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Review of Secret Cloud House Holidays, Peak District

Posted by Lucy Symons at 01:00 on Wednesday 08 May 2013

A small clutch of yurts and a bell tent in a peaceful field overlooking the Peak District.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Secret Cloud.

Bed at Secret Cloud.  Photo:  Lucy SymonsBed at Secret Cloud. Photo: Lucy SymonsThe Setting
Located just outside the Peak District National Park, in a field close to Ashbourne (and Alton Towers, if you have teenage children who are in to that sort of thing…) are fabulous yurts and a bell tent run by Catherine.  In a farm field on top of the world overlooking the most gorgeous rugged countryside and fully accessible by public transport you can spend nights in a well-situated spot with gorgeous views, in the tiny hamlet of Cauldon. 

The Rooms
Catherine has set up three yurts and a bell tent on hard standing with polished wooden floors each with a wood burning stove (complete with kettle which can be kept gently boiling) and decked out in the most exquisite and quirky way: full double beds with super comfy mattresses, down pillows and duvets, a Staffordshire wool blanket and a tiny kitchenette with everything you could possibly need (including a two ring gas cooker with toast attachment) a table with two stools and a sofa. Everything is here, in fact, Catherine has made this a fine art – there’s a freezer with ready frozen blocks for the cool chest in your yurt, plastic glasses to fill up with wine whilst in the hot tub, a drying up cloth for your washing up (hot water available up at the shower block - Blackberry and Rosehip are the yurts nearest in case that’s your preference). Wild flowers lounge in an old watering can, a vintage box of dominoes and a pack of well thumbed recycled cards lurked in case we felt competitive. 

Secret Cloud Candles and Lantern.  Photo:  Lucy SymonsSecret Cloud Candles and Lantern. Photo: Lucy Symons

Almost everything is either vintage or recycled.  There are candles in thoughtful lanterns, beautiful coloured glass tea lights and tiny fairy lights (solar powered) in each yurt and solar charged lights demarking the paths at night.  

The Food
Catherine can order you a bbq hamper and other local food if you so choose, but you may go and explore nearby Ashbourne or Leek and find some local produce there.Welcome Hamper Secret Cloud.  Photo:  Lucy SymonsWelcome Hamper Secret Cloud. Photo: Lucy Symons

On arrival you will find a picnic hamper with local bread and Sunnyside, free-range eggs from nearby Frognal, coffee and tea (the kettle perpetually waiting, gently rumbling on the wood burner) and bacon and sausages for your breakfast (you can pre-order for vegetarian tastes if you prefer).  Picnic tables sit optimistically outside for occasional gorgeous sunny days.

The Activities
The hot tub takes a while to fire up, so Catherine will arrive and thoughtfully set it going for you to enjoy later in the evening once it has reached a temperature you could be par-boiled by (there is a hose nearby for the purpose of cooling it down).  The closest yurt to the hot tub is Elderflower...  only a short sprint once you are lobster coloured and fully relaxed.

There are plenty of things to do during the day – see our Greentraveller Guide to the Peak District National Park, where there are lots of well marked walks, diverse wildlife and geology and several National Trust properties (Ilam Hall, Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill), The Stepping Stones at Dovedale which became a National Nature Reserve in 2006 are well worth a visit. The Heights of Abraham cable car is part of the popular family Peak District attraction in Matlock Bath. Your ticket also includes access to the caverns, exhibitions and hilltop park. On a wet day you could do worse than head underground to one of the areas many caves and caverns; try Pooles Cavern,  or Speedwell Cavern (home to the Devil's Arse!) where you can bob along on an underground boat trip.  Why not go and see where Emma Bridgewater started out in Stoke on Trent, home of The Potteries (Wedgewood, Denby and Portmerion)?

Billberry Lodge, Secret Cloud Photo:  Catherine WebsterBillberry Lodge, Secret Cloud Photo: Catherine WebsterThe Green
Each yurt has its own bbq and outdoor seating for four as well as its own composting toilet on hard standing with a slate floor and a view over the hills.  A vintage jug was left for sluicing and a tub of sawdust and chippings for covering (full instructions included).  There was even hand sanitiser in case you hadn’t managed to keep your kettle boiling for hand washing.

The whole set up is something Cath Kidston’s older, more sophisticated and eco-minded sister would be proud of. The washroom block houses two tasteful permanent showers in their own beautifully decked out dressing rooms, hot water supplied from the sun (and auxiliary electric in case it's cloudy – no cold showers here) lockers for valuables (where they can be left to recharge from the energy produced by the solar and photo voltaic panels) and well chosen hand made soaps and shower gels.  There’s even a hairdryer and plug for your straighteners, if you are so inclined!  The building, handmade locally in Bakewell and PEFC rated timber from responsibly managed forests, is fully insulated with sheep’s wool.

How to get there using public transport
Jump on a train to Stoke, then transfer to Macclesfield, Derby, Ashbourne or Leek and then cycle on (or take the 108 bus) to Cauldon.   

Top Tip
Do follow the comprehensive instructions Catherine sends you – you don’t want to be here without wellies.  In fact I would suggest slippers or flip-flops for inside the yurt.  If it’s nippy, you may want to bring a hot water bottle.

Interior of Elderflower Yurt Photo:  Catherine WebsterInterior of Elderflower Yurt Photo: Catherine WebsterVerdict
An amazingly restful and isolated spot, the yurts are private and well spread out.  Unless you have come with a gang of like minded friends (very popular with hen parties (free range?) and family reunions or gatherings booking the whole place out, Catherine tells me) you will probably want to snuggle up in your cozy, twinkling yurt.  Although the yurts officially sleep four, this is an ideal spot for a romantic break as a couple.  Leave the kids at home or book them in to the tent whilst you cuddle up in the yurt and then bribe them with a trip to Alton towers if they don’t bother you.  If one of you is a pyromaniac so much the better, the wood-burning stove can be hours of fun as can the wood burning hot tub.  It’s camping but much much better.

>> For availability and booking, see our full listing for Secret Cloud.

See the photos from Lucy's visit on our Pinterest board for Secret Cloud

Posted by Lucy Symons

Dovedale View.  Photo:  Lucy SymonsDovedale View. Photo: Lucy Symons

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