.

I haven’t forgotten the cities and you will find some recommended places to visit in some of the major cities in the East Midlands on my list too!

10 things to do in England East Midlands

Top 10 places to visit in the East Midlands

Visit the Peak District National Park

With so many beautiful towns and villages to visit this part of the world deserves a holiday all of its own. Stay in a cottage and spend days hiking or cycling through the Peak District National Park which stretches across Northern Derbyshire and into the counties of Cheshire, Staffordshire, and Yorkshire. 

As well as some of the towns on this list that are located in the Peak District (Bakewell, Matlock and Cromford) the following are also worth including in your itinerary. 

Eyam is famous as the plague village whose self-imposed quarantine prevented the spread of the Black Death but to the deaths of 260 villagers. Visit the museum in Eyam to learn more.

Edale is located at the start of the famous Pennine Way walking trail. Stretching for over 268 miles the trail ends in Kirk Yetholm near the Scottish border.

If you fancy a slightly shorter walk there are some great day walks from Edale and a couple of pubs serving real ale in the area too. 

Read more | Peak District Travel Guide

A picture of the Peak District with hills covered in moss


The lovely market town of Bakewell is the perfect place to stop off for lunch if you are passing through the area or as a base to explore the Peak District.

Make sure to try a Bakewell Pudding when you are in town. These delicious desserts are tasty with a splash of custard or cream and can be purchased at a number of bakeries in the town.

Explore the shops including (for those of you who enjoy whisky) the Wee Dram with its huge selection of whiskies (a favourite destination of my husband.

If you visit on the last Saturday of the month the farmer’s market is a great place to stock up on homemade produce, meats and other local produce.

Read more | Things to do in Bakewell

A weir with houses and trees in the background

Matlock Bath and the Heights of Abraham

Just on the edge of the Peak District is the Derbyshire town of Matlock Bath. Visitors to this pretty Derbyshire town will find plenty of shops and cafes (fish and chips feature heavily) as well as the popular Heights of Abraham attraction.

Opened in the 1780s the Heights of Abraham can now be reached by cable car. Once at the summit enjoy a guided cavern tour or take a stroll through the woodlands and enjoy views of the surrounding countryside.

If you have young children a visit to Gulliver’s Kingdom is sure to be a hit. The theme park is a perfect destination for families with all the rides designed for children.

Matlock Bath itself was a popular tourist destination in the 19th century when wealthy Victorians would visit the town for the spa waters. 

If you visit at a weekend you will find parking is at a premium as the town is a popular destination with bikers.

Read more | Matlock Bath and the Heights of Abraham

Matlock Bath

Chatsworth House

Home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire the beautiful Chatsworth House and estate is an absolutely fantastic day out for all the family. 

There are lots of events organised throughout the year with the annual Christmas at Chatsworth particularly popular. Each year the house is decorated with a different theme and it is the perfect way to get into the festive spirit.

Don’t miss the beautiful gardens or a visit to the estates’ farm shop before you leave.

If you wish to spend longer exploring the estate and surrounding countryside why not stay in one of the properties owned by the family? 

Read more | Take a virtual tour of Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House Derbyshire

Cromford Mills (UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Richard Arkwright’s cotton mills at Cromford are part of the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

These water-powered cotton mills were essentially the early beginnings of the modern factory system when production of goods moved from homes to factories.

Although Arkwright did provide housing for his workforce he was not quite as benevolent to his workers as Titus Salt in Saltaire a century later.

The visitor centre is excellent and there are guided tours available to learn more about the history of the mills.

A picture of Cromford Mills in Derbyshire which is one of my recommended places to visit in the East Midlands

Tissington Trail

The Tissington Trail in Derbyshire follows the route of the former rail line 13 miles from Buxton to Ashbourne.

Perfect for both walking and cycling this flat trail affords visitors wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. 

There are bicycle hire facilities at either end of the trail and lots of beautiful villages to enjoy en route including Hartington, Parsley Hay and Alsop.

Read more | The Tissington Trail

Tissington trail in Derbyshire

Calke Abbey

Situated near the village of Ticknall in the county of Derbyshire Calke Abbey is a Grade I listed country house and estate looked after by the National Trust.

The house perfectly illustrates the decline of the country estate during the 20th century when more and more families were unable to afford their upkeep (we have all seen Downton Abbey!)

There is always lots to do all year round at Calke Abbey including walks in the parkland (look for the deers), tours and other events.

Read more | Calke Abbey

A picture of Calke Abbey one of my recommended places to visit in the East Midlands

The National Space Centre in Leicester

For a day away from all the culture and history the UK has to offer why not visit the National Space Centre in Leicester?

The space centre is a great day out for all the family with lots to see and do. Don’t miss the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium where you can travel out of the UK and onto the furthest edges of the universe!!

Read more | National Space Centre

King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester

Recently located under a car park in Leicester the remains of King Richard III are now on display in this excellent visitor centre in Leicester. 

Find out about the story of Richard II, his rise to power and violent death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 during the war of the Roses. 

Read more | King Richard III Visitor Centre Leicester

A statue of Richard III in Leicester England

Lincoln Cathedral and Castle

Once the tallest building in the world the gothic Lincoln Cathedral is still one of the most impressive buildings in England.

As you walk around keep an eye out for the famous Lincoln Imp!

One of the remaining copies of the Magna Carta is located at Lincoln Castle. Built in 1068 by William the Conqueror the medieval wall walk provides spectacular views over Lincoln and the surrounding countryside.

If you are feeling fit take a walk (climb) up Steep Hill (officially the 4th steepest street in England) and pop into some of the galleries and tea rooms on your way up.

Parts of the road are very steep (I would be wary of doing it in winter!) but it is worth it to see the old buildings that line the road some of which date back to the 12th/15th and 18th centuries.

Read more | Lincoln Travel Guide

Lincoln Cathedral

Fast Facts – East Midlands

  • WHAT TO READ – Best books to read before you visit the West Midlands
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  • WHAT TO EAT/DRINK – Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Stilton Cheese, Bakewell Tart
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  • PRINCIPLE TRAIN STATIONS – Derby, Leicester, Nottingham, Lincoln
  • Don’t be offended if so you are called “me duck” it is a term of endearment in the East Midlands!

Visiting the East Midlands

Our top 10 places to visit in the East Midlands will have given you some ideas of things to do and see if you are exploring this area of England.

These are my choice of the top 10 and a great starting point but there are lots of things to see and do in the region for visitors of all ages.

Want to explore some of England’s other regions? Head over to my other area guides to England which include the North East, East Midlands, West Midlands, Yorkshire, South West, South East and East of England.

Visiting Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? Check out my top 19 places to visit in Scotland and the top 10 choices to add to your travel itineraries for Wales and Northern Ireland.

Find more inspiration for your travels in my England Travel Guide which includes information about what to see, where to stay, how to get around, travel tips, recommended reading and more to make the most of your trip.