Buxton is a beautiful town to explore. Following its boom as a spa resort for the rich and famous, it sprouted stunning examples of Regency architecture that survive in gorgeous condition today. Wander around Buxton’s compact town centre and pay a visit to the incredible Buxton Opera House, The Crescent and the Devonshire Dome. If you can, save some time to delve into Poole’s Caverns, the incredible caves that have been wowing tourists for centuries.
Activities in Buxton
Buxton Opera House
Right at the top of your Buxton entertainment options is the magnificent Edwardian Buxton Opera House. Designed and built by the legendary theatre architect Frank Matcham, it’s a truly stunning venue and brings world-class productions to the High Peaks. It spent just shy of half a century as Buxton’s cinema. However, the town’s silver screen heritage has now passed on to the Pavilion Arts Centre, which houses the Buxton Cinema. You can read more about them both below.
Buxton Arts Pavilion
Follow in the footsteps of millions of holidaymakers with a visit to Poole’s Cavern, an enormous expanse of natural limestone caves that date back more than 2 million years and sit on the edge of Buxton town centre. They earned their name from a 15th-century outlaw named Poole who used the caves as a lair when he wasn’t robbing travellers. For hundreds of years, they’ve been a tourist attraction. Early tour guides used to extort visitors by threatening to blow out the caves’ candles and leaving them in the pitch black unless they coughed up some more money. Thankfully, they do no such thing these days. However, they’re excellent at explaining the science and history of this huge subterranean world. It’s an excellent day out – even if just for a photo opportunity next to the huge stalactites – and all less than a mile away from our Buxton hotel.
When the sun is shining, the weather’s warm and you want to be outdoors, make your way to the Pavilion Gardens. It’s 23 acres of stunning Victorian gardens in the very heart of Buxton and home to the iconic pavilion building they’re named after. With beautiful lakes, manicured flower beds and shaded walks, it’s a lovely area, particularly for a picnic. Alternatively, you can grab some refreshments at the gardens’ large and lovely cafe. There’s also a children’s play area, a miniature railway, the Pavilion Arts Centre and Buxton Cinema.
This wonderful feat of architecture is like a little bit of Bath in Buxton. Designed by renowned architect John Carr – the man behind some of the most impressively stately homes and halls in Britain – The Crescent is an iconic curved building with an ornate facade, which is being transformed into a luxury hotel and spa. The Crescent faces the site of St Ann’s Well, the natural spring where water flows at a consistent 27.5ºC, which established Buxton as a Regency spa town.
St Ann’s Well is flanked by the Natural Mineral Baths and the Buxton Thermal Baths, as well as beautiful shops along the Colonnade. You should tick them all off if you want a leisurely stay in Buxton as is humanly possible. Adjacent, you’ll also find the historic Pump Room and Assembly Room, both of which have been stunningly restored and serve as impressive events spaces, which highlight the wealth and pomp Buxton enjoyed during its heyday.
In a town brimming with iconic buildings, the Devonshire Dome has to come close to taking the biscuit. It’s another masterpiece from John Carr, which he originally built as a 120-horse stable and living quarters for servants of the luxury Crescent Hotel. Considering its modest raison d'être, at the time of being built, it was the largest unsupported dome in the world, bigger than the Pantheon, St Peter’s Basilica and St Paul’s Cathedral. While its world title has been lost to modern monoliths, it’s still the largest unsupported dome in the UK and a quite incredible space that’s well worth seeing for anyone staying in Buxton.
Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
Lastly, if you want to delve into the fascinating history of Buxton, its Regency architecture and the impressive limestone caves, then pay a visit to Buxton Museum and Art Gallery. It houses an impressive collection of more than 1,200 artefacts and objects that span some 360 million years of history. Best of all, admission is absolutely free, although donations are warmly received.