The day before Christmas Eve we ventured out to Derbyshire to visit Chatsworth House, known as the “Palace of the Peaks”, arguably England’s most handsome country house and ancestral home of the Dukes of Devonshire.
The house is stuffed with extraordinary history and the 30 odd rooms are stuffed with one of Europe’s most significant art collections. Sixteen generations of Devonshires have resided here and to say it is grand would be an understatement. However for us it was all about Narnia.
Each Christmas the lower rooms of the house are decorated with a special theme. This year was the 50th anniversary of the death of CS Lewis hence the choice of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Being massive fans of the book and the movie, we just had to go there.
Chatsworth was where Pride and Prejudice was filmed and was Jane Austin’s inspiration for Pemberley, however that’s for another day, today was all about Narnia.
We visited on the last day of the Narnia decor, thinking 2 days before Christmas with gale force winds and rains lashing the UK, we would be one of a mere handful of intrepid travellers who would make this pilgrimage. We envisioned wandering through the empty corridors of the great house, admiring the Narnia decorations unhindered by others. How wrong we were. This was the sight that greeted us before we got through the gates.
We did not give up. A long queue, a longer time finding a parking spot and finally we could leave the car. The 105 acres of grounds, sculptures, maze, farmyard and adventure playground would have been nice, but driving rain and gale force winds put an end to anything outdoors – this was a day to be inside.
So, down to business. The entrance of the house was transformed into London in wartime. Beyond that, we were able to walk through the door at the back of the wardrobe and enter Narnia.
Son was extremely impressed and loved the whole experience. It was beautiful – everything along the next corridor was white with trees, snow, sleighs and a great recreation of the wintery wonderland discovered by Edmund and the others the first time they went through the wardrobe. The guides were in furry costumes and the whole thing was magical.
The house itself is magnificent – the painted ceilings are jaw dropping. We found Mr Tumnus, a gingerbread Christmas tree and in the magnificent Painted Hall was the Ice Palace of the White Witch. Again the ceilings and scale of this room were mind blowing.
We found Aslan, then entered the luscious dining room set for a feast. The attention to detail was superb, Son was thrilled to see the children’s gifts on the table.
A wishing tree, a couple of thrones where children could sit and be crowned then a couple of enormous stone lions marked the end of experience.
We loved the day out at Chatsworth, this is a glorious place and the Narnia theme made it extra magical. It really felt as if the big, grand house had fallen under the spell of the White Witch where it was always winter but most definitely Christmas.