It’s no surprise that glamping is getting more and more popular, as moreof us opt to get close to nature without relying on a groundsheet and asleeping bag. And one of the best thingsabout glamping is that, unlike traditional camping, you can do it all yearround, without being bound by seasonal changes and potential frostbite! Even still, many of us still save our summermonths for glamping – maybe because we don’t quite trust how cosy it canbe. So I tried it for myself with amid-December weekend in one of Hoe Grange Holidays Glamping Pods.
Hoe Grange Holidays isfound on a working farm in the south Peak District, and is owned by the wonderfulDavid and Felicity. As my partner and Iquickly found, their love and commitment has gone into every part of HoeGrange, which is probably why it feels such a special place to be.
We arrived on Fridaynight after a rather eventful journey, involving M1 closures and diversions whichdelayed our ETA by over an hour. However, David was most accommodating and greeted us with a smile as wepulled up at the farm. He showed us toSwallow Glamping Pod and ran us through everything we needed to know about our unusualhome for the next two nights.
One thing thatimmediately struck me was how spacious the wooden pod felt inside, with a higharched ceiling and perfectly organised interior. I then noticed all the many touches of luxurythat made the pod feel so homely: a huge comfy sofa-bed, thick lined curtains,a fluffy rug, and the small stained glass window set into the bathroomdoor. And with electric lighting,outdoor flashing fairy lights, and a wireless speaker, we had every creature comfortin our perfect pod!
We were also treatedto a delicious welcome pack, consisting of homemade bread, a pint of localmilk, butter, a couple of eggs from one of Hoe Grange’s girls, and two mincepies (‘tis the season and all!). Teabags, coffee (both fresh and freeze-dried), and sugar were also in good supply- we certainly had everything we needed to get started.
The microwave andinduction hob were ideal for self-catering, and we’d brought a couple ofmicrowaveable meals with us for an easy first night. After enjoying those, we took some time toread the guide book provided in the pod, and began to get a sense of thisbeautiful area. A few pages in, I beganto wish we were staying for longer; there is simply so much to see and do inthe Peak District. Miles of trails forwalking, cycling, and horse riding, mind-blowing caverns and caves, museums,art galleries and historical houses to explore, and fabulous local food tosample at the many excellent pubs and restaurants throughout the region.
Our next day planned,we transformed our sofa into a surprisingly spacious bed and settled down underthe soft, white duvet for a good sleep. There was no question of us being chilly despite the time of year; twowonderfully warm radiators kept our pod cosy the whole night through.
The next morning, we rousedourselves for a breakfast of fresh eggs, bacon, and toast, before heading outfor a bracing walk on the High Peak Trail. Accessing this popular walking route is easy from Hoe Grange – just afew hundred yards from the pod, up through a field of sheep, through a gate,and you’re there! The misty morningmight have hindered our views of the Peak District somewhat, but it certainlyadded to the sense of myth and mystery which has inspired authors and artistsalike over the years.
Our walk done, we headedback to the pod, changed our muddy boots for clean ones, and jumped in the carto explore further afield. Our firststop was a Peak District institution: the Barley Mow Inn at Kirk Ireton. Virtually unchanged since it opened in the1700s, this three-roomed pub has been run by landlady Mary for 40 years. She welcomed us at the tiny bar, where alesare lined up in casks and cider is still served from a jug, and while shepoured our pints, she told us she’d been making cider that morning from theapples in her orchard. You can’t getmore traditional than that!
After warmingourselves by the fire, we set off for our next stop – Bakewell. Armed with advice from David, we were readyto sample a traditional Bakewell pudding from this popular little town. Although the actual bakery which created theEnglish staple is disputed, there’s a fairly good chance it was either Bloomersof Bakewell or The Original Bakewell Pudding Shop. So, just to make sure we went to the rightone, we bought a pudding from both! Thetraditional Bakewell pudding is different from a Bakewell tart in a couple ofways: firstly, it’s made with puff pastry instead of shortcrust, and secondly,it doesn’t have the icing and cherry on top. It does, however, have almondy, jammy goodness in spades!
After exploring thetown (even more special at Christmas, with lights twinkling, trees on eachcorner, and a craft fair in the town hall), we stopped for some lunch. We could have gone anywhere, from cosy pubsto bakeries, but our eyes were caught by Tiroler Stuberl – an Austrianrestaurant and café. Partly because itwas the last thing we’d expected to find in a quintessentially English town,and partly because we both love Austrian food, we headed inside. Upstairs, the walls of this timber-framedbuilding are lined with cuckoo clocks, mounted antlers, and other quirkyparaphernalia, while a couple of bells hung down for diners to ring when theyneeded service! We both opted for adelicious (but filling!) Austrian sausage in a bun, before making a slow walkback to the car park.
Had we had more time,we would have loved to have visited Chatsworth, which is only a short distancefrom Bakewell, and looks magnificent in all its Christmas colours. It’s certainly on the to-do list for nexttime though!
Our own dose ofChristmas spirit was waiting for us back at the pod, where we enjoyed a mincepie and a spot of mulled wine as darkness began to fall. I took some time to read the comments frompast guests in Swallow’s guest book, and quickly saw I wasn’t alone in lovingthis cosy pod! Although we didn’t have afour-legged friend with us, many entries praised Hoe Grange for its dog-friendlyfacilities and location, while others (who’d visited in the early summer) lovedwaking to see lambs in the next field.
A number of guests hadalso visited Ye Olde Gate Inn at Brassington and wrote very highly of it -which was good, because it was where we were booked in for dinner! Voted ‘Britain’s Cosiest Pub’ by The Times,The Gate is only a short drive from Hoe Grange, meaning you have no excuses notto visit. We received a warm welcome onarrival – it was clear the service would be excellent – and were shown to ourtable beside the traditional range fire. The menu was superb, and after much deliberation, we opted for thehaggis in whisky and pepper sauce to share, followed by rabbit wrapped in baconfor me, and daube of beef for my partner – the perfect winter feast, washeddown with ale and red wine!
The next morning, Iwas fortunate enough to be shown the rest of Hoe Grange’s accommodation byDavid before we made our journey home. The cabins were just as spotless and cosy as the glamping pods, yetperfectly spacious for a family stay. Iquickly understood why families visit again and again, and with outstandingfacilities for disabled guests, I could also see why David and Felicity havewon so many awards for their accommodation. I also had a peek inside the wood-fired hot tub and traditional sauna availablefor hire (just in case you need any more help relaxing during your stay!).
All too soon, our timeat Hoe Grange Holidays was up, and we reluctantly packed up to go. We left, though, safe in the knowledge that:
- Glamping in the winter doesn’t leave you cold!
- The Peak District is one of England’s most beautiful areas
- Misty December mornings on the moors are magical
- A Bakewell pudding beats a Bakewell tart
- Unless you make the most of those trails, you don’t come to the Peak District to lose weight
- Hoe Grange Holidays is a very special place you’ll want return to time and again
- Two nights just isn’t enough…