Heading into the wilds of Derbyshire on a day when it was dark, cold and pouring with rain, did not strike me as they best way to be spending our recent half-term holiday. As we headed off to Chatsworth for the day I was very tempted to turn round and head home. In fact, if a friend had not been driving, I would have done exactly that.
Thankfully, my fears that our day would be wasted were proved wrong. I had assumed that Chatsworth would only be worth visiting on a sunny day, but there was plenty to do despite the poor weather.
Chatsworth is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been home to the Cavendish family since December 1549. As well as the opportunity to view the house and its contents, visitors can also walk round the 105 acre garden, which includes waterworks, a maze and a Victorian tunnel, and enjoy free access to miles of footpaths in the park and woodland. There are also shops and restaurants, a small farmyard and an impressive adventure playground.
I was unsure what a seven- and a five-year-old would think of a stately home, but actually they loved exploring and were egged on by a trail of pumpkins left around the house for them to look for. IJ found the naked statues highly amusing and rather than being put off by the huge portraits and elaborate displays of clothes, jewellery and furniture, she found the whole place fascinating, as did her younger friend.
The Estate holds various events throughout the year and we were there to take part in some of their Halloween activities, which included card making and pumpkin carving. A lot of effort that had been put into decorating the rooms where the activities took place with Halloween pictures and banners, and all the staff involved in the activities had dressed up in costumes. The children loved it and all the activities proved very popular.
Although it was too wet for the adventure playground, there was plenty of time to look round the farmyard and even take part in some animal handling activities. Milking demonstrations and trailer rides were also available.
Rather than spend money on food in the restaurants, we took our own packed lunch which we could eat in an indoor picnic area near the farmyard (thankfully with hand-washing facilities). We did have a coffee in one of the restaurants all in the name of research and found the service and the facilities excellent. The staff wherever we visited were very warm and welcoming and went out of their way to help, even offering umbrellas to visitors queuing up for tickets at the start of the day.
After a full day exploring the house, visiting the farmyard, picnicking and taking part in the Halloween activities, there was just time to explore some of the garden and the rather unusual water features.
All in all, an excellent family day out with plenty to do, even when the weather suggests otherwise.
We visited Chatsworth with a complementary press pass. Ticket prices range from £19.50 for a Family Ticket to the Farmyard and Adventure Playground only, to £46 for a Family Discovery Ticket valid for one visit to the house, garden, farmyard and adventure playground in a single day. Visitors can also buy individual tickets with the cheapest child’s ticket being £4.50 for access to the garden only. There are discounted rates for students and senior citizens.