Short break - The Peacock at Rowsley, Matlock

The Peacock at Rowsley

The Peacock at Rowsley - Credit: Archant

The Peacock at Rowsley is a romantic hot spot and more, writes Janet Reeder

The Peacock at Rowsley Restaurant

The Peacock at Rowsley Restaurant - Credit: Archant

The Peacock features in those upmarket sites for couples looking for somewhere to enjoy quality time à deux and no wonder. The former 17th century manor house on the Haddon Estate in the Peak District has romance in spades.

There’s something about old walls and beautiful gardens in places like this that make you feel like Lady Chatterley on an awayday with Mellors the gamekeeper. The location is made for long walks before lingering looks over dinner.

But even the most loved-up couples want something to do and here there’s plenty. In fact, the hotel has launched a programme of events to keep guests amused and that’s how we ended up joining a merry band for a spot of foraging.

Foraging in foodie one-upmanship circles beats ‘organic’ hands down and not only did we get an expert on hand to ensure we didn’t overdose on toxic mushrooms but we were also joined by Lord Edward Manners, the owner of Haddon and its hall which has been described by writer and former National Trust chief Simon Jenkins in ‘1000 Best Houses’ as ‘the most perfect house to survive from the middle ages’.

The Peacock at Rowsley

The Peacock at Rowsley - Credit: Archant

We set off to root about on Lord Edward’s land under the guidance of Dr Patrick Harding, quite the ‘character’ who helped us hunt for edible plants and remedies.

First up was lesser celandine, a plant which Wordsworth loved and which had the not very romantic non botanical name, ‘pile wort’ (two guesses what that was supposed to cure). We found sorrel which tasted like lemons and can be used to make soup and grand elder, which can be cooked like spinach. Wild garlic was recognisable by its pungent smell and we discovered fungi and feverfew which is good for migraine.

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Then it was all back to The Peacock for an absolutely splendid lunch which the chef had created using some of the foraged ingredients available on the land.

We ate poached pheasant egg, Wye Valley asparagus, morels, hazelnuts and wild asparagus, as fresh and spring-like as you could get. For mains we chose from either a richly flavoured piece of Haddon estate longhorn beef fillet, accompanied by an unctuous oxtail bun, salt-baked kohlrabi, watercress, horseradish and nettle or a sensational wild garlic gnocchi, plump and buttery, accompanied by the salt backed kohlrabi, spring vegetables, goats’ curd and a dash of nettle velouté.

To finish we could choose from a forced rhubarb fromage frais, mousse and mint ice cream but the best dessert by far was a lemon parfait, meringue, lemon and olive oil cake with mint ice cream which felt both naughty and good for you at the same time.

Although lunch was late we ‘forced’ ourselves to eat supper in The Peacock’s stunning bar area - all oak panels and antique furniture.

Prince Charles has been here, so too have Keira Knightley, Benedict Cumberbatch and a host of other famous and upper crust too many to mention. The bar, a mixture of tweedy and chic, suits its town and country clientele.

Lunch was off the menu next day as we’d already enjoyed a hearty breakfast following a restful night in a very comfortable country bedroom, so we rode the steam train from Rowsley to Matlock. I must say I could have walked the five miles quicker but it was a jolly experience. Then we went to Haddon Hall itself, which is often overshadowed by Chatsworth, a few miles away, but is extraordinary in its less showy beauty and therefore a must-visit attraction.

The Peacock at Rowsley (from £120 a room a night)

Bakewell Road, Rowsley, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 2EB

01629 733518