I can’t remember the first time that I visited Chatsworth, but I have so many memories from time spent there throughout my childhood. My big sister’s birthday party where we had a picnic and ate a Caterpillar cake. Countless visits to the adventure playground, scrambling up the big netted slope, racing across all the rope bridges, waiting ages to get a quick go on the tiny trampoline. Having a picnic in the farmyard and a chicken stealing my ham sandwiches (who knew chickens liked meat). Playing down at the river and losing one of my favourite sandals. Visiting the farm shop and enjoying the café. Going for a walk on my 21st birthday that took us on a big loop round the estate and back down to the house for ice cream.
It has to be said, most of our visits focussed around the rolling fields of the estate or on the playground and farmyard. I think I went into the house once on a trip with Guides – coincidentally the same weekend that the 11th Duke of Devonshire died. The two events not linked, I hasten to add. I have absolutely no memory of the inside of the house, but I’d recognise the iconic exterior anywhere.
An house worthy of Mr Darcy
Since that walk on my 21st though, I can’t say that I’ve been to this wonderful place. Three years later almost to the day, me and my Mum spent a lovely afternoon walking alongside the river, spotting the deer and enjoying the beautiful scenery. That visit left me with a desire to return, but this time go into the house and garden, so me and my hubby decided we’d venture across the county boundary and spend a day there.
Enter all this lovely warm weather. We set off on Wednesday, about 1130, not expecting massive crowds. It was PACKED. The overflow car park in full use. We had a lovely picnic by the river, after taking the obligatory selfie.
On the topic of picnics, my Mr has recently decided that he likes jam and cheese sandwiches. As in together in the same sandwich. Hmm.
Afterwards, we headed towards the house. It was £20 entry per adult for the house and garden, or £22 with a gift aid donation and therefore 15% discount at the shops. We must have looked too young to be taxpayers as the lady didn’t ask if we wanted to Gift Aid our entry fee, and I didn’t think fast enough to offer….oops.
I won’t describe every single room, but one word to describe the whole place (or what we saw, of course over half the house is closed to the public) is opulent. Very, very opulent. Ceilings painted as if they’re paintings themselves, intricately carved/chiselled wall decorations, dressing table sets made of pure gold…mental. I only had my phone as my Mr’s camera battery’s died and we can’t find the charger, but here are a few photos of what there is to see.
As you can tell, we dressed to match the style of the house…
It was much more impressive that these photos make it out to be, I promise. The lighting was pretty bad, coupled with my phone’s rubbish camera, doesn’t make for great photos.
Every room that you went into had information cards that you could read if, like us, you hadn’t paid for the guide book with free audio guide. I practised my French and read a few of the French ones when there weren’t any left in English, and there were also Spanish, German and Chinese translations.
How’s that for a guest bed?
Don’t want the kids to feel left out…
The lighting inside was quite dim as they have to keep these blind things down in some of the rooms to protect all the antiques and stuff. It was fascinating though, so many intricacies to the rooms, like in the State Chamber I think it’s called where royalty would have stayed if they visited.
I didn’t get any photos of it, but there was also a sort of exhibition called Make Yourself Comfortable where there were different chairs and seats dotted around the house designed for you to sit on and feel more at home, so the website says. My favourite was designed for the hallway that’s dedicated to Georgiana, the wife to the 5th Duke (you know the Keira Knightley film Duchess? That lady). The designer used photoshop to extend the pixels of a traditional pattern, so you had this back to the chair that was curved, and the material on the curved bit had the extended pixels (so just stripes) part of the design, and the top and bottom was the original floral pattern, but in a bold red and white. It makes no sense as I describe it, but it was a really cool way to combine traditional patterns with modern technology.
The final part of the house might look a bit familiar to some Pride and Prejudice fans…
I’m now listening to the 2005 P&P soundtrack as I type. Lovely 🙂
After spending about an hour and a bit in the house (you could definitely have spent longer, I’m not great at dawdling through museum-type places though – me and my little sis always used to race round then find seats to wait for the others at any museum or gallery that we visited!), we headed back out into the sunshine.
We sat on the lawn (which was full of picnic-ing families and people just enjoying the beautiful weather) and enjoyed our ice creams, then headed off to explore the gardens. What surprised me was quite how much there is within the boundaries of the formal garden. There’s manicured lawns with wide paths, then as you climb, these get narrower and there’s more trees and flowers. If you keep as close to the boundary as you can, you end up in woodland with amazing views across the rest of the estate. There are water features, streams, a massive rocky structure, a maze, an old coal tunnel, greenhouses…I absolutely loved it. Here are a few photos.
This little stream at the top of the gardens was so cute, I could just imagine it being a river for Borrowers to explore and live next to.
This was pretty cool, as the gold ball filled with water, it sank lower and closed the petals. This must have triggered something to open and all the water came gushing out, which caused the golden ball to rise again and the petals opened.
We genuinely got lost in that seemingly small and innocent maze for about 45 minutes. It took us forever to find the middle, then it took us nearly as long to get out again!
I can see the exit…how to get there, though…
It felt like there were so many hidden little areas that you could discover. The further off the beaten track you went, the less people there were which was nice.
I have to say, I definitely preferred wandering round the garden to the house, I feel like I don’t need to go back inside again for at least 10 years, but I’d visit the gardens again tomorrow. That said, all the magnificence and history inside is worth a visit.
Et voilà, there’s my rambling, grainy photo-filled description of a thoroughly enjoyable trip to a thoroughly excellent place. Next time you’re in North Derbyshire, be sure to make time to visit it 🙂