Louisa Walters locates the perfect pitstop for R&R in Derbyshire
I love pubs. Not gastro pubs – real pubs. With real pub food. Especially in the countryside. So when my husband suggested a weekend visit to Chatsworth House I immediately googled ‘traditional pubs Baslow/Beeley/Pilsley’ (the nearest villages) and discovered The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley, which is a pub with rooms! Double whammy. We ambled up there yesterday afternoon, arriving just in time to see the sun go down over the Derbyshire Dales and revel in the magnificent autumn colours of the trees. The pub is in a village on the Chatsworth estate and is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, as are all the surrounding cottages and buildings; they all feature the blue paint that is ubiquitous in the area on everything from front doors to signage. It gives a lovely uniform and distinctive look to an incredibly picturesque area.
The pub is not totally traditional (no flocked carpet) but no ‘let’s pretend we’re a fancy restaurant’ either. We had a gorgeous room with four poster bed (so high it had steps to get up to it!), pretty chintz fabrics, lots of antique furniture from the coffers of Chatsworth House, a beautiful bathroom and yummy biscuits and salted caramel truffles to nibble on from the Chatsworth farm shop two mins walk away (which is well worth a visit – it’s like Borough Market, Whole Foods and Harrods/Selfridges food hall rolled in to one!).
And so to dinner. Well there were some ‘fancy restaurant’ dishes on the menu but we steered well clear! Prawn cocktail followed by beer battered haddock with chips and mushy peas for me. Smoked salmon pate followed by sirloin steak, chips, onion rings and salad for him. Simple pub grub, really tasty and really satisfying (huge portions!). Hubby had a really decent Malbec by the glass (£9 for 250ml – none of those daft London prices) while I had a delicious creamy unoaked Chardonnay that was even cheaper. No room for dessert but I can never say no to sticky toffee pudding and this was a really good one. So too was the chocolate mousse that my husband was persuaded to have (because I wanted to taste it). The kitchen is run by two cheery chefs who came out to see if we enjoyed our meal and were friendly and chatty despite having done a 19-hour shift! We should never forget how hard these guys work.
They were back on duty for breakfast the following morning, which was a simple buffet with cold meats, cheese, croissants, yoghurt etc plus hot dishes from the kitchen. I had an excellent not-quite-full English and the other half had creamy scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. This set us up for a four hour tour of the simply magnificent Chatsworth House and gardens and kept us going until teatime – unfortunately we couldn’t get in to the tea shop for Wedgwood afternoon tea but it looked gorgeous and if you’re ever heading there it would be worth booking. We headed to the Chatsworth farm cafe for Bakewell pudding with custard instead (I know, I know, but we hadn’t had lunch and it does originate from the area so it was kind of required).
Restaurant Club cardholders get an exclusive free room upgrade and 15% off food discount at The Devonshire Arms at Pilsley. Click here for details.