Information about Winster in the Derbyshire Dales
for residents and visitors
Winster is within striking distance of attractions and events in all parts of Derbyshire, and many parts of Nottinghamshire, South and West Yorkshire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and Leicestershire. That makes for plenty of choice, but it poses a real problem in trying to gather information.
This site doesn't pretend to be comprehensive, but tries to provide some help. It is a listing of database sites that I have come across, and details of attractions that I have heard about or visited.
Corrections and comments welcome - Send us an email
WhereCanWeGo.com is a searchable database of attractions and events - enter postcode (eg DE4 2DS) for attractions/events near Winster. Whilst it does emphasise paid-for entries, it lists basic information for free, and seems to have quite an extensive list of events.
"Derbyshire -The Peak District" - a poor What's On search system, but a reasonable database of events is hidden in there somewhere.
Beware that if you search by date (the best option, as their search-by-area can produce odd results), a good proportion of events offered will actually not be happening on your chosen date - if someone lists an event on two separate occasions several months apart, the system assumes it happens every day in between. For a publicly-funded site this is rather poor.
An independent (non-profit) site, derbyshire-peakdistrict.co.uk, has a useful diary feature (and some useful details of attractions).
Peak District National Park - the official site; quite useful
Buxton Online - useful events listing
Derby - mostly city-centre. Fairly basic - no events listing
Chatsworth House - one of Britain's most magnificent stateley homes. Farmyard and Adventure Playground strongly recommended for those with children. Garden is a major attraction in its own right (separate ticket available or as addon to house ticket); the cascade ("England's best Water Feature") makes it especially good on hot days.
Haddon Hall - One of the finest Medieval and Tudor Houses in England
Tramway Museum, Crich - large collection of trams, with trams running along a cobbled street with rebuilt historic buildings
There are four sets of Caverns in Castleton.
Heights of Abraham, Matlock Bath - reached by cable car from near the station in Matlock Bath: cable car good, two show cave systems with decent (and reasonably different) guided tours, a nice cafe, a "Prospect Tower" to climb for views, two children's playgrounds - but that's about it. Good for two or three hours on a fine day - you're unlikely to stay much longer unless you have young children. In that context, relatively expensive.
Working Windmill at Nether Heage (near Ripley) - an interesting mill very well presented; quite close to a lot of urbanisation in one direction, but good views back towards the Peak District.
Boundary Stones around the parish of Middleton and Smerrill (between Elton and Youlgrave) known as the "Stones of Meaning". A Millennium project that has provided 17 differently sculpted marker stones around the boundary of the parish. The website tells you about each stone and where it is.
Peak Rail - rather short steam line: Matlock - Darley Dale - Rowsley South. A public footpath runs parallel to the line (on the A6 side of the line) between Darley Dale and Rowsley South stations (via Churchtown level crossing) offering a good viewpoint for young children when the trains are running. There is a decent chidren's playground in Whitworth Park next to Darley Dale station.
Cromford - home of the Industrial Revolution. Cromford Mill was the world's first modern factory, where Richard Arkwright introduced technical and social ideas never tried before. Whilst some of the mill buildings survive, there is precious little of the machinery left and the casual visitor can find it all a bit underwhelming. It is the story of how it came about that brings it alive - for the typical visitor (like me), a guided tour (of mill and/or village) is well worthwhile.
If you are looking for a bit of exercise as well, try the canalside walk from Cromford to Whatstandwell (ice-creams sometimes available at High Peak Junction, roughly midway), returning by train or bus (or vice versa).
Ashbourne - pleasant market town - several antique shops but without any particular attractions aside from the Shrovetide football match on Shrove Tuesday and the following day (when the town pretty much closes down). Excellent Fish and Chips at the Market Cafe (eat in or take away) - Mon-Sat all year, Sundays in summer only.
Bakewell - attractively set market town, but more self-consciously a tourist destination than Ashbourne - a lot of shops designed to tap the seemingly large number of visitors who find themselves drifting around the town wondering why they came. Attractive Parish Church in a commanding position. Plenty of opportunity to buy Bakewell Puddings - soggier than Bakewell Tarts (which the town seems to disown). Market on Mondays (Tuesdays when Monday is a Bank Holiday) - traffic heavy.
Sudbury Hall - about 45 minutes from Winster, via Ashbourne - is a National Trust house with a "Museum of Childhood" attached. The house is pretty standard NT fare (amazing relief plasterwork on walls and ceilings). Gardens pleasant enough (nice lake - good place for a picnic on a hot day). And there is the Museum of Childhood. It has has £1.9m of National Lottery money and although it is hard to see where the money has gone, it has "Lottery Funded" written all over it. Very smart, but some might think it a triumph of style over substance. There are some nice toys from the Betty Cadbury collection (interesting for adults more than kids) but otherwise it seems a rather cursory trot through the other aspects of "childhood". Kids in particular might find it disappointing.
Nottingham is an easy day-trip; take the A6 to Ambergate, then A610 for Nottingham. The easiest way into the centre (but not always the quickest) is to pick up the tram at Phoenix Park (just off A610, about 3m beyond the M1 - follow the Park+Tram signs). The City Council produce a map of how to get into Nottingham (including Park+Tram locations) a useful (if rather gaudy) map of central Nottingham.
Museums in and around Nottingham - including Natural History Museum at Woollaton Park, Newstead Abbey, Castle Museum, Green's Mill (windmill with science activiites and under-5's discovery zone).
Galleries of Justice - excellent Nottingham museum on theme of the law, crime & punishment. Separate sections cover Police work (old and newish), and the judicial and punishment systems in the 18th/19th century days when the building was Nottingham's gaol. Buy tickets separately or for both (in which case you can visit the two parts on separate visits). Actors playing gaolers in the "Crime & Punishment are a little fruity with their language, which might bother the very proper - but it's all great fun, and gives a vivid insight into the conditions of the day.
Other parts of Nottinghamshire
Making It! - a "hands-on" technology centre in Mansfield, looking at how manufactured items are designed and made. Ideal age range probably from bright 7-year-old to about 12. Admission price may appear a bit steep, but includes making your own mechanised object.
Sherwood Pines Forest Park - large woodland area with bike trails
The Workhouse, Southwell (National Trust) - large historic workhouse open for visitor tours. Visitors are given an individual audio guide, which makes for a slightly solitary experience. Building is mostly unfurnished, so less impressive for younger visitors.
Newark Air Museum - "Newark Air Museum is located on the former World War Two airfield of Winthorpe in eastern Nottinghamshire. Its diverse collection of 70 aircraft and cockpit sections cover the history of aviation. Small artefact displays, large under cover display areas, large shop and cafe."
Nottingham Playhouse - a "producing" theatre with a good track record of excellent theatre - at pretty good prices. Rather well hidden (so you won't see it unless you are looking for it) but plenty of car parking nearby. Attractive deli-style snack bar and a peaceful square nearby.
Potteries Museum in Stoke
Gladstone Working Pottery Museum also in Stoke
Waterworld in Stoke - "fun" pool complex, with lots of rides. Good fun for those confident in the water. Rather odd opening times, and queues for slides can be long.
Drayton Manor "family" theme park
Alton Towers theme park
Destination Sheffield is a general site.
For events, see Sheffield Community Information - (but be prepared to scroll down past a lot of general stuff; specific events tend to come at the end)
Bishop's House Museum - Timber-framed building housing exhibition of 16th century life, near A61 on south of Sheffield - free entry
Magna - Hands-On science centre housed in an enormous former steel mill. Fairly expensive (family £28 as of Nov 2005) and too many exhibits not working when I last visited, but still a good place to go. Technically in Rotherham, but actually only just the other side of the M1, a mile or two from Sheffield's Meadowhall Centre
No special information sources - try the Yorkshire Visitor website which has a searchable database of events and a list of attractions.
Royal Armouries - free admission to an impressive museum covering every aspect of arms and armour - more interesting, and less war-glorifying, than one might expect. Occasional jousting in a dedicated Tilt Yard.
Leeds - Thackray Museum - a well-reviewed museum opened in 1997; medial history is the core, with "life in Victorian Leeds" as a secondary theme.
Abbey House Musem - recreation of three Victorian Streets; galleries on clothing, children's toys and history of nearby Kirkstall Abbey. Extensively refurbished in 2000
West Yorkshire Playhouse - lively "producing" theatre
Elsecar Heritage Centre - combination of craft workshops and science centre
National Coal Mining Museum - near Wakefield. Free admission!
Museum of South Yorkshire Life near Doncaster - closed to end of 2006
Yorkshire Sculpture Park - about 20 minutes north of Meadowhall Centre. Indoor galleries, plus large parkland with sculptures dotted around.
Mr Straw's House in Worksop - fascinating house unchanged since the 1930's, preserved by the National Trust
Leicester Active - events guide
Snibston Discovery Park - excellent museum with hands-on science on former coal-mine site. Some exhibits outdoors. Good "surface" tour of mine buildings (you don't get to go underground but interesting nonetheless).
National Space Centre - A full-day destination, covering space and astronomy in a very approachable way. The University of Leicester helped set this up, and it shows - whilst there is plenty of "hands-on" activity, there is a lot of well-presented depth here too. Enormous rockets (in a very strange bulbous tower), and an impressive multimedia theatre too. Quite expensive, but well worth visiting.
Conkers "Hands on Experience in the National Forest " - "a unique mix of indoor and outdoor hands on experiences which keep visitors engaged for hours. "
Ashby de la Zouch Castle - "One of the most impressive medieval castles in the Midlands"
Great Central Railway - steam railway running from outskirts of Loughborough to outskirts of Leicester - "Britain's only mainline steam railway"
Twycross Zoo - "the Leading Primate Zoo in the Country"
Manchester City Council's Visitor Centre has listings of attractions and an "Events by month" link (on the right-hand side of the page)
Manchester Online - it's all there somewhere: a very comprehensive site, but hard to find exactly what you want
Manchester Science Museum - a very good hands-on section (particularly good for kids, but interesting for adults too). Comprehensive collections of textile machinery and steam engines (static and locomotives). Visit the world's oldest railway station. Five minutes' walk from Deansgate station (some direct trains from Buxton, or change at Piccadilly). Free admission.
Manchester Museum - gives a somewhat learned impression from the website (it is part of the Univerisity)
Lowry Centre - galleries and theatres in Salford
Imperial War Museum North - also in Slaford: about war in its widest sense, not just the hardware of conflict.
Stockport Museum - a small (but recently revamped) museum.
Jodrell Bank Space Centre. Home of Manchester University's radio telescope. Also an Arboretum - which doesn't seem terribly relevant!
Quarry Bank Mill - restored cotton mill with working steam engines, demonstrations and explanations. Separate Apprentice House with guided tours. Run by a trust, but owned by NT - basic entrance is free for NT members. Occasionally closed (eg for filming) - worth checking before you travel.
Little Moreton Hall - "Britain's most famous and arguably finest timber-framed moated manor house." - National Trust
Stapley Water Gardens - Garden Centre specialising in water
Birmingham and West Midlands Attractions
Black Country Living Museum - excellent open-air museum with reconstructed buildings, and demonstrations of artisan skills
Warwick Castle - run by the Tussauds group, so very slick (and fairly expensive)
Museum of the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham - a family-run workshop as it was left when the family retired in the 1980's (but hardly changed since the 1930's). Guided tours only (book ahead to be sure), taking about an hour: fascinating both as an insight into jewellery-making and as a bit of social history.
Sealife Centre in Birmingham - one of many around Europe run by the same organisation. Quite expensive: in Aug 2012, walk-up prices were £18 adult, £14.40 child (age 3-14) and £56.40 per family - but there are savings if you book online (eg £10 adult for 3-5pm).
Wales is a fair trek from Winster - but one interesting day out (if you have the stamina) is to drive to Crewe (about 70 by car minutes via Buxton and Congleton) and from there to take a circular train tour of Mid and North Wales including a ride on the Ffestiniog Railway.
It makes for a long day, but covers some brilliant scenery, and it is not as expensive as you might imagine, especially for a family or those with senior railcards. The tour itself starts at Chester, but there are plenty of trains between Crewe and Chester - and it is easier (and cheaper) to park in Crewe. An excellent website has details of timetables and fares.
If you don't want quite such a marathon, then the National Trust's excellent property at Erddig is under 2 hours from Winster, just into Wales near Wrexham.
There's no use pretending - Winster is not exactly close to the seaside. The nearest coast (in terms of driving time) is at Southport or Blackpool on the West Coast, and Hornsea on the East Coast - in each case about 2 hours 15 minutes' drive away from Winster. If you are willing to drive for up to three hours, that will take you along the North Wales coast as far as Colwyn Bay, or anywhere on the East Coast from Sunderland down to Boston in Lincolnshire. Skegness is perhaps the most common target from around here at about 2 hours 40 minutes.