Chatsworth Park and Gardens

Explore the landscape created by Joseph Paxton and the 6th Duke of Devonshire; and contrast it with some rugged deer park away from the house




5.4 miles (8.7kms)

655ft (200m)

About the walk

Sitting on the banks of the River Derwent, surrounded by lush green parkland, moors and a backdrop of wooded hillsides, Chatsworth is one of the most elegant and popular of England's stately homes. First opened to the public in 1844 it continues to attract large numbers of visitors.Bess of Hardwick.

Work first started on the house in 1549 when Sir William Cavendish acquired the land and set about building a mansion. He died before it was completed and it was finished by his widow, Bess of Hardwick, who by the simple expedient of marrying four times, each time to a more powerful and richer man, succeeded in becoming the richest woman in England after the queen. She also had built the magnificent Elizabethan house of Hardwick Hall, some 15 miles (24km) to the east and now in the care of the National Trust. Bess left Chatsworth to her son Henry Cavendish, who sold it to his brother William, the 1st Earl of Devonshire. It has now been home to 14 generations of the Cavendish family and is the seat of the current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.

Initially a three-storey Elizabethan mansion, the house has been significantly altered and added to over the centuries. The 4th Earl, who was later made 1st Duke of Devonshire for his support of William III in the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688, practically rebuilt it. Towards the end of the 18th century the 4th Duke had the magnificent baroque stables built and engaged the services of the famous landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown. Brown dramatically altered the 100-acre (40ha) garden that the 1st Duke had created in the 1690s and laid out the 1,000-acre (405ha) park surrounding the house. Magnificent as Chatsworth House is, it is the gardens and parkland that draw visitors back again and again. There are rare trees, sculptures, fountains and gardens, as well as a maze and adventure playground for children.

Impressive fountain

The Emperor Fountain in the long canal pond, built in 1844 by Chatsworth's head gardener Joseph Paxton, is the highest gravity-fed fountain in the world. He designed a 9-acre (3.6ha) lake in the hills above the garden to store water for the fountain. On its journey down 0.5 miles (800m) of pipe to the garden it drops 381ft (116m). Paxton also built a great conservatory at Chatsworth and went on to design the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. Knighted by Queen Victoria, he later became a Member of Parliament and is buried in the churchyard at Edensor. Edensor was mentioned in the Domesday Book, but the 4th Duke had the original village demolished because some of the houses interfered with his view. He rebuilt it as a model village, using local stone, with each building in a different architectural style. It's still home to estate workers and pensioners.

Walk directions

Head to the bottom of the car park, and pass the former Game Larder. Now follow exit signs out to the northern edge of the car park. Take the pedestrian/estate traffic only tarmac track heading north. For the walk extension continue ahead, otherwise, cut across parkland leftwards to Queen Mary's Bower. Head left and back through a gate to the main drive to Chatsworth House then cross the road bridge on your right.

Immediately after the bridge, cross the road and walk downhill to the river bank. Follow the River Derwent past a couple of weirs and the remains of an old mill to the next bridge that carries the B6012 over the river. Go through a metal kissing gate onto the road and across the narrow bridge.

At the bend in the road, take the second of two tarmac tracks on the bend, and to the right of a gatehouse to the estate. Continue uphill, past Beeley Hill Top Farm.

Immediately after the farm, cross a stile on the left taking a concession path across the field. Go through an ordinary gate then a deer fence gate, then bend left on a well-defined path through bracken. This crosses occasional boardwalk and narrows somewhat as it rises. Go through another deer fence, then turn left on to a broad track. Cross the wall into the estate by a high stile and continue to a crossroads.

Go straight ahead and follow the track as it passes the Swiss Lake on the right and then loops round Emperor Lake on the left. When you reach a junction of tracks by a telegraph pole, continue briefly along the main track to reach a crossroads with a tarmac lane. Turn left for the Hunting Tower.

Descend steps in front of the Hunting Tower to return to the tarmac track. Turn left along this, it now takes a long lazy zig-zag downhill, passing what appears to be the remains of an old viaduct (with water cascading from the end in wet conditions), then doubling back. Continue downhill, eventually turning left by the farmyard entrance and down to the car park at Chatsworth House.

Additional information

Mostly good paths and forest trails, estate roads, rougher and sometimes muddy in deer park, narrow road bridge, no pavement at Calton Lees Bridge, 2 stiles

Parkland, woodland and rugged moorland

Keep on lead at all times

AA Walker's Map 1 Central Peak District

At Chatsworth House car park

At Chatsworth

Many of the paths are permissive and may be closed occasionally when special events are running. Check the Chatsworth House website for details.

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About the area

Discover Derbyshire

The natural features of this central English county range from the modest heights of the Peak District National Park, where Kinder Scout stands at 2,088 ft (636 m), to the depths of its remarkable underground caverns, floodlit to reveal exquisite Blue John stone. Walkers and cyclists will enjoy the High Peak Trail which extends from the Derwent Valley to the limestone plateau near Buxton, and for many, the spectacular scenery is what draws them to the area.

The county is well endowed with stately homes – most notably Chatsworth, the palatial home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, with its outstanding collections of paintings, statuary and art. Other gems include the well preserved medieval Haddon Hall, the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, and Kedleston Hall, whose entrance front has been described as the grandest Palladian façade in Britain.

The spa town of Matlock is the county’s administrative centre and other major towns of interest include Derby and the old coal mining town of Chesterfield, with its crooked spire. Around the villages of Derbyshire, look out for the ancient tradition of well dressing, the decorating of springs and wells – the precious sources of life-sustaining water – with pictures formed from flowers.