Sleepover: Riber Hall, Derbyshire

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The Independent Travel
Where is it?

On the border of the white peak area of the Peak District, high on a hill above Matlock.

What's it like?

An Elizabethan manor house set in its own grounds, with walled garden, orchard and conservatory – part of it dates back to the 1400s. It is crammed with stunning period pieces and was a favourite haunt of TV antiques expert Arthur Negus as much for its rare furniture as for the food and accommodation. Independently owned by Alex Biggin for 30 years.

What's its USP?

It is undoubtedly one of the most romantic hotels in the British Isles. You almost expect the ghost of Queen Elizabeth I to come floating through its panelled walls.

Ambience?

Tranquil: often the only sound is the fire crackling in the grate.

Service?

Very good – low-key, local, unaffected staff.

Rooms?

Fourteen, each with antique four-posters, bathrooms including a Jacuzzi, and bar. Double rooms on a b&b basis from £123 to £165 – astounding value. Until 26 April, the hotel offers a winter hide-away break: from £185 per person for two nights' b&b, three-course dinner and an afternoon tea.

Food and drink?

The chef offered us the seven-course grazing gourmet menu as a special treat for my 50th birthday: mussel and saffron soup with roasted scallop, terrine of chicken and foie gras, pan-fried monkfish with lentils, grilled sea bass, lobster and asparagus, roast saddle of venison and desserts. Oh yes, and my birthday cake with coffee and brandy. A meal to remember. A two-course dinner costs £28.50, three courses £34. Sunday lunch specials: two courses at £12, three courses £15.

Clientele?

Romantics, foreign tourists, posh conference delegates, wedding receptions. Among the celebs who have laid their heads here are Faye Dunaway, Julie Christie, Charlie Watts, Sting and Roy Hattersley – he came for the food – and journalists reporting on the miners' strike. The Duke of Gloucester popped in for lunch once and left a commemorative cushion.

Things to do?

On the premises: tennis court. Outside: walking, Matlock, Chatsworth House, National Forest, Hardwick Hall and National Trust Museum of Childhood.

Address?

Riber Hall, Riber, Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 5JU (01629 582795; fax: 01629 580475; email: info@riber-hall.co.uk; www.riber-hall.co.uk).

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