Derbyshire Walk - Chatsworth
PUBLISHED: 12:39 12 November 2014 | UPDATED: 14:45 03 May 2020
Sally Mosley takes us on a walk around the glorious gold-encrusted gem in our Derbyshire crown, which is surrounded by fabulous walks in every direction offering the opportunity for riverside rambles, hilltop hikes and spectacular far-reaching views
Distance: 6.75 miles
Parking: Calton Lees car park, Chatsworth DE4 2NX (charge applicable at pay booth)
Terrain: There are two stiles and four gates, several sets of steps and uneven terrain with exposed tree roots, trip hazards and stepping stones. Keep away from free-roaming deer and other livestock.
Refreshments: Old Smithy Tearoom and The Devonshire Arms at Beeley; restaurant and shops, Chatsworth House
Toilets: Chatsworth House
Map: OS Explorer OL24 – White Peak
Walk highlight: The first glimpse of Swiss Lake
Description: Chatsworth is the pride of the Peak District National Park. Home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, it is run as an efficient and accessible attraction with a regular multitude of visitors from around the world. This scenic walk around Chatsworth Park and the estate village of Beeley follows quiet riverside paths and woodland tracks with a dash of hilltop hike and the chance to call in at the House along the way.
1 From the car park at Calton Lees pass millennium benches with their assortment of promises and head down a steep path close to the approach to the Garden Centre leading to the traffic light bridge over the River Derwent. Keep to the narrow pavement as you cross the single high arch. Two gates hang from long chains beneath, designed to stop deer from escaping the Park by walking down the river.
2 Go through a kissing gate on the right and follow the footpath to Beeley, passing through an avenue of young trees. Notice some small metal globes in the field which cover inspection shafts above a huge water main running down the valley from reservoirs to the north.
3 Carefully cross the road and walk into Beeley, passing St Anne’s Church which has a Norman doorway of about 1160 and a 14th century tower with battlements and pinnacles.
4 Turn right and proceed to the tiny village green with solitary lime tree. At this point you may wish to detour for refreshments by walking down the main street to the Old Smithy Tearooms or Devonshire Arms. Alternatively, walk past the Cavendish Village Hall, followed by Beeley Old Hall, built in the 17th century. Opposite is Norman House and the remains of stocks. Continue down the road past quaint houses and cottages, all with ‘dolphin blue’ paintwork to signify that they belong to Chatsworth.
5 Continue on the lane to Moorend. After passing through a gate the road veers right to Moor Farm. At this point go straight ahead on a grassy path identified by a fingerpost. Enter woodland where there is a combination of gate and wall stile and begin the lovely ascent of Hell Bank Plantation, passing through a mixture of conifers, oak, birch, rowan and sycamore. Cross stepping stones over Beeley Brook (this can be tricky after heavy rain). Follow the footpath uphill over a tangle of tree roots. The path will become steeper before veering off to the right.
6 Turn left at a junction heading back to re-cross the brook higher upstream and then walk on a path often carpeted with pine needles that smells wonderful when damp. You will emerge onto a rough track, part of the former coach road from Bakewell to Chesterfield. In the 18th century carriages from Chatsworth carrying the famous Georgiana, wife of the 5th Duke of Devonshire, would have bumped and trundled this way over the moors. Away to your right is Harland Edge fronting Gibbet Moor. Where it meets up with a plantation of trees on the horizon is Hob Hurst’s House, an ancient Bronze Age barrow said to have been home to a goblin known as Hob O’ Th’ Hurst.
7 Go over a high stile opposite, by the side of a gate, and follow the cart track across an area known as the Rabbit Warren where centuries ago they would have been bred in large numbers for their fur and meat. Fantastic far-reaching views will begin to emerge as you walk along this elevated path. On a clear day you should be able to make out in a clockwise sweep the high upland region of White Peak National Park beginning with Bonsall Moor and the skyline landmark of Minninglow. Stanton Moor and a mast stand elevated to the left of the valley of the Wye heading away to Bakewell. In the foreground is Lees Moor Wood with neat and tidy rows of crop plantation trees for future generations to harvest. Axe Edge peeps up behind Calton Pastures with Monsal Head and Longstone Edge to its right. The sun may be twinkling on cars parked at the Barrel Inn, Bretton, just before the mast on Eyam Moor. These panoramic views culminate in a string of Edges that lines the eastern flank of the Derwent to its source. Down in the valley below a colourful procession of cars can generally be seen making its way through Chatsworth Park, passing trees planted in 1760 on instruction of Lancelot Capability Brown as part of his masterpiece landscape plans.
8 Cross over a high stile beside a gate and enter Stand Wood. Walk straight ahead passing mature beech trees followed by a discarded jumble of large gritstone boulders. At a crossroads continue ahead following the sign for Robin Hood. This estate road eventually leads down to Chatsworth House.
9 Along the way you will pass Swiss Lake with Swiss Cottage on the far bank like an illustration from some enchanted fairytale. On a corner see Emperor Lake to the left constructed by Sir Joseph Paxton to feed the cascade and fountain in Chatsworth gardens. It was named in honour of Tsar Nicholas I who planned to visit from Russia. Just beyond this and in a clearing on the left is the famous hunting tower built by Bess of Hardwick in the 16th century so that she could watch hunting in the valley below with her female guests.
10 Instead of continuing down the road from the hunting tower, which is by far the safer option, you may wish to follow an alternative and shorter footpath. However, this descends very steeply down a long procession of steps that can become slippery when wet. Either way, look out for unusual trees, some are very old with twisted roots.
11 Arriving down behind Chatsworth House near to the Farmyard and Adventure Playground, go through the gate with sign for pedestrians to exit from Stand Wood walks.
12 From 13th to 23rd November Chatsworth will be holding its popular Christmas Market with an array of stalls selling an assortment of food, produce, gifts and craft items. From 8th November until 4th January the house will be decorated for Christmas, this year’s theme being ‘Tumble into Alice’s Wonderland’.
13 Leave Chatsworth by walking down the main drive with Queen Mary’s Bower on your right. During the time that she was held on house arrest, this garden folly which was then surrounded by orchards, ponds and kitchen gardens, is where Mary was allowed to take exercise.
14 Cross the ornate bridge built in 1759 in an Italianate style. Designed by James Paine, it was constructed at an angle to be visible from the house. Turn left and walk across riverside meadows to return to the car park, passing the derelict remains of an old mill which was still grinding corn until 1950. Across the river is the secluded Old Park, a conservation area for wildlife and deer. The wood here contains ancient oak trees thought to be nearly 1,000 years old.