Places to Visit / Stately Homes, Castles & Gardens
Throughout the Peak District and Derbyshire, you will discover a host of stately homes, castles and halls whose impressive design and traditional treasures are matched only by the brilliance of their gardens and grounds.
Our tour of this feast of beauty and history begins in the south of the county at Calke Abbey, near Ticknall. When the National Trust bought Calke in 1985 it took some time to discover exactly what they had in the ‘house that time forgot’, hidden away on its own private estate. Its owners wanted nothing to do with the 20th century; living in the past, they never threw anything out, including a Chinese silk slate bed which had never been unpacked!
In addition there is Elvaston Castle, a 19th Century listed building and gardens. Over recent times the castle has suffered neglect, but a recent group called the ‘Estates Trust’ intends to preserve and restore Elvaston Castle to it former glory. Along with the castle there are various gardens that are a spectacular feature to view; this also offers various walking routes around the grounds.
Within easy reach of the city of Derby you’ll find this magnificent National Trust property, Kedleston Hall. Considered to be the finest work of Roberts Adam, This neo-classical mansion with Adam interiors, open parkland with cascades, lakes and displays of azaleas and rhododendrons.
Also near Derby stands Melbourne Hall, once home to both Queen Victoria’s Prime Minister Lord Melbourne and to Byron’s friend Lady Caroline Lamb. Although the house is only open to the public in August, the famous formal gardens are a joy to visitors throughout the summer season.
There are more delightful gardens close to the city at Darley Abbey Park. Set next to the picturesque village of Darley Abbey on the banks of the River Derwent, the park is easily reached along the riverside walk. Home to a national collection of viburnum and hydrangeas, its peaceful setting makes an ideal spot for a pleasant stroll while the annual concert and firework display in September offer a fantastic evening’s entertainment.
Journey on into the Amber Valley and pause for a while in Belper, where the River Gardens, situated close to the town’s historic mills, offer a tranquil setting to view the river or admire the beautiful flowers and shrubs. Hire a rowing boat during the summer months, take a trip in the river cruiser or while away an hour or two listening to a band concert on a summer Sunday afternoon.
Located in Ashbourne is Tissington Hall, built by Francis FitzHerbert in 1609 to replace the moated manor house to the north of the church, it has served the FitzHerbert family as the main home for the best part of 400 years. Apart from the Hall are the stunning grounds and gardens which are open to the public all year round.
Near Ashbourne stands Sudbury Hall, a late 17th century house, also owned by the National Trust. Noted for its fine plasterwork and contains some fabulous interiors that include the superb Great Staircase. There is also a Museum of Childhood and a recreated Victorian schoolroom which is located in the stable block.
The imposing ruins of Wingfield Manor, near Alfreton, have dominated the skyline since the 15th century. Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned here; Anthony Babington, a local squire, attempted to free her but the plot failed and led to them both being beheaded.
Then around Chesterfield and Bolsover has come to be known as Bess of Hardwick Country, taking its name from the Countess who is said to have been the richest woman in England after Elizabeth I. Hardwick Hall near Chesterfield is another National Trust property and was the last and greatest of the houses built by Bess of Hardwick. Its collection of tapestries and needlework is second to none and its beautiful gardens include an orchard, a nuttery and a herb garden.
High above Bolsover stands a castle, which is actually a miniature mansion. Built in the 17th century with mock medieval fortifications, Bolsover Castle is decorated in Jacobean style with carved fireplaces and impressive rooms. The riding school at Bolsover Castle is one of the oldest in Europe and was, in its time, one of the most famous. Today its lovely grounds provide the perfect setting for open air performances of operas and plays.
Next stop on the tour is Renishaw Hall near Eckington, where the garden, park and lake were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of the famous literary trio Edith, Osbert and Sacheverall. Terraces, statues, yew hedges and pyramids combine to make the beautiful Italianate gardens a delight to visit.
Traveling west towards Bakewell and the Derbyshire Dales, you will find two contrasting houses, neither of which can be missed. Haddon Hall, dating back over 800 years, it is a fine example of both medieval and Tudor architecture. There is a chapel and fine gardens which boasts the oldest rose garden in England.
From Haddon, it’s just a short journey to Chatsworth House, which nobody can deny deserves its title ‘Palace of the Peak’. Everything here is built on a grand scale - the great house on the banks of the River Derwent, the gardens with the emperor fountain and ornamental cascade, and the park with its hunting tower, lakes and network of paths.
Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, Chatsworth House is one of the finest collections of furniture and fine arts in the world and hosts various special events during the year while for the younger visitors there is also an adventure playground.
Built for John Wright shortly after the time of the plague, Eyam Hall has been in the same family ever since. The treasures and family memorabilia housed in this unspoiled gentlemen’s residence offer a fascinating glimpse of the past, painting a vivid picture of life through the centuries. A lively place to visit at any time, in the summer months Eyam Hall is a positive hive of activity, with its busy working craft shops around the old courtyard, while its delightful gardens make an ideal setting for outdoor concerts and plays on summer evenings.
The Pavilion Gardens located in the historic town of Buxton, offers various events through out the year such as farmers markets, arts and craft fairs and car collections. Positioned in a 23 acre plot the Pavilion Gardens are enjoyed by thousands of people every year, with the mixture of walks, lakes, play areas and miniature train guarantee that they remain a desired attraction for the whole family.
Our grand tour draws to a close in the north west corner of the county. High above Castleton stands the imposing ruin of Peveril Castle which is now owned by English Heritage. Looking out from the castle’s snaking walls is a panoramic view across the Hope Valley.
Whether your tour of the Peak District and Derbyshire takes you north, south, east or west, you’ll find magnificent houses, priceless treasures, peaceful parklands and glorious gardens waiting to be discovered.
For further information on stately homes and historical monuments, please visit the places to visit section.
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