almost our last day of vacation today: after breakfast we go by easy-merc to bakewell and thence to chatsworth. the weather is once again just fine: sunny and lots of blue sky…shortly after kendal we make a pit-stop at a petrol station for 10l more — just to be on the safe side…the traffic on the a591 later on the various m6* is getting thicker the closer we get to manchester.
our plan is to circumvent manchester on the ring road and make off to the south east into the direction of bakewell. as on the map the road system in and around manchester look like a veritable “maze of twisty little passages, all alike” i had downloaded and printed instructions from map24 to find our way through the maze (a cheat sheet for the real world in a way)…
well-laid plans sometimes happen to have a mind of their own and get up, wander around, and — in short — become adventurous: our well-laid plan is one of those restless folks: we get royally lost. dorothee tries to match the printed instructions with the road signs…it’s a hopeless endeavour — as last resort we try and match village and town names appearing on some of the signs with the downloaded instructions: that at least helps us in staying on the rough course towards our destination. east of manchester the motorways quickly peter out and turn into a mixture of A roads with aspirations and A roads that have seen better days (probably back in the 1950s or so). in the end we stop, dig out the old street atlas from my suitcase — and find out that by following our hunches we’ve ended up about three miles west of bakewell and just need to continue in the direction we were travelling to get straight to our hotel…well.
landscape-wise the peak district is very interesting: breathtaking views, winding valleys, old viaducts — quite different in character from the lake district but charming and enticing in its own way. our hotel, the rutland arms hotel in bakewell. the pictures on the internet at a bit misleading, as is the text on their website:
The hotel offers a timeless elegance and the opportunity to relax and enjoy the peaceful surroundings.
— which led us to expect a hotel in a quiet location…the photographer must have gotten up quite early on a sunday morning to catch the square as empty and void of traffic as he did for the picture of the hotel on their home page. the square in front of the hotel is part of the traffic artery called A6…luckily traffic peters out the later it gets and we do have a quiet night against all initial fears. the room is normal size UK room size; the bed, though it’s cursed with a mattress that one could charge entry for at a fun fair (very bouncy) is also blessed with a good duvet (better than the flimsy stuff at the four star rothay manor house hotel…).
having dropped of our stuff we are on our way again to our final destination and reason why we came here in the first place: chatsworth house!
we take the a6 going east from bakewell: after about 15min we reach the turn-off to chatsworth, about 10min later we encounter the first chatsworth outpost: the garden center…being from the hinterland we mistakenly think that this is the real stuff (well, it is a pretty nice looking garden center, really)…it turns out that the real chatsworth experience starts about 5min further down the road. the chatsworth estate is located in the a medium wide valley that on one side slowly rises up while its eastern counterpart is a bit more eager in its ascent. all is rather green and lush — it helps that the weather has turned more sunny than cloudy again.
we buy a parking ticket, carefully thread our way through the car park area — taking care not to overrun any of the countless chicken parading the car park — and park easy-merc.
first stop is the carriage house for a late lunch: two ploughman’s plates and tea for two! quite nice. after a stroll through the adjoining shop area (lots of stuff we absolutely need…not) we make our way towards the main house itself. having been to blenheim palace last year, i’m struck by how friendly the staff are and how accessible everything is. when i inquire whether i can take pictures, i’m almost encouraged to, please, do so! we just make it in time to view the scottish rooms as well and generally enjoy the house very much! the alcove bedroom, turned into a nursery exhibition, contains a rather unexpected exhibit: a genuine firebolt riding boom (presented by jk rowlings to chatsworth house in 2002, it seems) doing “0-150mph in 10sec”
from the main house we escape through the shop area on the ground floor where the tour ends into the garden…into the very impressive garden, i’ve to say. we only have about one-and-a-half hour left until closing time, so we pick a few areas to look at: first a stroll down along the back of the house with a row of funnily twisted topiary trees on the right hand side, then up towards the “water feature”: a long water cascade coming down the eastern side of the valley — and there are kids playing in the water, adults trying to balance on the cascade’s steps! the only sign visible asks to be careful…we climb up the hill towards the top of the water cascade and from there explore more of the garden: we find another very interesting water feature called revelation — and it is in the truest sense of the word! — a little pond, and a rather interesting sculpture in a little formal walled garden part.
as it’s getting close to 18:00 we finish by walking past the lake with the impressive fountain south of the house and slowly make our way back to the car park and our easy-merc. clearly, we’ve just touched on what there is to see — we definitely will come back!
dinner is at the four seasons restaurant at the rutland arms hotel…the atmosphere is relaxed, we share the large victorian dining room with only a few other guests; service is really nice, not too fastidious or intruding and the food excels as well…an, admittedly, unexpected find and we enjoy it very much!
when we retreat to our room, we notice with relief that the traffic on the a6 (passing in front of the hotel) has quieted down and there’s only the occasional car or motor-bike coming past — nice (and typical of the english countryside: very rarely is there any traffic after 23:00, usually the nights are quiet, even in small towns — london is a different story, though).
a very nice day with some excitement in the first part and a fantastic afternoon at chatsworth!