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The largest and only town in the Peak District, famous for its puddings

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Bakewell is the largest and only town within the Peak District National Park. It's known as the capital of the Derbyshire Dales.
The town has a long history, dating back over a thousand years to Anglo-Saxon times. However, despite all that time, it's most famous for its Bakewell Puddings. Don't confuse these with Mr. Kipling's Bakewell Tarts, which are quite different! The pudding was invented by accident - like penicillin, though much more flavoursome. In the year 1820, an apprentice chef made all sorts of mistakes that ended up tasting quite good! While it's certainly accepted that these lovely desserts were invented here in Bakewell, no-one can quite agree on who came up with the original recipe. The town centre contains more than one bakery claiming that particular accolade, but since there's no real way of telling who's right, you might as well just get stuck in. Many of the bakeries have a nice traditional feel, with creaky floorboards and old decorations.
Of course, you don't have to be hungry to visit the town. It's an attractive little town next to the River Wye, with pretty buildings and scenery. The local landmark is the 13th century bridge, with its 5 gothic arches. Photographs of the bridge and river feature prominently on the Peak District's postcards and calendars.
Another pretty spot is the Bath Gardens, which is on the site of an old bathhouse. When mineral water was discovered here several centuries ago, a plan emerged to turn Bakewell into a spa resort, much like the nearby town of Buxton. This endeavour never really took off, but the gardens are still worth a visit.
While you might not be able to bathe in any of Bakewell's mineral water, but you can at least try drinking some of it. Two of the town's wells are still functioning, bringing up iron-rich and nourishing water at a tepid 15 degrees Celsius.
One building that's even older than the wells and the bathhouse is Bakewell's parish church. It was first founded in 920, giving it a history over a thousand years long. Admittedly, the present building dates largely from a relatively recent 19th century rebuilding project, but there are still some interesting historical details.
More of the town's history is retold at the Old House Museum, just next to the church. You probably won't be shocked to discover that this museum is inside of an old house. In fact, it's one of Bakewell's oldest, dating from the year 1534. The displays include a toy room, a costume collection, and Bakewell's earliest indoor toilet!
Another important part of the town's history is its long-running market, but you don't need to go to a museum to see it. It was started over 700 years ago, and it still happens, every Monday. A revamped town centre, stuffed with attractive shops and restaurants, surrounds the market.
Bakewell makes for a convenient base, from which you can explore the Peak District. This National Park is a hiker's paradise, and the good walks start before you've even left town, alongside the River Wye. Once you leave the houses behind, you can choose to follow the river, to explore the fields and hills, or to aim for some rockier and more adventurous terrain. If you fancy aiming for a nearby village, you won't have trouble finding one. Bakewell is also within striking distance of farmyards, cotton mills, and several gigantic stately homes.
The area perfectly evokes the familiar, traditional images of England, and its countryside. The sights of the Peak District even inspired Jane Austen, as she was writing Pride and Prejudice. In fact, she liked the town of Bakewell so much that she snuck it into her story renaming it "Lambton".
Visitor Information
Bakewell Tourist Information Centre, Old Market Hall, Bridge Street, Bakewell, DE4 1DS. Tel: 01629 813227
Bakewell Open House Museum is open daily, April to October, 11am to 4pm. Entry costs around £3 for adults, £1.50 children. Cunningham Place, Off North Church Street, Bakewell.  DE45 1DD. Tel: 01629 813642

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