Chatsworth, 'The Palace of the Peak,' was named Britain's Best Stately Home in Period Living and Traditional Homes magazine's Best of British Awards 2004-2005. Over 200,000 votes were cast when readers of the market leading magazine were asked to nominate the aspects of traditional British life that they love best.
The first house at Chatsworth was built by 'Bess of Hardwick' and her second husband Sir William Cavendish. Building began in 1552 and the work was completed by his widow after Sir William died in 1557.
Today, Chatsworth is one of the Treasure Houses of England with fine furniture, sculpture, tapestry, paintings and other works of art. Set in beautiful surroundings, in the heart of the Peak District National Park, it attracts admiring visitors from all over the world.
Laid out by 'Capability' Brown in the 1760s, the 1000 acre park is mostly open to the public free of charge throughout the year. The grass is grazed by sheep and cattle and a large herd of deer which can usually be seen as you walk through the park. The road that winds its way through the parkland provides a magnificent view of Chatsworth House. You look across the River Derwent to the west and south front, with its neat lawns sloping up the bank to the woods that provide a superb backcloth.
The estate villages of Beeley, Edensor and Pilsley, are without doubt three of the most attractive villages in the Peak National Park. They tend to share facilities; Pilsley has the school and a pub, Edensor a church and institute and Beeley a church and a pub. Both pubs are called the Devonshire Arms, which can cause confusion at times. There are teashops in all the villages, the one at Pilsley being part of the highly successful farm shop complex.
Edensor, pronounced ‘Ensor’, is mentioned in the Domesday Book, but since then the village has been re-sited. Originally it lay between the river and the road through the Park, when the houses were set out in a straggling line down to the Derwent. This did not appeal to the fourth Duke of Devonshire who having spent considerable money and effort improving the House, redesigning the gardens and building a grand new bridge over the river, decided to take down those houses visible from the House. The tenants were re-housed in the nearby estate villages of Pilsley and Beeley. The sixth Duke completed the dismantling of the old village and built the present one.
The gardens at Chatsworth have evolved over more than 450 years, and have been described as ‘One of the best and most vibrant gardens in Britain’. They extend to 105 acres with five miles of footpaths and can be visited separately to the house. Apart from rare trees, shrubs, formal hedges, temples, sculptures old and new, streams and ponds it is probably the famous waterworks that most catch the eye.
For many years visitors have gazed in awe at the Emperor Fountain, built in 1844 to impress Czar Nicholas of Russia. Unfortunately the Czar was detained elsewhere and failed to visit Chatsworth. The fountain's single gravity fed high spout, rises to 290 feet and is the tallest in Britain. Behind the house are The Cascades, built to a French design. Water has continually flowed down the ornamental steps since 1696.
Stand Wood is an historic stretch of woodland, situated to the north of the house. It is open all year to visitors. During the visitor season tractor tours are available. The woodland provides an impressive backdrop to Chatsworth House, and contains a rich diversity of trees and wildlife. The views across the park are magnificent, particularly so from the Hunting Tower, a gazebo, one of the few survivals from the days of Bess of Hardwick.
Every year a number of prestigious events are held in the park, including the International Horse Trials during May and the Country Fair in September. The house now remains open to visitors until just before Christmas. From early November the house takes on a magical appearance with fairy lights and candles and part of the garden floodlit. The shops and restaurants are transformed to offer the best seasonal food and gifts and the farmyard plays host to Father Christmas.
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PLACES OF SPECIAL INTEREST IN THE LOCALITY
Chatsworth House and Gardens (Tel. 01246 582204) stands in a deer park designed by Capability Brown in the 18th century with hills and woods. Open March to December. Shop and restaurant facilities are available. Visitors are free to wander in the magnificent parklands - open all year.
Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop (Tel. 01246 582204) situated at Pilsley, one and a half miles from Chatsworth House, at what used to be the Stud Farm and later became a milking parlour. Then in 1977, the Duchess of Devonshire opened The Farm Shop in the former Tack Room, which sells beef and lamb from the estate. As the shop has become more successful, it has expanded to include a whole range of products. Refreshment facilities are provided. Open daily.
Edensor, a delightful estate village where the houses have been built in a variety of architectural styles that add to the appeal of what must be one of the most beautiful villages in England. Members of the Cavendish Family lie buried in the churchyard, as does Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the former President of the USA. There is an excellent teashop at the Post Office/Shop.
Devonshire Arms, Pilsley (Tel. 01246 583258) built in about 1700, incorporating an oak beamed ceiling, thick stone walls and open fires it personifies the image of the traditional country pub. Open lunchtime and evenings. Home cooked food is served at lunchtime. From Thursday to Saturday, carvery meals are served in the evening. Accommodation is available.
Chatsworth Tea Rooms (Tel. 01246 582204) situated in the former stables to Chatsworth House that have been converted into a very impressive restaurant, tea rooms and shop complex. There is a wide range of food and drink available and walkers are very welcome. Open daily from 10.15am when the house is open to the public.
THE DISCOVER DERBYSHIRE AND THE PEAK DISTRICT GUIDE
Provides a wide range of features on towns and villages with heritage trails and detailed countryside walks, through some of the most scenically attractive countryside in the UK.
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This is a walk not to be missed, providing magnificent views over Chatsworth Park, and if you have the time the opportunity to visit Chatsworth House. 'The Palace of the Peak' was named Britain's Best Stately Home in Period Living and Traditional Homes magazine's Best of British Awards 2004-2005.
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