Review of Landal Darwin Forest Luxury Lodge Holidays, Matlock, Derbyshire
Landal Darwin Forest is an award-winning, luxury five-star holiday resort that's in an excellent location on the edge of the Peak District. The wooden lodges come in a range of sizes in woodland or meadow locations.
We stayed in a Chatsworth Elite Vogue lodge – and it was lovely.The one-bedroom lodge was the perfect size for a couple, with a cosy open-plan living area, king-sized bedroom and smart, spacious bathroom.
Inside, the cabin was superbly appointed. Wooden floorboards, pale wooden paneling, woodland-inspired artwork and grey, white and cream furnishings created a luxurious Nordic atmosphere that was instantly calming.
The bathroom was stylish and modern, with a spa bath and sauna. The sauna was simple to operate and heated up surprisingly quickly – it was lovely to relax here, and soothing for aching muscles after a walk in the Peak District. Extra sauna towels and complimentary toiletries were provided.
The cabin's kitchen area was very well equipped, and we found everything we needed to cook our meals – from mixing bowls and ovenproof dishes, to a range of pots and pans. All the equipment was of excellent quality and spotlessly clean.
Darwin Forest has fantastic on-site facilities. There's a beautifully designed leisure centre, with swimming pool that's free for guests to use whenever they like – and also a gym and spa area that can be accessed for a small extra charge.
Little Monkeys is an indoor play area and café with a ball pit and multi-level play area providing opportunities for young children to climb, crawl, swing and slide. There's a discount for guests staying at Darwin Forest.
There's also a free-to-use Activity Den, with a small indoor play area for little ones as well as pool tables, table tennis, air hockey and arcade games for older children and teenagers.
What really impressed us about Landal Darwin Forest, though, was the commitment to protecting and enhancing the environment – with a particularly strong emphasis on wildlife conservation and education.
The site has been awarded the David Bellamy Conservation Scheme Gold Standard for 25 consecutive years – and if you take a walk around one of the marked trails, you'll spot a number of different wildlife habitats that are helping to boost biodiversity.
There are areas of woodland – with an ongoing planting programme of native plants and trees – and also two large, natural ponds, as well as meadow and wetland areas. Bird feeders and bird and bat boxes are dotted throughout the park, and during our stay we saw robins, blackbirds and nuthatches – and heard tawny owls and buzzards. There are also a number of log piles – an excellent habitat for invertebrates, amphibians and small mammals.
One of the most impressive wildlife habitats that has been installed is the bug hotel – and this is a great example of how Landal Darwin Forest is working to educate guests about the natural environment and the wildlife that can be spotted on site.
An attractive sign explains why the bug hotel is important, and which creatures might be found living there. It was lovely to see a couple with their young child taking a really close look at the bug hotel, and pulling out some of the materials to see if they could spot any mini-beasts – or even a frog – sheltering inside!
Along the woodland trails and Trim Trak – a fun outdoor gym course to help improve fitness – there are notice boards with information about the trees, birds and other creatures that can be found on site.
Landal Darwin Forest also works with the Forestry Commission and Nature UK to help families to explore the forest, and learn about the natural environment, woodland animals and life cycles.
The on-site trails are perfect for a family stroll, but if you fancy a longer walk, footpaths through Forestry Commission woodland can be accessed from the site. There's a 2km loop, or cross the quiet lane into Whitesprings Plantation for a network of paths through beautiful woodland – with enough options for a different walk every day.
Landal Darwin Forest's excellent environmental initiatives don't stop at boosting biodiversity – and the site has recently been awarded the Green Key ecolabel. The lodges themselves are made locally from sustainable sources of timber, and recycled railway sleepers are used to edge all the roads.
The lodges are well insulated to reduce energy consumption, and are fitted with low-energy lighting and energy-efficient appliances. External lighting around the site is kept to a minimum, to help reduce light pollution – and, on a clear night, you get a fantastic view of the night sky!
There are superb recycling facilities on site, which guests are encouraged to use, and no waste is sent to landfill – it's either recycled or incinerated to produce electricity. There's also a borehole for fresh water, and solar panels.
Forester's bar and restaurant offers freshly cooked meals using locally sourced ingredients – in fact Landal Darwin Forest is working hard to boost the local economy by using local suppliers whenever possible, and employing over 200 local people.
If you want to explore the stunning Peak District National Park, there are dozens of attractions and beauty spots within a short drive of Darwin Forest.
The Peak District is famous for its limestone edges – offering breathtaking scenery and superb hiking. Curbar, Balsow, Froggat and Birchen edges are all a short distance away.
If you visit Curbar Edge at the weekend, look out for the vintage Citroen van in the car park – this mobile coffee shop sells freshly ground coffee and delicious homemade cakes.
Beautiful Birchen Edge
Historic Haddon Hall
A visit to one of the Peak's historic houses is a must. Haddon Hall and Chatsworth House are both around seven miles away from Darwin Forest. During December, when we visited, both houses were decorated for Christmas – visiting at this time is beautiful and atmospheric, and guaranteed to make you feel festive!
The Peak District is also home to some superb local produce. Try award-winning Peak Ales, produced on the Chatsworth Estate, Holdsworth Chocolates, Hartington cheese – and of course, the famous Bakewell puddings!
A visit to the monthly Farmers' Market at Bakewell gives you the opportunity to stock up on delicious food and drink to enjoy during your stay, or to take home with you.
Or visit one of the local farm shops. The award-winning Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop, at Pilsley, sells everything from freshly baked bread and cakes to fruit and vegetables produced on the estate.