If I was to win the biggest lottery on the planet, after doing various good deeds and helping out a few deserving friends and family members, I would build a house. A HUGE house in the middle of rolling English countryside, where I could roller skate through the vast halls (once I had learned how) and have the best parties in the massive grounds. Most importantly though, it would have to look like Chatsworth because it’s easily the most impressive stately home I have visited to date.
Chatsworth House is one of those houses that takes your breath away when you first spot it – nestled as it is in the midst of 105 acres of surrounding gardens and parkland… It dates back 450 years, and has been passed down through 16 generations of the Cavendish family, who graciously open 30 of their grand rooms (out of 150 odd – they still don’t actually have to see anyone!) all year round for the public to have a good nose through.
They obviously need a stack of money to keep this place going, and to be honest people are going to come and look anyway aren’t they, so they really don’t have to try very hard… But they do try hard. They want you to enjoy their beautiful home, and go home with precious memories of a really great day out. They want you to think to yourselves “you know what? I am glad we parted with our hard earned cash today, it was a good experience, plus we are helping keep a gorgeous chunk of history open to the public AND looking spectacular*”… That’s what we came away thinking anyway…
From the moment we turned up at the ticket desk (with the smallest member of our family in a front facing carrier – no pushchairs and no backpacks – understandably – there’s 4,000 years worth of art throughout the house!) we felt welcome to explore, and armed with audio guides explore we did . First stop the house itself.
Our plan was to time this visit when the baby was due to have his nap, so we could investigate not only the impressive rooms, but the House Style Exhibition in peace. This exhibition covers five centuries of fashion and adornment curated by the American Editor of Vogue. Of course, this was right up the Small Girl’s street, and we raced through fashion history from 16th century Bess Hardwick (creator and first lady of Chatsworth, and quite a formidable character by all accounts!) to beautiful present day couture creations (a lot of which belong to the Cavendish family themselves) from the likes of Helmut Lang and Alexander McQueen.
Grand house aside, this exhibition in itself is well worth a visit if fashion is your thing. It’s on until the 22nd October.
Of course, as is predictable when you had secretly hoped for such things, the Small Baby decided a sleep wasn’t on the cards so we couldn’t enjoy the house all that quietly, but actually it really didn’t matter, and amongst other things we enjoyed a rather unusual family hat trying on session in the #Hatsworth section that runs alongside House Style, which he might have been more enthusiastic about if he was asleep come to think of it…
We continued our tour of the house beneath exquisite painted ceilings and through impressive corridors both ancient and ultra modern (look out for commissioned corridor covered in tiles depicting the DNA of the Cavendish family by Devon based artist Jacob Van der Beugel.
I spotted lots of lovely Lucien Freud portraits here too…) until finally, we came to an impressive final room full of giant marble sculptures.
And as we passed giant sleeping lions whose paws pointed us in the direction of the tempting shop, and out into the grounds, the baby of course finally fell asleep…
So with this in mind (and unable to sit down to appreciate the silence anyway out of fear that he would suddenly wake up in a hideous mood – when he’s in the carrier, you need to keep moving!!), we decided to embrace the fresh air and good weather, and set off across the grounds and up past the Playground and Farmyard (which we will save for another visit), climbing up the mildly perilous steps behind the fountain, until we suddenly popped up in front of one of the many properties across the grounds that you can actually stay in – the 16th Century Hunting Tower some 400ft above the main building. In fact, this particular tower was home to Prince William for a couple of weeks whilst he stayed to learn about farming, and if it’s good enough for him…
We carried on through the woodland to the right of this (some of us climbing massive ancient trees, and spotting faces in others), walking along a rhododendron covered ridge way until we came to the very top of a fountain, with Chatsworth looking rather uncharacteristically tiny far beneath us.
Then it was down for a well deserved lunch in the old stable block (not your average horse house!) before exploring the more manicured gardens, and the regal looking cascade…
Keep your small people entertained by downloading a Little Explorers Garden Trail before you visit, it’s full of things to spot, and interesting facts and figures to keep them happy, whilst you are preoccupied with whether they cut the grass with scissors, and how many people have slipped and fallen in the cascade when taking pictures…
There’s also a rather fabulous maze (which is a lot more modern than you might imagine – dating back to the early sixties) which is well worth getting lost in. Or, if you’re feeling weary after completely destroying your fitbit target for the day, you could always step inside for a few minutes, then retrace your steps back out and enjoy a very pleasant half an hour amongst the hyacinths whilst the rest of your ultra competitive family get on with it. There’s a kind of willowy tree type thing right at the centre if anyone demands to know whether you’ve made it there or not!!
And after all that, we had time for a quick ice-cream pit stop before returning to our home for the week…
Chatsworth really does have something for everyone, and it was lovely to see locals enjoying birthday celebrations in the grounds alongside visitors from as far away as Japan. I really recommend you reserve at least a day of any visit to this area of the Peak District to do it justice. Do pop into one of the two Devonshire pubs on the estate (or both, if you like pubs!), and visit the wonderful Farm Shop nearby for something for tea…
You can of course visit all entities of the house and gardens separately, but as you should really visit for the whole day anyway, I suggest you get a full ticket that covers everything. We still left with so much to see even after a full day here…
*You should be aware that the house is entering its fourth and final stage of restoration works, when we visited a wing was still covered in scaffolding, but that didn’t detract from our visit, as you can see from the photos!
That landscape is gorgeous. <3 it.
Thanks Marina! :)
Katy Clarke says
Chatsworth is on my must visit list. Such opulence and grandeur – it’s incredible. After being wowed by all the art it’s great to be able to go for a wander in those beautiful grounds too. Looks like a wonderful family day out #FarawayFiles
It’s a really special place. Thanks Katy! :)
Erin Gustafson says
Haha! Roller skating indeed. I think I prefer the garden and might choose to shush through there on some sort of wheeled device – probably a bike… I’ve been Scandi conditioned. I loved the sleeping man tree – how cute is that! Thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, I was happy to see your post! Cheers, Erin
Thanks so much Erin. Yep, you need a good bike to cover all those grounds. A Scandi bike would be up to the task! :)
Julie Whitmarsh says
Such a beautiful stately home – it’s many years since I last visited (probably about 25!!) that is now feeling far too long. #FarawayFiles
Thank you Julie. I wonder if it’s changed much in that time?
What a beautiful, beautiful building and that dress – wow. I would love to visit Chatsworth House – I love historic buildings and seeing how people used to live
I love people history too, did you watch How We Used to Live at School? I loved that!! :D
La Brutta Figura says
100% agree about how to spend the money if I won the lottery, only my house would be in Italy :) Interesting that there are Lucien Freud portraits, he’s one of my favourite artists – any particular reason why there are his works at Chatsworth?
I would definitely have a house in Italy too. We LOVE Italy!! I think perhaps the family just really admired Lucien Freud, I have always loved his work too, he painted in such a beautiful way! Thank you…
Oh I love this place so much. I used to drive through it twice a month to get to Matlock for work and used to stick on classical music every single time. I really miss watching the random herds of deer running past my car (although that is a bit terrifying too!)
Thanks Tas, that must have been lovely! We drove through on the way back from Matlock just as the sun was going down, so beautiful!
Kate Williams says
It looks great! We went to a NT property a couple of weeks ago with the kids which I was mega nervous about (because kids) but they seem so much more family friendly these days.
I really think they are a LOT more child friendly than they used to be, it’s been a really lovely surprise! Thanks Kate! :)
bettyl - NZ says
The old buildings and the scenery are all awesome to see. This seems like such a great place and your photos are so good! The sleeping man in the tree is a fun thing and that tree is soooo big! Wow! Lovely post.
Thanks very much Betty! :)
Lorna ✶ The Painted Globe says
I completely agree – Chatsworth is the epitome of English country houses. Everything else tends to pale in comparison after you’ve visited! The Peak District was one of the last trips we did before leaving the UK – such a gorgeous area. :)
And this was my first visit there when we moved back! It’s so pretty there isn’t it? ? Thank you! :)
Jaime Oliver says
I am so very lucky that I have such a beautiful building right on our doorstep. We just take it for granted and so shouldn’t! However I am going to rectify in the summer holidays
You live in a gorgeous part of England Jaime! Don’t worry, we did the same when we lived around the corner from Hampton Court Palace. Only went inside when we were visiting from Copenhagen! :D
Vanessa Brune says
I love English castles but I always wonder if they ever really needed that much space :D Plus, it must have been sooo cold to live there…
Ancient rollerskating space!! I know. I cannot imagine how cold it must have been. That’s why they never took a bath back then I guess! :)
Would love to visit this estate! There’s so much history here I find so interesting!!
You should definitely visit if you get the chance! :)
Jenny (The Little Adventurer) says
So lovely to have a peek inside this beautiful house! I visited the gardens as a child, but I don’t remember them very well, so it is great to have a reminder. As my parents live not too far away, I will definitely add this to any future UK itinerary. #farawayfiles
Thanks so much Jenny! :)
A few friends and I have been dying to make a trip to Chatsworth. We’re all big Pride and Prejudice fans, so of course we have to go! Thanks for the tips!
You must you must! Thanks Addie! :)
Mary Louise says
I would love to visit chatsworth and especially see the gardens there. And I would too stay the whole day. Thanks for all the pictures and the great write up – really enjoyed your post x
Thank you very much! :) x
Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles) says
Oh, I just love Chatsworth and I haven’t been since I was about 16 (we’ve got family who live nearby). Even then, I think we only wandered around those gorgeous gardens. I’d absolutely love to go through the house, see those Lucian Freuds and the stunning rooms. Thanks for taking me on a virtual tour for #FarawayFiles.
Thank you Clare! :) x
Erica Price says
Chatsworth always looks amazing and I’ve never been even though it isn’t a huge distance away. Your pictures really show it off.
Thanks Erica. You must go! :)
Trish @ Mum's Gone To says
Ah I’m so pleased you visited Chatsworth – we did when we had that same week in the Peak District all those years ago. I remember the marble statue room very well and I think when we were there we saw a Pride and Prejudice exhibition as the 2005 movie had recently been filmed there, Chatsworth being the location for Darcy’s home, Pemberley. Gorgeous place. x
It’s just stunning isn’t it? I had no idea it was used for that, I know Lyme Hall was used for the BBC production! Thanks Trish. x
Did you go to the farm/playground? it is fab.
I’ve only been in the house at xmas, so loved your photos of the house. The whole place is spectacular, I’ve had some fantastic days at Chatsworth, it holds so many memories. The garden is wonderful, you can never get bored.
Loving your British tours.
Not this time as we had previously visited Lyme Hall and spent a LOT of time in the playground there so the Smalls were a bit playgrounded out! NExt time though for sure as we will definitely definitely go back. It’s just stunning! Thanks Gemma! x
WOW!! I’m a little bit envy but thankful at the same time for this marvelous post! What an impressive and beautiful castle.
I’ve love to walk around there with you and your lovely yours.
Thank you so much Isabella! It’s a really lovely place for a walk with a camera! :)
Wow a real ‘travellers guide’ in your writing and photographs – I really feel I must go there after reading your article. x
You have to Mum, I know you would really love it. xx
JuggleMum, Nadine Hill says
I would also roller skate through the halls! I love that – exactly what I would do too!! (I wouldn’t go near the maze though – don’t like getting lost!) Great post.
I didn’t make it that far inside the maze… Enjoyed putting my feet up for half an hour though! :D Thank you x
Brooke Neal says
We are so excited to visit this in June! Glad to have read your post!
I know you will absolutely love it B, it’s such a gorgeous building. How long are you over for. Are you staying in the Peak District? x