Review // Darwin Forest Country Park

Darwin Forest Country Park

Last month, just before the mayhem of the Christmas festivities ensued, the four of us set off for a short break at Darwin Forest and we had the most relaxing weekend we’ve had in a long time. Early nights, forest walks, fresh air in abundance, afternoon naps and quality time as a foursome meant that we really did switch off and recharge the batteries.

Tucked away between Matlock and Bakewell, Darwin Forest Country Park is set in 47 acres of mixed woodland and is considered to be one of the UK’s best holiday parks. Offering over 120 lodges in various shapes and sizes, Darwin Forest recently achieved a VisitEngland Silver Award for Excellence in 2016 and it’s really not hard to see why. The setting is idyllic, the lodges are comfortable and stylish and there are a whole host of family-friendly activities on site to keep the little ones entertained.

The Lodges // 

The lodges at Darwin Forest Country Park all vary in shape, size and price ensuring that there really is something for everyone. From the traditional redwood Classic lodges with all the modern comforts you’d expect to The Meadow; an exclusive small development of three luxury lodges on their own private road that are just lovely!

We were lucky enough to stay in the 3 bedroomed Skyline, one of the three luxury lodges that make up ‘The Meadow’. I’ve stayed in a fair few lodges over the years and it’s fair to say that the Skyline is one of the nicest lodges we’ve stayed in.

Located down a private road, the Skyline lodge was spotlessly clean, beautifully furnished and despite being a world away from our home in look and feel, it had all the home comforts we could have asked for during our stay.

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The Skyline lodge was deceptively spacious with plenty of space for the little ones to roam around and the open-plan living area offered a dining table with seating for 6, a lounge area with flat screen TV and a super efficient faux woodburner and a fully integrated kitchen that housed all the essentials including a dishwasher (with tablets), microwave, oven and fridge/freezer.

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There was even a little utility/cloakroom that had plenty of space for coats and muddy boots and contained a washing machine that we found to be invaluable after our long roams in the woodland.

Along the hallway from the open-plan living area there was a stylish family bathroom with a separate shower and a super deep, freestanding bath that the kids had a hoot in!

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Further along the hallway, there were two twin bedrooms, both with plenty of wardrobe space and flat screen TV’s (which delighted the littles!) and our master bedroom with its quirky wooden bedhead, spacious wardrobe and lovely en-suite shower room with a brilliantly powerful shower.

Darwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkThanks to the large windows in every room, the lodge was flooded with light all day long and throughout the lodge it was very apparent that only high quality, practical yet stylish fixtures, fittings and furnishings had been used.

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Outside, there was a large verandah along the front and one side of the lodge with garden furniture for alfresco dining and one of the biggest highlights for the kids – a hot tub!

Darwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkEach lodge has parking for two cars (ours were opposite our lodge), but if you are a large party and need more, there’s additional parking on site near the main reception.

Darwin Forest Country Park

As you can see from the map below, Darwin Forest Country Park  is pretty spacious yet none of the lodges are too far away from the on-site facilities which is essential when you have small children in tow.

Darwin Forest Country Park

The lodges are also well spaced within the forest, some more so than others, offering guests a peaceful stay no matter where you stay. This is essential for me as I do like my own space on holiday, so the more private the better.

Facilities // 

Aside from the lovely lodges, Darwin Forest Country Park has plenty of family-friendly activities and facilities to suit the family come rain or shine.

Indoor heated swimming pool // 

Despite the inclement weather, we enjoyed playing outside so much during our stay that we only made use of the on-site pool once but the kids loved it.

Darwin Forest Country Park

Located within ‘Evolution Health & Fitness‘, the pool is the ideal temperature for little people, spotlessly clean and the family changing rooms are great. There’s also a spa and gymnasium for grown ups and treatment rooms where you can take advantage of a range of beauty treatments and massages. Complimentary use of the indoor swimming pool is included in your holiday and over 16s are welcome to use the spa and gym facilities for a small charge (£3.75 each or £6 for both).

Little Monkeys Soft Play Centre //

Open from 10am to 6pm daily, Little Monkeys was a huge hit with Jack and Phoebs and Andy and I were really impressed too. It’s the perfect size and layout, ensuring you can keep an eye on your little ones at all times from the cafe area (if you’re lucky and not being asked to climb up with them!)

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Little Monkeys is open to the general public and not just families staying at Darwin Forest, however they do offer discounts for guests staying on the holiday park and they are great at monitoring numbers ensuring it never gets too busy. You can also enjoy a drink or a bite to eat at the Explorers café which is open all day for breakfast, a light bite or lunch.

I didn’t take any photos inside Little Monkeys as there were obviously lots of other children around, but you can head on over to the Little Monkeys website to see it in all its glory.

For a free soft play option, you can head to the Activity Den that houses a complimentary soft play area for guests to use with children under 5 years of age. Although small, Phoebs loved it (especially as she had it all to herself most of the time!) and we had fun doing the short circuit whilst Andy and Jack made use of the other features in the Activity Den including pool tables, arcade games, air hockey and table tennis.

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Darwin Forest Country Park

Outdoor play areas //

The Outdoor adventure playground wasn’t utilised as much as we’d hoped due to the rain, but we did have a short play one evening before dinner. With slides, fireman poles, ropes and climbing walls it was the perfect place to build up an appetite!

 Darwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkDarwin Forest Country ParkWe also spent a LOT of time over the weekend on the Trim Trak! It was a brilliant way of encouraging the kids to head out and explore the beautiful surroundings and they loved trying out all the different obstacles en route.

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Woodland walks // 

With an array of woodland walks on your doorstep at Darwin Forest, you really have no excuse not to head out and explore. We spent many an hour in the woods, splashing in muddy puddles, throwing leaves and having a giggle.

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Other activities //

Other on-site activities include mini golf, tennis on the all-weather tennis court and Darwin Forest also offer a planned programme of activities aimed at older children and adults. This is the current timetable of activities on offer…

Darwin Forest Country Park

Eating //

If you want to give yourself a break from cooking, I can highly recommend a meal at the Foresters bar and restaurant. We ate there both nights and the food was really delicious and very reasonably priced. The extensive menu offers fresh, locally sourced quality ingredients and there is a children’s menu that covers all the classics too. A takeaway menu is also available if you wish to dine in the comfort of your own lodge.

Darwin Forest Country Park

There is also an on-site convenience store, ‘The Woodland Store’, that sells all the food staples you might need plus a vast array of extras, including art supplies, balls and toys for all ages. It is worth mentioning however that it was quite limited on fresh produce (and expensive) so I would recommend either taking it with you if space allows or booking an online delivery from Tesco or Ocado to arrive once you have checked in.

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend at Darwin Forest Country Park. It was the perfect setting to relax and enjoy time as a family without the distractions of day-to-day life. The lodge was really lovely, more so than I expected, but above all it was functional and comfortable (the beds in particular!). The site itself was also immaculately maintained and had the perfect combination of family friendly facilities on offer to keep little people entertained.

Darwin Forest is also ideally situated, with a whole host of attractions and villages nearby if you can tear yourself away from the site including Matlock Farm Park and Bakewell. We also spent a lovely morning at Chatsworth House browsing the Christmas Markets and having fun in the adventure playground which is only a few miles away.

We had a truly brilliant stay, and will definitely be returning soon,  so if you’re looking for child-friendly accommodation in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside, I can wholeheartedly recommend Darwin Forest Country Park.

Here’s a little video of our weekend…

Disclosure: We were very kindly invited by Darwin Forest Country Park to stay for the purpose of this review, however all opinions are my own.

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  • Claire at Tin Box TravellerJanuary 15, 2017 - 10:36 pm

    Your lodge looks so cosy. I love all the beams and the hot tub! Bliss! The location, activities and different options for eating sound ideal for families. The last time we were in the Peak District was when I was expecting Tin Box Tot. It’s a beautiful area and one with lots of special memories for us. By the way, your photos are wonderful!ReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 16, 2017 - 12:24 pm

      Ah thanks Claire. We had the most wonderful weekend despite the weather and I definitely want to head back soon xReplyCancel

  • Lauren Belle Du BrightonJanuary 16, 2017 - 5:54 pm

    This place looks amazing! So much to do, and I think I’d happily live in the accommodation full time! Going to bookmark this review for when we’re looking at holidays later in the year!ReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:57 pm

      Yes Lauren, you so should! It really was ideal. Stunning lodges, ideal location and loads of family friendly things to do on site! Perfect! xReplyCancel

  • Rebecca | AAUBlogJanuary 16, 2017 - 6:27 pm

    this looks so lovely – what a great little break away. The lodge is decorated just in my style. Love that there is a hot tub too! xReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:56 pm

      It really was perfect and I can’t wait to go back with the kiddies again xReplyCancel

  • Sam | North East Family Fun Travel BlogJanuary 18, 2017 - 9:34 am

    Wow it looks wonderful – I can’t believe all of the space you have in the lodge as often they are so cramped! Also, LOVE that you have your own hot tub.

    Your photographs are beautiful and it looks like the perfect place to chase away those January blues.ReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:55 pm

      Ah thanks Sam, we were really pleasantly surprised how spacious the lodge was and it was so homely! I can wholeheartedly recommend Darwin xReplyCancel

  • CassJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:29 pm


    That looks amazing and definitely somewhere I want to take the kids xxReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:54 pm

      You must, it was such a lovely place Cass and we will definitely be returning! xReplyCancel

  • TanitaJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:52 pm

    It looks like you all the most fabulous time away. Darwin forest looks beautiful. The lodge looks so spacious. Your photos are beautiful. I love the hot tub! The children looked like they really enjoyed it too. I love these types of holidays, long walks and exploring sound like lots of fun. XxReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyJanuary 18, 2017 - 12:53 pm

      It was so lovely Tanita, just what we needed in the run up to the craziness of Christmas. xReplyCancel

  • Mrs HJanuary 18, 2017 - 7:15 pm

    That lodge looks amazing. I love the open plan living room/ dining room and kitchen. And that hot tub. How fabulous! The place looks gorgeous. Absolutely perfect for a relaxing family weekend away. Hugs Lucy xxxxReplyCancel

  • JodieJanuary 20, 2017 - 9:29 am

    Oh wow! This looks like a super dreamy holiday destination.ReplyCancel

  • Newcastle Family LifeFebruary 4, 2017 - 2:23 pm

    Your photos are just beautiful, love the ones of you and the children. This looks like such a lovely, peaceful place to visit. We have been looking for a lodge for a weekend away later this year and this looks perfect for young families xxReplyCancel

  • Hannah Budding SmilesMarch 1, 2017 - 9:54 pm

    You’ve absolutely sold it to us! Thanks for such an in-depth review and a super cute video too xxReplyCancel

    • Steph@HelloBabyMarch 1, 2017 - 10:13 pm

      Ah thanks Hannah, that’s so lovely of you to say. You’ll have a fabulous time! XxReplyCancel

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