One of the places on my UK bucket list since before we arrived has been Chatsworth house. A stately home in Derbyshire, it is the seat of the Duke of Devonshire and has been home to the Cavendish family since 1549. If you’ve seen the film The Duchess with Keira Knightley then you’ve seen the house and the story of one of the infamous family members that lived there, the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire. It was also the filming location for Pemberley in the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice also with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen.
With time literally flying by at this point (the bid list for our next post comes out next Friday!), I realized it was time to take matters into my own hands, stop relying on calendar holidays, and take some time off to explore! So we took this last Friday and Monday off to run around the Peak District.
On Friday we left London around 10:00am, drove up through Nottingham and stopped for lunch in the only Hooters restaurant in the UK. I know a lot of Americans find the chain tacky, and apparently a lot of Brits find it flat out offensive. But I spent enough time in the restaurant industry not to stress about how tight the uniforms are; plus it was nice to get a bit of American flavor back in the wings! Of course, we really knew we were back in US territory when I asked our waitress what ales they had, and she wasn’t sure to what I was referring. Hmmm.
From there we continued to the town of Wardlow where we’d rented a holiday cottage for three nights. The trip up was a bit of a struggle though. We’d left out about an hour later than I was hoping and got stuck in construction traffic twice, and then our GPS rerouted us without our knowing it. So our four-hour journey took closer to seven hours, and we weren’t able to visit Haddon Hall in the afternoon, which was one of the filming locations for The Princess Bride that I’d thrown on to the agenda at the last minute.
We also stopped on the side of the road for our son to go to the bathroom (as you do), and he promptly stuck his right arm in a stinging nettle plant and started screaming. Happily it was only his arm, so I wiped it with a magic baby wipe, and it calmed down quickly. Eventually we made it to the cottage and settled in for the weekend after popping into the village of nearby Tideswell to peruse the 14th century Church of St John the Baptist and have dinner at the pub in the George Inn.
Saturday was the main day on the itinerary. We spent the morning at Chatsworth House, and it did not disappoint. The house was absolutely stunning inside. Unfortunately, our son had a screaming meltdown about 1/3 of the way through, so my hubby was kind enough to take him out to the car while I finished perusing the house.
Once through, we met up again and grabbed a couple lamb pasties and sausage rolls while we walked around the massive gardens in the pouring rain. Even wet, our son was much more amenable to the great outdoors. This being the second time in a row that he’s flipped out in a big fancy house (Windsor was the first), I think we will no longer subject him to them and vice versa. Happily he did not fuss during our lovely dinner at the Bull’s Head in Foolow.
On Sunday, we drove up to the little town of Castleton and hiked up the hill to Peveril Castle. The castle is a ruined early medieval structure founded sometime between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and 1086 that was later confiscated by King Henry II in 1155. The only thing left is a bit of wall and the keep, which is in great condition.
But there’s also a great view of Cave Dale, another Princess Bride filming location (where Buttercup pushed Wesley down the hill). So we walked around the keep, took photos and our son rolled down a different hill a dozen times until he was thoroughly soaked by the damp grass. But he didn’t complain! And we finished our day in Castleton with a lovely meal and an ale at a second pub named the Bull’s Head.
Monday was the day we planned to return to London, so the only thing I was hoping to do was to visit a little Victorian sweet shop called Edward & Vintage on the way south. On the drive up I’d noticed a sign in the town of Stoney Middleton advertising their well dressing festivities. We’d seen a program on ITV about both the sweet shop and well dressings, so I added that to our little list of things to do on the way out of the area.
Happily it was an absolutely gorgeous day, and we took our time driving along the sunny country roads. Stoney Middleton actually has three wells, so they had three well dressings! Based in solid pagan traditions, well dressing “is a summer custom practiced in rural England in which wells, springs or other water sources are decorated with designs created from flower petals” (Wikipedia).
But these aren’t just any designs, they are AMAZING. The main one we saw in Stoney Middleton was a 100-year memorial to the start of WWI and the men and boys the village had lost in that war…created completely out of flower petals. They also had one at the Children’s Well dedicated to the World Cup, and one closer to the edge of town that was the image of a fox in a log.
Our last stop on our journey home was Tissington, the home of Edward & Vintage. The shop was in a lovely little cottage with walls lined in glass jars full of old-fashioned candies. We spent about £15 on assorted bags of Pink Champagne, Gin & Tonic, Derbyshire Mint Cake, Rhubarb & Custard, Dark Chocolate Ginger, and Cornish Sea Salt Fudge among others…all classic British sweets with the occasional candy necklace thrown into the mix. A thoroughly satisfying end to a great trip into the Peak District.