Wonderful walking in the Peak Park countryside, sightseeing, excellent local food and good beer – there is so much to see, do and enjoy if you can tear yourself away from the peace and comfort of your holiday cottage
The photo above shows the view across the hills as you set off from the back gate. There are usually cows to be seen on the hillside. The building in the field is the old piggeries, no longer used – and not to be confused with our two lovely holiday cottages for humans across the way!
Below is a purely personal attempt to summarise attractions that we know and/or which our guests have enjoyed, and therefore inevitably subjective and incomplete! Things change all the time so please tell us if anything – as it will – becomes out of date or incorrect.
Throughout the year there are many eagerly awaited annual events. Buxton art and literary festival in July (5 – 21 July 2013) attracts many famous names, and is a must! You can visit their web site for further information. Then there are the more rural countryside events such as county and village shows: our favourite of all is the nearby Manifold Show in August – a delightfully nostalgia-inducing real old-fashioned country fair. Chatsworth Country Fair (end August/beginning September) and the Derbyshire County Show (late June) are at the opposite end of the scale. Chatsworth Horse Trials (May), Racing at Flagg (Easter Tuesday) organised by the High Peak Hunt and the races at Uttoxeter (40 minutes away) are fun for everybody, but particularly appeal to horse lovers.
Finally, in this section one cannot omit the unique Shrovetide Football two day extravaganza between the ‘Up’ards and ‘Down’ards’ of Ashbourne! To the uninitiated it feels like an enormous rugby match with no obvious boundaries and without a referee, but it is a hugely popular event.
There is endless opportunity for WALKING for everyone, from those whose ideal is to potter gently round our very attractive village to those who stride out daily for at least 20 miles whatever the weather. This area has a wealth of footpaths and we have masses of walk books and maps in each barn, including a booklet showing all the walks in and around Parwich. There are also copies of several local walks described by Alan Rolfe on his web site, which literally take you from the door! Sally Mosley organises guided walks often including little known spots – and picnics. Have a look at her website.
The Dovedale and Manifold Valleys are close by, providing riverside walks at the base of towering limestone gorges. You can walk to Dovedale from here, or perhaps park the car at Alstonefield (pop into the George en route) if you fancy shortening the walk to following the Dove down to Dovedale, and then up again.
There is also plenty of exciting scope for the more vigorous walker. However, belonging to the gentler variety ourselves we don’t have personal experience of, say, Kinder Scout, which is within little more than half an hour’s drive. Stanage Edge near Hathersage in the Hope Valley and the Roaches in the Staffordshire Moorlands, towering limestone crags over looking tranquil lakes and reservoirs, are both great favourites with walkers and climbers alike. Stanage Edge is now known sometimes as “Keira’s clifftop” since she posed up here (securely but invisibly roped) in Pride and Prejudice!
And if you come home wet, muddy and healthily exhausted you can wash and dry your clothes in the machines in your barn, dry out your boots on our new boot dryers, have a fun bath and a good sleep and set out next day as good as new again. The High Peak and Tissington Trails are also very close to us. Created from the old railway tracks, they are car free, and very popular with walkers, cyclists and riders. Carsington Water is another lovely spot. One can walk, ride or cycle right round – or just go part of the way – watching birds and other wildlife, the colourful sailing boats and people having fun on windsurfers (no noisy waterskiing, thankfully!). We have bought a pair of bicycles to lend out to our guests, and we can lend tennis rackets (there are two tennis courts in the village).
However keen you are on walking, you probably won’t want to walk every day when there is so much else to see and do in the area. Chatsworth is a must for most of our guests. To do it properly one would really need days if not weeks: not only can one go inside the house, admiring the architecture and the art, but one can also enjoy the garden, walk or picnic in the Capability Brown designed parkland, have a lovely meal or have a self-indulgent hour or two buying up some of the delicious (much of it local) food in the Chatsworth Farm Shop. (Don’t be put off if there is a long queue waiting to pay. It moves surprisingly fast, because they always seem to have masses of people on the tills.) If the sight and smell of all the delicious food leaves you feeling hungry you can have a snack or a refreshing cup of tea in the restaurant, with a stunning view. In spring you will have a close up of Chatsworth lambs gamboling about in the adjoining fields.
There are several other big houses within an hour’s drive; the nearest and one we particularly love is Haddon Hall, home of Lord Edward Manners. It has been in his family for practically 450 years, but has been charmingly untampered with and therefore very popular for settings for historical films, most recently Jane Eyre. There is a nice restaurant, which you can visit without visiting the hall at the same time.
For more information on Haddon and the other country houses nearby click on their links below:
|Haddon Hall||Hardwick Hall||Sudbury Hall||Kedleston Hall||Calke Abbey|
Not counting the three somewhat more modest halls actually in Parwich (most villages only boast one!) the nearest to us is Tissington Hall, 2 miles on foot over the hills, or ten minutes by car if you like the thrill of fording the stream at Bradbourne Mill (don’t risk it if the water is above the 1’ mark on the white post) or twice as long going via the A515.
Tissington is a charming estate village, owned by the FitzHerbert family since Elizabethan times, and is well worth a visit. The hall and gardens are not open every day, but well worth a visit when they are; meanwhile you get a good view of the hall from the road. You can get married at Tissington Hall (prior to spending your honeymoon in Tom’s or Douglas’s Barns, of course! You can also buy charming knick knacks in the village, homemade candles at Annie’s, and meat from the Tissington butchers (see the food section!).
Smaller Houses, click on their links below for further information.
|Eyam Hall ( ‘Plague Village’)||Tissington Hall|
It is hardly surprising that there are many beautiful GARDENS in this already beautiful area, some belonging to the big houses such as Chatsworth, Haddon, Renishaw Hall in the north and Melbourne Hall in the south of the county. Lea Gardens nearer home are a delight in the Azalea and Rhododendron season. Many nearby gardens are in the Derbyshire or Staffordshire National Garden Scheme yellow book (there is a copy in each barn). Derbyshire Life (there will always be a current copy in your barn) always supplies a list of those gardens open each month. There are masses of garden centres if you would like to buy a plant for your garden as a living memory of a happy holiday in Derbyshire.
Most of the local villages have Open Garden days in the summer. Parwich’s Open Gardens day is usually the last or second last Sunday in June: there are a lot of lovely gardens in the village, many quite hidden from the road and therefore full of surprises even for locals. Well dressings are another treat. They are almost unique to Derbyshire; throughout the summer there is usually one to be visited somewhere. Our nearest is Tissington, which is always on Ascension Day, usually towards the middle or end of May depending on the church calendar. (You will find a list of well dressing dates in your barn, or on www.visitpeakdistrict.com.)
If you are hankering after something possibly slightly more historic, people having been living in the Peak District for over 12,000 years, give or take a century or two, leaving tantalizing snippets of evidence – rock paintings at Creswell Crags an hour away, and much nearer home the stone circles at Arbor Low and the ‘Nine Ladies’ at Stanton Moor, near Birchover. Later the Romans were around, and amongst other things developed lead mining which reached its peak in the mid 18C, with Wirksworth at the centre. In the hillsides between us and Brassington there are still many tell-tale humps and hollows where lead workings used to be. Cromford, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (where history lessons about Arkwright, Hargreaves etc suddenly come alive) is less than 15 minutes’ drive away. There are also plenty of MUSEUMS: industrial, trains, trams, mining, and an interesting stone centre near Wirksworth.
If SHOPPING is an important part of a holiday, there is plenty of scope, from the ANTIQUE SHOPS of Bakewell and Ashbourne (there are always fascinating things in the window of Spurrier-Smith’s magnificent treasure trove in Ashbourne) to the factory outlet shops in Belper, Matlock Bath and Rowsley. There are ART GALLERIES in nearly every town – the St John Street Art Gallery in Ashbourne has a constantly changing display of sculptures and pictures, including often those of Parwich’s Lewis Noble and Ruby Hickmott, both of whom have painted pictures now hanging in Douglas’s Barn…
Many of our guests love BOOKSHOPS (as do we). One can spend hours (we have) trawling the shelves in Scarthins’ second hand BOOKSHOP in Cromford shopping, stopping off every so often for a delicious snack in their tiny restaurant. Brierlow Bookshop – one of the largest discount bookstores in the country apparently – on the way (A515) to Buxton is a mecca for book lovers. The Hassop Bookstore on the Hassop roundabout just north of Bakewell where the Monsal Trail and the roads to and from Ashford-in -the-water, Chatsworth, Hathersage and Bakewell converge is newly refurbished and well worth a visit. You can also have a meal and hire a bicycle – even an electric one – at the same time!
Janet Gosling, landlady of the Sycamore, our local pub, runs a small shop during pub hours in what used to be the dining room, so we can all buy necessities locally. We also have newspapers delivered so if you let us know in advance we can ensure your favourite paper is here in time for you to read over a leisurely breakfast before you start your day. Milk is still delivered (every other day) and see below for other good shopping tips. Don’t forget that we always provide the basic store cupboard necessities. You shouldn’t need a supermarket, but if you must, there is a Marks and Spencer’s food store, a Waitrose and a Sainsbury’s in Ashbourne and a Waitrose in Buxton.
If you want to make life as easy as possible, with some forward planning, Waitrose www.waitrosedeliver.com will deliver here, DE6 1QB, free of charge if you spend over £50. If you place an order to arrive early Friday afternoon we can put it all away for you in your barn before you arrive. Please let us know in advance.
You can also order organic veg, fruit, meat and dairy products – and more – from the local Riverford Sacrewell (the ‘local’ section of the famous Riverford Farm organic set up. They deliver here on Fridays mornings; we can take your order in and put it away for you in your barn to await your arrival, as we do for Waitrose orders. First choose online what you would like, but one-off orders need to be made by telephone to the Sacrewell Lodge Farm on 01780 789700, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Explain you are staying here at Orchard Farm and would like your food delivered with ours on the Friday you arrive. You can pay by card over the phone.
Most towns have a weekly market and Farmers’ Markets are held regularly. Probably the best known locally is Bakewell on the last Saturday of the month; we have been asked to let you know that Wirksworth Farmers’ Market is held outside the Memorial Hall in the centre of town on the first Saturday of every month with ‘a wonderful array of fresh produce, crafts and music and other events on that day’. It starts about 9am and goes on until about 2pm. We will try it ourselves soon. Meanwhile, for a comprehensive list of all the markets and local food shops, look at Derbyshire UK Guide to Derbyshire and the Peak District.
There are many specialist FOOD SHOPS in the area, including the Chatsworth Farm Shop mentioned earlier. Ashbourne, proud to be a ‘Fairtrade town’ has several: The Cheddar Gorge has lovely cheese, pates and cold meats, cakes and bread; opposite the marketplace, Bramhall’s, another delicatessen with nother tempting array of exotic cheeses, breads, quiches and pies as well as chocolates. In Bakewell there are various Bakewell Pudding shops, all claiming to produce the one and only authentic pudding.
There are two excellent butchers in Ashbourne – Peaches in the Market Place, and Nigel’s down Compton; nearer to home the White Peak Butchers in Tissington is a not-to-be-missed delight. Their bacon is wonderful: it really fries – rather than stewing in a scummy liquid. Many of our guests walk over the hills to buy their bacon for a breakfast treat. They are open 8-5 Tuesday to Friday and 8-4 on Saturdays.
EATING. There are a lot of excellent pubs (many stocking real ales) and restaurants in the area, where one can enjoy good food. Chefs and owners move on from time to time but we try to keep up with the changing reputations and have a list of places we personally recommend. The Gate in Brassington (just under 3 miles away on foot over the hills or 10 minutes by road) is our very favourite pub; many if not most of our guests become equally smitten. The George at Alstonefield is a serious contender for favourite place and very well worth a visit – the menu is very exciting; we frequently enjoy a very delicious pub lunch there after walking up from Dovedale. We do recommend you try both these pubs – most of our guests do, very happily. Fischer’s (seriously good and with a wonderful 2014 Lunch for £20.14) and Rowley’s both in Baslow (25 minutes). We were very happy with a recent meal at the Royal Oak at Hurdlow. The Packhorse Inn at Crowdecote goes up and down but we think it is on a real up at the moment! Let us know if we’re right; the lovely scenery on the way there is a treat in itself, well worth it even if the pub’s on a down! The Peacock in Rowsley has been revamped by Haddon and apparently now is pretty seriously to be recommended as apparently is the Devonshire Arms at Beeley (which belongs to Chatsworth – excellent food but expensive we’re told) which we keep meaning to go to but haven’t yet got round to (we have our figures to think of, unfortunately (and rather unsuccessfully) as well as a rather slimmer purse!! Finally, just into Staffordshire on the other side of Ashbourne is the Duncombe Arms which we can seriously recommend.
Both Ashbourne and Bakewell have a good selection of CLOTHES SHOPS: Young Ideas is a seriously trendy fashion shop for the beautifully young, slim and well-heeled! It is now in the old Green Man Hotel, as is Go Wilde, another clothes shop. Bennett’s, a locally owned rather special ‘department store’, also in Ashbourne, has a lovely selection of clothes, bags and jewellery.
Whilst on the self-indulgence theme, there are several opportunities to enjoy beauty treatment and massages, but a good tip is to book in at The Devonshire Spa in the famous Dome at Buxton. The stunning building was built by one of the Dukes of Devonshire to house and exercise his horses; more recently it used to be a hospital but now it houses the Buxton section of Derby University.
The old hydrotherapy baths have been turned into a wonderful spa with pool, steam and sauna rooms which since spring 2007 has been opened to the public. Students run the spa and the more experienced ones provide very reasonably priced massages and beauty treatments. It is very well worth trying! (One can also opt for being used as a model for the novice students to practise on, supervised…!)
Then there are the POTTERIES less than an hour away, in Stoke (although the current uncertainty about the future of Wedgwood is certainly a worry); the seconds shops are a great source of very acceptable reduced prices presents to take home! The Denby Pottery shop has an enormous supply of perfect and seconds and magnificent Royal Crown Derby, in Derby, is well worth a visit.
Finally, we love going to the Buxton Opera House. There is something on practically all the time, from opera, ballet, Shakespeare to stand up comics and farce. In July the annual Buxton Festival takes place, an exciting literary and musical event. There are THEATRES in Derby, and Sheffield, Nottingham, Stoke, and even Stratford is well less than two hours away – very possible for a Thursday matinee if you don’t fancy driving back at night.
Finally, a few Comments from our Visitors’ Books
“We have had a fantastic week! This is by far the best place we have ever stayed in the UK.”
“It’s great to return after six years and find everything as wonderful as we remembered. We’ve had an action week of walking and cycling and have enjoyed returning to the peace and tranquillity of Orchard Farm and the comforts of Douglas’s Barn.”
“After five visits leaving doesn’t get any easier! We’ve had such a fabulous time. Lovely good value meals at the Royal Oak, Hurdlow and the Coach and Horses, Fenny Bentley and beautiful walks along Dovedale and around Tissington. We recommend White Peak butchers at Tissington and the delicious cakes upstairs at the Carsington Visitors’ Centre.”
“…Sampled the local pubs of which the best was the George at Alstonefield. Beautiful countryside and walks; awesome bookshop near Buxton – a must for the bookworm.”
“What a wonderful week! …We couldn’t have spent our honeymoon anywhere better, and will not hesitate to come back. “
Douglas’s Barn is available to book for short breaks 3 or 4 nights between 2 and 20 May 2016. Bookings usually start on a Monday or a Friday but if you want a break that starts on a different day get in touch. We are very flexible with bookings.
There are some new attractions added to the list of treats available with the Premier Cottages special privileges card. Amongst them are Renishaw Hall, Thornbridge Hall Gardens (new discounts), Hassop Station Cafe, Village Green Cafe Eyam, Carsington Water Sports and Leisure, Hartington Cheese Shop.
There are still a few free dates at the end of March/April in both Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns. Short breaks, 3 or 4 nights, which are not normally available are on offer. Please look at availability and give me a call or book on line.