Buxton, Derbyshire – a fleeting visit

I hadn’t been to the north of England for a long time.  In this case it was ‘needs must’ and although my sister and I set off feeling anxious, it turned out to be more like a ‘weekend break’ –  but not at the weekend.

Driving first along the M40 in the direction of Oxford, we were making good time and the sky was clear.  Coming through the gap where the red kites congregate we decided to stop off for coffee at ‘The Leathern Bottle’ pub, which is only five minutes drive off the motorway, offering a welcome respite for half an hour.

At 'The Leathern Bottle'

At ‘The Leathern Bottle’

A tuna sandwich helped us on our way, so we wouldn’t have to stop at a motorway café later on.  Hunkering down, eyes flipping northwards, sometimes with a clear road up ahead,  more often sandwiched between two lorries, we finally hove into Buxton as the night sky turned purple –  a roofscape studded with pinpricks of bright stars. English towns were looking very festive  – Ashbourne with its old traditional houses and sparkling Christmas trees and lights looked like we were driving through a Disney movie.

Christine had chosen well with our small hotel, which looked out over the lakeside in Buxton’s Pavilion Gardens.  No road in front – just a Broad Walk for pedestrians five minutes into the centre of town. Perfect location. I shared my bedroom with a white rabbit.

The Buxton white rabbit

The Buxton white rabbit

Our hotel overlooking Pavilion Gardens, Buxton

View from our hotel overlooking Pavilion Gardens (23 acres), Buxton

Buxton lakeside - Pavilion Gardens

Buxton lakeside – Pavilion Gardens

Buxton - Pavilion Gardens - a tranquil spot

Buxton – Pavilion Gardens – a tranquil spot

The market square (officially the highest in England) was a few minutes away and we had a choice for dinner.  Greek, Italian or Chinese.  The Greek restaurant, Ithaca, looked the most inviting and we chose well.  A simply delicious, authentic meal. The owners/chefs come from Corfu.

It’s so tranquil here – all I hear is the clucking of night birds dreaming – better put on my alarm as we needed to be up early.  A good, long soak in a hot bath and I was ready for the next day, travelling on to Uppermill.

Buxton - countryside with sheep

Buxton – countryside with sheep – taken through car window

It was only an hour’s drive.  We had work to do all day but managed a half hour break in a café called ‘Saint’s’, secreted in a little nook on the edge of the park.  I forgot to take a photo (so hungry) – the high street in Uppermill was looking very picturesque and Christmassy, the people very friendly.

The café is run by several ladies, who are both busy behind the till and also the purveyors/bakers of the most appetising cakes.  It was very hard to choose and if Christine hadn’t been with me I would have greedily had another piece  …  but we had to get on with our task before heading back to beautiful Buxton.

Countryside near Buxton

Countryside near Buxton

Next morning we had time to explore the spa baths, which are being completely revamped and will include a five star hotel. They are built on the site of the original Roman Bath, by St. Ann’s Well, which stands next to the Pump Room. It’s going to be fabulous when finished with the renovated Georgian buildings and will really put Buxton on the map as a place to visit.

We saw the Opera House, the Dome, which is now part of Derby university and nearby a huge, glass and wrought iron window, in the shape of a fan, designed by Joseph Paxton.  It marks the terminus of the railway line. There is a music and literature festival here every summer.

I bought a thick wool blue and yellow scarf in the Cavendish Arcade (housing a bunch of boutiques), as we made our way to the Winter Gardens.

Buxton - the Winter Gardens

Buxton – the Winter Gardens

Buxton - Winter Gardens

Buxton – Winter Gardens

Buxton Winter Gardens - exotic in orange

Buxton Winter Gardens – exotic orange on 17th December!

We took a quick look at the shops and then it was time to take to the road once more.

Buxton - at the chemist's

Buxton – at the chemist’s

Buxton - another impressive building ...

Buxton – another impressive building … a dome but not ‘The Dome’!

Coming home was good except for where vast warehouses, like aircraft hangars,  congregate like a herd of mastodons close to the gordian knots of many motorways.  They apparently store everything for the supermarkets.  The roads rear up like a  bunch of racer snakes – it’s very stressful to choose which one to take and not end up going north instead of south.

We stopped off at a farm in Northamptonshire, which has a very hospitable tea shop and restaurant.  Baked potato with coleslaw – absolutely scrumptious! With a pot of tea. When you are really hungry, food just tastes so much better.

I remember when we were renovating our house almost forty years ago, I sat down after working on it all day, having eaten nothing.  I can still taste the absolute deliciousness of wolfing down a whole baguette with a few glasses of red wine.

Buxton is definitely a place to return to at leisure, I thought, especially when the spa is re-opened.  But for now it was disappearing into the night sky, just like a bubble, as the lights of London were blazing ahead, illuminating the trail home.

Farewell Buxton - we'll be back

Farewell Buxton – we’ll be back

Buxton was once a very rich and celebrated spa town, visited by the great and the good, with grand Georgian architecture and it’s wonderful to see this all being renovated. The Peak District offers a great deal of variety as well, including Chatsworth and the Blue John caverns.  We had too little time to explore properly but what we had seen whetted my appetite for a return visit.

Buxton scarf

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