The country pub with amazing children’s play area and riverside garden near Stockport

In a quiet countryside valley is a historic pub with a huge free outdoor play park for children and plenty of seating next to a lazy river. The Little Mill Inn in Rowarth, Derbyshire, has become a sunny day hotspot for families thanks to its secluded location in a valley and the wealth of things to do outdoors.

The pub is also well known for its home-cooked menu of pub classics, and for two years won TripAdvisor’s ‘Best of the Best’ Travelers Choice award for ranking in the top 1% of reviews in the whole world. Reviews on the website hail it as a “hidden gem” and “warm and welcoming to those with dogs and muddy boots”.

The Grade II listed building dates back to 1781 and sits beside Rowarth Creek with a huge waterwheel (which until recently was still operational) right next to it. It is based in the small village of High Peak, close to New Mills and around 20 minutes drive from Stockport.

Read more:Inside the ‘fantastic’ farm shop with amazing indoor and outdoor play areas near Manchester Airport

The pub has been owned by Sarah and Iain Gilman since 2019. They had a TV store in Disley but had known and loved the pub for a long time. When the previous owner sold, he encouraged them to enter the hospitality world.



There is a statue of Gruffalo in front of the pub

Over the past three years, including during lockdown, they have spent hours and hours improving the outdoor spaces, including installing astroturf on the beer garden by the river. There’s even a Gruffalo statue for little fans of Julia Donaldson’s story to discover.

On the other side of the river, accessible by a pretty little bridge, the youngest discover an adventure park with swings and a huge slide on the hillside. Chickens and ducks also roam freely on site, while patrons can also visit rabbits in a hutch next to the pub.

Sarah said: “We had always heard of the pub, and the world of retail with a TV store was getting tougher and tougher, so we decided to give it a shot.

“Obviously when lockdown hit it was tough – but we took advantage of that time to redo the whole garden. We ripped it all out, extended and redid it all while adding a new kitchen extension.”



Huge slide is popular with kids

Inside the pub, the couple set to work on a refresh, with traditional yet modern interior details as well as a crackling fire to welcome guests as they enter. The team prides itself on its all-home-cooked pub classics, like steak and Guinness pie. with mashed potatoes, chef’s burger of the day and homemade sausage rolls.

The dog-friendly pub also offers accommodation in upstairs bedrooms, with five guest rooms and a self-contained apartment. At the time there was also some rather quirky accommodation on the site, inside a traditional railway carriage next to the pub.



Inside the Little Mill Inn

The train, an original carriage from the historic Pullman Brighton Belle, has sat next to the pub for 50 years. It had once been used as the original dining space before being converted into accommodation.

But it has now been removed from this service as it needs too much renovation and currently sits under green picket fences. The Gilmans have now sold the car, for the face sum of £1, to a collector who will completely refurbish it to bring it back to life.

While the pub is somewhat tucked away in its valley in Derbyshire, it has long been known as a popular place for families in Stockport and Manchester. Sarah said: “When the weather is good it gets so crowded.



The beer garden next to the river outside the Little Mill Inn

“If people have young children they seem to know us and come here from Stockport and Manchester. It’s a great place because there’s plenty to do outside while you have a drink and eat. “

The place is also popular for its wealth of hiking trails in this beautiful part of the world. Indeed, free leaflets at the pub offer suggestions for walks depending on the distance to be covered.

There is a popular three-mile circular route where walkers can head through the wooded valley, known as “Little Switzerland” to locals here. Climbing the hill to the moors at the top of Rowarth rewards walkers with spectacular panoramic views of the Peak District, Kinder Scout and the Cheshire Plain.

How to get there




The Little Mill Inn is located in the village of Howarth in the High Peak, with the postcode SK22 1EB. It is approximately 20 minutes drive from Stockport, on the A626 via Marple and Mellor.

The nearest station is at New Mills, with bus routes 341 and 375 serving Rowarth.

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