Cosy rooms, fine local food and first-class fishing await guests at The Peacock at Rowsley hotel on the Haddon estate, says Alexandra Henton
As one gratefully breaks away from the M1 and sets sail west past Chesterfield’s crooked spire, it is when the hedges give way to stone walls that the transition to the Peak District is marked. I spent much of my childhood yomping around bits of Derbyshire as my father was a denizen. There was the racing at Flagg (where point-to-points have been hosted since 1892), watching him run the Dovedale Dash and the giddy excitement of driving through the Tissington Splash – a ford, which afforded the children of the 1980s all the excitement required from an adventurous day trip, especially when accompanied by a glass of orange squash and a packet of salt-and-vinegar crisps sitting on a bench outside a pub (no children allowed). These fond memories of Derbyshire were set to be added to after a stay at The Peacock at Rowsley hotel.
THE PEACOCK AT ROWSLEY HOTEL REVIEW
Part of the Haddon estate, owned by Lord and Lady Edward Manners, The Peacock was originally built for the steward of Haddon Hall in 1652, became a hotel in 1832 and has been refining the business of hospitality ever since. The result is a modern, luxury hotel – a family-run business with 15 rooms and a charming garden nestled next to the River Derwent. Our suite was deliciously cosy in hues of plum and green with a vast bed and a shower that boasted novel side jets in a wonderfully clean marble bathroom. A separate sitting room with a sofa meant that another two could be accommodated if you were planning on bringing smalls.
Pre-dinner drinks were definitively called for, and the bar was particularly welcoming with hospitable staff who could mix a decent cocktail and also presided over a cigar menu, which pleased The Husband. The Peacock takes its food seriously. Head chef Dan Smith offers tasting, dinner, bar and lunch menus with beef and lamb sourced from the Haddon estate and other local suppliers. While the bar menu was tempting (and does a good line in sandwiches), we plumped for the dining room where starters of chicken and smoked eel terrine and Dorset snail ragout hit the spot. A chef’s special, off menu, for the main course – roe loin with Turkish aubergine, Turkish bread, red pepper and yogurt – was exceptional, some of the best venison I have eaten and popular with fellow diners too. Puddings followed a pre-dessert (the latter luckily light enough to leave room for the former) and a decent wine list made for some boon accompaniment.
All of this would be more than enough to offer The Peacock at Rowsley hotel a glowing recommendation, but we haven’t reached the best bit yet. Walk through the entrance to the hotel and on the left there is a large fishing book replete with catches and angler’s notes. It is this that gives those who stay at The Peacock an added spring in their step, as guests at the hotel are able to fish the Haddon estate waters on a day ticket, an opportunity only afforded to the members of The Peacock Fly Fishing Club and guided days. Riverkeeper Jan Hobot arrived at Haddon in 2007 and looks after more than 15 miles of river. These miles are spread over four rivers on the Haddon estate: the Derwent, the Wye, the Lathkill and the Bradford, offering some of the best dry-fly fishing in the country. Hotel guests can fish the estate’s beats on the Wye (seven-and-a-half miles, mainly bank fishing) and the Derwent, and it is easy to arrange. Guides can be booked too, a useful service for those new to the rivers.
The wild fish of the Haddon estate are a delight to stalk. Our sojourn was stymied by poor early-season weather, but we have marked the diary for a return trip. These Derbyshire rivers and this Derbyshire hospitality are delights that demand a repeat visit.
To book a night at The Peacock at Rowsley hotel click here.
In 2003 the Haddon estate made the decision to go wild, one of the main reasons Jan Hobot was attracted to the position of riverkeeper here. It ceased to stock fish and now the four rivers on the estate hold only wild fish. The Haddon section of the Wye holds a unique population of spring-spawning, wild rainbow trout, the only such in the country. Stocked by the Victorians, the fish continue to thrive in this part of the Wye.
The Peacock at Rowsley, Bakewell Road, Rowsley, Matlock DE4 2EB
Tel: 01629 733518
Rooms from £245