The Old Forge, Peak District – Review
The Old Forge, nr Ashbourne, Peak District
by Lisa Byrne
You may think the rich and famous would choose to escape this pesky virus by leaping onto a private jet to laze around on exotic beaches. But it appears that, just like us, our showbiz friends would rather avoid the gruelling effort of overseas travel during these testing times, and instead opt to stay in a glorious part of ‘this sceptred isle’.
So, I’m not surprised that when I arrive at The Old Forge on the edge of the Peak District I’m told by owner Philippa Hibbert, who runs a set of stunning holiday homes together with her family, that an array of celebrities had stayed at her farm.
‘We’ve recently hosted one of Britain’s most popular chefs as well as a glamorous contestant from Strictly,’ says bubbly Philippa. However, despite being coaxed into naming names, the lady isn’t for budging. ‘Sorry, but all our guests are treated equally on a completely confidential basis,’ she adds before herding us off to meet the sheep.
Yes, there are sheep, and lots of them grazing on land surrounding the farm, a firm favourite being adorable Larry who devours digestives. Our two mischievous cocker spaniels Diggerley and Merlin try and nab a few sheep treats so are swiftly ushered into the Byrne clan’s delightful new abode for four nights, The Old Forge, formerly a workshop for blacksmiths.
As we admire the stunning interior of the converted barn, Philippa divulges her encyclopaedic knowledge of local information such as where to visit and what arrangements to make regarding Covid. We are thrilled to discover that our gorgeous host, who runs the farm with her husband Julian, has kindly left an array of fresh eggs, teabags, milk, a divine Victoria Sponge cake, doggy treats, poo bags and digestives for sheep feeding frolics.
After devouring the cake, we explored The Old Forge – booked through Luxury Cottages who hand pick only the finest locations in the land. The interior, which is safely under government restrictions of sleeping five, is mainly open plan and very homely with elegant ornaments, warming colour schemes and luxurious sofa and chairs. The kitchen has every mod con needed to rustle up a culinary delight, but our favourite room was an enormous bedroom boasting an elegant, free-standing slipper bath.
After a quick freshen up, we strolled through the delightful village of Hollington to the Red Lion pub, where we were informed it was Pie Night by the charming landlord Dan. His homemade pies are legendary in these parts, so we indulged in steak and ale and steak and stilton pies, both absolutely heavenly. Bolstered by the scrumptious food and a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, we decided to take part in the competitive weekly pub quiz and were thrilled to win!
There is so much to see in this gorgeous corner of England, but we would highly recommend a trip to the ancient village of Tissington which is utterly charming and has the breathtaking Tissington Hall – a Jacobean mansion – at its centre. The village hosts an annual ‘Well Dressing’ where six wells are decorated during Ascension Sunday with pictures of pressed flowers. The tradition is believed to date from 1348 and celebrates the villagers’ escape from the Black Death which was attributed to the purity of the water. It’s also worth visiting the glorious Chatsworth House for its incredible gardens as well as the historic Haddon Hall and charming Bakewell.
We ventured into Darley Abbey to visit The Cotton Shed which had been recommended by friends. This stunning bar is run by glamorous husband and wife team Andrew Rose and Chrissie Reeves. The bar, housed in an historic old mill, has been transformed into an uber-cool New York-style loft surroundings with relaxing Chesterfield sofas, but has kept its authentic industrial interior. The food was absolutely exquisite, especially the divine meatballs, Korean chicken and cheesy chips.
The only negative part of our stay was having to leave the gorgeous Old Forge with its slipper bath where I’d spent many relaxing moments and warm, homely feel. It was also a struggle to feed Larry and co the last of the digestives and say our farewells to charming Philippa. Her cake and eggs are the stuff of legends, but I so wish she could also bottle up her captivating energy.