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Chatsworth House - The Palace of the Peak

A relatively easy walk through the qrandiose grounds of one of England's loveliest stately homes.

Distance 4.5 miles (7.2km)

Minimum time 2hrs

Ascent/gradient 400ft (122m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Good paths and tracks, a couple of stiles

Landscape Parkland and low afforested hills

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 258729

Dog friendliness No dogs allowed in grounds

Parking Pay car park at Nether End, Baslow

Public toilets At car park

1 Turn right out of the car park at Baslow and go over the bridge, then right again, along a lane heading south between the banks of Bar Brook and some charming little cottages. At the lane end go through a kissing gate and follow the wide path across the lawned parklands of Chatsworth. After passing the Nursery the path comes to Queen Mary's Bower, a favoured spot of Mary Queen of Scots, when she was imprisoned at Chatsworth by of the Earl of Shrewsbury in 1570.

2 Beyond the Bower the route reaches a decorative three-arched bridge over the River Derwent. From here you get one of the classic views of Chatsworth House, with the magnificent building's reflections rippling in the slow-moving waters of the river.

3 Turn left along the lane at the nearside of the bridge to pass in front of the great mansion. Go through a gate by a cattle grid before taking the right fork, which arcs right, passing close to the farm. A path through the woods on the left, signposted to the Dell, cuts a corner to reach another surfaced road. Turn left along the road, which rounds the Hunting Tower, all that remains of the original Elizabethan mansion. The cannon outside the tower came from one of the battleships that fought in the Battle of Trafalgar.

4 Follow the road as it doubles back up the hillside on a detour to see the Emperor Lake. The lake was constructed to supply a head of water for the Chatsworth Fountain.
Return to the Hunting Tower, but this time take the track heading north through conifers. At a junction of tracks with some huge barns to the right, go straight ahead to a gate at the edge of the woods. Turn left along the nearside of the perimeter wall, then go over it on a ladder stile. A path with a wall on the right continues above the gritstone crags of Dobb Edge.

5 Ignore the next stile. Instead bear left on a path down a grassy gully. This descends to a group of trees by a gate. Head west here, back across the lawned parkland and across the road from Park Lodge. Follow the perimeter of the woodland on the other side, round left to the kissing gate. Through this, return on the outward route back to Baslow.

There are few more magnificent buildings in Britain than Chatsworth House and its splendid gardens. On his visit in 1726, Daniel Defoe wrote that he was astonished that 'so noble and magnificent a palace' should be built in such a harsh, out of the way situation.

The first Chatsworth House was completed in 1555 for Bess of Hardwick, a wealthy widow, and her new and equally wealthy husband, William Cavendish, who had helped Henry VIII dissolve the monasteries. Years later, Bess's grandson, William Cavendish, was made the first Duke of Devonshire for his support of William of Orange in the Bloodless Revolution of 1688. He decided that Chatsworth wasn't grand enough for a Duke, and pulled the old house down, replacing it with the present one between 1686 and 1708. In the 1820s the 6th Duke added the North Wing and invited the landscape architect 'Capability' Brown to design the gardens.

This short walk from Baslow allows you to walk dryshod with stout shoes, and to visit the house without putting mud on the carpet. Having taken in the splendour you set off on a climb through the woods to see a lake, some crags and a wonderful view of the Derwent Valley.

What to look for

You can't really miss Chatsworth House, open from March to October. The magnificently decorated interior includes the Sculpture Gallery, which houses a large collection of classical and modern works collected by successive Dukes; and a library containing one of the finest private collections of books and prints in the world.

While you're there

Take a look at nearby Edensor, pronounced Ensor. It was built on the instructions of the 6th Duke of Devonshire, who had earlier decided that the gardens of Chatsworth would look much better without the estate houses and duly demolished them. He re-housed the occupants in the purpose built, but very attractive, village of Edensor. The spired 19th-century church has many memorials to the Cavendish family, and there's a marble slab dedicated to Kathleen Kennedy, the sister of President John F Kennedy.

Where to eat and drink

The Goose Green Tea Rooms in Baslow do excellent food, including tea, coffee, cakes, and light meals. The Devonshire Arms, in Baslow, serves very good and varied bar meals. There's a cafeteria in Chatsworth House. It is quite expensive, but serves some nice quiches and cakes.


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