Chatsworth House, on the edge of the Peak District in Derbyshire, is a deservedly popular, extraordinary mansion, dating back to the seventeenth century. Owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the house has been updated and expanded over the centuries, but the current incarnation remains a harmonious whole. The four-poster bed where George II died and the Great Dining Room – set as it was for the visit of George V and Queen Mary in 1933 – are showpiece exhibits. Another enduring highlight is the magnificent collection of paintings. Chatsworth displays works by Tintoretto, Van Dyck and Rembrandt, whose Portrait of an Old Man hangs in the chapel. There is a lot to see in the grounds as well: a grotto and artificial waterfall; a nursery and assorted greenhouses; a tour of the sensory garden to stimulate sound, touch and smell; a farmyard, with daily animal handling sessions; and a woodland adventure playground that has water and spiral slides.
An excellent map indicating the location of benches, accessible toilets and varying path surfaces is downloadable from the accessibility page of the website, and also given out on arrival. Parking for Blue Badge holders is clearly marked and free of charge, and drop-offs are permitted at the main entrance. Close by you’ll find an information kiosk, a manual wheelchair collection point (these are free to borrow, but you must book in advance and be aware they may not be available in bad weather), and an accessible toilet. There are further accessible toilets in the restaurant and at the farmyard. For an additional charge, a wheelchair accessible trailer – pre-bookable on 01246 583139 – offers rides to the woods and lakes behind the house, while an adapted golf buggy takes visitors on tours of the garden. All areas, including the entrance to the main children’s attractions – the farmyard and playground – are at the top of the main car park. There is lift and ramp access to the animals, picnic room, café, shop and playground, but the woodland playground has a bark surface. A gently sloping footpath leads to the paddocks and picnic area.
A new lift in the house means wheelchair users now have unrestricted access to the full visitor route through the house. Touch tours of selected exhibits in the north wing and a BSL interpreter can be booked on 01246 565314; these are charged as guided tours, so booking as a group might be a good idea. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the whole estate – including the house. All the refreshment venues and shops have level access and, with the exception of the garden shop, plenty of space. The team at Chatsworth have gone to great lengths to ensure the estate is as accessible as possible: if you have any queries before you visit, they are happy to help on the phone or via the online email form on the website.
Food & drink: Treat yourself to a luxurious brunch, or even a champagne tea, at the award-winning Cavendish Rooms.