Britain’s Gardens: Chatsworth, Derbyshire

Chatsworth is the premier tourist attraction of the area and has often been selected as the UK’s favourite country house – and with  good reason! As you drive across the surrounding park your first glimpse of Chatsworth House is unforgettable. This beautiful stately home standing on the east bank of the River Derwent is surrounded by 105 acres of stunning gardens – developed over more than 450 years – and backed by a tree-covered hillside. The house itself contains a superb collection of paintings, furniture, books, sculptures and more.

The original Tudor mansion was built by Sir William Cavendish and his wife Bess of Hardwick in the 1560s. When he passed away in 1557, his wife completed the house. Much of the original house can’t be seen anymore, but it still retains many of the Elizabethan interior walls and the Hunting tower – situated above the house on the hill – which dates back to the 1580s. Between 1686 and 1707, the house was rebuilt by the 1st Duke in classical style. The formal garden was reshaped and the park was landscaped between 1720 and 1764. Between 1790 and 1858 the Library and North Wing were added as well as the bridges over the River Derwent and the stables. The house and garden have changed little since the 6th Duke engaged Joseph Paxton as head gardener, except for the demolition of the Great Conservatory and its replacement by a maze. Find out more about the history of the garden, here.

Today the garden is managed by 20 gardeners, 2 trainees and 25 volunteers. There is a lot to discover in Chatsworth’s garden, such as the famous waterworks, the Maze, Rockery and the Rose, Cottage and Kitchen Gardens and over five miles of walks past rare trees, shrubs, streams and ponds. Choose how you want to discover the garden – either explore the garden at your leisure or take part in a guided tour. Upcoming events include: Christmas twilight evenings (27 November – 19 December on Thursdays and Fridays), wreath making (3 and 4 December), Floral workshop (10 December) or Christmas gourmet evenings (6 and 20 December).

Chatsworth’s garden offers a year round experience for it visitors. Chatsworth garden is open daily to the public from 11.00am to 6.00pm (last entry 5.00pm) and on weekends during Christmas season from 10am. The house is open from 11.00am to 5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm) and on weekends during Christmas season from 10am. The Farmyard & adventure playground is open from 10.30am to 5.30pm (last entry 4.30pm). Keep in mind that Chatsworth House, Garden, Farmyard, Shops and Restaurants are open until 4 January 2015. They will be closed on 24, 25, 26 December and 1 January 2015. Click here to view the eating and shopping opening times. Click here to book tickets.

If you are looking for a retreat after a long day of strolling around Chatsworth, stay at the lovely Cavendish Hotel. One of England’s original country house hotels, the Cavendish is located on the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s Chatsworth Estate in the heart of the Peak District. As soon as you walk over the threshold, you are met with the combined effect of worn flagstones, wood smoke, antique furnishings, fine paintings and traditional decor – chosen by the Dowager Duchess with pieces selected from the House itself. The food is imaginative and beautifully presented and is, as you might expect, locally sourced. The Garden Room is wonderful for a light lunch or afternoon tea on a sunny day.

Alternatively, stay at the wonderful The Maynard, which commands panoramic views of the valley and the beautiful Chatsworth House along with an excellent two AA Rosette-winning restaurant.  Take in this awe-inspiring vista – framed by huge picture windows – as you enjoy an imaginative menu prepared using fresh, locally sourced and organic ingredients, as well as a choice of wine from the hotel’s extensive cellar.

Have fun exploring the gardens of Chatsworth!

Chatsworth House image by Paul Stevenson