Romantic cottages for two in the Peak District

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Parwich in the Peak District

Is there such a thing as a perfect holiday venue? Last Saturday’s Guardian Money section dedicated three pages to the top ten place to retire to, with a special emphasis on air quality, crime rate, life expectancy, good neighbourliness, health and various other aspects that not just retirees hope for; not surprisingly, the Derbyshire Dales made the Top Ten.

It’s a lovely area to live in too! And, for much the same reasons, the Derbyshire Dales is a lovely place to visit. More and more canny souls are finding this out as they happily abandon all ideas of a foreign trip abroad in favour of a ‘staycation’ (ghastly word!) in this country. Just think, no precious holiday hours wasted in crowded airport terminals, no endlessly traipsing through this queue and that to get your luggage, your passport and yourself checked, no hours in an airless cabin with your neighbour on one side coughing over you (is he going to be sick?) no customs and no foreign currency to get to grips with at the other end…and so on.

So – for the sake of convenience and familiarity we’ve plumped for the Derbyshire Dales as the area of choice for your holiday in this country. But where? Let’s narrow it down to the Peak National Park – not such a silly idea after all – it’s an area renowned for its beauty, plum in the middle of the country so within the easy reach of many people.

Having decided on the area, what kind of a holiday are you looking for? The Dales can accommodate you all, with a wealth of caravan parks on offer, farm holidays, luxury spas, hotels, B & Bs and even tipis. Obviously, there is no right or wrong; it will depend on personal choice, and the purse. Booking a carefully chosen holiday cottage for two, can be the perfect answer for many. You are creating a home from home, beholden to nobody: you have complete privacy, you can eat when you like, what you like, you go out and return whenever it suits you.

However, it’s not quite as simple as all that. There are holiday cottages and holiday cottages, and standards and expectations vary enormously. Research is crucial, but part of the fun. I’m assuming you want quiet and peaceful, but of course you may not and a bolthole in the middle of Chesterfield or Derby could be much more your style (but perhaps not if you’re reading this!). The perfect property for you may take some finding but near-perfect matches will exist and we would recommend starting with Premier Cottages ‘the best of the best’ and also Alastair Sawday (many properties are in both). Friends are another good source of recommendations, if you feel confident that their tastes are similar to yours. And the final test is TripAdvisor where you can see what other guests have thought; don’t forget that someone else’s criticism might flag up a plus point for you – ‘no fast food joints for miles around’ might be nuls points for some, would it be for you?

Is the cottages star rated? Does that matter to you? Do you need underfloor heating? Disabled access? Will they accept children? What about dogs? Are the owners on site? Having made a short list from your research, check out their websites, the atmosphere and the photos. Finally, check their availability – it’s no good getting excited if the cottage is fully booked for the next 18 months…

The advice up until now has been general and I hope helpful. Now I must acknowledge an interest, serious bias in fact. There are no doubt many others but I can say very confidently that either Tom’s or Douglas’s Barn can give you a whole week in peaceful, completely comforting surroundings, where for once your time is your own, to do with as you please rather than what your family/boss/business colleagues/accountant demands. (In fact, come to think of it, we could do with just that ourselves and if the weekend in Douglas’s Barn in September (21 to 24) doesn’t go we may do exactly that!)

I am getting more and more wistful as I write. How many of us have said, ‘Oh, if only we had the chance, I’d like us to go off all on our own for a few days, try canoeing, research our family history, go on some wonderful walks, finish writing my novel, plan our wedding, make a patchwork quilt, spend evenings at the opera, watch old movies, sort my photos, cook some lovely meals, spend all my time reading outside in the sunshine…’.

Guests in Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns have done all of these things, and more, but my list was getting too long. Interestingly, we have quite a lot of guests who choose to come on their own, and for many this is the ultimate luxury! For others the luxury is the chance to spend uninterrupted time with their spouse or partner, appreciating the chance to escape all the other demands that can come between you.

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