This summer we had our first holiday to the Peak District. I wasn’t sure what to expect, it’s not really somewhere I ever thought about going but after coming across the website for Dovedale Cottages at Church Farm I was desperate to visit! Little did I know what adventures we were to have…..
There are two cottages at Church Farm and both have received a gold award from Visit England. When we arrived we could instantly see why. We rented the smaller cottage which sleeps four and it was immaculate. I don’t think I have ever come across such a clean holiday property. Everything we could possibly need was provided for us and we were even greeted with home-made scones! A few essentials were also provided like tea, coffee, sugar, milk and cooking oil. The cottage is really quaint and is decorated beautifully. I loved the embroidered pictures that were hung throughout the cottage and may have to do some ebay searching to purchase a few myself!
Our cottage had a small garden with a table and chairs. Although it was not big enough for the children to run around in, this was not a problem as it was safe for them to play in the farm courtyard and they also played in one of the adjoining fields when there were no animals in it.
Church Farm Cottage
We couldn’t wait to explore the area and went for a long walk before tea. Just look at this view from the farm!
We walked down over these fields to Hall Dale and then on towards Dove Dale. It was a gorgeous walk, the children were super excited and ran on ahead. Just on this first walk we discovered three caves, a bridge over the river (perfect for playing pooh-sticks), and lots of wildlife. We spotted a Dipper, a Heron and a Sparrowhawk that evening which pleased my bird-spotting husband! From Church Farm you can walk for miles and miles. It would be easy to have a week’s holiday here without having to use your car.
The next day we walked from Church Farm to the famous stepping-stones at Dove Dale. This is around 3 miles and is a really lovely walk. As you get closer to the stepping-stones it gets much busier with tourists. There was actually a queue to go over the stepping-stones which was a surprise as on our previous walks we had hardly seen another person! We didn’t stay here long for this reason but it was a beautiful spot.
It was on this walk that we discovered some hidden treasure! We had watched an episode of Countryfile a few weeks earlier where they had featured the discovery of some Roman and early British coins in Raynards Cave. We decided to take Grandad’s metal detector and hunt for treasure ourselves! We didn’t find any treasure in this particular cave but we did find a buried treasure map!
We followed the directions on the map which led us to another cave nearer to Church Farm. It was here that our trusty metal detector discovered the buried treasure! £5 in new money! I have no idea how it got there……..??!! Lily’s words were “Mummy this is the most exciting thing that has happened, EVER!!”
It was pretty hard to beat this day of adventure but we did have lots more fun the following day on our bicycles. The Peak District is very popular with cyclists and there are some excellent cycle routes to explore. We tried The Tissington Trail, Monsal Trail and The Manifold Valley. They were all very flat and completely manageable for the children, not once did we hear “are we there yet?”
Photo opportunity on the Tissington Trail
The Manifold Way was our favourite route. It takes in Thors Cave which has a very steep climb up to it and can be slippery on a wet day. It is well worth the effort as it is a spectacular cave. At 260 feet above the valley, the view is amazing! There is also a disappearing river along this route, which as you can imagine was just like something out of a Famous Five adventure!
Inside Thors Cave
The amazing view from Thors
If cycling this route be sure to stop at the Hulme End Tea Rooms. This is a very friendly cafe which serves home-made lunches and cakes. It has a very good gluten-free menu too. The tea-room also sells local produce and has lots of useful information about the area which you can look at whilst enjoying a cuppa. Also worth a visit is Wetton Mill. This is a lovely spot for a picnic by the river and a paddle with the ducks!
A short walk up the hills behind the Mill brings you to Nans Thor Cave (also known as Wetton Mill Rock Shelter). Lily and Thomas had a LOT of fun here! Many small tunnels come off a larger central cave and these are large enough for little ones to crawl through and come out the other side!
Short walk up to Nans Cave, with Wetton Mill in the background
Moving on to The Monsal Trail, this has a total of 6 tunnels along this route. They are pretty massive tunnels and generated a lot of excitement as we rode through them. They are well-lit but very cold! There is also a large viaduct which you cycle over at Monsal Head. This adds extra interest to a route which, for me was less enjoyable than The Tissington and the Manifold routes. Although the route is flat it has a rough surface and the children found it quite hard going. It was also extremely busy with both walkers and cyclists, which was a bit off-putting after the peaceful rides we had experienced on the other two trails. It does have some nice views but I felt it was lacking any real points of interest.
It is worth stopping at Hassop Station – a lovely old station building which has been converted. It now offers an excellent cafe with sun terrace, a book shop, gift shops and an outdoor adventure playground. On a sunny day this is a great spot to enjoy a glass of wine whilst watching the children climb and run around! They also do a roaring trade in take-away pizzas which seemed very popular whilst we were there.
Whilst in the Peak District we also visited Chatsworth House and Sudbury Hall. These are both excellent days out but I will review these separately as this has turned into quite a long post!
For more information on the Peak District, check out the Tourist Board website
Finally, here are a few of my favourite photos from our visit which I think reflects what a perfect family holiday we had!