“Hold on,” the driver warns as I scramble on to the back of a golf buggy for a ride up a gently sloping hillside into the woodland behind Callow Hall Hotel. “I was once carrying a couple of elderly women and one nearly slipped off. They still came back a second time.”
Gazing around me at the peaceful bluebell-dotted forest, it isn’t hard to see why you would risk a tumble for a repeat trip.
Built in 1850, Grade II-listed Callow Hall in Ashbourne, Derbyshire sits in 35 acres of lush gardens overlooking rolling fields. The entrance is watched over by an 800-year-old cedar tree.
The imposing Victorian country house, freshly renovated during the pandemic and only welcoming guests since September 2021, is a stylish property with 15 bedrooms, a library, a snug and lots of space to relax by roaring wood fires.
But, nestled in the woods behind the hotel, is what I am here to see.
Hidden away up in the woodland are two two-bedroom treehouses. Ideal, I am told, for families. Opened this spring, the 11 ‘hives’ are self-contained luxury retreats.
Each one is named after the natural offerings of the woods. My home for two nights, Thistle, is a delightful surprise from the moment the golf buggy pulls up outside.
The wooden hideaway may look rustic from the outside, but inside, it houses pure luxury and sophistication – an exceedingly comfortable king-sized bed, an en suite shower room and a kitchenette (with a handy fridge, microwave, kitchen sink and even fillable snack boxes to take out with you as you explore the surrounding countryside).
The hive offers everything you’d expect from a top-tier hotel room, all ensconced in the wonders of the great outdoors. For Callow Hall, a connection to nature is paramount.
Honey, little pots of which are provided in the selection of snacks in the hive, is produced on site. Bags of Two Farmers crisps in rooms are contained in plastic-free packaging. Even the pencils available to use contain seeds to be planted once the leads run short. Water bottles are reusable. Those snack boxes? Glass.
All guests have access to the hotel’s restaurant, the bright and airy Garden Room, which uses local produce and has a seasonal menu that changes by the month.
Everything – from a full Derbyshire breakfast with locally-produced crusty bread and butter, to a dinner of nettle salad and steaks, and carefully crafted cocktails – is delicious.
And, if you can tear yourself away, there’s plenty to see in the surrounding area.
Wandering down to the hotel’s converted Coach House, I hop on an e-bike (like cycling but without so much effort) and head off to the nearby Tissington Trail, a 13-mile cycle trail through the Peak District National Park.
Back at the hotel, the Coach House has a spa tucked away up a winding stone staircase, offering everything from manicures to massages.
I settle in for a wonderful neck, back and shoulder massage to fully ease the city stresses from my system.
Then it’s back to The Garden Room for Derbyshire lamb and gooey little croquettes with asparagus. I chat to one of the waiters who explains he used to work in a primary school.
Mind drifting to my two young children, happily back home, we joke about the rigors of looking after little ones – something that feels so far from this secluded spot.
After some cocktails, I totter back up that hillside (where’s the golf buggy when you need it?) to my hive.
Settling in on the deck, listening to owls hoot in the trees overhead, I take a few breaths of the fresh country air. Soon, I’ll be back to the buzz of the city, but I’ll be heading home with sweet memories of days embracing nature in my hive.
How to plan your trip
From £179 per night, on a room only basis. Call 01335 300 900 or visit wildhive.uk.
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