The two great houses visited on this walk are within four miles of each other as the crow flies, but each has made a unique impression on the face of the Peak District. Chatsworth, ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire has developed following the fashions of house-building nobles. Additions have been made since its first owner, the redoubtable Bess of Hardwick, founding matriarch of the Cavendish dynasty almost bankrupted her husband, the Earl of Shrewsbury. In its development, Chatsworth has grown to well deserve its unofficial accolade, as the ‘Palace of the Peak’. On the other side of a forested ridge, Haddon Hall the Duke of Rutland’s country seat has remained virtually unchanged since its Tudor founder Sir John Manners first developed the house above this secluded bend in the River Wye.
Renowned as one of Thomas Hobbes ‘Seven Wonders of the Peak’, Chatsworth ranks in architectural merit alongside the finest of all Britain’s great houses. The original hall which once held the captive Mary Queen of Scots was a Tudor manor. It was built on the site of an older dwelling by the Countess of Shrewsbury, better known as Bess of Hardwick. All that is left of that house is a raised walled garden where the imprisoned Scots Queen took her ease; another remaining feature is the hunting tower overlooking the house from Stand Wood. The house we see today dates mostly from the late 17th century when the 4th Earl, later to become the 1st Duke of Devonshire. Apparently a man who was hard to please as he used several architects before he was satisfied with the resulting magnificent Palladian mansion. The last major changes were made by the 6th Duke of Devonshire, the Bachelor Duke who had Sir Jeffry Wyatville design the north, or Theatre Wing. This was when the awe-inspiring Painted Hall also came into being. It was this duke who employed as his head gardener, Joseph Paxton, the horticultural genius who designed what is still one of the finest attractions of a visit to Chatsworth.
Children visiting Chatsworth automatically make for the adventure playground and farmyard, one of the late Duchess Deborah’s innovative schemes.
Haddon Hall is hidden amongst trees, set away from the A6 south of Bakewell. Standing on a slight rise above the River Wye, the medieval manor house is a unique example of building styles from the 12th to the 17th centuries. Abandoned in 1640 by its owners the Manners family, Earls then later Dukes of Rutland, when they moved to Belvoir Castle in Rutland. Rather than pull down the neglected building, in the early 1900s the then Duke decided to scrupulously restore Haddon. The result of this careful work is there to see, ranging from the family chapel to the impressive Long Gallery and banqueting hall with its minstrels’ gallery beneath which Sir John Manners, self-styled King of the Peak held long and boisterous Christmas celebrations.
The popular romantic story of Dorothy Vernon’s elopement with John Manners in 1563 tells of her crossing the terrace garden and meeting him by the low bridge below the hall. Unfortunately this story is pure myth as both garden and bridge along with the steps down which Dorothy is supposed to have fled, were not built until at least 26 years later.
The medieval time capsule of Haddon Hall and its setting have been used several times by film makers. Large screen and TV productions ranging from ITV’s Moll Flanders, BBC’s Chronicles of Narnia and the Prince and the Pauper, together with Franco Zeferelli’s The Princess Bride and Jane Eyre have all used Haddon along with other locations around the Peak District.
While this walk describes the route between these two great houses, it is accepted that to visit both or even one of them as well as following the walk, will be too much for one day. What the walk attempts, is to give an introduction to the houses and the countryside of their setting. Starting from Chatsworth, the route first goes through the estate village of Edensor, a village moved from its original setting because the then Duke felt it spoilt the view. A lane climbs through the village and then joins a minor road which is followed until it joins a path down towards Bakewell. Reaching the cattle market, the walk turns left along the valley almost to Haddon Hall; here tracks and woodland paths lead back over Lees Moor, first across Calton Pastures and then over Chatsworth Park and back to the great house itself.
The Walk :
From the car park walk past Queen Mary’s Bower (raised garden) and go down to the river.
Cross the bridge and bear right on to a path climbing over the slight rise ahead.
Go down to the road. Cross over, go through the gates and follow the side lane climbing through Edensor village.
Edensor village replaced the old estate village which being closer to the main house was thought by the 6th Duke to rather spoil the view. Being shown a catalogue of house designs he could not decide on one in particular, so he is said to have asked for one of each.
Climb out through the village, continuing ahead where a side track leaves on your right. Walk on until the lane reaches a minor road.
Turn left and follow the road, gently uphill for little over a half mile.
Where the road starts to descend steeply right at a sharp bend, go forwards on to a path descending into woodland.
Cross the railway bridge and continue downhill to join a road.
Go forwards down the road until it reaches a side turning into Bakewell cattle market.
Follow the hard surface to your left around the perimeter of the market and turn left along its access track.
Bakewell is a popular place for shopping or as in this case, a mid-morning coffee. The market café has excellent home-made food designed to satisfy the hungriest farmer (or walker).
Where the cattle market access track turns sharp right towards the river, walk forwards on to a signposted field path.
Follow the path, keeping away from muddy sections, alongside the twisting bends of the river.
Turn left on to a farm lane and follow it uphill, over the tunnel mouth of the abandoned railway.
This is about as close to Haddon Hall as it is possible to get on this walk. To view the hall bear right on reaching the farm lane and then almost immediately left, later to cross the river by a footbridge. Joining the main road, turn left and the entrance to Haddon Hall is about 120 yards further along the road. Return to the farm lane and turn right in order to continue the walk.
Above the tunnel entrance, the farm lane makes a double hair-pin bend. At the upper bend keep to the right along the foot of three fields and head towards Bowling Green Farm.
Turn sharp left towards the farm, but do not enter its yard. Continue uphill alongside the farm and towards woodland.
Where the track crosses the top of a dry valley, turn left and go downhill for about 60 yards and then look out for a woodland path on your right.
Climb steadily uphill on this path, bearing left with it as it climbs towards a broad forested ridge.
Leaving the forest, begin to go downhill, heading for a narrow gap between two small belts of trees.
Go through the gap and immediately bear right to reach the upper of a group of a small group of houses where a track is joined beside a gate.
Do not go through the gate, but turn left and climb along a track heading towards New Piece Plantation.
Follow the track, through an opening in the trees. At the far side pause to admire the view before continuing downhill towards the prominent spire of Edensor church.
Go down the stone steps on the left of the church and turn right on to the village street.
Go through gates at the end of the village, cross the road and follow the path back to the bridge and onwards to Chatsworth House car park.
A 7 mile (11.25km) moderate walk along grassy tracks, quiet roads and open parkland. Two steady climbs of about 420 feet each (128m). Muddy sections in woodland and especially along the riverside.
Recommended map: Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Outdoor Leisure Sheet 24, The Peak District, White Peak Area.
Refreshments: Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Bakewell.
Suggested public transport: TP (Derby/Buxton Service) to Matlock, followed by the 217 Matlock/Chatsworth Service.
Car parking (pay) at Chatsworth.