Under the fickle Derbyshire skies, the everchanging hues colouring the jutting crags and river cut valleys of the Peak District were as dramatic and as sprawling as the literary masterpieces inspired by its landscape. It was nearing Christmas and my wife and I were away for the weekend by train. Restricting though it first seemed, I soon enjoyed the challenge of planning routes around the limited train and bus timetable. We’d previously enjoyed walks from Castleton and Edale, so with Jack Frost in the air, we planned a lengthy bimble from Grindleford back to Bakewell where we were staying (the vagrancies of buses around here took me ages to figure out), via Chatsworth which we were visiting for the first time, and the rather nice pub in Beeley.
From the bus we could see the white frost that would linger until early afternoon. We jumped off in Grindleford and walked straight down to the River Derwent that we would follow for most of the way. Frost crystals sprouted from cobwebs and our
boots crunched on the grass. I adore days like this – crisp and clear with the promise of a pint by a log fire at the end of a long day. South we walked, under Froggatt Edge past the weirs at Calver, Baslow and then down towards Chatsworth.
Despite all the photos, TV, and movie appearances, nothing quite prepares you for the approach down the drive, past herds of deer, to Chatsworth. Under the house’s 1.3-acre roof are 297 rooms, 3,426 feet of passages, 18 staircases, 7,873 panes of glass and 56 lavatories. The indomitable Bess of Hardwick and her second husband Sir William Cavendish, one of Henry VIII’s commissioners, built the first building, Chatsworth Manor, in 1552. But it was the 4th Earl in the late 17th century who expanded the house to nearly like what it is today, including the additions of the State Apartments, East Front, Painted Hall, the Library and part of the incredible gardens, including a very difficult maze. Yes, we paid and saw the decorations, and yes we tried (and failed) in the maze, before continuing along the river to Beeley and the Devonshire Arms. After a fabulous meal we skipped up directly west back to Bakewell, deeply content.