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Chatsworth Park and Gardens

A stroll along the River Derwent past gardens and through parkland created by 18th-century landscape guru Lancelot 'Capability' Brown.

Distance 7 miles (11.3km)

Minimum time 3hrs

Ascent/gradient 459ft (140m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Good paths and forest trails

Landscape Parkland, woodland and moorland

Suggested map aqua3 OS Explorer OL24 White Peak

Start/finish SK 251699

Dog friendliness Suitable for dogs, but keep on lead near livestock

Parking Endsor village

Public toilets At Chatsworth

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© AA Media Limited 2013. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153

1 From Edensor village cross the B6012 and take the footpath at the right-hand side of the large tree. Walk across the parkland to join the main drive to Chatsworth House near a bridge. Cross over the road and continue on the footpath, walking downhill on the other side to the riverbank.

2 Follow the River Derwent past a couple of weirs and the remains of an old mill to the next bridge that carries the B6012 over the river. To the left of the bridge a metal kissing gate allows access to the road. Cross the bridge.

3 Ignore the left turn into the drive past a gatehouse to the estate but take the next immediate left along the side of the gatehouse and continue up hill, past a house on the right and then a farm and cross the stile on the left where the footpath is signed for Robin Hood and Hunting Tower.

4 Cross the field, go over the next stile and go diagonally left, uphill following the waymarkers on a well-defined path. When this meets a made-up track go left, cross the wall into the estate by a high stile and continue to a crossroads.

5 Go straight ahead and follow the track as it passes the Swiss Lake on the right and then loops round Emperor Lake on the left. The path will come to another, faint, crossroads. On the left is the Hunting Tower.

6 Continue on the path as it loops left around the tower, ignoring the turn off to the right. The path heads downhill, past what appears to be the remains of an old viaduct with water cascading from the end, then doubles back, still going downhill eventually reaching the car park at Chatsworth House.

7 Go past the wooden hut at the entrance to the car park and turn right on to the estate road heading north. Follow this past several wooden sculptures until you are within site of the gates at the end of the estate.

8 Near here turn left across the park to a gate that leads eventually to Baslow. Don't go through the gate but turn left on to the trail that follows the river back to Chatsworth. Turn right on to the road, cross the bridge then go immediately right on the track which leads back to the start in Edensor village.

Sitting on the banks of the River Derwent, surrounded by lush green parkland, moors and a backdrop of wooded hillsides, Chatsworth is one of the most elegant and popular of England's stately homes. First opened to the public in 1844 it continues to attract large numbers of visitors.

Work first started on the house in 1549 when Sir William Cavendish acquired the land and set about building a mansion. He died before it was completed and it was finished by his widow, Bess of Hardwick, who by the simple expedient of marrying four times, each time to a more powerful and richer man, succeeded in becoming the richest woman in England after the Queen. She also had built the magnificent Elizabethan house of Hardwick Hall, some 15 miles (24km) to the east and now in the care of the National Trust. Bess left Chatsworth to her son Henry Cavendish, who sold it to his brother William, the 1st Earl of Devonshire. It has now been home to fourteen generations of the Cavendish family and is the seat of the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Initially a three-storey Elizabethan mansion, the house has been significantly altered and added to over the centuries. The 4th Earl, who was later made 1st Duke of Devonshire for his support of William III in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, practically rebuilt it. Towards the end of the 18th century the 4th Duke had the magnificent baroque stables built and engaged the services of the famous landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Brown dramatically altered the 100-acre (40ha) garden that the 1st Duke had created in the 1690s and laid out the 1,000-acre (450ha) park surrounding the house. Magnificent as Chatsworth House is, it is the gardens and parkland that draw visitors back again and again. There are rare trees, sculptures, fountains and gardens, as well as a maze and adventure playground for children.

The Emperor Fountain in the long canal pond, built in 1844 by Chatsworth's head gardener Joseph Paxton, is the highest gravity fed fountain in the world. He designed a 9-acre (3.6ha) lake in the hills above the garden to store water for the fountain. On its journey down ½ mile (800m) of pipe to the garden it drops 381ft (116m). Paxton also built a great conservatory at Chatsworth and went on to design the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Knighted by Queen Victoria, he later became a Member of Parliament and is buried in the churchyard at Edensor.

Edensor was mentioned in the Domesday Book but the 4th Duke had the original village demolished because some of the houses interfered with his view. He rebuilt it as a model village, using local stone, with each building in a different architectural style. It's still home to estate workers and pensioners.

While you're there

Visit Edensor church rebuilt in 1869 but containing the remnants of its 14th-century predecessor including the monuments to William and Henry Cavendish the sons of Bess of Hardwick. Also buried within the church is Lord Frederick Cavendish who was Irish Secretary in Gladstone's government when he was hacked to death in Phoenix Park, Dublin in 1882, along with his Under-Secretary Thomas Burke, by a group of extreme Irish nationalists called the Invincibles.

What to look for

Kathleen Kennedy, sister of American President John F Kennedy, is also buried in Edensor churchyard. She became the wife of the 10th Duke's eldest son in 1944, four months before he was killed in action in the Second World War. Had he lived he would have succeeded as the 11th Duke in 1950. Kathleen died in a plane crash in 1948. President Kennedy visited her grave in 1963, five months before he was assassinated.

Where to eat and drink

Chatsworth's dining options are set out around the courtyard on the east side of James Paine's 18th-century stable buildings. The Carriage House, enclosed by glass walling, offers an excellent choice of meals in a self-service, fully licensed, restaurant. Light refreshments are available in the nearby Covered Ride and Jean Pierre's Bar.

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