Darwin Forest Review: Peak District Lodges
Life can get really busy at times and after a few busy weeks at school and home, children and adults alike can be pretty run down and in need of a break from the norm. We have returned home from a fantastic UK short break at Darwin Forest Country Park in the Peak District, which was just what was needed to recharge the batteries and have a much needed break. We are huge fans of lodges in the woods in the UK and think they offer so much to families especially for those who are spending a weekend away from home. Carry on reading for our Darwin Forest Review, and why it is perfect as a stay in the Peak District.
Who and where is Darwin Forest?
Unlike other more well known woodland holiday villages, Darwin Forest was one of the ones I hadn’t really heard of before we visited but we love trying new areas and new parks so we couldn’t wait to visit. After our few nights here, we have been totally wowed by both the Peak District and the holiday park. Darwin Forest are part of the Pinelodge Holiday Group who have two holiday villages in the Peak District, the second is about 30 minutes from Darwin Forest.
Darwin Forest is located in the heart of the Peak District with many of the national parks attractions within a short driving distance. Darwin Forest acts as a perfect base if you want to explore all that the area has to offer and likewise if you decide to just relax and enjoy the facilities at hand. We arrived at our lodge at 6pm and with it still being daylight the drive and finding the village was easily done. But the roads leading the Holiday village are very much country roads so remember to drive carefully.
The Holiday Village
We loved that Darwin Forest had all the amenities that a family needs onsite, from a great stocked woodlands shop, a leisure centre, a great soft play area but also a bike hire place, mini golf activities, playgrounds, laundry room and restaurant.
Arrival and check in for the park was so easy, despite the park being at full capacity there was no queue and you drive straight in and can park by reception. Check in was swift and the staff were great in providing all the information that we needed. The village has a number of different lodges, with the super exclusive Meadow Lodges, to those with hot tubs like ours and others with just decking out dining facilities outside which would be perfect for a late night get together in summer. Guests are provided with 2 parking spaces and cars can be kept outside the lodge. This makes life so much easier when you want to explore the surrounding areas with your car and not having to unpack everything but then there are cars onsite so you need to be mindful of walking around with your children
One of my favourite thing about holiday villages are when they are located in gorgeous woodlands. Waking up in the morning, in the woods and letting the little adventurers have the chance to get outdoors from the moment they wake up really makes the type of holiday one which we love.
Our lodge has a lovely open plan living area, it was more than big enough for the five of us. The lodge is designed for 6 people and has a master bedroom with an ensuite and double bed and two rooms with 2 single beds. There is also a bathroom with a bath which is something you don’t normally get with lodges and it was great as my boy adventurers are lovers of a long soak. There was plenty of storage space I each room so even if you traveled with friends you would have ample place to put all your clothes etc. There is also a hairdryer in the lodge which was perfect as we had forgotten ours!
There are lots of lodges within the park but we didn’t feel cramped and nor did we feel as though people were able to look in at us. As we had a hot tub, the views from the neighbouring lodges are obstructed by a wooden separator.
Our lodge had everything provided which a family would need for a weekend away. Kitchen essentials such as tea / coffees / sugar and washing up equipment were all provided. This is something I (and I think most families) usually forget to pack and it made life much easier. There is a CD player, DVD and TV and DVD’s could be hired out from the store.
During our weekend at Darwin Forest we managed to squeeze in a number of activities in a short space of time, we loved our hot tub, we spent our first evening and the morning of our final day sitting and relaxing in the hot tub. The hot tub is suitable for children over 4 years old and its a lovely addition to the lodge. I think it would be perfect in winter to really warm up.
We had taken bikes for Raihan and Maya from home and it had been years since I had ridden a bike. Zayn was super keen to have a whirl at biking so we decided to hire a bike with a tag-along so I could take Zayn on a bike with me. Unlike trailers where the children are hidden and can hardly see outside the tagalongs were perfect with the children doing as much or as little as they want and have the feeling of riding a bike. The hire costs were really reasonable at £10 for 4 hours for both the bike / tagalog and helmets!
The holiday village is located in gorgeous woodlands, and they have three lovely walks for families to enjoy. I loved that the walks were across the whole village so you get to see all the different aspects and if your like me, have a good feel of where you are staying. Our favourite walk was the Trim Trail which was a walk lasting about 30 – 40 minutes with a number of obstacles and challenges for everyone to take part in. We took our bicycle with us on the trail and it was ideal. The second walk around the woods is also suitable for bikes, but the shortest walk would have been too muddy for new / young riders/
The swimming pool is always a hit with my little adventurers and the Darwin Forest’s pool was a big hit. A couple of things to note, outdoor shoes are not allowed outside of reception. The reception can give you covers to put on their shoes, if you want to walk around with them. The pool is open to the general public and also has swimming lessons at certain times. As a result part of the pool is lengths only, and some can be allocated for the lessons. The pool is not huge so it can feel a little cramped, We arrived at 2 and it was very quiet, however, with the ending of the lessons, the pool became full, so I would recommend early or late swimming if you want to use
An additional onsite facility which I thought was a great idea was the indoor play area. I have been to some holiday villages which offer this but often these tend to be small and not the best equipped, however the Little Monkey’s play centre was great. Guests of the lodges have a reduced entry rate of £3.50 and the little adventurers loved having a little play.
At check in you are given a great piece of paper with all the local attractions and what there is on this weekend. As we wanted to have a relaxing few days we decided to do an activity on each day. I liked that the information wasn’t just general things to do but it was relevant information for time we were there.
Matlock Bath Illuminations
On Saturday we went to the Matlock Bath Illuminations. There is a parade of 10 rowing boats which have been decorated. However , there were lots of people there so unless your really early it is hard to see the boats. I would recommend you skip the official boat display time at 7:45, enjoy the other attractions / rides etc and then watch later when it is a little quieter as the boats stay on the water for some time after. There were some great fireworks to round off the night, we recommend standing near the entrance of the Gardens, in the first walkway into the area. We had the best views of the fireworks from there and it was the best place to make a quick exit at the end. The little adventurers enjoyed the visit, it is free for children and £7 per adult. The event was a ver y nice family focused “fair” type of event and was a little different given it was the first one we had been to in the evening/ night time but given the amount of people the actual illuminations element, may leave some families a little disappointed.
Heights of Abraham
The Peak District is gorgeous and there are lots of excellent walks in the area. But after all of our cycling and swimming, the little adventurers were a little exhausted. We wanted to enjoy the views of the Dead district so we decided to give the Heights of Abraham a visit. Tickets for the attractions include the cable cars to the top, the walk and tour of the caverns and the additional few attractions from the tower to playgrounds at the top. The day out is not cheap, but under 5s are free and guests at Darwin Forest get a reduced rate of £44 for 2 adults and 2 children. There was enough to spend a good afternoon in the area and the kids loved the cable cars and the playground and the caverns and guided tour was really interesting!
What we loved
- Activities on site were really reasonably priced. One pet peeve of mine is paying to staying in a lodge and then being faced with extortionate additional costs for activities. Everything onsite at Darwin Forest was a price that was good value for money.
- Reduced rates for the soft play is always good and its a great idea to have this facility onsite as its a perfect wet weather activity, which combined with the swimming can easily pass most a full wet day.
- Wifi in the lodges, sometimes its great to escape everything and have limited wifi but we had no reception in the village so having wifi in the lodge was really nice as we were still able to cal family etc.
- Perfect location to explore the Peak district but there was also enough in the village to do for the weekend without having t venture outside if you wanted a more inclusive break.
Things to be aware of:
- There are no cots, highchairs in the lodges. I know additional equipment can be requested so ensure that this is done before you visit, so you know what you would need to bring if you are traveling with babies / toddlers
- The location of the village is in the gorgeous Peak District and can only be accessed via some windy country roads. So if you are arriving at night or during the winter seasons, ensure that you plan for these and drive safely.
Overall, we had a wonderful time in the lodge and have failed for the Peak District and Darwin Forest. It is highly recommended and is definitely somewhere we would love to revisit!