Derbyshire Dales hotel review: Chatsworth dog walks and a top new dining experience at The Cavendish in Baslow
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Making the short trip over the border from Nottinghamshire, my wife and I had arrived in Baslow for an overnight stay at the luxurious four-star Cavendish Hotel, which had been a long-term ambition of mine after driving past its grand country house exterior while on previous excursions to the Dales and Peak District.
Finally, we took the plunge on discovering the hotel was dog-friendly, which meant we were able to bring along our three-year-old greyhound Jojo, a pooch no stranger to rural weekend getaways.
It was also a chance to check out The Cavendish's newly-refurbished Garden Room after a £1.1m hotel investment aimed at providing a more relaxed and informal dining option for guests, alongside the established fine-dining experience enjoyed in the three AA Rosette Gallery restaurant.
Great food is always at the heart of a Bailey hotel stay, but rumbling tummies would have to wait, and with the sun still shining it would have been wrong to pass up the opportunity of an afternoon stroll through the plush surroundings of the Chatsworth Estate.
Less than two miles down the main road is Chatsworth House, but there were no cars in sight as we ventured through the back gate along the hotel's handy footpath, which soon joined a pleasant trail through the historic grounds before arriving at the famous stately home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
Chatsworth will always be the main attraction for guests at The Cavendish, but there are many alternative walks and trails nearby for those wanting to explore elsewhere. If you fancy a bit more 'Derbyshire-style' hustle and bustle, the popular market town of Bakewell is a short drive away.
After a sedate couple of hours we returned to put our feet up with a bottle of fizz and admire the plush decor of 'Phaeton', one of four guest rooms in The Coach House, a small annex building alongside the main 28-bed hotel.
Boasting a six-foot four poster-bed, large walk-in shower and traditional roll top bath, the room oozed decadence, with the creation of its stylish interior actually overseen by the Duchess herself.
There were other high-end amenities too, including underfloor heating in the bathroom, luxury toiletries, a flatscreen TV, minibar, fridge with complimentary water and milk, and tea and coffee making facilities with a box of Chatsworth biscuits, which was a nice addition.
For a few hours at least it was to be our haven of relaxation, with even the pooch looking extra settled among the period furniture and rich fabrics, lying peacefully underneath the rustic wooden beams next to the cosy fireplace as we sipped our drinks.
We were excited for dinner, which was to be consumed inside the new-look Garden Room which, happily for us, allows dogs staying with hotel guests. The accompanying terrace outdoors, which boasts spectacular views across Chatsworth Park, welcomes all four-legged visitors.
The thought processes behind the recent revamp are clear to see, with a variety of 'natural' interior touches blending in perfectly with the rural landscape, complemented by chef Adam Harper's carefully curated seasonal menu telling stories of the land using local ingredients and produce from The Cavendish's kitchen garden.
Our starter choices were Crispy Pork Belly and Estate Wild Mushroom, both mouth-watering dishes elegantly served, with main course picks of tender Chatsworth Estate Venison and light, but flavoursome, Whole Lemon Sole sending our taste buds into overdrive.
The dainty and delicious Crème Brulee and Chocolate Delice desserts that followed left us feeling more than satisfied, but not too full to enjoy a post-meal Espresso Martini before bedtime.
For mornings, the hotel's breakfast menu is equally impressive, with 'table service only' giving guests the full treatment when it comes to quality attentive service.
After the delights of Eggs Royale, Porridge, Smoked Kippers, several slices of toast and a couple of smooth lattes, it was time to hit the road and return to our humble abode, but for us it was a case of 'farewell, and not goodbye' as we geared up to return the following week to sample The Cavendish's highly-regarded afternoon tea.
And it was worth the wait, with the expansive tea list, fresh finger sandwiches, scones and dainty sweet treats (lemon posset, sticky toffee cake and chocolate brownie) all impressing, along with the nice 'surprises' of a flaky sausage roll and mini cheese savoury adding a little extra intrigue.
Whether it's Chatsworth, the Dales or Peak District you've come to explore, or if it's simply a luxurious night away to enjoy great food and service in the countryside, The Cavendish Hotel has it all.
Room prices at The Cavendish, part of the Devonshire Hotels group, start from around £180 a night and the Garden Room is open from 12noon-9pm every day. For bookings and information visit the hotel website or call 01246 582311.