If you are looking for a relaxing retreat that’s family friendly and in beautiful surroundings then you must check out Darwin Forest Country Park nestled in a truly picturesque spot in the Derbyshire Peak District. VFAD were invited to spend three nights in one of the park’s Spa Lodges on what has been one of the warmest Septembers for years and boy was it something special.
Darwin Forest, Pinelodge Holidays can easily boast the 5* that it holds. As you enter the tree lined avenue to the country park location, you’ll find a community of lodges in a splendid setting. We arrived on Friday afternoon and were warmly welcomed by the reception team who gave us the low down on what’s on offer. With a swimming pool, toddler soft play, mini golf, numerous family friendly woodland walks, table tennis as well as an outdoor play area and a planned programme of other activities such as archery, fencing and bodyzorbing (a new one for me), you will find that you can simply relax in the surroundings or get busy and fill your schedule with fun – whatever your aim, Darwin Forest is definitely the place to do it.
Our spa lodge was located in a private avenue with two others one of which was vacant for the duration of our stay so apart from the squeals of excitement that came from the VFAD lodge and the gurgling of the hot tub (which was probably glad to wave us goodbye at our departure given its ‘robust’ use), the only sounds to be heard were that from the wind in the trees and the chirping of the birds. The setting is so peaceful that rabbits happily hop out from the vast wooded areas and contentedly nibble away on the grassy lawns. The Little Lady was on constant rabbit watch wether this was from the decking or the hot tub you could be sure she’d spy at least one.
Decorated to a high spec. with double and twin bedooms as well as two bathrooms (the joy!) that each had super fantastic showers and one with a large standalone bath (one of life’s greatest pleasures), an open plan living area with doors that opened onto a generous decking area and a well kitted out kitchen (dishwasher plus tablets, toaster, oven, microwave, washing machine, iron & board vacuum and even washing up liquid) the lodge was ready to receive a family looking for a home from home – as if my home is like this. Obviously, you don’t go away for a break with washing your smalls on your agenda but the facilities are there for you in the lodge should you need them or you can pop down to the laundry too – sometimes with a toddler and a baby a tumble dryer can be your saviour. We had planned out our meals and given that Littlest VFAD is new to foods the best place for us to eat is behind closed doors only to save anyone else the joy of having a spoon fly in their direction but had this not been the case we could have taken advantage of the award winning family friendly restaurant, Foresters, which is on site and welcomes little diners and even your dog. Although, there is a designated adult only area too.
We journeyed out on Saturday morning to Bakewell to sample the famous tarts and explore the local area. There are many attractions nearby including Chatsworth House and Matlock Farm Park, which you can purchase discounted tickets for from Darwin Forest Reception. Bakewell is a quaint little town with a brilliant toy shop where pocket money can easily be spent and Christmas or birthday lists can be filled. Parking was simple but we did arrive early and it was busy when we left so plan ahead if you are venturing out.
To burn off our Bakewells we practised our swimming skills in the Evolution swimming pool. I looked at the gym which was well equipped but that is all I did with the gym (I know! I should have done more). Should your visit not be blessed with the sun, there is a mega indoor soft play on site which is open to the public (concessionary rate available for guests) as well as an Activity Den or you could get your wellies and waterproofs on and explore the Trim Track with exercise stations and obstacles – we had great fun pretending the crocodiles were snapping after us and pretending to be monkeys swinging on the hi-bars.
It’s often the little things that make a difference when you’re away. You’ll know that VFAD likes an instagram or two and with free wifi throughout the park this was made easy. But, the material extras aren’t always what do it for me. Instead it’s the smiles from the staff, the well thought out welcomes and information available to guests that help to tick the wow boxes and Darwin Forest can certainly have huge ticks for these features. We had a truly brilliant stay. Abiding memories will be hot tubbing under the stars, laughing loudly at our attempts to master the trim track so that we echoed through the trees and the excitement of a three year old who could fill her weekend with fun and bubbles.