The Peacock at Rowsley might have once been a dower house of Haddon Hall, one of Derbyshire's finest statelies, but now that there are contemporary black furry rugs next to the grand four-poster and antique wardrobe, and leaded window panes and ancestral portraits in the stairwell, there's no mistaking it's now a great little boutique hotel.
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Free tea and coffee, with biscuits or home-made chocolates, throughout your stay
15, including seven superior doubles and two special rooms.
11am, but if the hotel is quiet they can be flexible (subject to availability). Earliest check‑in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £245.71, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates include Continental breakfast (cooked items are available too). A minimum two-night stay is required at weekends.
Guests receive discounted entry to nearby stately homes Chatsworth House (10 per cent off) and Haddon Hall (50 per cent off).
Only the restaurant is open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.
At the hotel
DVD/CD library, free WiFi, massage by arrangement, access to a nearby gym and golf club, fly‑fishing, discounted entry to Chatsworth House (10 per cent off) and Haddon Hall (50 per cent off). In rooms, flatscreen TV, Apple TV, DVD/CD player, open fireplace, Miller Harris bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Room 1 and Room 7 (both Superior Double Rooms) are cosy and overlook the garden; Rooms 12 and 15 (also Superior Double Rooms) are the quietest, at the back of the hotel, and have king-size beds. Special Room 5 is the most romantic, with a wooden four‑poster, but Special Room 3 has a beautiful antique bed that was originally from Belvoir Castle. Superior Double Room 6 is a big, light double with a super king-size bed.
Wellies, bait and fishing net. Boxset of Pride and Prejudice – this is where the cast stayed during filming.
Under-10s can't stay at weekends, and an unfenced river means the garden isn't child‑friendly. On weekdays, cots (£15) and extra beds (£50) can be provided, and chef will oblige with small portions or dishes ‘with chips’.
In the bar, go for the nook on the right‑hand side as you enter.
Comfortable country living.
In the restaurant, chef Dan Smith turns locally sourced ingredients into fine‑dining feasts with an adventurous Mediterranean undercurrent; pigeon with spinach, puy lentils and a Madeira jus, for example; or fruit minestrone with orange and saffron tagliatelle. There’s a simpler bill of fare in the bar, where you can also order from the restaurant menu if you can’t drag yourself away from the fireside.
The invitingly olde-worlde bar has bare stone walls, a huge hearth and a weighty, copper-topped counter. You can also order from the restaurant menu here. Staff will keep the beer, wine, cocktails or champagne flowing as long as guests stay up.
Lunch, noon–2pm; dinner, 7pm–9pm (8.30pm on Sundays).
The bar menu is available during kitchen hours, but sandwiches can be rustled up in the afternoon.
Driving from Nottingham airport should take just over an hour, using the M1 and A38. The drive to Manchester airport will take a similar amount of time.
The station in Matlock is 10 minutes away up the A6. From here, you'll be able to get to Derby and connect to other destinations, including London, Edinburgh and Birmingham.
The nearest big city is Sheffield, 40 minutes away by car using the A621.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rambles, climbs and bike rides are the order of the day here – the Peak District National Park is your sprawling playground. Otheriwse, swing your way around Bakewell Golf Club’s nine‑hole course, cycle the local trails with wheels from Blackwell Mill Cycle Hire, or hack across dales from Northfield Farm, a 30-minute drive from the hotel. Go hot-air ballooning with Dragon Balloon Company (+44 (0)1433 623007). Fly-fishing is also possible – ask the hotel for details. You also get reduced entry to Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall, so spend a stately afternoon wandering through their lavishly dressed rooms.
A creeper-clad, child-friendly pub near the Nine Ladies stone circle, The Druid Inn on Main Street, Birchover has a terrace and garden seats, perfect for enjoying a leisurely Sunday lunch. The Bull’s Head at Ashford-in-the-Water, an old coaching inn near the River Wye, has an acclaimed bistro-style menu and remarkable puddings. Dress up for an evening at Fischer’s, Baslow Hall’s noted fine-dining restaurant on Calver Road in Baslow on the edge of the Chatsworth Estate; there’s an excellent six-course Prestige Menu of tasting dishes. No jeans or trainers.
Edensor (pronounced ‘Ensor’) is one of the prettiest villages on the Chatsworth Estate, and home to the Edensor Tea Cottage, where you’ll find soups and cream teas made with locally sourced ingredients.
A mile from Rowsley in Beeley, another Chatsworth Estate village, the Devonshire Arms is a traditional pub with log fires, real ales and fish suppers on Friday nights; it also has decent vegetarian options.
I can’t say I’m particularly well prepared for two days at a boutique hotel in the Peak District with a new boyfriend. Research-wise, I still blithely expect the ‘Peak’ bit to mean mountains – small English ones, perhaps, but considerable hillocks with distinct summits, at least. And, morally speaking, I score nul points: underneath the Miu Miu wedges and one or two optimistic summer dresses, my bags are crammed with OS Explorer Maps, wickable fabrics, and a Camelbak Hydration System, even though, as far as I am aware, my new beloved is to hillwalking what John Prescott is to favela funk.
Mr Smith has been informed that our stay at this stylish country-house hotel will involve getting amongst it outdoors, but I fear his idea of our real ale/fresh air ratio needs turning on its head. Still, I leaf through the Good Pub Guide obligingly as we purr up the M1 towards Rowsley and the best-kept boutique-hotel secret in Derbyshire. The Peacock is a country seat that’s perfect for urbanites: a handsome mini-stately on the A6 between Matlock and Buxton, with a smart black front door, a small army of young staff and its own bits of the rivers Wye and Derwent for fly-fishing if you’re serious about the country stuff.
There’s just enough formality among the smiles at check-in to reassure us that we’ll be properly looked after, and we follow our bags upstairs to find a room in the stately-for-two style we were hoping for. There’s a four-poster, antiques and enough room for me to unfold a few maps and tuck away our trekking equipment. It’s hung with old prints of Culloden and other 18th-century moments of note (the Peacock is among the properties of the Manners family, who own Haddon Hall, the thinking tourist’s stately home, down the road). The views aren’t expansive, but they’re leafy, and after 10 minutes among the creaky but covetable armoire and armchairs, we’re ready for a post-M1 stroll and a half of something local in a real, old-fashioned country pub. We head to a hamlet called Wardlow and a hotly recommended real pub called the Three Stags’ Heads. From the outside, it looks like a youth hostel, but inside… Dogs snooze by the fire in the tiny snug, and happy hikers clasp pints of eight per cent Brimstone ale. What a simple and satisfying place for an aperitif before we drive back to the Peacock for a somewhat more sophisticated dinner.
Eating here is a world away from the pub and its ruddy hikers. We read the menu over amuse-bouches in the low-lit, well-stocked bar, where there’s an open fire, gingham upholstery and old wooden tables. Only then are we brought through to the Peacock’s long, white-linened dining room. It’s another moment of formality that makes me glad I bothered to pack a dress and some not-for-walking shoes. But, though the service is smart, it’s not inhumanly polished; the atmosphere is relaxed and there’s a distinctly contemporary feel all round, from the wall-sized seaside photograph in the dining room to the unfusty textiles in the sitting room.
We’d have been satisfied with superior gastropub-type fare, but this is accomplished cooking: Mr Smith’s beef fillet is perfectly pink and unresisting, and comes with snails; my rack of lamb is just as refined. Elsewhere on the menu we see a mosaic of duck and a palette of ice-cream – if the Derbyshire demographic includes a sub-genre of foodie fly-fishermen, this place must make them very, very happy. It is one of those restaurants with rooms where we feel a bit sorry for the non-residents for having to leave.
In the morning, the tumblers of Laphroaig and Balvenie that seemed such a good idea late at night are more or less intact on the dressing table. Mr Smith wonders what the correct etiquette is for the maids; might we be saving our tipples for a post-trekking treat, in lieu of afternoon tea? But enough thoughts of teatime and bed; it’s a bank holiday Sunday, and there is a Peak to be tackled (I have, by now, established that the Peak bit is simply an old English word for ‘quite hilly, with escarpments and outcrops galore’). It is, ahem, raining a bit, but we Britishly chat amongst ourselves as we struggle up a very steep slope into the wind, along the gritstone cliff. Mr Smith is impressing me with his tough outdoorsiness, and green views of the Derwent Valley and thoughts of a hearty pub lunch keep us going until supper.
We go for it restrainedly with sausage and mash and a pint at the Chequers Inn, down at the foot of Froggatt Edge. The rest of the walk is a little kinder, giving us a bit more of a chance to hold hands – until interrupted by the occasional size-ist ‘squeeze stile’ – and taking us across up-and-down farmland where we barely see another soul. The sun comes out and, by the time we get back to the car, we feel rewarded.
We came, we hiked, we flaked out in the Peacock’s sitting room and laughed at the similarity between the average lonely-hearts ad and the for-sale classifieds in the Horse & Hound we picked up in the pub (‘stunningly pretty’, ‘flashy chap’…). In spite of fluffy cushions and green-velvet armchairs, the public spaces at the Peacock are almost grand. We felt very welcome to make ourselves at home and treat the sitting room and bar as our own. The same goes for the garden, which leads down to the hotel’s own stretch of the Derwent, site of said fly-fishing. There is a visitors’ book devoted to rod action by the front door and a group of men among our fellow guests who are here specifically for the trout-wrangling. We, however, are quite content to be landing scampi in lemonade batter, and roast beef; staying for another night at this boutique stately home is even more a treat than the first. And, bliss: the only steep slope we’ve got to climb before bed is the stairs.