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Having recently moved house to Staffordshire, we were so please to find how close we were to the south end of the Peak District National Park. Ilam Hall and Park is located just to the northwest of Ashbourne and is run and managed by The National Trust. **GETTING THERE** In fact, this proved to be the biggest disappointment of the afternoon out, as the place was so difficult to find. Although we had noted down the postcode, the SatNav tried to take us round some back route. To be fair, if we'd seen signs on the main road, we would have followed them, but there didn't seem to be any. Surprisingly, once you get to the village of Ilam itself, the place is very well signposted. I think that a little investment in some new signs on the main road wouldn't go amiss! **FACILITIES** Unlike many National Trust parks and houses, Ilam is reasonably small. The car park is not large, though, being a Sunday afternoon in September, it wasn't anywhere near full. The parking charges are reasonable, particularly when there's no entry fee to the park or gardens themselves. I gather that for National Trust members, parking is free. There are a number of well-laid paths from the car park to main area which contains a small (...OK...very small) visitor centre, a shop, tea rooms and toilets. The shop is rather small, but excellently stocked. The tea rooms seemed popular, though the small visitor centre had been taken over by a beer festival that weekend. The toilets were adequate, but not amazingly clean. **WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?** Whilst it designates itself to be Ilam Hall and Park, the Hall is in fact a substantial youth hostel. Aside from that, there is considerable parkland (mostly grass), and a formal Italianesque garden. It's all very pleasant for a Sunday afternoon walk, but in all honesty, there's not much there. That said, what is there is very well kept. There is a longer walk down to a river, though we didn't venture down there as the path was somewhat steep and muddy, and we hadn't gone in the right shoes! It's a good area for children to run about in, but there weren't that many families there. I think that the Visitor Centre could be significantly expanded; perhaps trails could be erected for younger visitors to follow? In some ways, it's something and nothing. The scenery is lovely, and there are some great views - great to take your camera. We spent a couple of hours walking round, and we could have walked further, but in general, that was enough time (including a visit to the shop).
This has been a regular place to stay for our yearly visit to Alton Towers Theme Park. It is great for relaxing and playing in the large grounds at night. The accomodation varies in quality, avoid the roasting hot room above the Drying room...unless you like a sauna! The breakfasts used to be absolutely excellent when they were "Full English", unfortunately, the bland continental style has replaced this and I always request they bring back the fried egg, bacon, sausages etc. as this was fuel for the day...My large group of kids and adults were all deeply dissapointed in the continental breakfast. If you opt for packed lunches for a large group, be aware that you may not get a good mix of crisp flavours, so be prepared to distribute and do swappies to ensure all get a roll with something they will eat! If you are a large group of say 10-12, then this is a cheap and ideal place to stay. Plenty to do in the grounds and in the games room. Sheila Warrington ("Warrington Coaches") lives right next door to the hostel and is an ideal choice for transporting your group to Alton Towers and are also good value. Over the years, we have tried many of the rooms. The best largest room (Room 12) ...holds upto 14... has great ventilation in the summer and excellent views. Some rooms involve a long corridor walk to the showers or toilets. Some rooms have very small windows and can get stuffy in the hot summer! Again...AVOID the room directly above the Drying room in the summer it is sweaty and hard to sleep at night...we had to request our second night be changed due to lack of sleep. But this room may be great in a winter stay though!? These minor gripes aside, I would reccomend Ilam Hall as the perfect place to stay for groups of children. I considered the Alton Towers Hotels, but they cannot cater for large groups, only Familes.
What a fabulous building, in a fantastic location. Ilam Hall Youth Hostel offers accommodation in a Victorian Gothic National Trust mansion. This is the sort of accommodation that is rarely available, or affordable – yet you can stay here for little more than ten pounds a night. Located about 6 miles northwest of Ashbourne, the hostel sits at the southern edge of the Peak District. The start of the Dovedale trail is a mile or so away and an easy walk across fields or via the road. The hall itself is located at the end of a half-mile driveway, sweeping through the grounds owned and managed by the National Trust. Views out to the east are fabulous, with a small church and river walks to explore within the hostel grounds. Most of the rooms seemed to hold between 2 and 8 people, so go as an extended family and have the room to yourself – that’s what we did. The option exists to eat the meals provided by the hostel staff, with a good choice that seemed to change each day, or prepare your own meals in a slightly small kitchen downstairs. The hostel manager (warden to older guys like me) has been here for many years and knows the area extremely well, is very keen to help and share his knowledge. If you are touring the area it may be a little too far south, but give it a try for a night or two, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Please bear in mind that like many hostels this one is not open every night of the year, call to check on 01335 350212.