Set among 1,000 acres of Capability Brown-designed parkland on the banks of the River Derwent, the majestic descent towards Chatsworth (one of the finest stately homes in Britain…or Darcy’s Pemberley, if you’ve been watching its most recent ITV appearance!) takes your breath away.
First stop for us was a tour of the gardens. Our knowledgeable guide told some wonderful stories, our favourite was about the Great Conservatory. Designed to be heated by underground coal tunnels, it became too costly to run during the Great War and all the plants died. The unbelievable outcome of this was an order from Duchess Evelyn Fitzmaurice to demolish the conservatory! An absolute travesty, as the glass-house had been designed by the then Head Gardener, Joseph Paxton, who went on to replicate it on a grander scale with the wonderful Crystal Palace, built for the 1851 Great Exhibition. To add insult to injury it was his grandson Charles Markham, an explosives expert, who actually blew it up! You don’t have to look far from the maze to still find large shards of glass in the flower beds.
Paxton also designed and built the impressive gravity-fed Emperor Fountain in the lake – now only on half pressure as too many visitors (and guests of the Duke) got a soaking! Three-year-old Ted managed to get wet without the help of a fountain, sitting on his bottom in the water as we walked down the 24 steps of the impressive Cascade waterfall! The view of Chatsworth House from the monument overlooking the waterfall is simply stunning.
There are no signs in the gardens to ‘keep off the grass’ and you are positively encouraged to explore as much of the grounds as possible, at every turn there are delightful hidden features to find.
After grabbing a picnic box lunch from the café by the house (there is a much larger café by the farm with more choice and space) it was over to the farm and adventure playground which I had saved for last. It is a brilliant aspect of Chatsworth – the farm is immaculately clean with all the usual suspects to pet, stroke and feed. My boys wanted to spend the majority of their time in the playground. As it was late in the afternoon it was starting to quieten down, but I imagine on a warm midsummer day it would be extremely busy. It is fantastic though, and one of the largest and most imaginative I’ve seen. From high wires, trampolines and climbing frames to water features, diggers and sand to play in – it is a child’s paradise. And Chatsworth is my paradise too! I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Chatsworth House opens from the 10th March until the 23rd Dec. Check website for up-to-date opening times. Park: All year round. Shops & Restaurant Daily 7 Jan-23 Dec.
Complete Ticket: Adult £19, Child £13, Family £55, or tickets are available for each separate attraction. Car: £3
Pushchairs and prams aren’t allowed into the main house but they do lend out baby slings.
Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PP
Tel: 01246 565300 chatsworth.org