Darwin Forest: Glamorous retreat an hour from Birmingham is the idyllic Peak District escape

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Switch off from the daily grind in your own private hot tub and luxury lodge

Set among more than 550 square miles of rolling hills, stands Darwin Forest - a jolly base from which you can explore the many wonders of the Peak District.

At just over an hour away from Birmingham, this makes an idyllic weekend escape for those looking to get out in nature and enjoy the magical high peaks, lowland moors, dales, and valleys.

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If it’s tourist attractions you’re after, Darwin Forest - a glamorous woodland escape - is just 15 minutes from both Chatsworth House and Gulliver's Kingdom.

A stone’s throw from the A6, the resort itself is situated in the pine-filled area of Darley Moor above Darley Dale.

Also nearby is the former spa town of Matlock which feels and looks like a seaside town - with fish & chip shops, arcades, souvenir shops galore and nostalgic-looking limestone and slate buildings and houses - despite being 80 miles away from the sea.

Head to the lovely historic village of Bakewell for riverside strolls and sampling proper Bakewell tarts - the famous pudding even originated here.

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First impressions

It’s the stuff of childhood dreams at Darwin Forest and you’re eased into relaxation mode the minute you pass by traditional stone walls and glorious views of the dales into a winding lane that cuts through an ancient forest and leads you into the resort.

Owned and operated by the local Needham family since the early 1990s, Darwin Forest is committed to sustainable tourism with the site having grown organically so all lodges are thoughtfully placed to maximise on privacy and views of the surrounding forest. Guests are encouraged to get back to nature and so once you’ve been welcomed by friendly staff, you’re free to explore the enchanting woodland and local village walks past quaint pubs and peaceful fields like locals.

Nothing beats popping on your walking boots and heading out for early morning hikes and exploring some of the exciting trails (with something for walkers of all abilities and levels) directly from your front door into Darwin Forest after a tour de force breakfast cooked to perfection in your own lodge using locally sourced produce in the airy kitchen and bought fresh from Darwin’s own on-site shop.

Darwin ForestDarwin Forest
Darwin Forest

Later, get the BBQ on or have a pre-supper swim in the resort’s heated indoor pool located in the separate Evolution pool-house and fitness complex with lifeguards on duty.

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The gym and yoga studio offer daily timetabled classes for adults and tennis courts, table tennis tables and a mini crazy golf course all add to fun too. Other activities emphasise back to basics fun like archery and falconry can be booked via the front desk or before your arrival. Cycles can be hired for an extra fee.

Need pampering? Head down to the spa for signature massages and beautifying treatments to keep your body in tip-top condition. For children under five, including toddlers and babies, head over to the outdoor wooden adventure playground or while away a couple of hours inside the Little Monkey’s indoor soft play centre.

Of course, when it all seems too much, you’ve always the choice to unwind with a book on the patio, indulge in some alfresco dining and get the hot tub bubbling.


Perfect for families, couples, and groups holidaying together,  the 137-notch pine lodges take the limelight with clean-lined exteriors crafted with wood sourced from towering pines in the local forest. Stays in the lovely and bright lodges come with Wifi and are as relaxing as you can get with hampers full of fruit, cakes, and fresh milk on arrival (or you can opt to have a supermarket delivery sorted just after you arrive).

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Guests can choose from a range of cosy and romantic one-bedroom retreats ideal for couples, to expansive four-bedroom lodges designed for family gatherings or group stays, and many with private outdoor hot tubs.

We check into lodge number 43 - one of the six highly equipped and high-spec luxury wooden abodes - which comes under the Chatsworth Elite Spa Plus category of properties and which has its own, roomy outdoor hot tub with enough space to fit four.

Our gloriously charming and contemporary open-plan kitchen, living and dining room offers heaps of space to spread out (especially needed when travelling with kids and backpacks full of toys ready to be unloaded) and the stripped wooden beams, honey-toned wood floors, breakfast bar, neutral furniture - including a cool rustic coffee table - squishy sofas and luxury fabric touches give the place an 'A' in style.

The Hot TubThe Hot Tub
The Hot Tub

Thoughtful hotel-like indulgences include fresh milk and coffee machines, smart TVs from which you can cast your favourite streaming channels and DVD players (there’s a DVD library on site too). Living rooms also feature soft lighting and homely electric fireplaces for a warm, laid-back vibe and combine all the modern comforts you’ll need with relaxed country style.

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Top billing goes to the patio doors which open up fully to a private terrace with wooden decking overlooking the idyllic lush green forest and from which you can spot birds, silent hopping wild rabbits, hares, and deer frolicking in the foliage behind you.

Best of all? The hot tubs are a year-round feature so those happy to brave the cold can sink under the bubbles and watch the constellations above even in winter. It all makes for such a perfect stay in the Peak District that you’ll find leaving very difficult.

Suite dreams

Another big pull is the separate double and twin bedrooms in our lodge - both with their own en-suite bathrooms. The double room comes in a soothing colour palette of Earth-toned beiges and green and features a dressing table and wardrobes and a king-sized bed decked out in quilted blankets which add a nice touch to crisp white cotton bedding.

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There are plenty of well-placed wall sockets for charging devices (though our hunch is you won’t be spending much time on them). Like all the other lodges, ensuite bathrooms come with huge walk-in monsoon power showers which feel truly decadent and or bathtubs with overhead showers.

Incredible facilitiesIncredible facilities
Incredible facilities

How to book & prices

Visit Darwin Forest, Darley Moor, Two Dales, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 5PL. Stays are based on four nights midweek or three-night weekends but there is the option to tailor make dates and stays to suit your needs with the online and phone bookings team.

Prices start from £419 for a one-bedroom lodge sleeping two. To book, visit www.darwinforest.co.uk or email [email protected] or call 00 44 1629 732428. For more information visit www.visitpeakdistrict.com

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