Dust off the cobwebs and discover hidden gems with a winter staycation in the Derbyshire Dales
Wrapped in winter woollies with the pooch in tow after a long crisp walk in the Derbyshire Dales, my wife and I agreed the decision to embark on a post-Christmas break to the countryside was just what we needed to shake off the festive excesses.
On this occasion The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley, a quaint country inn ensconced within the beauty of the picturesque Chatsworth Estate, was our chosen bolthole and the perfect place to wind down and get some much-needed exercise and fresh air in the lungs.
Our stay was to be short, but long enough to help dust off the cobwebs and refresh the mind after days of celebrating, socialising and, of course, eating and drinking.
On arrival, the pub looked more than inviting and we knew we'd have trouble forcing ourselves out again once the warmth of indoors and cosy surroundings took hold.
We were staying in Hilltop, one of the charming pet-friendly rooms in the Farmhouse, with the rather high, but grand-looking four-poster bed immediately stealing the eye as we walked through the door.
With an interior designed by the Duchess of Devonshire herself, the room also boasts a large comfortable sofa, the perk of a Nespresso coffee machine and a super-spacious en-suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries.
After freshening-up, there was time to visit the highly-regarded Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop before dinner. Only a five-minute walk away from The Devonshire Arms, this award-winning store sells everything to tantalise the taste buds from mouth-watering meat options, fresh fish and fruit and veg to goodies and treats from the well-stocked deli and patisserie, as well as a wide range of wines, beers and soft drinks. One tip I'd give is to take plenty of spare bags as there's no way you'll fail to make a purchase.
Back at the inn and with stomachs rumbling, it was a picture perfect moment as we settled at a quiet corner table next to the fire with the dog sleeping as we sipped on a bottle of Merlot.
My menu choices of ham hock terrine, roast turkey and Christmas pudding suggested festive feelings were still apparent, but I didn't regret my decision as I was wowed by the uniqueness of each course in both taste and fine dining presentation.
Just a day previously we visited one of the Devonshire group's other properties down the road - the four-star Cavendish Hotel at Baslow - where we enjoyed a delicious, and somewhat indulgent, festive afternoon tea.
Along with its luxurious feel and spectacular hillside views, The Cavendish is also well-known for its top-class service, which was more than evident as we were relieved of our coats and escorted to a charming window table in the three-rosette Gallery Restaurant.
It was a feast we wouldn't forget in a hurry as we slowly munched our way through the delicate finger sandwiches, freshly-made scones and unexpected surprise of warm sausage rolls, as well as all the festively-designed sweet treats which included a lemon-flavoured Christmas tree and berry and chocolate Santa hat.
We weren't able to take the dog this time, but luckily for us the Derbyshire Dales are on our doorstep, so the 40-minute drive was no hardship on our return the following day.
The Cavendish, Devonshire Arms at Pilsley and the 'other' Devonshire Arms at Beeley, are all close to the stunning stately home Chatsworth House, which year after year attracts visitors from far and wide.
And the good news is that during the winter months while Chatsworth closes its doors to prepare for another season, any guests staying in one of those hotels can take advantage of the 'Discover Hidden Chatsworth' package, which offers a private tour of the historic house with an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes.
Led by one of the specialist guides, the tours will be available from mid-January to the beginning of March, giving visitors an insight into the special restoration projects in some of the main rooms of the house including the Painted Hall, State Apartments, Sketch Galleries and Guest Bedrooms.
There will also be the chance to meet some of the in-house team and view the recently-restored works of art, as well as gain an insight into future events and installations.
Discover Hidden Chatsworth - Each tour is between 60 and 90 minutes and will host a small group of between six and 20 guests. Tours take place at 11am each morning and are exclusively available to guests booking a ‘Discover Hidden Chatsworth’ two-night stay at The Cavendish at Baslow, The Devonshire Arms at Beeley or The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley. Guests staying in one of the self-catering Boltholes on the estate can also join.
Two-night packages at each hotel or inn include a three-course dinner on the first evening, full traditional Derbyshire breakfast on both mornings, Chatsworth House tour tickets and complimentary car parking at Chatsworth House for one day. Valid from Sunday 24th January to Thursday 3rd March 2022. Tours take place Monday to Thursday only.
The Cavendish at Baslow - From £293 per person for a two-night stay, based upon two sharing a twin or double Classic room, available Sunday to Thursday evenings.
The Devonshire Arms at Beeley and The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley - From £195 per person for the two-night stay at Pilsley, and from £212 per person at Beeley. Prices based upon two sharing a double Classic/Petite room, available Sunday to Thursday evenings.
Guests are requested to make their own transport arrangements to Chatsworth.
To book contact 01756 718 111 or visit the website.