TLDR : maybe not the fanciest in the world, but definitely the fanciest in Emily’s world.
As this is this first hotel Emily has stayed in I have been big time hyping this up.
Queueing for check in Emily turned on the charm and excitement and the receptionist allocated us what is probably the best room possible. The bedroom is huge with a view of the sea and The Grand Hotel opposite, it is potentially shabby on the inside but the view from across the street still lives up to the name and I feel gives off Grand Budapest Hotel vibes:
It cost me £70 per night but I booked around the time everyone started realising a foreign holiday would be a gamble and a ball ache this year. So I imagine it would ordinarily be cheaper.
We are directly over all the toddler fun South Beach has to offer with donkey rides and amusements, also a minute away from all the shops and McDonald’s. Although it is a very steep trek down to the beach the Victorian Tramway is still running which is fun and only £1.30 for adults with under 5s free so it is perfect for us as walking up the steps is way too much effort with Emily on my shoulders.
Although the hotel windows are a little dirty and the decorating a little shabby, with the super friendly staff and this location I couldn’t care less.
We did a loop around including Great Longstone and the Monsal Trail. As we passed through the village and Thornbridge Hall there were opportunities to grab ice lollies and a picnic. Thornbridge Hall itself looked fun with a big play area and cafe but it was packed out so I was glad to be heading off hiking.
The Monsal Trail is a big wide track so handy for families as you can cycle or take a pram. The track used to be a railway so there was a tunnel running through the hill, which we needed as it was a nice break from the heat.
We just did a sling walk so we weren’t stuck on the main trail, which was good as after we crossed this huge bridge we trekked down a steep route to get to the river.
We had a picnic stop by the bridge then walked under and had a splash in the shallow bit of the river then walked up to the main route over the bridge again.
After another steep route after the bridge we were rewarded with this view, then just another 15 minutes back to our campsite.
Rating : We didn’t go for a long or challenging walk, but even so I would have been way too tired carrying Emily on my own on a hot day. Plus the navigation would have been stressful. But as a group trip this was really fun and had lots of variety to keep Emily interested so 10 out of 10.
TLDR : Stayed in the fanciest tent on a lovely campsite because I am too high maintenance for actual camping.
Back in June we had a couple of nights break with my sister, her boyfriend and my dad.
Although the idea of camping is fun I am permanently cold so need a tent fitted with a radiator and log burner. Whereas my sister can survive a couple of nights in a tent with no heating, fortunately Dale Farm Campsite do both.
This was where we stayed:
Each plot is marked out with loads of free space and wild flowers marking each area, if you like camping information then there were plenty of water taps dotted around and space to park by your tent. There was a 10pm quiet rule and no music to be played, so good for families and people who don’t want to be around annoying noisy groups.
My sister stayed at the top of the hill which didn’t have many plots so it was even more spread out and quiet, but look at the view:
The campsite had just renovated a barn into the shower / toilet / pot wash so everything was new. They also had a mini farm shop (with an honesty box / honesty PayPal account) to buy local bacon, sausages and egg, as well as fire pits to hire.
As it is a working farm we were surrounded by fields of sheep and cows, the barn is up against the camping field so we got to see all of the lambs being herded in one morning. It is also just an excellent location, surrounded by rolling hills and no noise other than the birds. The site itself was kept really well:
We had great weather so had a BBQ, outdoor full English breakfast and plenty of time sat by the fire playing games.
It was a short walk from the Monsal Trail and a 15 minute drive to Chatsworth so really handy, we also walked to the pub one night so everyone got to have a drink.
Overall it was the perfect compromise for a child who loves the idea of camping with a parent who is completely unable to handle actual camping.
Rating : for anyone else 10 out of 10, for high maintenance people who cannot sleep well unless the room is pitch black and the perfect temperature 8 out of 10.
TLDR : if Disney did stately home farms they would make this. Bloody loved it.
As you can see from the photos I was biased by the gorgeous weather we had in June. But I still think it is excellent.
Just pulling up to the estate I was a little mind blown by the size of the place. The huge parkland and ancient oak trees, the ridiculous sized house, enormous fountains in the background.
A little history
I say a little as it really is a little. The Chatsworth family come from Bess of Hardwick who lived within view of the estate at Hardwick Hall. Born to an impoverished family she ended up being the second wealthiest woman of her time, after Elizabeth the 1st, as she survived four different wealthy husbands and raked in the inheritance every time.
When Bess married her second husband (20 years older and very rich) she didn’t fancy his land in Suffolk so convinced him to buy Chatsworth in her home of Derbyshire. At this point he was Sir William Cavendish but later their descendents became Dukes and got insanely wealthy and built the huge Chatsworth, running out of bricks and having to take a load from the Old Hardwick Hall which is still in ruins now.
For a while they used Chatsworth as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots. And the only interesting thing I know since then is Debo Mitford (quite a long bit after).
Debo is one of six sisters:
Nancy wrote The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate
Pamela divorced her millionaire husband so she could spend the rest of her life with an Italian horsewoman (contraversial for an Edwardian born woman)
Diana married a fascist and spent time in Holloway prison
Unity was obsessed with Hitler and shot herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany
Decca was a communist
Debo initially seemed the boring one. She married a second son who wasn’t due to have much money and her family could barely afford her wedding trousseau. But three years after marrying Andrew his elder brother died in the war and they then became Duke and Duchess.
As well as a novelist who was involved in politics she loved the estate and used to hang out in the farm shop and give people tips on how to cook a joint of meat. The family own ridiculous property including Bolton Abbey and the numerous hotels and pubs, some of which she insisted be decorated in crazy bright colours she thought would be fun.
Unfortunately she died a few years ago, at 95 years old, so you won’t meet her in the shop now.
Back to the point
When you park up the first place you pass through is the courtyard. It’s technically just somewhere for the family to leave their horses and carriages, but it is insane. People get married in the stables, there is a huge cafe, restaurant, multiple shops, loads of outside seating and statues and water features.
In the context of a huge tourist attraction it makes sense, but it is a bit mind blowing to think it was originally just somewhere to house one family’s horses.
We didn’t go in the actual house and grounds as the farm seems more toddler appropriate, and you do not have time to do it all.
The farm itself is set up the hill a little, presumably to not get in the way of the view from the house. Even though it is a tucked away working unit, you can tell it was used by a wealthy family as all the buildings are still fancy (for a farm).
Covid meant the shop was closed but there was a coffee shop with decent espresso and ice cream.
The animals were pretty friendly and we could feed this guy:
And his little mates:
I got a bit keen and took a stupid amount of animal photos that day. But there were plenty of things for Instagram addicts, for example this shiny red tractor:
Toddler fun things
Photo opportunities aside it was really fun for children. They had an area set aside with cars and tractors that we spent way too much time in.
Up the hill again there was a huge play area with big kit for older kids with big climbing and zip lines:
But they also had a really good toddler area with a huge sandpit with a hand pump coming out of the stream running along the back:
TLDR : went to the Lakes, got a bath, looked up, saw a shooting star.
I saw a shooting star, I’m not sure if this is a new thing as if I saw one before I probably assumed it was a helicopter.
But this time I was with a person who has a PhD in star related things and if he accepted my description as a shooting star then it’s going on the list.
By itself it isn’t that exciting. It looked like that two second bit where you see a firework shoot through the sky before it explodes. However it started from the middle of the sky and ended shortly after in the middle of the sky.
Now it doesn’t sound like much but in the context of having a romantic evening in the middle of the Lake District it was pretty cool.
All I did was look up at the sky as I was chilling in the bath so effort versus reward alone this one gets a 10 out of 10.
A Via Ferrata is a series of iron rods stapled onto the (almost vertical) mountain side to climb over. You still get the climbers harness and carabiners (metal climbers clips) to clip on with, but it is more similar to a weirdly placed ladder than actual gripping onto the rock face.
This is good as you don’t need experience but you can go straight onto a really high up mountain and get amazing views.
It is a bit of a faff getting the carabiners on and off every rungs but you get in the swing of it.
We started off fairly high and then climbed down a vertical rock face and skirted across the mountain side. At one point there was a ‘Burma Bridge’ across a gorge with a wire to balance on and two wires to hold on to. With a 1,000 foot drop straight down to the rocky valley it was surprisingly not scary.
We did the extreme package for three hours so after this we climbed a huge net over a stretch of mountain which was the hardest bit.
When we finished we ended up on the old paths the slate miners used with low tunnels running through the mountain and then out along the edge with sheer drops down.
Along the route were abandoned slate buildings a metre or so from the edge. This must have been 1,500 feet up from the valley floor and even in May it was bloody cold and windy. We were told that the miners would live in them for four weeks at a time taking children up from seven years old.
I can’t imagine how horrible that would be in winter with just heavy woollen clothes and nothing waterproof.
The guide then took us to the summit of Fleetwith Pike which is 2,100 feet tall with views across to Scotland.
The afternoon itself was really fun. I wasn’t sure if I would have a panic about the height and ruin it. At the start one couple took a look at the route and went straight back which did not help my nerves. But by the end I was feeling quite proud of myself for doing something a bit scary.
Imagine we are friends and I invite you to my house. You expect coffee, maybe a brownie, and to sit on the sofa fully clothed and that is completely socially acceptable to everyone.
Alternatively what if I told you I’d left my bath water in for a few days. Suggested we take our clothes off, get in together in our underwear and I’ll throw in a little cap of bleach and some more hot water to sanitise it. Then once we are in I leave the vacuum running in the hall for some background noise so we have to shout a little bit to hear each other.
That is how I feel about hot tubs. The thought of being outside in hot water is a nice idea but the reality of it is actually all a bit gross and socially awkward.
Now I understand that there is always the option of only using hot tubs with someone you are quite happy being naked with anyway and the option of only using a freshly cleaned hot tub of clean water. But I have trust issues.
Does every self catering holiday let offering two night stays bother taking half an hour to empty it, faff around cleaning it, four hours filling it and another four hours heating it in between check out at 11am and check in at 4pm? Do they commit to the effort of doing this every other day? I’m skeptical.
Now some places probably do, for example look at this fancy set up with an outdoor hot tub which I would absolutely get in.
If I had £850 to spend on one nights accommodation.
Which I do not.
However I found this cool little hut with an outdoor bath. A log burner powered outdoor bath with a field of sheep looking on. So rustic, so nostalgic, this is definitely how Cumbrian sheep farmers have kept clean and relaxed for centuries. I was very excited.
You can see from the image the lovely clean, non-chemical, water we put in ourselves.
The water goes in cold and the log burner had a little inlet to let the water circulate through to heat and go back into the tub so it stays hot as long as the log burner keeps running.
There is quite a lot of very cold water in the tub there. The guide says the tub takes “two hours” to heat up so as soon as we arrived at 6.30 we got it heating straight away. We nipped out to get some fish and chips, got the fire pit on and enjoyed some champagne in the sun and it was gorgeous:
I got a little bit drunk and left my guy that I am seeing to be the responsible fire manager. Not that I can’t work a log burner but purely because I am a lazy drunk and preferred to get settled with a blanket and demand chocolates and prosecco be brought to me instead.
After two hours the top two inches were appropriately warm and everything below was bloody freezing.
After four hours it was warm enough to get in but we had to huddle around the water outlet flow to stay warm. It took another hour before it was hot enough to lie back and relax by which point it was nearly bedtime.
I did get a nice bit of chilling out looking at the stars time. But also the post prosecco regret then kicked in and I started to get a bit headachey.
Was it worth it?
The novelty factor of being tipsy in an outdoor tub with little lambs playing in the background was fun. On the basis of someone else doing all the work while I got drunk, yes it was worth the almost no effort I put in. However the second night we definitely could not be bothered with doing it again.
Fun factor 10/10 for the ten minutes of enough warmth when I could lie back and managed to spot a shooting star which made it pretty special
Effort factor 7/10 lots and lots of (someone else) adding logs to the tiny log burner to try and get the fire hot enough
(we stayed at The Stag booked through Canopy and Stars, it was gorgeous – more photos below. The £850 place is Gilpin Lodge, also in The Lakes)