By Jacqui Moroney
WHEN planning a relaxing or romantic getaway in Britain, there are many places to choose from; the rugged hinterland in Scotland, the scenic Lake District, and even the pebble beaches of Brighton. So, when we wanted something quintessentially English with interesting history and plenty of activity, a bed and breakfast in the Peak District, Derbyshire, sounded perfect.
The Peak District has rugged moorland, rolling hills, lush meadows and leafy forests, perfect for the explorer in anyone. While the peaceful gardens and historical houses are a backdrop for a relaxing weekend away from it all.
Hubby and I drove on the M1 from London, stopping briefly in Birmingham for lunch, and arrived at our bed and breakfast in Cromford three and a half hours later. Realising we were, by far, the youngest couple in the hotel (and possibly the tiny town) we walked 20 minutes into Matlock Bath for fish and chips at Charlies before retreating to a restful night of sleep.
On our first full day in the English countryside we weaved our way through the green fields and rolling hills, avoiding sheep (and sheep poo) in fenceless paddocks, and stopped off at Chatsworth House, a stately home on the east bank of the River Derwent in North Derbyshire. It has been the home of the Duke of Devonshire since 1549.
The House is open to the public (for a £16 entry fee) and set in expansive park lands and beautiful gardens. The house itself contains a unique collection of priceless paintings, antique furniture and a collection of stone and marble statues in their very own gallery.
While it is beautiful in more ways than one, one of my favourite things about Chatsworth House is it appeared as Pemberley, the home of Mr Darcy, in the 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Another highlight is the beautiful manicured garden making up a large part of the estate. We were very lucky to visit the estate during the Beyond Limits sculpture exhibition and early enough in the autumn for the grounds to still be green and lush. With so much to see and do we spent hours exploring the rose garden, water cascade, lake, rock garden and hedge maze.
That night we treated ourselves to a great pie and ale at The Boathouse in Cromford, preparing for our adventures the following day.
On our second day we enlisted the help of a good friend, and Matlock local, Richard who guided us through a few special historic sites many people probably have not had a chance to experience.
Matlock is one of the many small country towns in Derbyshire, south east of the Peak District. Many of the towns in the area lie on the River Derwent and are known for their former thermal springs and old mills. Many of the mills have been converted into shopping centres or parking lots, but others have been long abandoned and claimed back by nature. We visited the 19th century Riber Castle with glorious views over Matlock before retreating down to the derelict mills near Lumsdale.
A former mill pond is now a picturesque reservoir nestled between a windy country road and old Georgian houses. The water trickles down the millstones and smooth rocks into a glorious waterfall between the mossy ruins of the abandoned mills. There is a peaceful overgrown path in the hillside that provides access to this photographers dream. It is well worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
After a few fantastic photo opportunities we were back in the car and on our way to a pub lunch in Hartington, via the Matlock Meadows farm for some real dairy ice cream. We stocked up on some local Derbyshire cheese at the Old Cheese Shop in Hartington and settled into the car for the four hour drive back to London.
I have fallen in love with the Peak District and its surrounds. I am so happy that we could visit the area on our #neverendinghoneymoon, especially since we were able to spend a few magnificently warm and sunny days in the incredible English countryside.