This most accessible of wildernesses is yours off the M1 from London or Leeds, the A6 from Manchester or the A38 from Birmingham. The single-carriageway A628 between Manchester and Barnsley passes through the Peak District National Park; the A57 from Sheffield to Glossop runs through the scenic (but precarious) Snake Pass.
The main international hub is at Manchester; Ryanair flies to Leeds Bradford from Dublin and Shannon, alongside domestic services operated by Flybe. Air Southwest and Eastern Airways fly into both Manchester and Leeds Bradford from half a dozen regional airports.
The Peak District's major hubs provide excellent rail links: Stockport is on the mighty West Coast Main Line connecting London and Edinburgh, and has direct links with Cardiff, Nottingham and Ely. Chesterfield is an hour from Birmingham, two hours from London St Pancras, and less than four from Edinburgh. You can also travel to Matlock via Derby, and Edale, at the start of the Pennine Way, from Sheffield or Manchester.
Country code for the UK: +44.
Jane Austen's fictional Pemberley estate in Pride and Prejudice was based on the region, and George Eliot located much of Adam Bede here. Also try Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's story 'The Terror of Blue John Gap'. Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders and Jill Paton Walsh's Parcel of Patterns explore events in 'plague village' Eyam.
Do go / Don't Go
Generally speaking, you choose between clouds and crowds: summer brings tourists and daytrippers; autumn and winter mean short days and pot luck with rain or shine. When the rest of Yorkshire and Derbyshire are bathed in sunshine, Snake Pass may be blizzard-whipped.
To go door-to-door, try County Cars in Chesterfield (+44 (0)1246 557755), Matlock Taxis (+44 (0)1629 584195), or Buxton Radio Cars (+44 (0)1298 23457). Peak Premier Travel in Youlgreave, near Bakewell (+44 (0)1629 636877), offers taxi tours for up to six people.
10-15 per cent is appreciated. Many restaurants now add a discretionary 12.5 per cent service charge to the bill, so be careful not to tip twice.
If you forget your wet-weather gear, the centre of Bakewell has an action-man shop on every corner. The John Smedley factory shop at Lea Bridge in Matlock (+44 (0)1629 530426) is a pleasure to rummage in for fine woollen jumpers, gloves and scarves, so leave room in your bags for some take-home feel-good goodies.
Set among Capability Brown gardens, Chatsworth House (www.chatsworth.org) is the classical Palladian centrepiece of one of England's most celebrated aristocratic estates. Another elegant spot is Buxton, a fashionable spa town during the 18th century, now with a restored opera house and high-profile summer arts festival.
Bakewell Pudding (never 'Tart') tastes best when you have purchased it ceremonially from one of the market town's many purveyors - we like the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop in the main square (+44 (0)1629 812193). www.bakewellpuddingshop.co.uk). Stilton-lovers should make a pilgrimage to Hartington, where the Old Cheese Shop on Market Place (+44 (0)1298 84935; www.hartingtoncheese.co.uk) showcases several varieties - many made at the Hartington creamery - among a fine selection of more than 30 British cheeses.
Walk up to the summit of Win Hill, north_west of Bamford, for a classic panorama of the surrounding countryside. Or at Bretton, step out of the Barrel Inn (+44 (0)1433 630856; www.thebarrelinn.co.uk), for an eyeful over Eyam Edge.
Watch a bunch of hanky-flappers in action in Winster, a former mining village south of Bakewell that's home to one of Britain's oldest Morris-dancing troupes. During summer, they perform outside the Market House, and also hit the local pubs to give new routines an airing year-round.
April/May The two-week Peak District Walking Festival crams in dozens of walks (www.visitpeakdistrict.com). May The Holmfirth Festival of Folk is the only place to watch Barnsley's samba collective, Ukrainian calypso and a spoons masterclass (www.holmfirthfestivaloffolk.co.uk). July Buxton Festival and Fringe, the opera, classical and literature festival that's heaven for Radio 3 and 4 types (www.buxtonfestival.co.uk). August Dovedale Sheepdog Trials - come by! (+44 (0)7989 150889) September Chatsworth Country Fair, three days of ballooning, massed brass bands, ferret racing, vintage cars and a traditional funfair (www.chatsworth.org).