Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The best family holiday in the Peak District: Darwin Forest Country Park

Darwin Forest Country Park is an absolute gem in the UK's Peak District. Having spent the past 4 days there I am genuinely excited about sharing this little known corner of the world with you. The Peak District itself is a fantastic place for a family holiday - and Darwin Forest is the perfect base in which to stay.

The Location:
Sitting on the east side of the Peak District National Park, Darwin Forest Country Park is close to everywhere you might want to visit. It takes no more than half an hour to get to any number of wonderful places - that is, if you want to leave the site at all.

The Peak District is in Derbyshire, close to Sheffield, Nottingham and Manchester. The closest airport is East Midlands, which Ryanair flies in to with some bargain busting flights.

The Accommodation:

The lodges at Darwin Forest are really special. Rather than a sprawl of identikit cabins, they are spread out throughout the park with lots of individual designs. Sizes and prices vary, so there really is something for every one. From Classic, Elite and Spa lodges to family cottages and exclusive ranges - the lodges go from 2 sleepers to 8 sleepers.

We were lucky enough to stay in The Meadow 'an exclusive small development of three sumptuous luxury lodges'.

Darwin Forest and it's sister site Sandybrook Country Park are family owned resorts, and the lodges on both sites are actually developed and built by the same family's other business. What this means for us is that the lodges are all built to a particularly high spec, with everything seamlessly produced.

You can also specify on booking if you want a hot tub. (Note: you want a hot tub).

We spent a large part of our time in here. Shooting the breeze and playing alphabet games. It's a fantastic family bonding time as it's a confined space with no other distractions. The warm water and bubbles just melt the stresses away and the kids adore it.

The bedrooms were cozy, comfy and had lots of light and space

The bathrooms were more 5 star hotel than log cabin in a forest, with the all important heated towel rail that kept the towels turning over as we used and re-used the hot tub. (Did I mention there is a hot tub...?)

Communal areas:

The lodge we stayed in was absolutely immaculate. So much so that I had a moral debate in my head about whether I could actually bring myself to use the grill in the kitchen. I felt like I was walking up to an oven in Harvey Norman and slapping a few rashers on to the shining metal rack. Luckily I got over myself and yes thank you - the bacon butties were delicious.

The kitchen had all the mod cons you'd expect and a few nice touches like plastic cups for the kids and a cafetiere for the grown ups.

The lounge was flooded with light all day and also had a lovely stove for those non-summer nights.

The decking area got the sun all day long and you can even borrow a barbecue from the reception area.

The Park:
The facilities in the park are fantastic. Everything you would expect and more. The outdoor areas are just wonderful. From the moment you open your cabin doors the trees, birds and wildlife are all around you.

The kids delighted in all the rabbits they found jumping around the park, and little bird boxes were dotted around the trees. Woodland walks, secret ponds, flower strewn meadows and surprise obstacle courses were all around.

A lovely playground kept them amused for hours, as did the football pitch. All perfectly located so that the grown ups could sit in the sun with a cold drink and marvel at how easy looking after kids is when you have the right facilities to hand.

And we didn't even get to the mini golf!

I took an early morning run through the forest trail on one of the days and can't describe how lovely it was. Nothing but me, the birds and the fresh clean air. Glorious.

What to do if it rains:
Yes, yes I hear you. What if you take the plunge and the rain stops play? Well thankfully Darwin Forest caters for those times too.

There is a really lovely swimming pool, complete with gym and beauty salon should you be so lucky.

There is also Little Monkey's indoor play centre and cafe. We sat outdoors in the sunshine and had lunch here on one of the days - which was surprisingly lovely. From my experience indoor play centres don't tend to serve the greatest food but this really was good.

The pub is perfect - indoors and out. We tested both extensively for the sake or research purposes. There is a restaurant attached and they are currently developing and extending this area.

There's an arcades room and snooker hall for the older kids too. We paid a visit to both and I may have had a quick game of Pacman just for old time's sake..

The damage:
No we didn't break anything. We even cleaned the grill in fact.

As I said rates vary a good deal depending on what and when you are looking. A seven night stay in an Elite lodge with hot tub for 4 people in August (peak season) is currently £1,419. A three night stay for 2 over the same dates is currently £459. For those with pre-school children, a week’s stay in October for 4 people in an Elite lodge with a hot tub is £699. The best thing to have a good look through what the options are and how much each costs.

Without a doubt. We absolutely loved our stay. Darwin Forest Country park is perfect for kids of all ages - whether you have toddlers, teenagers or anything in between. In fact it's a lovely getaway for extended families too - a couple of lodges taken together would be perfect for a big family meet up. Or why not bring the grandparents and get a larger sized lodge? (And maybe even a bit of free babysitting...).

One couple we met actually lived just 20 minutes away but still came to Darwin Forest to get away from it all - which says a lot really.

The park and surrounding area has so much to offer that you can really make the holiday what you want it to be. Whether that's climbing mountains and cycling tow paths, strolling around the woodland walks, visiting the local tourist attractions, touring country pubs or simply lazing round the lodge and dipping in and out of the hot tub.

I did mention there was a hot tub didn't I?

Disclosure: We were invited to stay at Darwin Forest Country Park as guests for the purposes of this review. All words and opinions are honest and my own. If you are thinking of booking and have any questions about our stay, I am more than happy to answer them. 

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