This little plan to start seeing and doing more in the surrounding areas of Sheffield has begun to blossom slightly this weekend. A friend and I booked a beautiful little cottage in Winster, the Derbyshire side of the Peak District, on AirBnb for the very reasonable price of £120 for two nights, and – voila! – a weekend away was born.
AirBnb, in my experience, is reliable, comfortable and interesting. Rather than shelling out the same price for an impersonal, one-look-fits all hotel room, we had the run of a whole house complete with a wood-burning stove and free kindling and firewood. I haven’t had a wood-burning stove since I left home six years ago, but apparently mum’s repeated lamentation that ‘you’ve let the fire out again!’ has stuck with me, and I became mistress of the flames for two gloriously cosy nights on the sofa, after days and evenings spent exploring.
Winster is around a ten-minute drive outside of Bakewell and the buses run regularly at weekends – although we discovered after leaving Bakewell in the January 5pm darkness on Saturday, that the route loops round on itself multiple times and takes some mildly unnerving turns around a series of tightly wound hill bends. Despite this, we made it home in one piece and, more importantly, I’ve lived to tell the tale.
Because we only had one full day to explore we didn’t venture too far out of Bakewell once we’d made it in. The information office in the main square gave us a list of eight different walks we could attempt in the area, and we opted for the three mile gentle stroll around the outskirts of the town. This was a perfect pre-lunch walk, and we spent the morning meandering over bridges and alongside the river, exploring an abandoned mine and quarry, and hiking up hills and through woods until we gained an exceptional view of Bakewell and the surrounding hills from atop a flat expanse of farmland. And all for the price of a £2.49 guidebook! It can’t be bad really, can it?
High Time for High Tea
After three hours or so of mild exertion I was very much ready to indulge in that jewel of countryside lunches – the afternoon tea. Cake is one of my many loves, but add to the equation scones smothered in strawberry jam and too-large dollops of clotted cream, and you have the perfect recipe for not only an untimely coronary, but also the happiest Tiny in all the land. For me, the heart attack will always be worth it.
Bakewell is choc full of coffee shops – perhaps a little to the detriment of other things – but there was only one place I wanted to visit, and that was the home of the original Bakewell Pudding. It had a 25-minute wait to be seated when we arrived though, so with my hopes dashed, we sought out another coffee shop instead.
And then fate intervened.
After 25 minutes of walking around and being told there was no-where free, during which time I may have become slightly petulant and definitely pulled up to the wrong side of hungry, we came back to find there was space for us after all.
Enter, the Mr and Mrs afternoon tea.
If we ignore the unnecessary gendering of the lunch – which I made the decision to do – then for an extravagant £36.95 The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop will serve you a selection of cold meats, fresh bread, pickle, pork pies, sandwiches, tea, two Bakewell puddings, one Bakewell tart, a slice of fruit cake and cheese, a scone with jam and cream, a pint of beer and a glass of Prosecco.
Heaven is indeed here on earth.
Suffice to say, my eyes were bigger than my belly and I left a large portion of the Bakewell tart behind, along with sizeable amounts of my scone-faced dignity. That was, of course, until we found the cheese and wine emporium.
When something has ‘emporium’ in the name you know it’s going to be good, and this place did not disappoint. Inside, we gazed longingly upon rows of expensive wines and tried multiple cheeses for free – including a bizarre and brilliant Mexican cheese that started off waxy in the mouth, and then hit you with a chilli kick out of the blue. The man behind the counter knew all there was to know about what we were trying, and in the end he did succeed in convincing me to buy some of the strange Mexican fare I’d had so much of for free. I’ve certainly made worse purchases.
Budgeting Time and Money
By now I had a taste for being given extravagant things for free, so we strolled on down to the Wee Dram Shop, where a Scottish lady with shaved white hair and too much mascara was drinking the poor, obliging shop owner out of shop and samples. Despite proclaiming not to like various blends, she must have polished off a good seven or eight tasters by the time we asked to try some, and she was already looking a little bleary-eyed when we entered. I can’t say I can fault her – it seems a sensible way to get afternoon drunk on good alcohol without having to pay the price, to me! In the end I really don’t think she bought anything.
I, however, bought myself a Glanmorgan 12 as a substitute for my favourite: The Auchentoshan 12. Both are aged in sherry casks, but the Auchentoshan isn’t quite as sweet as it’s aged in a bourbon cask as well. The deciding difference though, as I’m not made of money, was between £35 or £52 a bottle. £35 I can justify as a silly purchase; £52 is 1/6 of my monthly rent, and that really is a bottle too far.
Maybe every weekend can’t be as extravagant as this one, in both time spent away and money handed over to kindly whisky vendors and purveyors of Bakewell Puddings, but it has been an interesting way to see more of the Peaks. We certainly didn’t spend much more than £100 each, all things told, and for that we had two nights away, a long walk through a stunning National Park, whisky, wine, cheese, our own fire-
And of course, the outing of Sconeface.
Next Weekend: The Tropical Butterfly House Wildlife & Falconry Centre