The Peacock

Derbyshire, Peak District & Midlands, United Kingdom Book from

Reviewed by Nadine Mellor
Stylish historic hotel perfectly placed in the heart of the Peak District and renowned for its innovative cuisine and fly-fishing
To paraphrase Jane Austen, it is a truth universally acknowledged that those in possession of a fine sensibility should be in want of an excellent place to stay. The Pride and Prejudice cast, who lodged at The Peacock while filming at nearby Chatsworth, would concur. Dating from 1652 and formerly the dower house for Haddon Hall, it opened as 'probably the oldest hotel in the world' in 1820. Sited in the village of Rowsley at the confluence of the Rivers Derwent and Wye, it's now an established base for exploring the Peak District, as well as for enjoying some of the best fly-fishing in the UK.

After a lapse of 45 years, Lord Edward Manners (owner of Haddon Hall) reacquired the hotel and hired Paris-based interior designer India Mahdavi to give it a stylish makeover. The result is a striking yet homely marriage of traditional and contemporary design, with 15 comfortable guest rooms, a classy restaurant and a fire-lit bar and lounge. Mullion windows, antiques and family portraits sit alongside sleek lighting, discreet technology and bright splashes of colour, while a collection of wellies waits by the door. Meanwhile the team have transformed The Peacock into a renowned gastronomic destination, with impeccable hospitality.

Highs

  • Inventive, beautifully presented food, with local meat, succulent fish and excellent vegetarian options - as good when we revisited in 2013 as when we first stayed
  • Plenty of little touches to make you feel special: afternoon tea and homemade shortbread on arrival, Teapigs camomile infusions on your pillow each evening, leaflets recommending a ‘walk of the day’ at breakfast
  • The cosy bar and lounge make lovely places to linger with a drink and a book, and the riverside garden is beautiful in summer
  • The Peak District offers some of Britain's finest scenery, as well as impressive stately homes such as Chatsworth and Haddon Hall (guests get discounted entry at both)
  • The hotel owns a 7-mile stretch along the Rivers Wye and Derwent, famous for their wild rainbow trout

Lows

  • The restaurant is expensive, and some feel the rather formal dining room lacks atmosphere, though there’s a good-priced bar menu for more laid-back meals
  • The main A6 runs in front of the hotel. Effective double-glazing cuts out most traffic noise, but ask for a room at the back you like to sleep with the window open
  • Mattresses are on the soft side
  • Bathrooms are small, but they’re nicely fitted out with powerful showers and plenty of marble; some have tubs, too

Best time to go

You're assured of a warm welcome and good walking at any time of year, but there are various local events which may be of interest. The fishing season runs from April to October, with the best times being mid-May and June (book well in advance). The local tradition of 'well dressing', where locals decorate wells with collages of petals, attracts visitors to the area from the end of May until July. The Rowsley Festival is at the end of June, and there are outdoor concerts at Chatsworth during the summer months.

Be aware that the main restaurant often closes for 1 or 2 evenings per week in winter (normally Sunday and/or Monday), but the bar menu is always available.

Our top tips

Foodies will love Bakewell's farmers' market, which takes place on the last Saturday of every month. Now the second biggest in the UK, it attracts hundreds of stalls selling organic meat, gourmet cakes, artisan cheeses, homemade jams and chutneys, fresh vegetables, even English wine. We recommend picking up a few goodies then heading to Chatsworth for a picnic by the river.

Great for...

Foodie
Great Outdoors
Wedding
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 15
  • Restaurant (open most evenings) and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome Sun-Thurs; over 10s only Fri-Sat
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Bicycles Available
  • Croquet lawn
Room:

Rooms

The 15 charming bedrooms vary in size and shape, as befits a 400-year-old building, but all mix antique furniture inherited from Haddon Hall and Belvoir Castle with vivid splashes of colour - perhaps a feature wall in plum or teal, plush velvet armchairs upholstered in magenta, pistachio or burnt orange, or a headboard covered in Ralph Lauren tweed. The beds are big and comfy (although perhaps a little too soft for some), and details abound: lambswool rugs, fluffy cushions, potted orchids, framed portraits. Some rooms also have fireplaces, and those on the top floor have wonderful beams.

There are discreet modern amenities in the form of flat-screen Apple TVs, DVD players (there’s a long list of films to borrow), iPod docks and free WiFi. You also get tea- and coffee-making kit, hairdryers and a turndown service, when little parcels of Teapigs camomile tea appear on your pillow. Bathrooms are small, but they’re decked out in sleek grey marble, with good lighting, bathrobes, slippers and Aveda toiletries; some have walk-in showers, others a tub with an overhead shower.

Standard Doubles have kingsize beds and just enough space to spread out in comfort. Paying a bit more for a Superior Double will get you a super-kingsize bed or a twin room - on our most recent visit we stayed in one these, Room 7, and loved the view of the flower-filled garden at the back of the hotel. There are also a couple of Special Rooms with carved four-poster beds (ideal for special occasions, particularly as you get a later check-out time of noon!), plus handy single rooms for solo travellers. Top of the range is the Junior Suite, which has a spacious kingsize bedroom, a separate lounge with a sofabed, and an ensuite with a bathtub and walk-in shower.

Features include:

  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Ipod dock
  • Iron (on request)
  • Phone
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Anywhere that can make delicious ice cream from breakfast cereal is onto a culinary winner and, after overhauling the restaurant, the team are justly proud of The Peacock’s 3 AA rosettes.

Dinner in the main dining room, from 7-9pm, is a formal affair, with attentive service and sparkling candles; you’ll want to dress up a bit and make an occasion of it. The unpretentious-looking menu belies the complexity of the beautifully constructed dishes, which mix British ingredients with quirky international influences; there’s also a selection of innovative vegetarian options and a comprehensive wine list. We started with fennel and crayfish soup and a delicate crab and cucumber gazpacho, before moving onto gnocchi with wild garlic, ceps and baby onions, and monkfish served with teriyaki pork belly, grilled lettuce and hazelnut butter. For dessert, we indulged in white chocolate and banana mousse with tangy raspberry sorbet and rich chocolate ganache, and that ice cream - smooth and sweet, with a lovely hint of saltiness. If you struggle to make up your mind, the assiette of desserts lets you sample them all.

For lunch or a more relaxed evening meal, try the convivial bar, with its cosy fire, copper counter and a ceramic-tiled Peacock on one wall. It’s often packed with locals, and the reasonably-priced menu includes favourites such as battered haddock, rib-eye steak and lemon tart. Food is available here every day, and it’s a handy option in winter when the restaurant closes for 1 or 2 evenings a week. Note that Sundays see a different bar menu, which pays tribute to the decades-old tradition of Sunday lunch at The Peacock. If you’re heading out and about, packed lunches can be made up on request.

An extensive breakfast buffet (included in the room rate) is served from 7.30-9.30am, with pastries, cold meats, cheeses, fruit, yoghurt, juices, cereals, waffles and maple syrup. You can also order cooked options for an additional charge - perhaps scrambled eggs with salmon, or a traditional Full English. And, if you’re feeling lazy, you can order breakfast in bed until 10.30am.

Features include:

  • Afternoon tea and packed lunches
  • Bar
  • Coffee tea making
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The Peacock is famous for its 7-mile stretch of fly-fishing along the Wye and Derwent, which attract anglers from all over for their rare wild rainbow trout and unique brown trout. Day tickets and rods are available, and the Haddon Estate's head river-keeper can offer advice
  • You're perfectly placed for walking in the beautiful Peak District, Britain's first national park. Numerous guided routes are available from reception, and the well-known Pennine Way and Bakewell-Monsal Head trail both start nearby
  • Head to some of Britain’s finest stately homes - guests get a 50% discount at the beautifully preserved and much-filmed Haddon Hall (less than a mile away), as well as 20% off tickets to nearby Chatsworth, which is surrounded by stunning parkland
  • Explore ancient villages and charming market towns such as Bakewell and Buxton. Eyam (6 miles away) is particularly pretty and is famous for its 1665 plague outbreak, when villagers quarantined themselves to prevent the disease spreading
  • Hop on the restored steam train which puffs its way from Rowsley to the county town (and Victorian spa resort) of Matlock
  • Head a few miles down the A6 to the Derwent Valley, birthplace of the industrial revolution and now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The village of Cromford is home to the world’s first water-powered cotton mill, built by Sir Richard Arkwright in 1771
  • This is a great area for gourmands, with no fewer than 4 rosettes within 7 miles; Baslow Hall, which has a Michelin star, is a 15-minute drive. Local produce includes the famous Bakewell Tart and Hartington Stilton
  • If you feel inspired by the Derbyshire landscape, art classes with a local painter can be arranged on request
  • Play a round of golf at the 9-hole Bakewell Golf Course (10 minutes away) - it has lovely views, and guests get free membership
  • There are all sorts of adventure activities to enjoy nearby, too - cycling (bikes are available for hire), horse riding, hot-air ballooning, rock climbing, sailing, pot-holing

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Art classes
  • Birdwatching
  • Climbing
  • Cycling
  • Fishing
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Hot air ballooning
  • Kayaking
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Pot-holing
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome from Sunday to Thursday, but on Fridays and Saturdays The Peacock is more of a relaxing, grown-up retreat, and only those over the age of 10 are allowed. Extra beds and baby cots are available in the larger rooms for an additional charge, and the Junior Suite has a sofabed in its lounge.

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Extra Beds Available

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
10/
Overall

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