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Ashbourne and Manifold Shows

A Highland Bull- winner of his lass at the Ashbourne Show 2013Our two favourite local shows, the Manifold and the Ashbourne Shows usually happen on consecutive Saturdays in August, as they did again this year. Actually, the Bakewell Show – another favourite but we didm”t go this year – is always the first Wednesday and Thursday of August, so it;s a busy month.

Wine from the Derbyshire Wine company, in Bakewell!The Manifold is the top favourite, for us and I think many. It is on fields high up above Ilam and Dovedale; it is small, so friendly, bustling with activity to suit everyone – and with plenty of light hearted entertainment such as the slow tractor races and the ‘sheep duck trials’ with a display by a sheepdog successfully herding a flock of ducks. I took some photos of this with John’s camera, which i shall try to retrieve tomorrow!

Wonderful bread and cakes at the Ashbourne ShowLots of local businesses have stands, some selling and others like the Peak Park and National Trust, just informing but even the Peak Park tent had generous samples of local cheeses and biscuits there for people to sample. John spent so long ‘testing’ the delicious new Peakland Blue cheese made at Pikehall near here that I had to pretend I was nothing to do with him…

One year our good friends Liza and Harry came with us, and Liza ended up buying two rare breed hens and a cockerel from the Poultry tent. We easily turned the shed opposite our house into a makeshift chicken house for the night, but were horrified when the entire neighbourhood was woken at about 3 in the morning, and kept awake, by the cockerel, in strident and unstoppable voice.

The children loved the Punch and JudyThe Ashbourne Show is bigger and quite a bit more commercial, but nonetheless most enjoyable, and most interesting. There is always something new: new displays, new local food suppliers bringing yet more choice whether it be cheeses – or this year – we found an elderly Indian women selling delicious Indian chutneys and spices that her son makes.

Cheeses and chutneys are all delightful but not a great surprise. This year we were very taken aback to find a Derbyshire Wine Stall, with wine bottled in Bakewell! Intrigued, we asked them where their vineyards were, to discover disappointingly that actually they only make and bottle the wine in Bakewell, using concentrates from round the world… We bought a bottle of Solomon’s Red but won’t be rushing to Bakewell to buy any more…

One last word, before I am too scathing about Derbyshire wine. Grapes are grown in Derbyshire, and turned, successfully, into wine at Renishaw Hall, home of the Sitwell family. We are going on a visit there next month, so more about Derbyshire wine later!

Top Tips from Tom’s Barn Guests: How to have a Truly Wonderful Week of Walking, Reading, (Eating) and Rest

A dozen subjects for blog posts is queuing up in my inactive brain, but – right to the top of the queue – I must stand aside for Mark and Nikki, who left Tom’s Barn today having written a wonderfully helpful resume of their week in the Visitors’ Book.

Mark and Nikki, like all our guests, were amazed by the wealth of things they found there was to do while they were here, and mostly right on the doorstep; they echoed Sue and Nick who left Douglas’s Barn last week after a packed fortnight without using their car at all. In fact Sue and Nick were so impressed by how much more they still wanted to do that – apparently most uncharacteristically – they plan to return. They usually prefer to try pastures new each time they go away, feeling they have exhausted local possibilities.

Mark and Nikki’s report will be so helpful to other guests wondering what to do, so I am repeating it more or less word for word, other than censoring one or two personal comments which modesty does not permit…

“A truly wonderful week of walking, reading and rest! (The walk from) Dovedale to Alstonefield by far the best, breaking off at the excellent George for good food, wine and service – four hours needed. Other walks undertaken: Alstonefield to Milldale and back to the George! (2 hours) and Parwich to Tissington and back (3 hours).

Ilam Country Park well worth visiting, if for no other reason than to sample their excellent coffee and fresh pastries. Ashbourne and Bakewell good for a stroll around if you want a break from walking and to have a mooch round the shops.

Everything is accessible from this truly delightful base! The 8 1/2 mile walk round Carsington Water is a challenge (not as pretty as the Dovedale walk) but the coffee at the Visitor Centre is also excellent unlike the horrible stuff they served us at Tissington, strangely enough. (Editor’s note: I hasten to say that everything at the Tissington Tearoom is usually delicious, in our experience…!

By the way, the views from Ilam grounds were superb. John and Marion excellent hosts.

No rational human being could fail to have a beautiful experience here. PS In case we forgot to mention it, do go to the George!

Stay in a cowshed and eat like a king

You’ll find everything you might need

“A wonderful honeymoon…I have particularly enjoyed the fabulous kitchen equipment, which has made cooking a joy this week.” Comment from a Tom’s Barn guest 2/8/2013

Self-catering? What a treat!

Eat what you want, when you want, how you want. For most of our guests that is really important and cooking and eating well is a top priority.

Part of the charm of our two lovely self-catering holiday cottages – Tom’s and Douglas’s Barns – is the peace and quiet, in a blissfully tranquil, secluded spot in a quiet rural village.

How, you might wonder, will you eat like a king? If you want to, it is quite easy – it just takes a little wistful daydreaming planning ahead but for many of us that’s all part of the fun of the holiday.

Six weeks before you arrive we will send you an up to date list of local eateries, and information about how you can arrange for a Riverford Organics or Waitrose delivery to arrive before you do, which we will check and put away for you so that when you arrive, everything is ready and waiting for you. Riverford delivers here to us every Friday and Waitrose will come whenever you ask them!

Douglas's Barn - a working kitchen lower res IMG_7907

Both Tom’s & Douglas’s Barns have fully fledged grown up kitchens!

When you get here you’ll find that the kitchens in both barns are both proper, working kitchens, with quality equipment and basic store cupboard ingredients and things like electronic scales and sharp knives. Lots of our guests really enjoy spending time together, using delicious local ingredients and preparing a meal that would cost a fortune in a restaurant and yet all in the comfort of your own home.

Delicious homemade curries mad in Parwich

Paul and Evie will make a delicious curry for you

However, you may not want actually to cook, and that’s easy too, if prefer to stay in your own little private world, cosily eating in, but not having to do anything other than lay the table and heat something up. There are a couple of excellent delis in Ashbourne, and one, Bramhalls opposite the market does sell frozen homemade dishes. There is a much bigger selection in the Chatsworth Farm Shop too, a little further afield. If you like curries, you simply could not do better than order one from Paul and Evie of the Cottage on the Green in the village. They will prepare the rice and bits and bobs for you too, if you want them to.

Still on the ‘no actual cooking’ them, another good tip, which we use often ourselves, is a firm called Cook.You can order frozen meals which are delivered to the door; on a slightly less culinarily adventurous note, you could do an online Waitrose order. We will send you the link for that when you pay your balance, six weeks before you arrive here – there would be no point in ordering earlier. You could include a wine order, or get some from Majestic in Ashbourne who deliver for free, as do Waitrose if you spend at least £50 which is easily enough done these days.

Pudding - foraging lunch at Fischer's

A Fischer’s pudding we recently enjoyed

If you don’t even want to spend any time in the kitchen although you may find after a while you might be just a little bit tempted to – you’re in luck: there’s plenty of choice. Launching out and going straight to the top of the tree, Fischer’s would be a must if you truly, truly want to spoil yourselves, although if you book their 2013 lunches – 2 courses for £20.13, 3 for £25 that is remarkably good value.
Chocolates at Stone's IMG_2097

Chocolates! Another delicious surprise from Stone’s

Another lovely place – not in the same category as Fischer’s but lovely all the same is a restaurant called Stones in Matlock that we have only just discovered for ourselves.

Nearer home is the George, at Alstonefield. This is a pub rather than a restaurant but the food is quite special and many of our guests eat there at least twice. (Do tell Emily you are staying here – you won’t get any discounts but you’ll get a lovely smile and welcome!) We used to recommend the Gate at Brassington. That is still lovely but the landlord is still dour and the standard of the food is a bit chancy depending on the chef of the day.

Hope this gives you some ideas and that you still have time to have some fun exploring the various possibilities and planning what to do. After all, you do want to give yourselves a very special, relaxing time, with plenty of spoiling and very little effort!


  • What a great place to spend Christmas!

    There is still time to book a last minute Christmas get away in Douglas’s Barn. The weather may be cold but the barn is very warm and cosy. Why not treat yourselves to a get away from it all break. You can order all your supplies from one of the supermarkets, get it delivered and […]

  • Time for a short pre Christmas break

    Time to get a bit of relaxation before the Christmas mayhem. There are still short breaks available in Douglas’s Barn. Plenty going on in the Peak District. Lots of Christmas markets selling lovely gifts that you don’t see elsewhere. Chatsworth House is also a must at this time of year. There are plenty of stories […]

  • A busy Sunday in the Peak District

    Lots of events to go to in and around Parwich today but managed to get to the Horticultural Show in Parwich and the Hartington Show. Missed out on the Antiques in Ashbourne though which is always worth going to. Izzy did better than me by getting 1st prize as the Prettiest Bitch at Hartington Show […]

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