Three weeks ago we were properly welcoming in both Autumn in true country-side, cosy-ass style in the beautiful Peak District in a little cottage called Pickle Cottage! It’s one of loads of lovely British country cottages on offer at Sykes Cottages, and if you are able to be more flexible about dates (i.e. steer clear of half-term – we didn’t have a choice, unfortunately!), there are some amazing deals to be had.
Peak District, our second home
Between the age of about 11 or 12 and 18 I spent almost every weekend in the Peak District. You see, when I was 10 my family moved from the Market Town of Abingdon to inner-city Birmingham and my mum hated it. Having grown up in rural Lincolnshire, she was now living and working in the huge metropolis. For the sanity of the whole family, my parents bought a tiny 2 up, 2 down cottage in a village near Hartington and so, the Peak District became our second home.
Fast forward a few years (OK more than 10) and I rarely go there now. It’s a good ol’ drive from the Northumberland Coast and holidays tend to be taken up (somehow) with other trips. When my mum suggested we all get a cottage together in Derbyshire for the half term I thought that was such a lovely idea. Family time back in our old haunt…BUT, with 4 adults, 3 kids and 2 big dogs, we’ve outgrown 1 club cottages (my parents’ pad) so as I had already been working with Sykes Cottages (did you see my competition-winning, ‘hidden veg’ ice lollies back in the summer?!), I spoke to them about the cottages they have available.
Well, there are loads! So, the first thing I would advise doing is narrowing down your search to an area or a couple of areas so you don’t become overwhelmed. We were slightly limited given the size of our group. Oh and two massive dogs! But I was suprised by how many places actually allow dogs. I guess it makes sense though as much of the holidaying-in-Britain audience are likely to own dogs!
Setting off for Pickle Cottage
Having selected Pickle Cottage and payed up (which was a really simple process – that I managed to make complicated and ended up calling the help-desk. I’m so glad I did because the service was just lovely and no one made me feel like the idiot I was. So we’ll pretend I was just doing a thorough review) we were all set to go. After packing (including my personal holiday essentials!) in a rather leisurely fashion, we set off around midday in the hope Reuben might sleep. Pah! Don’t be silly.
And, a few short hours later we arrived!! We’d been sent all the details, including the owners name and phone number, beforehand so it was really easy to find – not a wrong-turn or argument in sight (unlike finding the place for our Portugal trip…). We got a lovely warm reception from the owner, who owns the pub right next door (Mike was thrilled – his dream home is in a small village with a pub nearby), she gave us the keys and a few more instructions and then we were left to it.
OK, so I knew the downstairs was going to be interesting…9 bodies in one living space! The kitchen, dinning room and living room are, what optimists like to call, open-plan – it was basically a room. But you know what, it was LOVELY!! It was everything I would want from a cottage (OK, I’d probably like an open fire too but with a toddler, I was grateful for one less hazard), cosy, comfy, nicely decorated, loads of wonderful books and DVDs (the owner has fabulous taste) and set out in three distinct areas. Plus with a bit of shifting around, you could make a particular space, for example the dinning area, bigger when you needed it. In all honesty, we never felt squashed and it was nice for us all to be in the same space.
The upstairs on the other hand was massive! 2 double bedrooms (one snugger than the other), so my younger Brother, Isaac, got a double bed to himself (well jel!), a family bathroom and, at the end of the corridor, a family room which had a double bed (which was insanely comfortable – there was none of that new-bed-can’t-sleep malarky) and a twin room on the mezzanine floor, where Gabby slept, and an ensuite.
The twin beds on the balcony overlooking our room freaked me out a little with thoughts of Reuben climbing up there on his own. But, we moved one of the mattresses down to the lower lever (at the foot of our bed) and barricaded the stairs so he couldn’t climb up at bedtime (he is first to bed at 7pm!) and all was well with the world. Gabby thought it was the best room EVER and even Isaac was secretly jealous (how ironic).
So, happily in situ in our new home all we had to do was drink, eat, walk a bit and be merry. It was so lovely!
What we did at Pickle Cottage!
Our first outing that Saturday evening was to find food in the nearby village of Wirksworth, where we happened upon a little French Restaurant called Le Mistral. Turns out it wasn’t as little as it looked, with a warren of rooms running through the cellar. They were kind to the kids and the food was amazing; the best food of the whole trip in fact (I wish we’d gone back).
The next day my parents were due to arrive at lunch time. So after a lazy morning we went for a little investigate around the little village of Middleton (in our Sunday best ready for lunch out!). We ventured out past the pub, through the village, past a drain and after a short walk up a hill, past a couple of sheep, we could see for miles. This is real country living!
The village green
What? Drains are cool!
The top! Who can spot Pickle Cottage?!
As ever, walking with a toddler, was interesting but he sort of embraced the challenge, especially with the odd puddle to jump in and at least Dad was on hand to save my poor back!
Then it was homeward to await the arrival of my parents and go for Sunday Lunch.
Now I know you wouldn’t make this mistake, but if you are planning on going to a pub for Sunday Lunch, be sure you book in advance, won’t you? After calling a bunch of places, we finally found one fairly close by. The food was delicious and then Reuben slept on me for over an hour. Unheard of!
The next few days followed a pattern of long lazy breakfasts – Reuben and Gabby had at least 3 breakfasts every morning, and the grown ups had a delicious full English. My Dad’s culinary skills really shone in the morning! And it didn’t matter how full you were from the night before. Then minutes before midday we would finally make it out the house… On Monday we went for a shortish walk (with Reuben in mind, we didn’t want to walk too far) around the village of Youlgreave, which I remember very well from my childhood, and you can see a few photos there in this post announcing our holiday to the Peak District! Then Mike and I found some internet in Buxton while Grandma and Grandad took the kids off to play some more.
On Tuesday we visited a place called Carsington Lake. It has a fantastic kids’ playground and there is a lovely, flatish 8 and half mile walk around the lake. I was duped into doing the full walk with Mike and Dad, which although was fabulous, was 2 and half miles longer than we thought it was going to be! I was wearing knee-high boots, for goodness sake, so my feet (and mind) hit the wall at 6 miles. It was really fun to go for a walk with my two favourite men though and there was heated political discussion aplenty, which was a welcome change from toddler talk! We were beat after that so we headed for home again. I had a nap and then Mike and I went out for a date, such is the luxury of a holiday with your parents!
Wednesday we went for another walk (Gabby was thrilled) and after the Youlgreave walk it became clear that we needed a better way to transport Reuben. Enter the baby carrier, thanks to the lovely owner of Pickle Cottage, who went out of her way to find us one!
With a host of lovely walks directly from the village we set off with a picnic and a borrowed book from the cottage. Within half an hour we happened across this fabulous view and we all felt ready for lunch!
Re-fuelled we set off again as we still had a fair old walk ahead of us! But it was a fun and varied walk, through fields, a little town, the quarry and little country lanes.
We kept ourselves entertained with running and jumping, singing songs and the odd mossy hat for a dog.
A running/jumping casualty
A mossy dog hat
On thursday we ventured to Chatsworth House. What a place! The drive up the long, winding lane was fabulous, complete with deer. I could almost see Darcy emerging out of the lake! We didn’t go into the house but actually headed off to the farm and the most amazing adventure playground you’ve ever seen. It’s that good there’s a first aid hut in it! Oh and there’s lots of water, so if you are visiting, take spare clothes and/or waterproofs.
Friday was our last day and Halloween, so we went for a lovely walk around Monsledale, along the old railway, through the tunnels which were reopened a few years ago and back along the river bank, stopping for the odd photo opportunity and to feed the trout!
Feeding the Trout
That evening was Halloween and a great way to end the week. Mike made a very good effort with the pumpkin, there was a party at the pub and the whole village seemed to be out trick or treating. Gabby was in her element and had come prepared with a full witches outfit. Poor Reuben’s outfit was his pyjamas. Bad mum.
We had such a wonderful holiday, with amazing weather. A little bit of respite before going back to all the excitement of school and work and the run up to Christmas!
The end. Well done if you made it this far!! That was a lot of photos.
Do you like to holiday in the UK? Have you ever used Sykes Cottages?
I’d love to hear your experience and memories in the comments below!
Disclosure: This post is in collaboration with Sykes Cottages who gave us a discount as a thank you for writing up the post.