Derby – a festive city break

A surprise invitation dropped into my inbox inviting me to enjoy a festive break in Derby on the weekend before Christmas.  It’s always fun to visit somewhere new and with the prospect of some sightseeing, shopping, eating, drinking and a night at the panto it took me less than a minute to decide to say yes!

Penta Hotel, Derby
Penta Hotel, Derby

Derby is actually England’s most central city which makes it easily accessible from most parts of the country being just 15 minutes from Junction 25 of the M1 motorway.  We chose to drive there but for visitors arriving by train there are frequent rail services from London St. Pancras taking only 90 minutes.

Reception lounge, Penta Hotel, Derby
A festive welcome in the hotel lounge

Our weekend accommodation was arranged for the Penta Hotel located in Pride Park within easy walking distance of the city centre and the railway station.  This modern 112 room hotel has a large car park and a welcoming open plan reception bar lounge which was looking festive with its many Christmas decorations.

The Standing Order, Derby
The Standing Order Pub

After settling into our room we spent a couple of hours shopping both in the attractive Cathedral Quarter and indoors in the large Derbion Mall.  For dinner, we called into J.D. Wetherspoon’s The Standing Order on Iron Gate.  The pub was originally the opulent banking hall of the Crompton and Evans Union Bank and with its high ceilings, frescoes and island bar looked very grand.

Breakfast buffet, Penta Hotel, Derby
The hotel’s breakfast buffet

After a good night’s sleep and a delicious continental style buffet breakfast in the hotel’s restaurant we set out for a morning’s sightseeing.  Our first stop was to Derby Cathedral with its 16th century tower dominating the skyline at over 212 feet high.  The cathedral is open daily and free to visit.  The nave and chancel date from the 1720’s and were extended in the 1970’s after the church gained cathedral status.

Derby Cathedral
Derby Cathedral

The narrow, winding streets of the Cathedral Quarter are a shopper’s delight and across Cathedral Green on the banks of the River Derwent lies the newly opened Museum of Making.

The Museum of Making, Derby
The Museum of Making by the River Derwent

The museum is located on a site of national significance as it is where Derby Silk Mill first stood over 300 years ago.  Adorning the entrance are a magnificent pair of wrought iron gates designed by William Bakewell dating from the 1720’s.  The restored mill has been given a major facelift and boasts a triple height atrium foyer containing a gift shop and cafe.  Suspended from the ceiling is both a 7 tonne Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine and a partially disassembled car, each of which can be viewed from various heights and angles.

Entrance hall and Toyota Corolla, Museum of Making, Derby
A Toyota Corolla car, suspended from the ceiling

This excellent museum is free to visit with its galleries telling the story of Derby’s 300 year old history of manufacturing and of the people who were involved in industries ranging from silk making to railways and heavy engineering.

Excellence in Engineering, Museum of Making, Derby
The Excellence in Engineering gallery

Of particular interest to us were the galleries focussing on silk throwing and the Midland Model Railway located upstairs in the Railway Gallery.  Alongside old railway signs and memorabilia is the model railway itself.  The layout was first displayed in 1951 in Derby Museum but had been packed away in storage boxes for many years.

The Model Railway Gallery at the Museum of Making, Derby
The Model Railway Gallery in the museum

Since the Museum of Making’s opening a team of volunteers have come together to rebuild the model railway working tirelessly each Monday when the museum is closed to the public.  We had timed our weekend visit well to see the trains in action as the model railway is operated at 11.00 and 14.00 daily.

Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Derby Museum & Art Gallery

After leaving The Museum of Making it was just a short walk on to the Derby Museum and Art Gallery located on The Strand.  Another free museum, this one showcasing paintings and artefacts by the renowned 18th century local landscape and portrait artist Joseph Wright.

Royal Crown Derby on display at the Derby Museum & Art Gallery
Royal Crown Derby on display in the museum cafe

Other galleries include weapons and military objects together with a display of the world famous Royal Crown Derby tableware exhibited in glass cabinets in the museum cafe.  Royal Crown Derby produces some of the world’s finest tableware and exquisite bone china which is still produced exclusively in the United Kingdom.

Pickford's House, Derby
Pickford’s House, Derby

To complete our tour of Derby’s cultural heritage we walked on a few minutes further until we reached Friar Street which is home to Pickford’s House.

The Drawing Room at Pickford's House, Derby
The Drawing Room at Pickford’s House

This gem of a museum (also free entry) is set in the former family home of the architect Joseph Pickford (1734-1782) who was one of the leading provincial English architects in the reign of George III.  The museum showcases Georgian life with its period room sets depicting aspects of domestic life from the 18th to the 20th century.

Morning Room, Pickford's House, Derby
The Morning Room, Pickford’s House

The house covers several floors from the kitchen and scullery in the basement to the master bedroom and a collection of toy theatres on the top floor.  The Drawing Room was beautifully laid out demonstrating how visitors would gather and be entertained before entering the Dining Room.  The two period bathrooms are not only part of the museum but also for visitors use with their high pull cord cisterns and heritage fittings and tiling.  Outside, there is a walled garden to the rear of the building leading onto a free car park for museum visitors.

The rear garden of Pickford's House, Derby
The rear garden of Pickford’s House

This concluded our tour of Derby’s excellent museums and as it was mid-afternoon we then felt ready to have something to eat, so we headed to Cosy Club on the corner of Corn Market and Victoria Street where we had booked a table for 3.00 p.m.  Cosy Clubs feature comfortable bar lounges and stylish dining rooms often in historic buildings.

Cosy Club, Derby
Cosy Club 

The Derby branch is no exception as it is located in the former Royal Hotel which has been refurbished and tastefully decorated with glistening chandeliers hanging from its high ceilings.  We settled on the festive menu of turkey and ham pie, pigs in blankets, stuffing and roasted vegetables which was very flavoursome.

Cosy Club festive desserts
Cosy Club festive desserts

For dessert I opted for a lemon, white chocolate and raspberry posset which was lovely and sharp after my rich main course.  Around the table the other members of the family opted for Christmas pudding, and cheesecakes which were also said to be delicious.

Sleeping Beauty at Derby Arena
Taking our seats for Sleeping Beauty at Derby Arena

After our meal we returned to the hotel for a short rest before ending our festive evening in style at the nearby Derby Arena where we took our seats to see Sleeping Beauty.   Unlike a traditional theatre, Derby Arena doubles as a velodrome but with a huge stage, seating and black curtains disguising the track you would never know it wasn’t always a theatre.

Sleeping Beauty, Derby Arena
Sleeping Beauty

The pantomime was traditional in style with glittering scenery, sparkling costumes and lots of interaction from the audience.  Although I’m not from Derby, I really liked the way the lyrics of the classic song ‘Hello, Dolly’ were modified to ‘Hello Derby, you’re looking swell Derby’ and after a year’s absence, ‘It’s so good to have Panto back where it belongs’.  This got everyone cheering and in a happy mood as the performance got underway.  It was a fun evening and a very enjoyable pantomime performed by a talented cast.

Penta Hotel, Derby at night
Penta Hotel illuminated at night

Back at the hotel, over tea and biscuits we reflected on what a memorable day it had been and after a good night’s sleep we tucked into another yummy breakfast spread in the hotel before setting off for home.

Lounge area at The Penta Hotel
Lounge area at The Penta Hotel

We’d enjoyed a lovely time in Derby with its cultural heritage, cathedral, riverside walks and shopping making it an interesting city for a short break and as a stopping off point for the Peak District National Park.

We were guests of Visit Derby however as always,  all views and opinions are entirely my own.


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Derby Festive Break



75 thoughts on “Derby – a festive city break

  1. jasonlikestotravel

    Yet to visit Derby, infact I think I’ve only ever passed through the once on the train as most of the lines going North go via Birmingham or Nottingham.
    Looks like you had a nice weekend though, glad you got to enjoy a couple of pantos last year. Interesting that Derby’s theatre is also a velodrome!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. ThingsHelenLoves

    What a brilliant, last minute break. It’s great when something comes up unexpectedly and just works out, isn’t it? I’m really impressed with the number and quality of free attractions in Derby. Let’s hope 2022 is the year we can all get back out and get behind the tourism and hospitality sector!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It was such a lovely surprise to be invited to Derby. It a place I’ve passed through in the train many times but never been to. Here’s hoping that we all get an opportunity to travel more this year and the hospitality sector prospers. Thanks so much for your valued thoughts Helen.


  3. You have definitely ‘sold’ Derby to me as a potential place to visit, Marion! We have stayed in a Penta Hotel and I remember being very impressed with the breakfast. I haven’t been to a pantomime for years, although it was a tradition when the boys were small. Happy Travelling in 2022!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Derby was an unexpected pre-Christmas treat June and the Penta Hotel very welcoming. I hadn’t been to a pantomime for quite sometime either but we actually went to two in December, Sleeping Beauty in Derby and Aladdin in Manchester and we adored them both! Thanks for your welcome thoughts and here’s hoping for stress free travel for us all in 2022.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Fascinating to read a visitor’s perspective on Derby. I’ve lived in / close to the city for over 40 years, and worked there for 25 of those. You’ve almost sold it to me, although you have (of course) focussed on the extraordinary rather than the ordinary…and Derby does have an awful lot of ordinary! I haven’t yet made it to the Museum of Making, but have it on the list for 2022. Best wishes to you for the New Year.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment on this post on Derby. I’m really pleased to learn of a local’s perspective of the city. Along with places such as Hull, Derby is underrated and doesn’t get all the credit it deserves so I hope this post encourages people to stop off and take a look around as it has its own story to tell. Wishing you a very Happy New Year too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. As a born and bred Nottingham girl, Derby has largely been on the do not visit list – and I didn’t really know what there was to do there. But I love the look of the museums, and your hotel lobby looks so welcoming and festive 🙂 Hope you had a wonderful Christmas time Marion.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. We enjoyed a lovely Christmas at home Hannah. I’d never been to Derby before but we really enjoyed our short break there. Along with the likes of Hull where we were invited a couple of years earlier, it’s an underrated city that tends to get overlooked but with its excellent museums, pubs and restaurants we weren’t bored at all and even picked up one or two last minute Christmas presents.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ve only heard of Derby in passing, but now that you mentioned it, its geographical location being right in the center of the country really does make it a convenient trip from just about any corner of England! That hotel breakfast spread is absolute goals, and I’m glad you had a wonderful trip there. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  7. How great that all the museums were free of charge. That seems unusual. I enjoy places that can celebrate their industrial heritage. The pantomime intrigued me. Is that a common entertainment in Britain? Certainly not here in the US. The closest we have is the ballet.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Derby’s museums are excellent and it was great that they were free of charge, allowing everyone a chance to learn about the city’s industrial heritage. Pantomime is a traditional family Christmas comedy show in many theatres up and down the country. Thank you for your interest in my blog Eiilene, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Ah Marion – Derby is my birthplace and I still consider it my home town. I grew up in Mickleover on the edge of the city (it was a town, then, not a city!) and have very many happy memories of having the Peak District on our doorstep. We may travel all over the world now but I still love my regular trips back to Derby and Derbyshire. Good reading someone else’s view. Phil.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. What a lovely hotel – love that breakfast buffet – looks really yummy! And once again, so happy to see a cathedral in your post 😊. Isn’t it amazing how many free entry museums there are in Derby! I would love to visit the Museum of Making – looks like such an interesting place! Glad you could fit in another theatre performance … and also found the lyrics of the “Hello Dolly/Derby” quite original!
    Thank you Marion for still keeping the festive mood active on your posts!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Enjoyed reading this compact overview of another corner of The UK I have yet to visit. The hotel looks lovely, while “free museum” are among our favourite words. As I write this, we are at our gate in Belgrade Airport waiting to board our flight to London. Here we go…

    Liked by 6 people

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