When the late great New York Times writer R.W. (Johnny) Apple Jnr. met champion breakfast maker Robert Stehling, at his ‘Hominy Grill’ in Charleston NC, they both agreed “Funny about breakfasts: you remember the best ones for a long time, always in geographical context”. Today, in the heart of the Derbyshire, countryside in England, you are about to be introduced to ‘memorable breakfasts’.
Hathersage and Grindleford are close by each other, in the same county. Both places boast breakfast; both places are different and special. And for those of you who recently discovered that ‘Breakfast’ is becoming the new ‘Lunch’, these two places could well be ‘bucking’ for Michelin Stars.
Grindleford village itself is small enough to be a hamlet and is little more than the Station Café. Trains trundle through on the track below and although it takes some planning to find your way here, by train, it can be done.
Swilling down the mountain
Essentially Grindleford Station is a haven for hikers and bikers. They are here to sample local bacon, eggs, toast, fried bread, fried tomatoes, sausage, and so much more, mountains of it, and all swilled down with a pint of tea.
Swilled down is the kind of rough talk you’ll find here too. The management are geniuses with food, generous with portions, but far from genteel. This is Derbyshire, surrounded by the tough counties of Yorkshire and Lancashire, so they treat customers with local attitude. Just remember there are few places in the UK which serve such a magnificent breakfast. The lack of politesse is part of the price you pay; and you will be amused.
Nearby, Hathersage village is famous for other things, too. It is the burial place of ‘Little John’, a towering giant of a man and the legendary Robin Hood’s No.2. His long, impressive grave is right there in the churchyard. It is also the manufacturing home of David Mellor, one of England’s most celebrated, and it must be said, elegant and expensive cutlery designers.
But the reason most people find themselves here is the majestic Hope Valley and its stunning countryside. It is the launch pad for anyone planning to walk the epic and gruelling Pennine Way; but you don’t have to commit to that much, there are hundreds of superb, manageable walks too, across and around the elegant valley and its picture perfect Fells.
You’ll also want to visit the local caverns that will amaze, with their Stalactites and Stalagmites, vast seams of the beautiful, semi-precious ‘Blue John’ stone, and underground walking or boat tours. Followed by a hilltop sit to take in the magnificent views.
And because almost everything you do here will take you away from civilisation, you will need to carry a packed lunch, and that’s why breakfast is a crucial, almost sainted word in these parts.
If you think you can’t cope with the rough and tumble of the Grindleford Station café, then the Hathersage Open-air Pool Café is a second, but equally magnificent place to treat yourself to breakfast. They even pronounce it differently here.
Although you might not have given it a thought, wherever you come from, it will almost certainly sound like some version of ‘Brek’fst’. But here it’s ‘Braik-faast’. And although that word may look Scandinavian, it’s a reminder that you are deep in the North of England.
So, be advised, hiking, biking or just strolling and sitting in the peerless Derbyshire countryside, determine to start the day properly, nay, magnificently. Whether it’s the gentler version at Hathersage Outdoor Swimming Pool Cafe or the massive, even industrial version at Grindleford Station, these two cafés are your introduction to something very special.