With movement still restricted and indoor meet ups limited to a few individuals Molly Scott has highlighted a few of our local outdoor spaces that enable us to visit and stay safe.
Chatsworth is undoubtedly Derbyshire’s finest country house. Jane Austen is believed to have based her idea of Pemberley on Chatsworth House. More recently, it has featured in the cult classic Peaky Blinders.
Chatsworth has extensive, exquisite interiors; breathtakingly beautiful all year round, but something truly magical when the house is dressed for Christmas. The 105-acre gardens are equally impressive. Famous for their rich history, there is something for everyone. On a sunny day, grown-ups and children alike enjoy paddling in the Cascade, so don’t forget to pack a towel.
Families with younger children would enjoy the farmyard with animal handling and milking demonstrations, and large woodland playground with rope park, trampoline, slides and water and sand play.
Take a picnic or enjoy the range of catering facilities at Chatsworth. The Carriage House is ideal for families and serves freshly made, seasonal dishes using local ingredients in a canteen style. For a more refined experience, The Flying Childers restaurant offers the ultimate English indulgence – a luxurious afternoon tea served on Wedgewood china.
Be aware that currently all tickets must be pre-booked, check out the website for details. chatsworth.org
Derbyshire is blessed with several magnificent National Trust properties, but Calke Abbey has something for everyone and is probably the most family-friendly.
Prior to arriving at the main car park, turn right when signposted for ‘Calke Explore’, a new outdoor recreation area. After you’ve explored there you can drive (or take a 15-minute walk) up to the main car park for the house.
You can picnic throughout the grounds at Calke Abbey - but one insider tip is to park in the overflow car park facing the parkland to enjoy your own idyllic little spot (and save you lugging the food around with you all day).
As a family, we love exploring the extensive parkland, but you can visit the house if you wish. The walled garden features an array of beautifully maintained flowers. Interiors fans will swoon with delight at the faded beauty of The Orangery.
There’s a good adventure playground for younger children right near the main car park (although this is currently shut), which is also close to the toilets and café. Children will also enjoy exploring the long tunnel and the ice bunker!
All visitors must pre-book tickets, which are released every Friday night for the week ahead. Social distancing measures are in place and I felt really safe here.
Matlock Bath is the closest to a seaside resort you’ll find in Derbyshire, with fish and chips, amusement arcades and local, independent cafes and pubs.
If you can find a spot, parking at the station is a good base to explore. Start with a coffee or a gluttonous freakshake at F’Coffee then cross the road and the river using the bridge opposite. You can then have a very pleasant, fairly shaded walk along the river which takes you past a playground. Cross back over the river at the next bridge you come to and then meander back up the main drag of Matlock Bath. Highlights include the fishpond (the actual pond containing huge ornate fish, and the pub of the same name - check out their beer garden to the rear to the pub), an aquarium, arcades and lots of souvenir shops. Remember, it’s pretty much obligatory to have fish and chips. You are at the faux seaside after all.
If you’re in need of further entertainment, The Heights of Abraham has cable cars affording magnificent views of the surrounding countryside. Or, for something free, we like Matlock Meadows, a small, working farm with free children’s playground when you use their café or buy some of their handmade ice cream.
The pretty market town of Bakewell is rumoured to be where Jane Austen wrote and based Pride and Prejudice, whilst staying at The Rutland Arms. If you’re feeling similarly romantically inclined, visit Weir Bridge to see the love locks left by starry eyed lovers. Please do consider the environmental impact before adding your own, sorry to be a killjoy!
Otherwise, feed the ducks during a riverside stroll. Mooch around the local shops and then take home a Bakewell pudding from one of the numerous bakeries or cafes.
The hot new place for coffee is at Coffee by Lovage, the side hustle of chef Lee Smith, who has recently set up a fine dining restaurant of the same name.
Dovedale (and a quieter alternative)
Dovedale stepping-stones is an iconic Derbyshire spot - which also makes it really popular. To enjoy this site without the crowds you really need to get here very early, pick a random weekday, a day with less favourable weather - or ideally all three!
Hathersage stepping-stones are equally pretty but much more of a hidden gem. You can even have a paddle a little further downstream. For details of where to park and directions for an easy walk see:
Words & Images: Molly Scott