In the heart of England’s Peak District lies a nearly 500 year-old estate, Chatsworth House. We spent the day there yesterday and it was a wonderful opportunity to teach my children about English history, which they should know more of having a British father, and take in the House’s long-standing love of art and culture. It was an education for all of us, as well as a lesson in decadence and opulence. I am also happy to say that my the house held my 7 and 9 year-old’s attention steadfast and we are reached that milestone where we are able to visit places like this, a feat for any parent.
The ride through the countryside of the Peak District to the House was spectacular, and when the House, once known as the “Palace of the Peaks”, came into view, we knew we were in for a special experience. Its exterior is stunning and the drive into the estate had us all anxious to go inside.
The House at Chatsworth was the work of Bess of Hardwick (c. 1527-1608) and her second husband, Sir William Cavendish, the first Duke of Devonshire. She convinced him to build a new house at Chatsworth and he spent years working on it. Unfortunately, they both died before its completion but the estate has been passed through members of their family ever since. The house has been occupied by many including Mary, Queen of Scots (during her time of captivity),the first Duke of Devonshire and Lady Georgiana Spencer who had lavish parties in the house.
A tour through the house is a look at all the members of this family who have lived there since the house’s origination (and they still do, there are apparently relations still living there). 26 of the 175 rooms are open to the public, and each has original oak, marble, original works of European art, grand canopy beds, sculptures, thrones, ornate ceilings, carvings and remnants of the original owner’s opulence that are mouth-dropping, to be honest.
The rooms are simply divine. There’s the Painted Hall, which contains wall to wall ceilings depicting the life of Julius Caesar. The Sculpture Gallery contains four royal thrones and ancient Greek pieces. The Oak Room is furnished with carvings and panelling bought from a German monastery. The bedrooms of the State Apartments that once housed the likes of Mary, Queen of Scots, are lavish, and an actual woman dressed like a maid brought the stories to life, telling the tale of life as a maid during those times, as well as about the status of women and the clothes they wore. It thrilled me to no end that my daughter stood with me and listened carefully. The Great Dining Room, with the table set as it was for the visit of Geoge V and Quen Mary in 1933, nearly popped my eyes out. And the house includes paintings include works by Frans Hals, Tintoretto, Veronese, Van Dyck and Rembrandt. There are halls and walls covered with these masterful pieces of art.
Unfortunately, our visit was on a snowy day, so we were unable to tour the 105 acres of landscaped gardens and the current Caro exhibit. We managed to visit the horses, donkeys and guinea pigs in The Farmyard, but it was too treacherous outside to visit the Adventure Playland and outdoor maze. I am quite sure that my kids would have loved the playground, but we still managed to spend a great part of the day in the House and Farm House without getting bored. The Easter Egg Hunt provided by the House certainly helped. In about a dozen rooms, they placed an actual golden egg for my kids to locate, like a scavenger hunt. The hunt held their interest and they managed to get to the end of our personally-guided tour with ease, a rarity in my house.
We had lunch in the Carriage House Restaurant, which offers simple but healthy options and kid’s meals for about 5 pounds. My kids munched on broccoli soup and lasagna, and I felt good about their choices.
Check the Chatsworth House website for details on hours, admission charges, etc. You can get a 10% discount on online bookings through the Chatsworth House Website . You can also buy a family pass for admittance to the house, garden and farmyard.
The address is Chatsworth, Bakewell, Derbyshire, DE45 1PP, England, UK.
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Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to facilitate this review but all opinions and thoughts expressed are my own.