holidays, parenting

Darwin Forest – A Family Break

Looking for somewhere to go on holiday that is family friendly, pet friendly, couple and group friendly? We absolutely love Darwin Forest in the Peak District because it really is a place to unwind and relax – even with triplets!

In 2016 we randomly came here and had a lovely pint in Foresters bar and restaurant and that turned into an expensive pint, as I went and put a deposit on a lodge there and then! It was so incredible that I booked again for Christmas 2017, obviously not thinking I’d be pregnant, let alone with triplets, so it had to be cancelled. I was gutted.

After having an amazing first holiday in Summer 2018, with our babies, (but at their sister lodges, Sandybrook), we knew we needed to come back here for Christmas!

We were amazingly gifted the Glade Spa 2 lodge, 3 bedroom, but everything that we did was solely us. It was literally the roof over our heads that was gifted – nothing else. (Just to be honest and transparent!)

Now that the babies are eating and moving about more, packing seemed to be harder and I definitely took way too many clothes! Even though we had an amazing washer in the lodge, I still over packed – but ended up using the washer more! (I brought our own washing liquid and conditioner).

The drive here from Manchester was smooth and the scenery absolutely beautiful! The babies actually slept the majority of the way!

I was so excited driving through the entrance. It is just so beautiful! Especially this time of year with the subtle Christmas decorations.

Check in was a breeze, and the receptionist so lovely and welcoming – we even got a complimentary bottle of milk from the shop next door!

Driving round to the lodge and seeing where it was located was incredible. Yes, there were lodges next to us, however everything is spread out that you feel on your own, which is lovely! Situated in the middle of a lot of woodland, this wooden lodge doesn’t look out of place. Inside is even more amazing. Everything is just made so you can relax and have a great holiday.

There was a lot of room for the babies to roam around and play, and we didn’t feel all cramped up. Even the sofas were really comfy!

The kitchen had a lot of worktops, which was great, as I could easily set up my prep machine and steriliser. Then all their bottles, milk and snacks went into a cupboard underneath.

I even brought my slow cooker, (I couldn’t resist!) even though I knew we would have an oven and microwave. We did use the oven more, but it was nice to be able to bring things I would use at home, and it to fit nicely – as there is so much space!

The fridge and freezer were nice and big also, and located in the island. I always worry fridges would be tiny, but it was nice to see they were a decent size. However, my favourite gadget was the wine fridge! Even beats the fact they had a Dolce Gusto coffee machine and dishwasher!

So, where do you actually sleep three babies in a lodge?! Easy! You can get cots from reception, just order them when you book and they will be ready in your lodge for when you arrive. (Same goes for high chairs).

They are wooden foldable cots, which are really easy to put together. You have to bring your own bedding for them – and just to note, the sleepyhead grande’s don’t fit in them, however we found we didn’t even need it, as they all slept soundly in them!

But where to actually put them! One single bed was removed from one room and placed into the other and then all three cots fit, with space between them, for me to walk around and reach each cot.

It was great to still have room for the single bed, as I use that to settle Mila, (who is the hardest to get to sleep!)

I do have a worry that beds will be either fixed in place or too heavy to move, along with any bedside tables that may be there. Luckily everything was really easy and simple to move – and it looked great! It was nice to feel like they had their own proper room and not just dumped somewhere.

As mentioned earlier, we also got three high chairs. Nice, sturdy, wooden chairs where you have the option to use the tray or not. The first night we pushed them up to the table – which was so nice!! I honestly loved how much space we had in the main room, as we didn’t feel cramped in, even when we had three big high chairs up – and space for me in front of them!

Every night when the babies went to sleep, that meant it was chill time in the hot tub!! It’s literally the best thing ever and I wish I had my own at home!! It got cleaned twice a day – with no inconvenience or disturbance to yourself and it was just amazing. Set up with the baby monitor on the side, our robes ready for when we had to get out (you get them provided with slippers!) it was just amazing to lie back and take in the surrounding nature and stars!! Oh, the stars!!! It was just so amazing. With privacy glass surrounding you, you can’t be seen by neighbouring lodges. We honestly didn’t see anyone, though all lodges were occupied.

The mornings were just breathtaking.

How I wish I had views like this in the mornings, I don’t think I’d struggle getting up so early, every day! You can also hear the birds, which sounded so beautiful. Seeing this and taking it all in, while having a nice, hot brew, was just perfect! Then when I turned around I was greeted by Mila…

Just too funny!!

The loungers really made me want to be here in the summer! After a wipe down, so not to get a wet bum, I did have a lie on them and they are super comfy!! I wish we had these at Sandybrook when we were there in July! Also, to note, if you do go in the summer, you can hire a bbq!! We did and it was the best thing!

We had three bathrooms to choose from to use, but the master bathroom was the best, as it had the most incredible bath – and with a tv!! Though I did have the quickest bath ever and didn’t get to enjoy chilling in it while watching tv, it did come in handy when I needed to shower, but couldn’t be left alone – as fellow parents can understand!

Huge bath + CBeebies = mum can have a nice, hot shower and even wash her hair!

There are lots of activities you can do at Darwin Forest. Big activities like archery and fencing, of course, for older children and adults, but babies are also well catered for.

They have two soft play areas!! One is completely free in the games building – which holds an array of amazing arcade games. Though we didn’t use it ourselves, we did have a quick look and it looked great. We actually ended up using Little Monkeys soft play area. Free for under 1s and £3.50 for over, your children (and you!) will have so much fun here!

Afterwards we went for a lovely drink at Foresters. We love it here. It’s so clean, quaint and relaxing.

We were helped to get three high chairs nice and easily, which was great, as we just carried them over from soft play! While we didn’t eat here on this occasion, as the babies got too tired after playing, I know the food is amazing, so while we were a bit gutted we couldn’t eat, we were happy to have a pint while the babies had bottles and then chilled back in the lodge!

You can come here even if you aren’t staying over. This is literally how we ended up starting to holiday here!

It rained on two days while we were here and when it is raining and you have triplets, or children in general, it is so hard to get out. However, we really enjoyed relaxing and playing in our lodge and we loved watching the rain – even better from the comfort of a beautiful, warm lodge!

It was so nice to spend some quality family time together and have loads of snuggles!

As we were close to Bakewell, I really fancied a Bakewell tart! After spending the majority of the previous day in the lodge, we wanted to check out the local attractions! As we got to Bakewell, I realised we actually wouldn’t fit into any shop, as the doorways are really small and our pram is just way too big. So we drove to Chatsworth House. I thought it would be lovely to walk around the gardens and check out their huge playground. Though when we arrived, it started to rain – not great to do outdoor things. We also couldn’t visit the house, as you (understandably) can’t take prams inside. They do lend out baby carriers – however, with triplets, that simply wouldn’t work. So we had to leave. £4 to check out the car park and a quick check from me, to see if we could actually do anything.

We wouldn’t have been able to fit around the shop and there was a huge queue of people waiting to get into the restaurant!

So we had to leave. We did see hundreds of deers though!

So now, we were a bit disheartened about driving around and not actually able to do anything. So we went back to our lodge.

Thankfully Darwin Forest doesn’t have accessibility issues and we went swimming, which completely made our day.

Sometimes pools don’t let you swim if the adult to children ratio isn’t 1:1, but luckily there were no problems with us taking the babies swimming at Evolution.

The babies (and us) absolutely loved it! The pool was empty when we went in which was great. A child then did have a swimming lesson, but that was separated and I love that you can actually have swimming lessons here.

The pool is really nice to get in and out of as well but then main thing I always worry about is the changing rooms!

Luckily it is a big communal area and we were able to use the big changing room, so we all fit and could get the babies changed easily. We take them ready to swim, so it is simple to get in the pool, but getting out needs to be quick and calm, so the babies don’t get stressed or cold! Luckily there is parking next to the pool, so again, accessibility is just fantastic.

I didn’t have time to have a massage unfortunately, as I know how good they are!! It has a small spa area, with a jacuzzi and sauna and you can get an array of treatments. They are also really great prices!! Sometimes you can go to a spa holiday and the prices can be crazy, I just wish I had time. If you do go to Evolution for the gym, swim or spa, then you can use the crèche at Little Monkeys. It only runs 10am-12pm though, so you would need to check there is space for your child(ren) first.

With the beautiful nature trails, fairy trails, crazy golf, numerous activities for children and adults, there is something for everyone. We love holidaying at Darwin Forest as it is truly relaxing. We can’t wait to come back here and experience more things when our babies are older. It’s nice that we started coming here as two, and now we are back as five! It will also be nice to bring Ralph, at some point! He will definitely love the walks.

The week went so quickly and we were definitely sad to leave! Packing up seemed a lot easier though, and it was nice to not have a mountain of dirty clothes to do when we got home!

I definitely recommend this stunning getaway, so go and check out their website. If we can holiday at a 5 star spa lodge with triplets, then what is stopping you?! Hopefully we will be back next year!

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