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The Duncombe Arms, Staffordshire: hotel review

The Duncombe Arms marries ambitious food and drink with stellar hospitality – in short, it's everything a pub with rooms should be

The Duncombe Arms: What's the draw

A charming pub with ten rooms in the little village of Ellastone in Staffordshire, just outside the Peak District. And what rooms! The Duncombe Arms added the utterly gorgeous Walnut House last year to provide hungry visitors with a place to rest their weary, wine-y heads after a knockout dinner in the pocket-sized pub. Windows look out over rolling hills dotted with sheep; beds hit that delicious balance between reassuringly solid and delightfully soft; and the baths will have you wallowing better than a hippo. It all feels a bit boutique hotel-meets-country pub, but the marriage isn't jarring – instead, the whole thing feels like a home away from (admittedly very stylish) home.

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The Duncombe Arms: What to eat

It's unusual to start by talking about dessert, but this one warrants breaking the rules: a triumphantly wobbly pistachio soufflé served with a scoop of blood orange sorbet. Elsewhere, there's a market menu (Monday-Saturday only), although pretty much every dish has the same local, seasonal approach. Chicken terrine with piccalilli and sourdough brought together crunch and tang; satisfyingly dense gnocchi was topped with umami-laden squidges of black garlic that offset the richness of a fried duck egg; beef bourguignon pie was declared "life changing". There's more – including an impressive list of fine wines available by the glass thanks to a Coravin – but you'll just have to find out about that for yourself.

The Duncombe Arms: What to do

You're in the ideal place to walk for hours on end, burning off last night's dinner and making room for Sunday lunch. Catch a bus from right outside the pub to nearby Ashbourne and head out on the Tissington Trail (go in spring to see fluffy little lambs), or there's also a loop that'll take you out for a few hours, starting and finishing at The Duncombe – we'd advise taking a proper map. What's more, owners Johnny and Laura Greenall are offering walking tours of their extensive gardens, home to an array of exotic trees that are bound to turn any horticultural enthusiast green with envy.

From £173 per night. Ellastone, Ashbourne, DE6 2GZ. duncombearms.co.uk

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