Buxton has a long history as a spa town, reaching back to the Roman town of Aquae Armenetia. While the spa itself had faded from its nineteenth century heyday, Buxton Spring Water can still be found in most supermarkets.
The spa developed around eight thermal springs. The hot springs attracted visitors throughout the middle ages, but it was the efforts of the 5th Duke of Devonshire that gave it its current feel . The most visible reminder of Buxton's resort past is its architecture, most especially the Crescent, designed by John Carr of York and complete by 1784. The next 120 years saw the arrival of the railways (1863), the building of the Palace Hotel (1868), the Pavilion (1871) and finally the Opera House (1905). The decline of the spa left some of these buildings vacant - over the years I have been visiting Buxton various restoration projects have brought life back to most of them. The Opera House is perhaps typical. It operated as a theatre for twenty years, before becoming a cineam. With the decline of the cinema during the 1970s, the Opera House fell into some decay. Finally in 1979 a local restoration programme began, and the Opera House is now the home of the annual Buxton Festival of Music and the Arts.
Buxton is not actually in the Peak District National Park, lying at the heart of a long wedge cut out of the park. Despite that Buxton is surrounded by some impressive scenery, with the Goyt valley to the west and the Wye to the east. Despite several rival claims, Buxton is the highest market town in England, at close to 1,000 feet above sea level (the centre of Alston in Cumbria is somewhat lower, at around 920 feet). It is the largest town within the Peak District.