In May, the Parent Friendly Stays team had the opportunity to spend a week’s half term holiday at Landal Darwin Forest – a 44-acre family friendly holiday resort near Matlock in Derbyshire. 

You can see the full PFS listing for Darwin Forest here; and for her sister site, Landal Sandybrook. Or for full availability and pricing information, and to book your own stay, visit the Darwin Forest or Sandybrook websites directly.

Below is our in-depth ‘tried and tested’ review of Landal Darwin Forest.

darwin forest logo

Our family friendly holiday accommodation

our 8 bed family lodge at Darwin Forest

We visited Darwin Forest as part of a large multi-generational extended family group: three families, all with young children of varying ages from 2 to 12, and the grandparents too.

Our overall experience of the accommodation at Darwin Forest was that it was clean, spacious, comfortable and well-equipped

Our accommodation took the form of two of Darwin Forest’s wooden lodges: a Chatsworth Elite Vogue 4 and a Haddon Classic Vogue 4.  Both properties slept up to eight people in four bedrooms; we had two families with children sharing in one, with a third family and children plus the grandparents in the other.  The only significant difference between the two cabins, as far as we could tell at least, was that one was dog friendly and the other wasn’t.  Otherwise, both benefitted from a large open sitting area, a dining area with enough seating for all guests, and a well-equipped kitchen.

Booking two lodges at the same time meant we could ensure they were adjacent, which worked really well for the children playing with each other and freely moving between the two lodges across a grassy wooded area, which also served as a handy play area for the younger members of the party building dens, digging holes and generally enjoying the outdoors.

our two lodges

Our overall experience of the accommodation at Darwin Forest was that it was clean, spacious, comfortable and well-equipped.  Despite being split across two properties, we often came together for lunch or dinner, and found the living area in either lodge big enough to accommodate this arrangement.  It was convenient being in single-storey accommodation, especially for the older members of the group.

We all made frequent use of the outdoor seating on the decking outside each property.  One lodge was notably shadier than the other due to the trees which meant we tended to favour the lodge in a more open space which received more of the evening sun; but then again you can hardly complain about tree cover when visiting a holiday park called Darwin Forest!  We also paid a small extra fee for a BBQ, which was delivered very clean and with all the necessary tools straight to our cabin.

Child and parent friendly facilities at Darwin Forest

we were able to make good use of the whole range of high quality amenities

As always with a Parent Friendly Stays family holiday, our primary reason for picking Darwin Forest was the wealth of child friendly activities and entertainment available on-site as part of the holiday, and Darwin Forest didn’t disappoint in that regard.  With six children in our group ranging from age 2 to 12, we were able to make good use of the whole range of high quality amenities.

The swimming pool

the Darwin Forest swimming pool complex

The swimming pool on the site is conveniently located near the entrance (also near the site reception, shop, bar/restaurant and soft play) and we made regular use of it during our stay.  We really enjoyed it – the pool was warm, clean, not too busy and with excellent changing facilities (including really useful dryers for wet costumes!). A gym directly above the pool provided a handy escape for some of the parents in our group, while others – especially the grandparents – enjoyed making use of the seating in the observation area overlooking the water. A booking system for the swimming pool was in place during our visit – presumably a COVID-era innovation – but worked really well for ensuring the pool wasn’t overcrowded.  Occasionally we found it a bit frustrating that a not insignificant chunk of the pool had been portioned off for lane swimming mainly used by a small number of adults; this seemed to have a slightly disproportionate impact on the overall space available for younger visitors to enjoy.

Soft play area

Also perfect for indoor fun on rainier days was the Darwin Forest soft play area.  A surprisingly large facility in a dedicated building, this really is a proper soft play with a wealth of safe playing space for younger tots.  Our children really enjoyed the soft play, especially the large four-way slide, while the adults amongst us made good use of the café within the complex; the prices seemed really reasonable, and there were a range of tempting treats available including sundaes and milkshakes.

Outdoor fun: play area, football, tennis, golf, cycling, activity trails and more

a lot of time was spent on family football and cricket games

The weather was fortunately pretty good during our holiday – sunny, though not overly warm – which allowed us to make maximum use of the various outdoor activities.  This included:

  • A well-equipped outdoor play park
  • A football field with goal posts, which also served as a perfect pitch for a family game of cricket
  • A mini golf course (free!)
  • Tennis courts, plus smaller child-friendly ‘short’ tennis courts
  • A fun activity trail through the woods with climbing frames, stepping-stones, balancing bars etc; the route was cyclable, so also proved a popular circular route for the kids to explore
  • A longer forest trail great for family walks – well marked footpaths through the woods and open fields.

We took our children’s bikes with us on the back of our car, and this proved a really good decision as the park was the perfect environment for the kids to cycle – from confident nearly-teens through to younger ones still learning.  The roads are flat, smooth and safe; everyone drives slowly and is clearly aware of the high number of younger visitors.  We had no concerns at all about letting the kids explore the site on their bikes while we relaxed at our lodge, or the on-site bar.

enjoying the activity trail

Bar, restaurant and shop

Speaking of which… the Darwin Forest bar and restaurant was a welcome facility which we made good use of during our visit.  It offered a warm, friendly, and family-friendly atmosphere, and again with reasonable prices for everything from a cup of tea to a cocktail.  We didn’t actually eat at the restaurant, but there were a range of tempting family friendly options available, including takeaway food.  The building housing the restaurant also includes an arcade, which our older kids spent a lot of time in, along with a small soft play room which was often busy with younger children letting off steam.

Finally, we also made regular trips to the on-site shop at Darwin Forest.  It was well stocked with essential food and drink, plus the usual treats, gifts and souvenirs.

Family friendly days out nearby

beautiful Chatsworth House in the sunshine

With so much to do on site, there were days when we didn’t need to leave the Darwin Forest holiday site at all; but despite that we were obviously keen to visit some of the many family friendly days out which this beautiful part of the Peak District has on offer.

Our choices for days out during our stay included:

  • An enjoyable circular cycle ride around Carsington Reservoir, and on the family friendly Monsal Trail route
  • A visit to the Heights of Abraham, including the exciting cable car ride (not one for those scared of heights)
  • A long afternoon in the sunshine at the beautiful Chatsworth House – unsurprising busy, but the grounds are so big that there was always somewhere to wander in relative peace!
  • Exploring the pretty town of Bakewell and sampling its world-famous treats and puddings.

In summary..

We’ll definitely be back!

a beautiful forest setting

We had a wonderful holiday at Darwin Forest.

Comfy and clean lodge-style accommodation, superb indoor and outdoor amenities to entertain children from toddlers to teenagers, and plenty of brilliant days out in the local area.  We’ll definitely be back!

If you’ve been inspired to consider your own family holiday at Darwin Forest go direct to their website for the latest prices and to book; and don’t forgot to consider their sister site at Sandybrook too.