Castleton is one of the most beautifully situated villages in the Peak District in Derbyshire. It is at the head of the Hope Valley, sixteen miles from Sheffield and can be approached through the dramatic limestone gorge of Winnats Pass, or from Hope Valley. It is not surprising that it is known as the ‘Gem of the Peaks’. It is surrounded on three sides by steep hills and the mighty Mam Tor looms two miles to the north-west of the village. Castleton is a busy village, very popular with tourists who enjoy the magnificent walking and the host of tea shops, pubs and hotels. It is famed for its world famous caverns – Speedwell Cavern, Peak Cavern and Treak Cliff Cavern.
Speedwell Cavern, at the foot of Winnats Pass, half a mile from Castleton, can only be explored by an underground boat journey along an 800 metre canal. Peak Cavern is at the centre of the village, underneath Peveril Castle. It has the largest natural cave entrance in Great Britain. Treak Cliff Cavern has pretty formations of stalactites and stalagmites. It was opened to the public in 1935 and still mines small amounts of Blue John, a rare mineral, a form of fluorspar. Several shops in the village sell jewellery and souvenirs made from this Blue John mineral.
Castleton obtains its name from Peveril Castle, the ruins of which dominate the village. It was built by William Peveril, the son of William the Conqueror, in 1080, as a wooden structure. It was rebuilt in stone in 1157, under the direction of Henry II. It is in the care of English Heritage and open to the public.
Castleton benefits from several good pubs and hotels. The 18th century lead miners were thirsty and the inns have a long history. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn was a coaching inn and dates from 1660. It started life as a farmstead, but acquired a beer licence in 1748, when it was known as The Wagon and Horses. It became Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Inn in 1847. The name is derived from the custom of the men transporting salt from Cheshire to other parts of England, paying for their accommodation and stabling for the horses, with cheese. The Inn is a traditional family run pub with a cosy atmosphere, offering ten en-suite rooms. The Bulls Head Inn is another family run pub in the centre of the village, with open log fires and provides bed and breakfast accommodation. Close by is a section of the Town Ditch, a defensive earthwork, built around the village by William Peveril. The Peak Hotel advertises itself as, “The Peak District’s Eccentric Alehouse”. There again, it is a cosy pub with open fires, providing good quality en-suite rooms.
St. Edmund’s Church is in the village square. It is a Grade II Listed Building, built by William Peveril in the 12th century. The tower was added between 1450 and 1500. It is built on a mound within the defensive enclosure of Town Ditch. It was not originally intended to be a church, but a garrison chapel for soldiers at the Castle. The Church has a fine Norman arch across the nave, decorated with Norman zig-zag patterns. Every year, Castleton attracts many visitors from November to early January, who come to view the Christmas Lights Festival.