I must admit, when I heard that my walking pals had thoughts on a week away
in the early summer sunshine, I was a bit bemused to find that we were travelling from Yorkshire to the other end of the country, and to Kent.
The sound of thrumming Merlin Spitfire engines, cries of “Chocks away!” and images of dog-fights over the English Channel leapt immediately to mind as Biggin Hill was talked about. Further confusion arose when suitable walks in the Peak District were discussed.
All became embarrassingly clear when it emerged that they had been talking about Biggin Hall and not Biggin Hill. Phew.
Situated in the White Peak area of the Peak District of Derbyshire, and in the village of Biggin by Hartington, the settlement of this area began with an enclosure, granted by King Edward III in 1341. Very rural and peaceful it is too, even today.
To call this area after Peaks is a little misleading, for this is the southern fringes of the Peak District and the ‘peaks’ here are really low-lying, grassy or wooded hills which roll away into the distance.
It is a very picturesque and bucolic vista.
The White Peak area is interspersed with five river-bearing limestone valleys.
The Romans mined lead here and you can still see some of the caves they dug into the limestone. They also created single stone height weirs in the rivers which are nowadays trout fishing paradises.
The valleys are simply stunning to walk along via the easy-going riverside paths.
Colloquially, in Derbyshire, Biggin simply means ‘building’ and Biggin Hall began life as a 17th century manor house. Today, it is a Grade II Starred listed building which has been sympathetically converted, along with two adjacent buildings, into a superb, up-market, Country House Hotel.
Due to the legal constraints of the listing, it has unfortunately not been possible to provide access for the less able, to the bedrooms or bathrooms. A few rooms have ground floor access but many are up a flight of stairs.
Around the immaculately kept grounds there are lawns, flower beds, free range chickens, a small woodland sculpture trail and a summer house. It is all so very peaceful.
In the main building, there is a 4 poster Master Suite, six double/twin rooms, all en-suite, and two further adjoining rooms with a shared bathroom. Attached to the main building is The Bothy which provides another three double/twin-suites and a two bed suite.
Just a few steps from the main building is The Courtyard, recently converted to provide another six double/twin en-suite rooms. The Lodge has another four such rooms.
All of these rooms are of a very good quality.
I stayed in one of the twin rooms in the Courtyard. This was a large, dual aspect room, with all the accoutrements one would expect. Tea and coffee making facilities, a mini fridge, flat screen tv etc.
The bathroom had an illuminated mirror over the washbasin, a monsoon head, over-bath shower, a heated towel rail, fluffy towels, blonde-wood flooring and bronzed tiled walls.
The main building is decorated and fitted in a traditional style, empathetic to the origins of the building. There are antiques on display throughout.
The restaurant has original oak beams and an ornate, open fireplace, whilst the views from the dining tables are of the lawns with the Peak District hills beyond.
Head Chef James Frost and his team of talented chefs ensure that the produce supplied is seasonal and local as may be expected, and uses it well to provide an ever changing Modern British Menu.
Each evening meal was preceded by a complimentary aperitif in the form of a welcome glass of Pimm’s, taken in one of two beautiful lounges, one of which has a cosy log-burner, whilst the other doubles as a library. There are snuggly, high backed chairs in each.
This is a wonderful way in which to socialise and drool over the menus in anticipation.
To accompany the meals on our visit, a carafe of wine was included for each pair of guests, though this deal is not always available. There is an extensive and select wine list.
There is no separate bar, though there is a thorough selection of various drinks to be had.
I cannot speak too highly of the quality and presentation of the meals themselves.
It is no wonder that this hotel has featured in Michelin Guides for many years.
I could wax lyrical, but suffice it to say that there is a daily changing, superb choice of five starters, five mains and four desserts all of which is followed by a wonderful (and apparently famous) selection of cheeses and biscuits, which will leave you marvelling at the freshness, flavours, quality and appearance. A fresh fruit basket is also present.
The comfortable lounges or outdoor garden tables beckoned us for unlimited coffee and chocolate mints to round off each meal.
We took a different kind of chocs away!
Breakfasts are buffet style, with some selections cooked to order. You will not go hungry here. Everything you could expect or wish for, and all great quality.
For the active types such as myself, there is so much on offer in the area.
Walking (my passion), cycling, fishing, rock climbing, and sailing can all be easily accessed and the hotel itself runs photography courses.
There are sufficient walks into the surrounding hills and valleys directly from the hotel or within a ten minute drive, to provide a week’s walking and not cover the same ground twice.
Access to the Tissington Trail, flat walking or cycling along a returned to nature former railway line, is just up the road.
I was very impressed with the value for money here too.
For this level of accommodation and food, the prices and deals to be had are exceptionally good. As a summer initiative, complimentary packed lunches were available to take away daily.
The friendly owners and all the staff made this stay so memorable.
I could not fault it, and will be back.
If you can extract yourself from the comfort of this splendid hotel, just outside the grounds is a traditional rustic pub, the Waterloo Inn. Real ales a-plenty and basic pub food. There are even the occasional acoustic live music sessions here too.
The nearby village of Hartington has a pub, small shops and cafes, so lovely in the summer sunshine. The nearest larger town is Bakewell, of tart and pudding fame – just don’t confuse the two or the locals will not be happy!
Only five miles away is the beautiful Dovedale National Nature Reserve, well worth a visit in it’s own right. National Trust’s Ilam Hall is also a short distance away.
For more information about this beautifully located country house hotel, direct your digits to www.bigginhall.co.uk and the sat-nav to SK17 0DH
Get ready for some serious relaxation and great food.