“ Castleton Road, Hathersage, Hope Valley, S32 1EH. Tel:01433 650104 „
A few weeks ago one of my friends had a hen weekend, and we all stayed here at Sladen Lodge. It was chosen for its location (only about an hour drive for those of us based in Manchester, and not too hard to get to for the southerners), its size (it sleeps up to 16 adults) and the fact that it was fully equipped with everything that might be needed for more than a dozen girls to be badly behaved for a weekend.
I drove up straight after work on the Friday, since my workplace is on the way there. The route involves lots of dark, winding A-roads and some rather scary B-roads, plus an 'exciting' pass over the Pennines, great in pouring rain on a dark November night, in a land where they have yet to discover the invention of street lights. "It's 50 for a reason" signs screamed at me every few miles - what reason would that be, then? So my poor little car can feel all embarrassed about refusing to chug along faster than 35 as it struggled up the near vertical hills, and its driver not really wanting it to? I don't run to Sat Nav, so I was driving with AA directions in one hand. That hand also had to keep flicking my full beams on and off to light the way (while avoiding blinding oncoming traffic) and, occasionally, switch on the inside light so I could read where my next turn was. It's not an exaggeration to say I felt somewhat lucky to arrive with both my car and nerves intact.
Sladen Lodge is located in Hathersage, a village in the Peak District. It's within walking distance of the train station (connections from Sheffield available) and within stumbling distance of the centre of the village, but still not easy to find at night as the turning, though marked, is quite sharp. The path up is steep and requires another turn, and then you pull into the car park, with the lodge rather grandly looking down on you from above. By this point I just abandoned my car (being glad I was one of the first to arrive, so had the freedom to do so), dragged my case from the boot and legged it up the slope and few stairs to the shelter of the porch. The car park could probably fit 10 cars, if they wanted to operate by the LIFO model (last in, first out) but if you want more flexibility to come and go with less regard for the movements of others, 6 would perhaps be a more realistic number.
The lodge door lock works on a digi-pad, which is great for lots of people coming and going as it means you don't need individual keys, but on arrival I didn't know the code so rang the bell...and waited. The lodge is far from small, and it seems the bell only rings in the right hand corner, so everyone already there, snug in the lounge on the other side, couldn't hear it. We also had a fun moment the next day when someone looked out of the kitchen and said, "There's a man outside..." - on a hen do? Surely not, unless he were a stripper. We had a good look - he was balding, 50+ and wearing wellies, so we deduced / hoped he probably had another motive for being on our porch (this being the wilds of Derbyshire, you never can be sure). Luckily (for us, not him) it turned out he was simply lost, and we couldn't help him, but if we'd heard him ring the bell we'd at least have been able to tell him this a little bit earlier.
My first impression of the lodge was that it was very hot: every radiator seemed to be on, and initially I like the warm, toasty atmosphere, but this soon got a little old, and we started turning them down and switching some off all together, especially those in bed rooms. All utilities are included in your rental price, but we were doing this for comfort rather than cost saving (or green thinking) reasons.
We spent most of the Friday night in the massive lounge, which had lots of large sofas and a couple of comfy chairs too. However with the initial design it was a bit spread out, so to prevent people having to shout (and make it easier to pass round the copious bottles of wine) we harrumphed one of the sofas towards the centre. It didn't look as attractive, but was far more accommodating. The lounge was equipped with one of the largest TVs I've ever seen, that even had Sky+. There was a large square table, big enough for our off license and lots of presents for the hen, and a small stash of board games and novels (an interesting mix, much like in hotel book swap, that suggested a rather eclectic mix of previous guests). The lighting was good - over heads but also lots of lamps, and massive windows on two sides with views towards the village and into the garden. There were some, though not a lot of, spare plug sockets, which we soon filled with chargers and laptops. The whole lodge had free wi-fi (password provided in your welcome pack) and I found the signal strong in most places I tried it.
The lodge is really a sprawling bungalow, and it took a while to walk from one end to the other. In addition to the lounge, the common areas included a kitchen, a utility room, a dining area and a couple of reading alcoves (used as break out / syndicate rooms when the lodge is being used for corporate retreats). The kitchen was well equipped though it wasn't easy to find everything on the first night - plates and glasses were both stored elsewhere (the former in a sideboard, the latter in the utility room) though mugs were in the kitchen, along with serving bowls and more than enough cooking utensils. A large fridge/freezer was provided, along with a separate fridge in the utility room, and there was lots of cupboard space too, for non-perishables. Perhaps surprisingly, though, the kitchen seemed more equipped for smaller numbers. There was only one kettle, which obviously couldn't brew up for a dozen or more people at once. The oven/hob was smaller than the one I have at home, and while we managed to rustle up food for the whole group at once, it took some coordinating. The dishwasher was a nice bonus but rather small (again, my one at home is larger) and as a result of its limited capacity we had it running constantly, more often than not with stacks of stuff waiting to go in, too. (NB: we were only provided with one dishwasher tablet, though you could run it with none in when stuff wasn't caked on. Also, I made the mistake of setting it on the eco-cycle on the first morning, assuming this to be a quick one. It took over 2 ½ hours... ) No paper towels / kitchen roll was provided, but there was a massive drawer full of clean teatowels, so we just used those on any spills.
The website provides a list of what you can expect, but while some things were there (the hostess trolley - so retro and kitsch it was now cool again), we never did find the breadmaker. There was a good, large Dualit toaster though, which always scores extra points for me. Most of the place was clean, but there were a few areas that had been overlooked which was surprising: some of the bread baskets, nestled high on a shelf, had crumbs and dead flies in them, and the hostess trolley itself was rather filthy, though perhaps because it hadn't been used since 1982.
The utility room had an insane number of glasses in, and the drinks fridge which we quickly took advantage of. It also had recycling bins, and a washing machine, but the rest of the room seemed to be filled with stuff belonging to the owners - cleaning supplies, spare toiletries etc, but arranged in such a way you almost felt guilty for having opened the drawer or cupboard concerned, as they clearly weren't meant for guests' eyes.
The dining area was just that - not a room, but an alcove off the corridor, beside the kitchen. It had a massive table and a smaller one beside it, so even at full occupancy everyone could eat together. It was a bit like being in a farmhouse, or at Le Pain Quotidian with their shared table / family-style dining approach, but did make meals quite an occasion, as we all sat down together to home made curry one night, and bagels with smoked salmon and cream cheese the following morning. We also had a wine tasting activity package that took place here, and though it was slightly hard to manoeuvre around (the chairs fit in to the table, but there's a bit of a tight squeeze) we managed. My only recommendation would be that, when they replace the dining set, they go for slightly lighter chairs to make them easier to shift around in a narrow space.
The two reading alcoves were located outside different groups of bedrooms. They had a couple of lazy chairs and not much else, but the one near me also had a great flood of light through the window, so they could have been a nice place to go for some quiet time, curling up with a book, like a cat in the sunshine.
The lodge boasts 7 bedrooms, each one en suite. The beds they have can either be made up as twins (what we had in each of ours) or clicked together as doubles. My only issue with these was that, when set up as two individual beds, the rooms were a smidge cramped. The beds were made up with white linen (quilts so crisp they rustled whenever you moved) and fluffy pillows. Each room had a remote control flat screen TV, though Sky wasn't relayed through to these, so you were stuck with a smaller selection of channels. A CD radio alarm was also supplied in each room, a slight step up from the old-school cassette player in the kitchen (practically the only room without a TV). The en suite shower rooms were compact but not too small, and similar to those you'd find in a nice, modern hotel, with a large cubicle with power shower, heated towel rail etc. They didn't have windows, but extractor fans prevented them becoming too steamy. Toiletries - soap and shower gel - were provided, and the rooms even had under-floor heating, something that, for someone as easily pleased as me, was a very swish bonus. The lodge also has an additional toilet, near the entrance, though the light wasn't working in this while we were there, and the door also didn't lock well (yes, on occasion even with 7 full en suites between 13 girls, someone had to pee in the dark).
The lodge was tastefully decorated in warm colours, and furnished with tons and tons of plants which gave it a homely feel. It is located near a railway line, and trains going past were audible from the lounge, but not a problem in most of the bed rooms - a good thing, since they ran surprisingly late into the night.
The title of this review comes, verbatim, from a comment in the visitors' book. It just made me smile, but I have no idea why Germans. From reading the comments, it was evident that lots of other guests were groups similar to ourselves - hen and stag dos, or large family gatherings. As we sat around in our PJs, watching Saturday morning TV, long, repetitive conversations were had about what a nice place it would be for a family Christmas or New Year, with plenty of space for kids to fall asleep while the adults stayed up late.
We were there the wrong time of year to enjoy it fully, but the lodge is set in half an acre of well maintained gardens that have a barbeque and another massive table on the patio, for al fresco dining. This is rather randomly at the front of the lodge, rather than the more secluded side garden, but is south facing so probably done deliberately. It's still fairly private, but the view is more of the lodge car park than the rolling hills. The visitors' book also made reference to a trampoline, but alas this seemed to have been stored away for the season.
The lodge is not cheap but you do get a personalised service - for example, they will provide a catering service for those who don't want to cook, or supply special bedding for allergy sufferers on request. The owners live in the house on the hill behind (almost as grand as the lodge itself) so are on hand if you need them, and an emergency phone number is provided.
You can book the lodge for one of three durations (or, I imagine, combine two for a longer stay). Your options are:
* 3 night weekend arriving 4pm Friday departing 10am Monday
* 7 night week arriving 4pm Friday 10am departing Friday
* 4 night midweek break arriving 4pm Monday departing 10am Friday
We went for the first option though didn't stay until the Monday as we had to get back for work (and, since we would have had to get up and leave by 10am anyway, we weren't really missing out on an extra day). As you would imagine, prices reflect the number of people who can stay. You pay a flat rate for the lodge, not based on occupancy, so it's up to you to fill it with people you love (or tolerate, if you're just trying to make up the numbers...) The 3 night weekend breaks cost from about £1600, with 7 night stays from £2600. That seems a lot, but do the maths and it can be as low as £23 per person per night, with an additional 2 children able to stay free of charge.
Sladen Lodge was an excellent venue for our purposes, and the quality of the accommodation provided surpassed my expectations (based on previous self catering breaks in the UK, albeit on a smaller scale). While I can't see myself needing to accommodate a dozen or so people in the Peak District anytime soon, if you have an upcoming event that fits that description, I would highly recommend it as a comfortable place to stay. Even for Germans.
More details, floor plans and photos are available here:
Tel: 01433 650104 or 07776 425232