Each year we have a Christmas-themed day out - usually to a country house - and this year we chose the beautiful Chatsworth House in Derbyshire to get us into the mood for the festive season.

First thing to say is that it was absolutely the correct place to go - it was simply stunning.

Most of the houses we have visited in the past three years have had a theme, and Chatsworth was no exception, this one being  "Once upon a time at Chatsworth" featuring all the wonderful classic stories from our childhood - so perfect if you want to take your little ones with you when you visit, since the home itself - although stunning - is probably not that interesting for tots.

There were seated areas where a pre-recorded voice-over tape read fairy stories and there were also strolling players reciting stories to visitors as they wandered around the house. 

Look out for classics from Beatrix Potter, Cinderella, the Princess and the Pea (complete with mattresses), Sleeping Beauty, James and the Giant Peach, to name just a few. Pictured above is Arthur the dragon - that's a new one on us and wasn't around when our girls were young!

For us oldies though, looking around the stunning rooms of this gorgeous country pile and marvelling at the beautiful decorations, was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Chatsworth is still the family home the Cavendish family - otherwise known as the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and their families.

Back in the 16th Century, Bess of Hardwick - who later became the Countess of Shrewsbury and the second most powerful woman in the country after Queen Elizabeth 1 - married her second husband, William Cavendish.  They bought Chatsworth Manor for just £600 in 1549, and began to build the first house on the site.

Cavendish died in 1557, and Bess married twice more, latterly to George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, who was appointed as custodian of Mary Queen of Scots, who was imprisoned at various times at Chatsworth.

Bess also built the nearby Hardwick Hall, renowned for its unique collection of 16th and 17th Century tapestries, embroideries and furniture, and which was owned by the Cavendish family until 1957 when it was given to the government in lieu of death duties, and is now operated by the National Trust.

We could obviously write pages about the history of Chatsworth, but if you are interested, there is lots of information available here, here and here, but if you go to the website, the history covers 4,000 years and gives more detail about the house and the fabulous rooms.  

Some interesting snippets however are that during WW11, the house was given over to girls from Penrhos College, Colwyn Bay, Wales since the 10th Duke felt that schoolgirls would be better tenants than soldiers!

Before they arrived, the entire contents of the house were packed away in just 11 days, and in September 1939, 300 girls and their teachers moved in for a six year stay.  The whole of the fabulous house was used - including the state rooms, which were turned into dormitories.

In 1944, Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the late President of the United states John Kennedy, married William Cavendish, Marquess of Hartington and elder son of the said 10th Duke, though sadly he was killed in action in 1944, and she died in a plane crash in 1948.  His younger brother Andrew became the 11th Duke in 1950, and married Deborah Mitford, one of the famous Mitford Girls, and sister of Nancy, Diana, Pamela, Unity and Jessica.

The magnificent house has also played the part of Mr Darcy's magnificent home in Pride and Prejudice, while The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley was also filmed there.

But back to the house and a fabulous day out....

We couldn't help but marvel at the fabulous art works on show and how they have cleverly incorporated the Christmas decorative themes around them. Chatsworth's Devonshire Collection of art is famed for its breadth and is a reflection of the family's eclectic tastes, having been built over a four hundred year period. It encompasses Elizabethan tapestries, superb portraits and bringing the collection up to date, there is even a magnificent golden sculpture by Damien Hirst.

During the Christmas season, there is also a very tasteful Christmas market - no boozy bier kellers here, just wonderful country-themed goodies from lovely scarves to pretty lights, and locally sourced yummy food.  Entrance to the house is timed because it does get very busy from morning until night-time with special events, nativities and twilight tours.

There is plenty to do and see at any time of the year, not just Christmas.  There are country walks around the grounds and gardens, a farmyard, a playground, educational activities and talks, as well as the obvious house tours and even a masquarade ball!  

The estate also hosts weddings, and there is an abundance of local holiday and overnight amenities for the tourist trade, since the House is situated in the Peak District, such a beautiful part of England.

We ended our day out though with another old-fashioned English tradition - afternoon tea, in the Cavendish Restaurant, where we finished our fabulous day out.  Cheers!

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