One of the highest towns in England, at over 1000ft (300m) above sea level. Located at the heart of the Peak District National Park, Buxton is one of our oldest and most prestigious spa towns, and is still noted for its therapeutic waters today. The 13th century name for the town is 'Bucstanes', which means "rocking stones".
The Romans first discovered the natural springs here around 78 AD and built the original baths. During medieval times the springs were dedicated to St Ann, and pilgrims hoping for a divine cure left their gifts at her shrine-like well. The waters of Buxton became famous again in the 18th century, and wealthy Victorians capitalised on its geothermal springs, building many of the fine Regency and Victorian buildings still seen today.
The area has around nine natural springs, which produce about a quarter of a million gallons of lukewarm water daily. A bonus is that the clear, pale blue, waters are pleasant to drink, unlike the sulphury spas of Leamington and Bath. St Ann's Well, opposite the Crescent hotel, still pours out its tepid waters to passers by, who usually have no objection in partaking. Partly due to this and partly due to its idyllic location in the Derbyshire hills, Buxton still continues to bring in thousands of tourists. Bottled water can be bought from local shops and the information centre. The waters are also pumped from the natural springs into a modern swimming pool in the Pavilion Gardens.
During the town's therapeutic heyday visitors could experience treatments for gout, rheumatism and heart disease. The current baths stand over the site of the original Roman Bath, which is now part of the shopping arcade.
The main layout of current the town was the creation of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, who was responsible for much of its fine architecture. Which can be seen at its very best in the magnificent dome of the Devonshire Royal Hospital and the sweeping 'Crescent', designed to rival that of fashionable Bath (built by the architect John Carr in 1780).
The arrival of the railway in 1867 sparked a second phase of building, adding the magnificent Pavilion, the beautiful Pavilion Gardens and the splendid Opera House. The Pavilion, contains a large concert hall and a ballroom. The 23 acres of surrounding gardens include a putting green, bowling greens, tennis courts, a boating lake and a children's play area. The River Wye flows through the gardens over little cascades. Tree lined Serpentine Walks continue from the gardens along the river. Behind the Opera House is a Conservatory that overlooks the gardens.
The town originally developed around the Market Place, where there is a ruined market cross. A few old building still stand in the Market Place, including the Eagle Hotel. Other fine local structures in Buxton include the The Square, built over the River Wye, the Church of St John the Baptist, the tiny St Anne's Church just off the High Street and the Old Hall Hotel, built on the site of a house in which Mary Queen of Scots once stayed.
The Buxton Museum and Art Gallery has displays of rocks and fossils, Ashford Marble and Blue John objects, plus an interesting 'micrarium' - a study of nature under the microscope, where you can select specimens for enlargement.
Jane Austin set her popular novel Pride and Prejudice in this area some 200 years ago. Just to the west of the town is Axe Edge, which affords spectacular vistas of the Peak District.
Buxton Country Park, to the south, includes woodland walks, Pooles Cavern (a natural limestone cave with illuminated stalagmites and stalactites) and Solomon's Temple of 1896, a folly with spectacular views.
Britain's first National Park (designated in 1951) is one of the most visited areas in England, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. A perfect area for outdoor pursuits and prime hiking territory, with over 550 sq miles of hills, moorland and farmland. Although the area has no real mountain peaks, is named after the Anglo Saxon Tribe the Pecsaetan (Peak-dweller). The area is so popular that over 1600 miles of trails have been metalled with stone slabs to prevent erosion. Mam Tor at 1695 feet, provides one of the most dramatic viewpoints in the park, a mere 45 minute climb from the car park at its base.