Back when it was summer – remember that? Not very long ago anyway, we went on a romantic minibreak to the Peak District. I’ve not seen that much of the UK in my travels so far, I’ve always gone away rather than explored our very beautiful local land-mass. So I was beside myself with excitement to travel off up to Bristol, then onward to the ‘gateway’ to the peaks, Ashbourne. We drank an unexpectedly excellent coffee over looking the square, then went on a knee-tremblingly exciting trip around Waitrose. (I’m from Cornwall. It’s really really exciting ok? You should have seen me in Milton Keynes’ H&M last week, I was nearly in tears there was TOO MUCH CHOICE. I couldn’t decide, and didn’t buy anything.)
Anyway, back to the trip… saving up every day of holiday this year for our honeymoon in December has been tough (first world problems) so we took two days off and went off to stay in the middle of nowhere in a beautiful shepherd’s hut.
The New Hanson shepherd huts are traditional huts which have been refurbished and are super cosy. There’s no electricity but there’s a plug near the shower area where you can charge your phone if you like.
There was a gas cooker (camping style but nice) and plenty of little LED lanterns to hang around the place in the evenings (fine for reading by). The log burning stove was teeny and so cute – I’m sure in the winter it would make the hut ridiculously toasty.
There was one other hut in the field there, of a similar size, but that one didn’t take doggies. So the field with just two huts and plenty of space for a couple of tents would be a great place to go with a group of walking friends, plus kids in tents.
The showstopper of the shepherd hut experience was the breakfast basket, delivered to the door containing a thermos of strong coffee, a pretty china milk jug which I wanted to steal (but didn’t) TWO chunky bacon rolls each, sauces, and pretty embroidered napkins and lovely vintage-esque crockery. Such a treat. Unwrapping the goodies inside felt as exciting as Christmas morning.
What we ate, where
We were only there for two nights and as it was our main holiday this summer, we didn’t stay in and cook our meals, instead we ventured out to a pub which looked nice but Tripadvisor warned was expensive… It was. But it was top quality… really really excellent. I had bangers and mash and it was exactly what I needed after a long day’s walking. I realise now after my Ben’s Cornish Kitchen post I’m going to have to think of some more adjectives to illustrate how delicious, perfect and delicate morsels of fine food can be.
In fact the pub, The George at Alstonefield, was so good we returned the following night and ate three courses as well as the cheeseboard. We ate steaks and lamb chops and crispy brawn with langoustines and for dessert, the “rhubarb Bakewell tart, custard, poached rhubarb, rhubarb sorbet”: I hate rhubard usually (too sour) but this was the best dessert I’d put in my face for a long time. It was the kind of dessert that makes the filthiness of sugar-overload desserts worth succumbing to.
Walking the Dovedale Ravine Walk
The rest of the time, when we weren’t eating at The George, we walked a fabulous walk to Dovedale Ravine. We left on foot from the shepherd’s hut and walked via the Dovedale river path, via Ilam Park (that’s i-lam, not 11am) and onto the Peveril of the Peak hotel where they gave us pints of cider and rang the only local cab driver to come and fetch us and drive us back to the hut. We had walked several miles (5 or 6) so we were fine with not walking the whole way. It was a really hot day. And the cab driver was great fun, and we sang Beatles songs together… Feel free to mock our lack of stamina!
The best bits were the huge sandwiches we ate at the National Trust cafe at Ilam House, and dandling our hot tired toes in the icy water by the stepping stones at Dovedale Ravine.
Cycling the Tissington Trail
The next day, we were extremely dare-devil-like and adventurous and hired bikes from Ashbourne to cycle the Tissington Trail, which is a flat-ish bikes only trail from Ashbourne in the south up to Parsley Hay. We just went to Tissington and back, and ate our Waitrose feast on a lawn by the church in Tissington. Two greedy ducks came to steal a bit of lettuce.
The highlight of the bike day was the amazing tunnel in Ashbourne, which we saved for the last bit of the bike trip. Having been directed from the bike hire shop by a very helpful man (who sounded so much like Dave (Craig Cash) from the Royle Family it was freaky), we sailed into the tunnel. We really enjoyed whooping and yelling with the incredible acoustics and were terrified by the steam train sounds that play in the dark, cavernous dripping tunnel. It was a great end to a great weekend, and I can’t wait to go back for some more hiking, and if I’m brave – some more cycling.