I booked a day off work on Wednesday, and took Christine and Elizabeth on a road trip to the Chatsworth Estate in Derbyshire. The estate is owned by the Duke of Devonshire, and has been in the Cavendish family since the 16th century. There’s a large stately home, gardens, a farm, an adventure playground, and a farm shop, all open to the public.
Christine and I have both been to Chatsworth before, but separately; Christine lived in nearby Chesterfield about ten years ago, and I’d been with my parents in August 2003. Going back was always on our to-do list, and now that we have a car, getting there and back in a day from Sowerby Bridge became do-able.
Google Maps did its usual thing of offering a choice of routes. There was the expected route on the motorways, via Sheffield, or a more direct and scenic one through the Peak District National Park. As it was sunny and the two routes would take about the same amount of time, we chose the latter. It was a great drive, which took in part of the route taken by the riders of the Tour de France when Yorkshire hosted the Grand Départ in 2014. Alas, a couple of sections of road were shut and we arrived about 15 minutes later than planned, due to diversions.
Arriving at lunchtime, our first activity was to fill our rather empty stomachs. Chatsworth offers a number of places to eat, although as we came on a relatively quiet Wednesday, our choice was limited to a couple of outlets in the Stables Courtyard. We went for the self-service restaurant on the basis that the tea room across the way would have probably maxed out my credit card. I’m sure the food is exquisite, but our budget doesn’t quite stretch that far as yet. In any case, the restaurant food was good, and it was busy, suggesting that locals with money to spare come here just to eat.
Our first post-lunch visit was to the farmyard – a part of the estate that I haven’t been to before. It’s not quite as big as the farm at Temple Newsam, and did cost more to get in, but there were more staff on hand to talk about the animals. We got introduced to Maggie the sheep, and were allowed to pet a days old chick that had recently hatched. The farm has over 30 guinea pigs and there are regular handling sessions throughout the day. Entrance to the adventure playground is included with the farm ticket, and I’m sure Elizabeth will love it when she’s a bit older.
Afterwards, we went to look around the gardens. Sadly we only managed a small section – enough to get the classic photo of the house and fountain at the bottom, and to go into the temperate house. Chatsworth was where the Cavendish banana was cultivated, which is now the most commonly-eaten banana in the world, and the temperate house includes some banana trees. We would have stayed longer, but in between feeding Elizabeth and staying out of the rain which was starting to fall by the afternoon, we didn’t manage the upper sections of the gardens.
We called in at the farm shop on the way home. The Chatsworth Farm Shop is regularly voted one of the best in Britain, and it’s easy to see why – it’s huge, and the staff are knowledgable. We picked up some locally-cured bacon and sausages, made from pigs from farms on the estate, and some local cheese. If you’re a foodie, then the farm shop alone is worth the visit.
For the drive home, we decided to take the motorway route. But we had good day out and I’m sure we’ll be back there before too long.