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Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review
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Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

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Right at the beginning of February we spent a weekend at Darwin Forest Country Park just outside Matlock in the beautiful Peak District.  We (being me, my husband, our three girls and 3 Grandparents!).  As we left home on a cold Friday afternoon I hoped there would be room for us all!!  We make quite a large group!

I needn’t have worried. My parents arrived early in the afternoon as we had been given a early check in time of 2pm as they weren’t too busy (usual check in time being 4pm) and they called as soon as they got there to say the lodge was brand spanking new and enormous!

The other benefit of the grandparents arriving early was that by the time we arrived with three tired girls after school, the shopping I had pre-ordered from Ocado, was unpacked and put away!

Tip: Sainsburys, Ocado and Tesco all deliver straight to your lodge.  There is a small shop on site for essentials but it is (naturally) a little on the pricey side.

Our lodge (115 if you’re interested and want to book the same one) was towards the back of Darwin Forest Country Park which is a small but perfectly formed holiday park.  The park has around 120 lodges, sleeping from 2 to 8 people, set in 47 acres of woodland. Our lodge was literally brand new and the lodge was indeed huge, with 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and seating and dining for 8.

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

Our lodge was ‘Elite’ but even the basic lodges are fully equipped with crockery, linen and towels (always welcome I think!) and all kitchens have a minimum of a conventional cooker, microwave oven, refrigerator and dishwasher. Ours also had a washing machine but there is a laundry on site if yours doesn’t. We also had a large flat screen television with Freeview and a DVD.

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

We had a bit of a birthday celebration on the Friday evening as it had been both Grandmas’ birthdays in recent weeks, and both were treated to chocolate cake and singing before we put the girls to bed.  It was impressive how little noise you could actually hear when the doors to the bedrooms were shut and 5 of us carried on chatting in the lounge.

We had decided before we went to Darwin Forest that we would try and leave the cars where they were and spend the weekend entertaining ourselves on site.  In reality a lot of the local attractions were still closed for the winter, but in summer time you can visit, and Darwin Forest sell discounted tickets at reception to Chatsworth House, Haddon Hall, Heights of Abrahams, Crich Tramway Museum, Alton Towers, Gulliver’s Kingdom and Matlock Farm Park. They also have special rates with Matlock Golf Club, Peak District Cycle Centre, Joe Neville’s Shooting Ground, Peak Rail and Go Ape.

Entertaining yourself on site for the weekend is however no problem at all!  We spent Saturday morning mooching round the woods, playing hide and seek and hunting for bears.  I can’t say it was the most peaceful wander (as the girls did cry because it was cold and in reality they wanted to do the swimming first) but the woods themselves are lovely.

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

We probably spent about an hour and a half in the woods before finishing off in the play park next to reception. According to my fairly grumpy 6 year old the park was far too babyish for her, but she admirably gave it a go! Probably perfect for 3-5 year olds though.

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

We headed back to the lodge for some lunch and played some games we had taken with us in case it poured down all weekend.

At around 2pm we decided to go down to the swimming pool. In reality we probably picked the busiest time to use the pool all weekend but it is fairly small and I can imagine in summer time you need to choose your times carefully. The staff at the pool did however seem to be managing numbers well and didn’t let a very large group in as I was leaving as it was too full.  Probably wise to check what the busiest times are so as not to disappoint the little ones.

After swimming we only had about an hour or so before the water walking session we had booked for the three girls. There would have been time to head back to the lodge, particularly as the girls had their scooters with them and new trainers to try out, but we decided to have a coffee and let the girls play in the on site soft play – Little Monkeys Play Centre.

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

Micro Scooters and Bobux Trainers

The play centre is open to the public too, although £3.50 per child for on site guests, rather than £4.50 so it was again quite busy due to children’s parties.  My girls are well used to this however and ran off into the pretty huge play frame happily.

Probably the highlight of the girls day though was Water Walkerz at 5.30pm.  During our stay there was the option to enjoy Archery, Fencing, Snorkelling and WaterWalkerz. By way of example the timings were Fencing (Saturday 13.00-14.00), Waterwalkerz (Saturday 17.30-18.30), Archery (Sunday 10.30-12.00) and Snorkelling (13.00-14.00). Timings do vary though through the year and can be booked by contacting Evolution Health and Fitness Centre on telephoning 01629 736222. Further information on the activities can be found at

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

Sunday followed a similar format to Saturday with a walk in the woods but then instead of swimming we did some Crazy Golf!

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

We finished the weekend off with Sunday lunch at Foresters Bar and Restaurant.  The food was good pub food and the service was quick and helpful.

We had a really lovely weekend at Darwin Forest County Park and hope to head back in the summer months to try out a hot tub too!

Tips for Darwin Forest Country Park

Regardless of the time of year you are likely to need wellies!

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review

  • There’s no phone signal to speak of, but there are 30+ WiFi points on-site.  We did have some problems connecting to the internet from time to time but if internet access is essential then you can pay for Fixed line Internet access at £1/15 minutes at reception.
  • You can order your shopping online and have it delivered straight to the lodge. Tesco, Sainsburys and Ocado.
  • Towels are provided but bring extra for swimming.
  • You can hire BBQ’s to cook on your huge deck!
  • Each lodge has parking for two cars (in fact ours had space for 3) but extra cars can be parked near reception.

You can read some other reviews of Darwin Forest Country Park here too:

Tin Box Traveller – Relaxing at Darwin Forest County Park

Five Adventurers – Darwin Forest Review: Peak District Lodges
Parent Shaped – Have you forgotten what a weekend is? A Darwin Forest Lodge in the Peak District

plus a review on what things to do during your stay at Darwin Forest Country Park!

Why not PIN this post to remind you to book!

Darwin Forest Country Park, Peak District Review (1)

NB: We were invited to Darwin Forest Country Park as their guests but we paid for the additional activities, all views and opinions are our own.

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  • Reply
    Julia @ Rainbeaubelle
    10th February 2017 at 10:01 am

    This looks great and just the kind of place I would like to go to with my parents and kids too. Looks like a lovely lodge and fun, easy weekend!

  • Reply
    10th February 2017 at 10:07 am

    It really looks a great place to base yourself with/without children. Especially with all those lovely places nearby to visit.

  • Reply
    Sam | North East Family Fun Travel Blog
    10th February 2017 at 10:15 am

    It looks idyllic and like a lovely place to get together with the family. My three are dying to try walking on water – it looks like lots of fun!

  • Reply
    10th February 2017 at 8:38 pm

    I used to work in Matlock and the drive from Manchester to there is just so beautiful and you’ve just reminded of all the amazing spots there. I need to make time and go back there!

  • Reply
    Tracey Williams
    11th February 2017 at 7:49 pm

    I have wanted to visit Darwin Forest for years now, and it looks such a relaxing place. It’s good that you managed to stay on site and still keep the girls busy. Lodge looks fab, I do love a good lodge holiday with all the mod cons x

  • Reply
    Wandermust mummy
    13th February 2017 at 12:01 pm

    I love the pics! Looks like you had a great time #mondayescapes

  • Reply
    Coral-Way too much luggage
    13th February 2017 at 3:44 pm

    This looks a lovely break Karen, I love the photos of the girls in the Zorbs! Looked like a relaxing family break. #Mondayescapes

  • Reply
    Jo Addison
    13th February 2017 at 4:01 pm

    This looks great Karen. I love the Peak District and Darwin Forest looks like the perfect place to stay for families. I love the photos of you playing crazy golf! #mondayescapes

  • Reply
    13th February 2017 at 4:14 pm

    It looks like you did a little of everything on your trip – how fun! The lodging looked lovely and I could see my little one loving the available activities.

  • Reply
    Travelling With Our Kids
    13th February 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Looks a great place for an outdoor family holiday. The lodge looks great and its always handy when places come equipped with the essentials including towels! #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    13th February 2017 at 10:02 pm

    What a wonderful place to visit. This is not to far from us, so I will pin this one for later! So many activities for the little ones….although my two girls would spend hours in that forest trying to find a flower fairy 🙂 . Lodges look lovely too. #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Trish @ Mum's Gone To
    14th February 2017 at 9:07 am

    Impressed with all the activities on offer – a real family treat.

  • Reply
    Rob+Ann @TravelLatte(.net)
    14th February 2017 at 8:44 pm

    Looks like a great getaway! Have to admit, we’re keen on playing in one of those waterballs! Looks like too much fun to leave it all to the kids!

  • Reply
    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me)
    15th February 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Next time I do a multi-generational stay, I’ll have to arrange for the grandparents to arrive there before us. I like the sound of arriving to a fully stocked larder! This sounds like a wonderful, outdoorsy kind of place. So great that you all had such a good time there. #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Sarah Christie
    15th February 2017 at 9:02 pm

    It looks like you had a fab time, I do love a family lodge break x

  • Reply
    Sarah Christie
    15th February 2017 at 9:02 pm

    It looks like you had a fab time, I do love a family lodge break x

  • Reply
    Claire at Tin Box Traveller
    16th February 2017 at 12:15 am

    I’m really looking forward to our visit in June now. I’m not sure I’ll get my girls in the Water Walkerz but I’d like a go! #MondayEscapes

  • Reply
    Cardiff Mummy Says - Cathryn
    16th February 2017 at 1:40 pm

    Oh, this place looks so lovely. I’ve heard good things about it and your review just confirms all of that. The Water Walkerz look amazing!

  • Reply
    Karen (Stopping At Two)
    18th February 2017 at 8:24 pm

    We used to have quite a few days out in the Peak District when I was a child and it’s definitely somewhere I want to take the girls. Must have a proper look at staying at Darwin Forest as a potential base!

  • Reply
    Bema J
    3rd August 2019 at 1:51 am

    This resort looks gorgeous but we don’t drive and would be coming up from London. Just wondering if you think one would need a car for these kinds of holidays or can it be done without?

    • Reply
      Mini Travellers
      4th August 2019 at 5:39 am

      Yes I think to get the most out of it a car would be good, but lots to do on site without one.

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