Photo of Devonshire Arms at Beeley

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 6th July 2008.

Last week I stayed at The Peacock on the Haddon Hall Estate. This week I’m on the adjoining estate that surrounds the great and glorious Chatsworth House.

The Duke of Devonshire also has an estate in Yorkshire, graced by Bolton Abbey, with two hotels, the luxury Devonshire Arms and the more family-minded Devonshire Fell. At Chatsworth, there is the Devonshire Arms at Beeley. The present Duchess, Amanda, has recently injected new life into all three, having been personally in charge of the decoration.

She’s gone for colour. Boy, has she gone for colour. At both hotels in the Yorkshire Dales, I found zingy, multi-coloured brasseries, in a conservatory extension at the Devonshire Arms, and across the entire ground floor at the Devonshire Fell, once a dour Victorian hostelry, now more reminiscent of Cape Town or Sydney.

It’s the same story, I discover, at the Devonshire Arms in the Derbyshire Dales, a couple of miles from Chatsworth House itself (entry is free for hotel guests; don’t miss seeing the house lit up at night).

I was looking forward to my visit. “My dad and I really like it”, my friend Bob had told me. “The food’s good, and we love sinking into the armchairs after birdwatching up on Beeley Moor.”

He might have mentioned that the semi-circular, tub-shaped chairs, are not only just right for relaxing in, and eating from, but also cerise pink, lime green, deep purple or candy striped. Scattered here and there in the charming old stone inn, they congregate in loud gangs in the glass-fronted extension that has become yet another vibrant Devonshire brasserie.

The airy room sports not only those chairs, but a cobalt-blue bar encased in painted wood rails and bright modern art on the walls.

The result? A place that’s fun and buzzing. Though its vibrant livery makes it feel more ephemeral than atmospheric, it does its job as a local meeting place – for lunch, tea, dinner, drinks and snacks – very well indeed.

Alan Hill is the friendly patron, as well as the chef. Not only can I report on his cooking, but also, by happy coincidence, I can relay the opinion of two friends, Henrietta and Susie, who happen to be dining there, on a tour of Derbyshire’s great houses, Chatsworth, Haddon and Hardwicke Hall. Thumbs up, all round.

There are four rooms in the inn, simply decorated in bright colours, with bold, oversized headboards for the beds and a mix of Habitat-style furniture and antique pieces from Chatsworth. The pretty botanical paintings of the Duchess’s sister-in-law, Emma Tennant, hang on the walls.

Cuckoostone Dale is easily the best room, with separate sitting room in pink and bedroom in powder blue with blue and white spotted blinds to match. The four rooms in the newly converted house next door are calmer and more sophisticated, and include domestic touches such as books and pictures from Chatsworth.

“Chatsworth is amazing, but don’t miss the Moor,” Bob had advised me. “It’s open and high but not wild; a nice cosy one, as moors go”. Beeley, far below, looks untouched by the years, but of course it’s not. There’s a beach-style brasserie among those old stone houses for a start.

Beeley, Derbyshire (01756 718111; Doubles from £145 to £165, including breakfast. Ground floor rooms available for guests with disabilities.