Hide away deep in the rural belly of the Chatsworth Estate in the Peak District
Waking up to languorous views over the silent Calton Lees valley, air so fresh you can almost drink it, is the norm at Pingle Cottage (sleeps 4) and the adjacent Rye Croft Cottage (sleeps 6). Twenty-five holiday rentals make up Chatsworth Estate Holiday Cottages overall, but just nine are in the Chatsworth Collection. Each property is unique, united by welcoming Prussian blue doors, in which you can turn the key to your very own gold sandstone sanctuary (the same that built Chatsworth House) and enjoy complete privacy and seclusion on one of Britain’s most prestigious, now public estates.
READ MORE: Inside Chatsworth House
Chatsworth has been the seat of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and home of the Cavendish family for almost 500 years, so its walls and fields are bursting with stories of feud, friendship, boom and bust. Visiting the estate today gives you a sense of how these vast, historic English estates fit into a modern world. Today the estate plays an important role as an employer, encompassing 120 tenanted farms, as well as a place of recreation, where visitors are mostly free to wander and explore wherever they please.
Chatsworth Estate Holiday Cottages is one of the estate’s most exciting enterprises. Each barn, cottage and farmhouse has been thoughtfully and generously renovated, and this is evident in both great and small ways. The wood burner at the centre of the living space in Pingle is a force to be reckoned with – no sub-zero temperature drop outside will intrude on your stay with the flame-throwing Piazzetta around. If this wasn’t enough, your toes are guaranteed to be toasty thanks to underfloor heating. Wooden floors, exposed stone walls and beams and what are most probably original flagstone steps all give the barn conversion its character, while original and well-chosen artworks, fabrics and comfortable but quirky furniture give it timeless style. It was obviously a much-loved project – it shows.
All of the Chatsworth Estate Holiday Cottages are fully equipped with everything you will need to hunker down for a long weekend of complete peace and quiet. But if the weather is good, nature calls. Grab the well-thumbed OS map from the bookshelf and lace your boots.
To reach Chatsworth House from Pingle, follow the tinkling tributary down the dirt drive (the cottage’s only car access, so 4x4s are advised). It will deposit you in the lush green basin of the River Derwent, where the golden egg of Chatsworth House is nestled in its crook. It really is that easy. A whole day can easily be spent here. As part of your cottage rental, you’ll receive one complimentary ticket to the house and gardens. Even better, during winter, guests staying on the estate can take the limited availability opportunity to go behind the scenes of this great house and learn more of its ‘Secrets and Surprises’, with a series of private guided tours of this name running between 20 January and 12 March.
Exploring beyond the gilded heart of the 350,000-acre estate, however, is a must. Climb up behind Chatsworth House to Hunting Tower (sleeps 4), another holiday let, with arguably the best views of the lot: you can even glimpse Chatsworth itself just below the lip of its 400-foot clifftop perch. Continuing through Stand Wood and in between Emperor Lake and Swiss Lake, you’ll happen across Swiss Cottage (sleeps 6) in an enviably secluded wood. It almost looks as if it has made out of gingerbread, and Hansel and Gretel might rap at the door at any moment. One of the 6th Duke of Devonshire’s home improvements, it was designed to be an ‘eye-catcher’; admired on carriage rides or walks around the estate.
Behind the wood is a stretch of wild moorland. A good day’s romp with panoramic views can be had between Robin Hood and Hob Hurst’s House. If you continue on down the road from there, you’ll reach The Devonshire Arms at Beeley, a compact, honey-coloured village, where you can relax, recuperate and refuel. The beauty of the Chatsworth Estate’s far-reaching influence is that you are instantly welcomed into a tight-knit community. Though many locals frequent The Devonshire Arms, those staying at the rented properties surrounding it all flock here for food too. Not surprising, really: Generous portions, rich flavours and classic desserts are just what you need after a long, bracing walk. To sweeten the deal, when cottage guests dine at the hotels or inns in The Devonshire Hotels and Restaurants Collection (for example The Cavendish Hotel at Baslow or The Devonshire Arms at Beeley or Pilsley, they receive a 10 per cent discount on food and beverages).
A short walk through an orchard leads you back to Pingle Cottage from Beeley. Or you can stock up on groceries at the farm shop in Pilsley and cook up a locally-sourced storm in the evening. You can get Chatsworth meat, poultry and game here, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables, or arrange for a hamper of essentials (bread, milk, cakes and bakes) to be waiting in your cottage on your arrival day.
For those lucky enough to stay longer than a couple of days, it’s worth venturing to the nearby Derbyshire Dales to explore a different kind of valley. Lathkill Dale, for example, bears the scars of its industrial past with grace and makes for a varied walk, plunging deep into the river’s other-wordly undergrowth – once worked in daily by miners – before climbing steeply back onto immaculate pastures. Buxton and Bakewell are also in the vicinity and well worth a visit, if only to try an authentic cherry and almond tart of the same name.
As the sun disappears behind the forest on the hill and you enclose yourselves inside Pingle for another night, the sound of the resident Tawny Owl will whit-woo you to sleep where you’ll dream of unspoilt pastoral life – only to find it’s a reality when you awake the next morning.
You can browse all of the Chatsworth Estate Cottages Cottages on their website. Their collection grows every year: Dunsa Cottage and Bubnell Barn are the newest additions, available to rent from 24 April.