Growing up isnt easy.
Holidays used to mean city breaks, staying in the fourth floor of a boutique hotel with no lift, trudging back up the stairs to go back to bed for a nap after breakfast (if you even bother getting up for breakfast), then spending the rest of the day trundling around a gorgeous European location, eating and drinking while inhaling the odd bit of culture.
It used to be a walk in the park. A really gorgeous park with a cafe serving massive Aperol spritzes.
And then something comes along that changes your holidaying life forever – offspring.
When you have a child on board, holidays get hard. No more lie-ins after breakfast, no more naps, no more swanning around, no more relaxing.
On a kids holiday, parents are meant to become kids themselves, ditching the swish city breaks and reverting back to their own childhoods.
Which means it may not be long before youre taking your new addition to a campsite to relive your own holi-glory-days.
And thats how I find myself at Landal Darwin Forest, on the south east corner of the Peak District.
Its been an over-long and tedious drive up a 150-mile stretch of roadworks that is also known as the M1, and the last thing I wanted to do was start pitching a tent.
Happily, I was in the right place.
Nestled in a particularly green square of Derbyshire, Landal Darwin Forest may look like a campsite on the outside, but you wont find any tents here.
Instead, the resort is dotted with dozens of luxury lodges, which makes it right up my tree-lined alley. It would take less time to drive down the M1 to London and back again than it would for me to identify which tent pegs go where.
And when you have someone who is only a year and a half old in tow – someone who has been stuck in a car seat for the best part of four hours – you dont want to be wasting time assembling your house for the weekend.
Theres no need for me to worry – Landal Darwin Forest is camping on steroids.
Darwin Forest is one of the latest UK acquisitions of Landal GreenParks – a company based in the Netherlands that has holiday villages across Europe, but has only recently staked its claim here.
Calling it the Dutch version of Center Parcs is a bit simplistic (possibly because Center Parcs itself started out life as a Dutch company), but thats Landals main competition in the UK.
One of the main differences is that Landal encourages its visitors to venture from the 47 acres of leafy Darwin Forest and go further afield.
But that was the last thing on my mind when I stepped inside our lodge. Who said cabins in the woods are scary?
There are various levels of accommodation at Darwin Forest, but we stayed in the Glade, a new development that has eight lodges and plenty of peace and quiet. A warning for pet owners: no animals are allowed in the Glade.
The Glade lodges come with a hot tub on a veranda, a sauna, a PS4, a sliding beer fridge and even a bath TV. The wi-fi cuts out every time you move your phone more than an inch, but you shouldnt have it out in the first place – youre here to relax.
If doing nothing is your thing, there is very little reason to leave the lodge. A word of warning, however – it pays to stock up on food and drink before you arrive at the park. While the on-site shop covers the basics, you will probably want some fridge fillers.
The park only has one eatery – the Forester Bar and Restaurant – and while its a good bet for a night when you just cant be bothered to cook in your cabin, the food there is solid but not spectacular.
And now, on to the kids stuff.
Its not easy keeping children entertained, but you will have no trouble at Darwin Forest.
For the really little uns, theres the Activity Den, which is basically a ball pit with a soft play slide. But what a slide.
For older and more adventurous children, and parents who are happy to quaff a few coffees while keeping an eye on their progeny, swing over to the Little Monkeys Play Centre, conveniently placed alongside the Explorers Cafe.
The play centre is teeming with slides, mini football pitches and ball pits – dont expect to hear too many cries of Im bored, Mummy! in here. Its carnage, basically. And its a great way to ensure a long nap later in the day. Who knows, your child might have a nap too.
We visited the park on the one weekend in June when it was raining, which will make the indoor play centre even more raucous, but there is an outdoor adventure playground just next door if you and your kids need to grab some fresh air.
If that doesnt tire you or your little ones out, then tennis, mini-golf, archery and bike hire are all available on-site.
The swimming pool at the Evolution Health & Fitness centre has three separate depth sections to suit children of all ages, and mum or dad can sneak off for a massage in the adjoining Beauty Rooms.
One of the great selling points of Landal Darwin Forest is that its little more than a 15-minute drive away from one of the jewels of the English countryside – Chatsworth House, home to the Cavendish family since the mid-1500s and the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, is even more stunning to the eye than it is on a big or small screen.
Not only is it a significant part of British history, it is also part of British TV and film history. This is where Colin Firth got all shirty by a lake in the 90s adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.
It was also a location for the 2008 film The Duchess, in which Keira Knightley played Georgina Cavendish, the Duchess of Devonshire, who lived in the house.
There is a discount for Chatsworth if you purchase your tickets at Landal Darwin Forest reception, and you wont regret it – the house itself is dripping with splendour and opulence (look out for those solid gold window frames) and the gardens are beautiful, perfect for a picnic or a good old-fashioned hill-rolling contest. Watch out for that £4 stinger for parking though – ouch.
About 20 miles drive south of Darwin Forest, youll find the village of Matlock Bath. Even though its located smack bang in the middle of England, Matlock Bath has the feel of a seaside resort. That smell in the air? Its fish. And the other smell? Oh, thats chips.
This tiny little village has more fish n chip shops than Scarborough and Bournemouth combined, yet its completely landlocked. However, Matlock Bath has a long and proud history of welcoming tourists.
Just before the 18th century kicked off, warm springs were discovered there and a bath house was built.
More than 100 years later, Princess Victoria of Kent made a royal visit, as did the poet Lord Byron, who compared Matlock Bath to a slightly better known alpine retreat, earning it the nickname, Little Switzerland.
By the mid-1800s, the area was a thriving spa town and since then the tourists have just kept coming. And they keep eating fish and chips.
Without a sea breeze or sand in my shoes, I couldnt possibly partake, but I did venture into the villages real gem – fcoffee.
Its quite hard to write and difficult – and dangerous – to say, but this coffee house is a dream, from its monstrous desserts (who came up with the brilliant idea to put doughnuts on a cake?!) to its acclaimed and frankly crazy Freakshakes.
Located in the beautiful surroundings of the Derwent Valley, Matlock Bath, the village has another star attraction – the Heights of Abraham.
A tourist attraction since the Victorian era, this hilltop park has two caves (they were mined for lead minerals as early as Roman times), a massive adventure playground and ice cream worth going to the top of a mountain for.
Accessed by a particularly rocky cable car journey – it does get windy up there – the view from the summit over the River Derwent is wonderful.
After negotiating our way back down, its time to get back to our luxury lodge. Who cares about the continuing forest drizzle – perhaps its time to fire up the hot tub?
Ahhhh… isnt camping great?
Where to stay in the Lake District and how to get there:
Landal Darwin Forest is one of Landal GreenParks four UK locations.
A three-night stay there starts from just £359 for four people sharing. Guests can enjoy all the home-from-home comforts including kitchen utensils, luxury toiletries by Rituals and an outdoor hot tub (selected accommodation only).
The easiest way to get there is to drive, and from London it takes around 4 hours.