Famed for its vast, brooding landscape, the Peak District is a go-to for lovers of the great outdoors. Yet even the unenthusiastic rambler will find it hard not to fall for the quaint Derbyshire town of Ashbourne on the southern cusp of the national park. It's a great spot for a UK staycation.
It's here that The Duncombe Arms, a Michelin-accredited pub with rooms, strikes the balance between understated and elevated, placing focus on details without being at all pretentious. It's just a 15-minute drive from the town centre and in easy distance of the Dovedale hiking trail so there's activity enough nearby to fill a weekend. There is, however, a chance you'll be tempted to linger in the Walnut House, where its charismatic bedrooms mimic the country-chic appeal of the pub and its picturesque garden. Plus, it's pretty hard to drag yourself across the fells after Duncombe's unbeatable Sunday roast.
Each individually designed room in Walnut House is full of eclectic design details that mix the traditional with the modern. Open the doors to the Green Room (or, Room 10) and discover first-hand why this leafy colour has earned itself a calming reputation. The spacious double is cleverly arranged with an olive-hued wardrobe, taupe textiles and a brown, leather-clad chair - features that feel akin to traditional country-house style but wouldn't be out of place in a city dwelling. In clever contrast, the striking graphic wallpaper and sculptural statement lamps put an artistic spin on the look. Everything is in keeping with the colour palette, even the toiletries in the bathroom and the views outside the French windows, which span the unspoiled Derbyshire countryside.
What's for breakfast?
There's no breakfast menu as such, but whether it's continental or cooked that you favour, the kitchen will accommodate. Dishes come beautifully presented and accompanied with a selection of teas or strong, flavoursome coffee that will set you up for a day climbing the district's famous peaks.
How about lunch and dinner?
In 2020, The Duncombe Arms was awarded Michelin's Bib Gourmand for value and its menu changes with the seasons. The head chef creates standout dishes that use the best-quality local produce available, while all the breads, sauces and ice-creams are made on site. At lunchtime, the bar menu offers smaller plates, sandwiches and a traditional Ploughman's plate, but the aforementioned Sunday roast is what keeps locals coming back. This follows the à la carte menu's theme of championing flavour over portion size - the sign of a confident dining establishment.
Is there a bar?
It goes without saying that the bar is of utmost importance here. Wine is a key focus and the staff are knowledgeable in their recommendations, offering famous and unexpected options that promise to suit any palette. There is, of course, a sizeable draft beer and spirits offering, too, which serve as a welcome refreshment for cyclists after a lengthy cross-country ride.
Fresh, locally sourced milk is available from a small shared fridge in the entrance hall of Walnut House and there's a Nespresso machine in each room as well as tea-making facilities. Bamford toiletries fill the bathroom shelves and literature - both fiction and travel-themed, including SUITCASE - can be found in each room. Wrap up in a fluffy white dressing gown after a hot bath and relax.
Things I should know
The rooms in Walnut House are perfect for couples or anyone travelling solo but the pub also owns a small neighbouring cottage that's better suited to larger groups or families. It can host up to six people and is available for full or half-week lets.
In terms of travel, driving to The Duncombe Arms is almost essential as this quiet town isn't particularly easy to get to on public transport.
Within a short walk I can find…
The pub is surrounded by country lanes and rolling hills so, in truth, there isn't much to be found within a short walk, but drive to the neighbouring town of Ashbourne and you'll find postcard-perfect cobbled streets, boutique shops and independent cafés. Cycling enthusiasts will love the roads around the property and anyone looking to get out in the English country air should park at Dovedale and trek to the Stepping Stones to enjoy the kind of views that make a staycation so appealing.