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Let’s go to … Derby
An expansive regeneration project is putting Derby at the heart of the east Midlands’ action

Tell me about it.

The best thing used to be its proximity to other, better places: the Peak District, the Derbyshire dales, Chatsworth House, Alton Towers … But £2.2bn has been spent on regenerating the centre, and Derby Feste (26-27 September, derbyfeste.com) takes over the marketplace next weekend, with street acts including a live rock and aerial acrobatics show. The Derby folk festival (3-5 October, derbyfolkfestival.co.uk) is the following week, with music from the likes of Steeleye Span and beer from the Thornbridge brewery. The Derby Arena is due for completion in November, including a world-class velodrome next to Derby County’s iPro stadium.

Let’s get back to the beer.

Good idea: Camra reckons Derby has the best choice of real ale, bar none. Drinking haunts include Ye Olde Dolphin Inn, Derby’s oldest pub, the Brunswick, its oldest microbrewery, and newcomers such as the Tap, where a rack of five third-pints and a bowl of local cheese costs £6.10, and the Exeter Arms, which has snacks – try the pigeon samosas. The real ale trail features a total of 24 pubs – probably best not to tackle them all in one night.

What about the food?

The Cathedral Quarter is the place for dining (and culture and shopping). Blacksmith’s Loft opened there earlier this year off Sadler Gate, a street with 15th-century buildings. It serves modern European dishes such as cod with artichoke purée and mackerel croquettes (mains around £17). Elsewhere, Anoki, in the opulent surroundings of the Old Picture Hall, consistently wins awards for its inventive Indian cuisine (mains around £14).

Anywhere to stay for under £100?

Finding somewhere to stay for more than £100 is the tricky bit. The Cathedral Quarter Hotel is one of the best boutique places, converted from 19th-century council offices. Original features include the bank vault, now a wine cellar that hosts tastings. Doubles start at £99 but there are frequent promotions – for instance, Sunday nights are £20.14pp until the end of the year. The Old Bell is one to watch: the 375-year-old former coaching inn is having a £1m renovation. The bar and ballroom are now open and will host folk festival events, and guest rooms will be added in the future).

How do I get there?

It’s easy by train (93 minutes from London St Pancras, 35 direct services a day), and the city is great for a stroll. You may still want a car to hit the countryside; however far Derby has come, it will have to go a long way to rival the splendour of the Peaks.

Article from The Guardian, Rachel Dixon, Saturday 20th September.