Christmas,  Travel,  UK

Christmas at Chatsworth

What a treat! We’ve visited Chatsworth many time in the spring and summer. Long April walks along the river, strolls round the gardens in the July sunshine. But never Chatsworth at Christmas. Until now.

3 things on my list

It’s a 2.5 hour drive from home so not round the corner but it’s amazing what you can do in a day if you put your mind to it.

1 The Chatsworth Christmas Market (finishes 3/12)

2 A walk round the Gardens in the winter sun

3 A visit to the House decorated for Christmas (never done this before)

So here’s what you need to know

  1. WEATHER – Check the weather forecast – Chatsworth is always lovely but particularly gorgeous in the sunshine, or even just the non-rain. We kept it flexible to enjoy the best weather day we could.
  2. TICKETSBook tickets online. I only realised this less than a week beforehand. If you turn up at this time of year without a booking, you’ll struggle to get anywhere near. It’s £25 per person for the House and Garden including parking. Family tickets are available too. We got there about 12 noon and security was tight. All cars are stopped before the bridge and checked for pre-booked tickets. So be warned.
  3. TIMINGS – For the House Visit you have to choose a time slot which limits the number of people inside at once. Make sure you do this.
  4. GIFT AID – You can pay gift aid to help with the Estate maintenance, and they give you a voucher back to spend while you’re there, so it doesn’t cost any extra.
  5. GET THERE EARLY – It will be busy. Very busy. So get there as early as you can. We avoided the weekend thinking it would be a little calmer during the week. Not at all. The Christmas Fayre is a big attraction so expect crowds.
  6. FOOTWEAR – Wear shoes or boots that you don’t mind getting a bit muddy. You’ll want to have a mooch round the garden and see the amazing fountain. It’s so beautiful. But it’s winter folks and you will get muddy.
  7. GET FESTIVE – Brass bands. Mulled wine. Hot turkey rolls. Churros. Get in the mood. Or stay at home.
Do I pass for lady of the manor?

THE MARKET

Alas the Christmas Market ends its 3 week run on 3/12 and by the look of some of the stall holders, they’ll be glad of a well deserved rest. Having done Christmas Markets with my cakes, I know how cold and exhausting it can be. Really fun too, but you need plenty of warm layers and regular hot drinks to keep you going.

The Market was supremely well organised and much bigger than I expected. If you know Chatsworth – it covers the whole area from the House entrance / car park at the bottom, up to the Courtyard archway. They’d struggled with flooding earlier in November but white covered walkways make it easy to walk around, and looks a bit like snow. I thought.

Of course, we headed straight for the Churros van and ordered cinnamon sugared churros with nutella dip. Oh my word. Washed down with an excellent cup of mulled wine.

Super pleased to see all the food stalls fully recyclable, disposable and compostable. Really well done Chatsworth.

All the stalls are in lines of wooden chalets. So you can walk round and not miss anything. Lots of foodie sellers. Lovely crafts. Handmade toys. Unique Jewellery. Cosy Knitwear. Festive decorations. You name it …

The Chatsworth shop in the Courtyard is full to bursting with Christmas goodies too. Gifts, decorations. And plenty of things just for yourself.

THE GARDEN

After an hour in the Market, we were ready for some space. And some trees. Our pre-booked ticket included access to the Garden so we headed right along the promenade walk festooned with pretty lights.

The best view of the House is arguable from the back (or maybe it’s the front – not sure!) From the lakeside. The fountain (understatement of the day) was in full flow. Get this. It’s completely gravity-fed. The water drops 122m though a 40cm iron pipe, and then powers 90m (300ft) into the sky. Quite an awesome sight.

There’s something magical about a winter garden. The way the low sun casts long shadows across the beech leaves. The glint of gold paint shining from the windows. The vibrant red leaves of shrubs clinging onto their last autumn clothes. And the space. There’s always so much space in the gardens when you need to get away from the crowds.

THE HOUSE

Our pre booked slot was 1545 which at first seemed late for a day visit, but turned out to be the perfect time. The late afternoon light gave the feeling of a magical grotto as we waited our turn to explore the House.

Mr Bond, bless him, would come anywhere with me. And when I first suggested this day trip – it was more for me than him. I think he expected 1 oversized Christmas tree and a bunch of old furniture. Well, did he get a surprise? I loved watching his eyes grow wider with each room we walked through and each of the 4,367 trees we gazed up at with awe and wonder.

WANDERLUST

The 2019 theme is TRAVEL with many different countries represented through the many different rooms. Oh my goodness. I can only imagine how many weeks it took to decorate this house. How many people were involved in created this magical wonderland. How many baubles and twinkly lights came out of storage to fancy up the majestic staircases and corridors.

There’s a secret part of me (the part that’s still 10 years old) that would love to have hidden away until closing time and spent a cosy “Downton Abbey” style night curled up in a big leather chair with hot mulled wine. Reading all the ginormous leather bound books. Anyone else?

Which is your favourite tree? Did you spot mine? Pink and green should always be seen. It’s at the top of a magic stairway shining through the stone archway in all it’s glory. 20ft tall I reckon. Just breathtaking.

FREE RANGE DAY

If you didn’t manage to make it for the Christmas Market, I honestly think the ticket price is worth it for the stunning House and Garden.

You can spend as long as you like wandering the gardens – sitting, walking, soaking in the tranquility, snapping away to your hearts content. Plenty for the kids too. A hot chocolate break is never too far away.

The House is free to roam from your entry time. As long as you’re out before they switch the lights off, you can wander the corridors, enjoy the thoughtfully placed leather settees and get caught up in all the twinkles.

HOMEWARD BOUND

One last coffee to keep Mr Bond awake for the drive home, and we’re off into the night. It’s one of those days that feels a bit like a dream. I woke up the next morning and wondered “did we really do that, or did I imagine it?”

We really did do it. And you can too.

Judith xx

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