The spa town of Buxton is nestled in the rolling hills of the Derbyshire hills, with elegant Georgian terraces and Victorian-era architecture. Its natural hot springs have long attracted visitors who believe in the unique healing properties of the water, from the ancient Romans to current pilgrims.
At 1030 feet above sea level, Buxton holds the honour of being the highest market town in Britain. However, due to the high altitude, the town is occasionally affected by inclement weather. Residents of the town often experience a combination of rain, wind, and snow. Meanwhile, in the temperate valleys of the Peak District a few miles away, everything was mild and the weather was clear.
This extreme weather difference is best illustrated by the cancellation of a cricket match between Derby County and Lancashire in 1975 due to snow. At such heights, the benefit of the increased likelihood of a snowstorm is debatable, and that is the possibility of producing enviable Instagram photos. Buxton is picturesque in winter, and the heavy snow has made the Victorian rooftops a little more rustic.
Strolling through the cobbled streets of the city centre, you’ll see the twin domes of Buxton Opera House (Water Street), which when covered in a thin layer of snow, looks a lot like a painting. First opened in 1903, the theatre is a fine example of Edwardian architecture. The Buxton Opera House hosts hundreds of shows each year, from cabaret to classical musicians, and its interior, designed by Frank Matcham, is one of the town’s most valuable assets.
The Devonshire Dome (1 Devonshire Road) sounds like the name of a delicious dessert, another cherished opal that, like the Opera House, is all the more enchanting after a dusting falls on a lightly fluttering snow. The Devon Dome is wider in diameter than St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and it has the reputation of being the largest unbraced dome in Britain. Built by the 5th Duke of Devonshire in 1779, this is an impressive Grade II listed building that is now used as a private event space.
Situated under a domed structure, Devonshire Spa is a luxury commercial day spa and wellness centre offering clients a range of wellness facilities including a spa pool, essence-filled sauna and candlelit relaxation lounge. Seasonal treatments can be designed to suit the body’s constant changes, and Caudalie Divine massage is a popular year-round option.
Another place to heal and rejuvenate is St Anne’s Well (The Crescent), Buxton’s main geothermal spring, which provides permanent free spring water to the residents here. This was once a sacred site for the Romans, with the title “Aquae Arnemetiae” or “Water of the Goddess Grove,” and the Romans built the hot springs around it, which now lie beneath the Crescent Spring.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a bazaar without Buxton Bazaar. Rain or shine, Buxton Market Place takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays throughout the year, with stalls selling everything from lifestyle items and furniture to fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, a monthly flea market will be set up in town to sell used goods.
On the first Thursday of each month, the farmers market at Pavilion Gardens (St. John’s Road) also hosts a farmers’ market. In addition to freshly picked vegetables and homemade jams, the stalls are stocked with a variety of handmade handicrafts, and those interested in the exotic can also pick up meat dishes such as buffalo steak.
Directly overlooking Pavilion Gardens, 6. The square is named after its address, so if you can’t find the place on Google Maps, don’t make excuses. Upstairs there are four double bedrooms serving traditional English afternoon tea and breakfast.
Considered one of the oldest hotels in the UK and the site of Queen Mary’s house arrest in Scotland, The Old Hall Hotel (The Square) scores high on the historical interest list. When you choose a four-person room, you can enjoy the royal treatment, while also choosing a standard double room for about two-thirds of the price of the aristocratic life.
The Allison Park Hotel (3 Temple Road) is a small, family-run hotel with a history dating back to the Edwardian era. For those who prefer a quiet stay in a hotel that is close to nature, this hotel is an attractive option especially considering its proximity to the Derbyshire hills and the Peak District National Park.
Bars and Restaurants
53 Degrees North (8 Hall Bank) sits at the top of a steep hill on Hall Bank Road, and the interior is decorated somewhat like an alpine ski lodge. After hiking through the hills of Buxton, order a Sunday roast between noon and 9 p.m. to satisfy your hunger. Alternatively, stop in for some local sausages and mashed potatoes.
Across the road, Barbarella’s Wine Bar (7 The Quadrant) is a chic wine bar and restaurant, a stately two-story building with low chandeliers spanning two floors.Barbarella’s offers a wide selection of wines, cocktails, beers and ales, as well as an ever-changing selection of specials.Barbarella’s is a local favourite and is praised for its level of service and the quality of its food, with Eton Mess and Thai fish cakes receiving particularly high marks.
Down a path along the main road, Buxton Brewery Tap House (George St) is housed in an old loft dating back to the mid-19th century. Considering Buxton is a sleepy provincial town, this pub is the heart of the town’s nightlife and is open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. With over 18 beers to choose from, including a home-brewed pale ale, Buxton SPA, there’s plenty to satisfy the taste buds of any aspiring cask connoisseur.
This is a real-life upstairs at Charlotte’s Café (Cavendish Arcade 1 & 11, The Crescent) where Charlotte’s Chocolatier is on the first floor and Upstairs at Charlotte’s Café is on the upper floor. This cafe uses local ingredients and serves home-cooked meals, and like several other cafes and restaurants in town, it serves breakfast until 11:30 a.m. At Charlotte’s Chocolatier, you’ll be immediately surrounded by Belgian chocolate truffles. There are also homemade fudge, tea cakes and lemon-flavoured scones, which are particularly popular in cafes and chocolate shops during the harsh winter months.
The Source (7 Terrace Road), whose name is associated with the town’s spa water supply, uses fair trade products and is run by Buxton Church in the Peak, with all profits going directly to raising funds for grassroots projects in the UK and Africa. The cafe also became a haven for the most vulnerable in society. Above the interior arch of the café is printed a quote from the Bible: “Come to me, all who are weary, and I will give you rest”.
Five Ways Café (1West Rd) is a little further from the centre, at the junction of London Road and London Road, an unusual and interesting combination of café and laundry. Patrons can choose to pass the time with a warm beer, or take a slow, hot bath, or enjoy a full English breakfast or a fresh sandwich, with the option to eat in or take out. If you want to synchronize your afternoon coffee hour with your weekly wash, please note that the café closes at 3pm on weekends.