Image by Paul Johnson, creative commons licence
Let’s face it, England doesn’t exactly have a shortage of big, fancy houses in the countryside open to visitors. On these pages alone, we’ve recently recommended Audley End, Hever Castle and a septet of National Trust properties.
Chatsworth’s worth banging on about, though. The Peak District home of the Duke of Devonshire has a ton of stuff for families to enjoy. Now reopened following the coronavirus closures, it’s a great time to visit while the crowds are smaller.
Isn’t it in the middle of nowhere, though?
Chatsworth is beautifully hidden away in the rolling hills of the Peak District (as hidden as a massive house and 2,000 acres of land can be). Don’t dismiss it as difficult to get to, though. It’s less than 15 miles from the M1, so you could easily pop by for a few hours (having prebooked) if you’re making a north-south journey.
Is it just a posh house to look round, or is there other stuff we can do?
For sure it’s a posh house. It’s been a posh house for half a millennium, and it has 126 posh rooms -- about a fifth of which you can look round. That’s all very exquisite, but not exactly what most kids are after.
They’ll be more interested in the wider grounds, which contain a farmyard and an adventure playground. Hang on. Let me rephrase that. They contain a farmyard with a secret tunnel to an adventure playground.
A secret tunnel?
Yes. Well… it’s not that secret. It’s mentioned on the website, and it has a big sign over it saying SECRET TUNNEL. But, yeah, it’s still a secret tunnel.
Sounds good. What’s the rest of the adventure playground like?
It’s really rather brilliant… one of those fortress-with-rope-bridges-and-curving-slide affairs that they totally didn’t make when you were a child. Add to this “a giant rope park, climbing walls, a trampoline, huge slides, zip wire and swings to burn off their energy,” plus a water play area and clamber-stuff for younger children and you have one of the best playgrounds in the Midlands.
And the farm?
Nearby you’ll find a small petting farm with the usual collection of sheep, pigs and chickens, plus a donkey called Seamus. You can’t currently pet the animals, thanks to the C word, but they’re all there for the kids to ogle. Star turn is the new foal called Princess Beatrice.
Brilliant. What else can we do as a family at Chatsworth?
You’ll want to explore the gardens. With any number of sculptures, follies, landscape features, and the famous water cascade, there’s plenty to see. Looking for a 17th century willow tree made of brass that squirts water into the air? You have highly specific needs, but you’ve come to the right place. Ever wanted to turn yourself into a human sundial? Again, Chatsworth’s your friend. The gardens are full of delights like these. Be sure to download the Little Explorer’s Garden Trail from the website. Sadly, the maze is closed at the moment (difficult to do the whole social distancing thing).
OK, anything else I need to know?
Like all venues, Chatsworth’s had to adapt to the ‘new normal’. All tickets must now be prebooked, and once you’ve left a certain area (like the farm), you won’t be allowed back in without another booking. Facemasks will be needed for indoor spaces (except for under-11s and those with certain medical conditions). The estate has several dining facilities, plenty of toilets and baby change. Buggies are welcome all over the estate, but not inside the house (front- or side-worn baby carriers are allowed).
Chatsworth House website
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