We did a loop around including Great Longstone and the Monsal Trail. As we passed through the village and Thornbridge Hall there were opportunities to grab ice lollies and a picnic. Thornbridge Hall itself looked fun with a big play area and cafe but it was packed out so I was glad to be heading off hiking.
The Monsal Trail is a big wide track so handy for families as you can cycle or take a pram. The track used to be a railway so there was a tunnel running through the hill, which we needed as it was a nice break from the heat.
We just did a sling walk so we weren’t stuck on the main trail, which was good as after we crossed this huge bridge we trekked down a steep route to get to the river.
We had a picnic stop by the bridge then walked under and had a splash in the shallow bit of the river then walked up to the main route over the bridge again.
After another steep route after the bridge we were rewarded with this view, then just another 15 minutes back to our campsite.
Rating : We didn’t go for a long or challenging walk, but even so I would have been way too tired carrying Emily on my own on a hot day. Plus the navigation would have been stressful. But as a group trip this was really fun and had lots of variety to keep Emily interested so 10 out of 10.
TLDR : Stayed in the fanciest tent on a lovely campsite because I am too high maintenance for actual camping.
Back in June we had a couple of nights break with my sister, her boyfriend and my dad.
Although the idea of camping is fun I am permanently cold so need a tent fitted with a radiator and log burner. Whereas my sister can survive a couple of nights in a tent with no heating, fortunately Dale Farm Campsite do both.
This was where we stayed:
Each plot is marked out with loads of free space and wild flowers marking each area, if you like camping information then there were plenty of water taps dotted around and space to park by your tent. There was a 10pm quiet rule and no music to be played, so good for families and people who don’t want to be around annoying noisy groups.
My sister stayed at the top of the hill which didn’t have many plots so it was even more spread out and quiet, but look at the view:
The campsite had just renovated a barn into the shower / toilet / pot wash so everything was new. They also had a mini farm shop (with an honesty box / honesty PayPal account) to buy local bacon, sausages and egg, as well as fire pits to hire.
As it is a working farm we were surrounded by fields of sheep and cows, the barn is up against the camping field so we got to see all of the lambs being herded in one morning. It is also just an excellent location, surrounded by rolling hills and no noise other than the birds. The site itself was kept really well:
We had great weather so had a BBQ, outdoor full English breakfast and plenty of time sat by the fire playing games.
It was a short walk from the Monsal Trail and a 15 minute drive to Chatsworth so really handy, we also walked to the pub one night so everyone got to have a drink.
Overall it was the perfect compromise for a child who loves the idea of camping with a parent who is completely unable to handle actual camping.
Rating : for anyone else 10 out of 10, for high maintenance people who cannot sleep well unless the room is pitch black and the perfect temperature 8 out of 10.
TLDR : if Disney did stately home farms they would make this. Bloody loved it.
As you can see from the photos I was biased by the gorgeous weather we had in June. But I still think it is excellent.
Just pulling up to the estate I was a little mind blown by the size of the place. The huge parkland and ancient oak trees, the ridiculous sized house, enormous fountains in the background.
A little history
I say a little as it really is a little. The Chatsworth family come from Bess of Hardwick who lived within view of the estate at Hardwick Hall. Born to an impoverished family she ended up being the second wealthiest woman of her time, after Elizabeth the 1st, as she survived four different wealthy husbands and raked in the inheritance every time.
When Bess married her second husband (20 years older and very rich) she didn’t fancy his land in Suffolk so convinced him to buy Chatsworth in her home of Derbyshire. At this point he was Sir William Cavendish but later their descendents became Dukes and got insanely wealthy and built the huge Chatsworth, running out of bricks and having to take a load from the Old Hardwick Hall which is still in ruins now.
For a while they used Chatsworth as a prison for Mary Queen of Scots. And the only interesting thing I know since then is Debo Mitford (quite a long bit after).
Debo is one of six sisters:
Nancy wrote The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate
Pamela divorced her millionaire husband so she could spend the rest of her life with an Italian horsewoman (contraversial for an Edwardian born woman)
Diana married a fascist and spent time in Holloway prison
Unity was obsessed with Hitler and shot herself in the head when Britain declared war on Germany
Decca was a communist
Debo initially seemed the boring one. She married a second son who wasn’t due to have much money and her family could barely afford her wedding trousseau. But three years after marrying Andrew his elder brother died in the war and they then became Duke and Duchess.
As well as a novelist who was involved in politics she loved the estate and used to hang out in the farm shop and give people tips on how to cook a joint of meat. The family own ridiculous property including Bolton Abbey and the numerous hotels and pubs, some of which she insisted be decorated in crazy bright colours she thought would be fun.
Unfortunately she died a few years ago, at 95 years old, so you won’t meet her in the shop now.
Back to the point
When you park up the first place you pass through is the courtyard. It’s technically just somewhere for the family to leave their horses and carriages, but it is insane. People get married in the stables, there is a huge cafe, restaurant, multiple shops, loads of outside seating and statues and water features.
In the context of a huge tourist attraction it makes sense, but it is a bit mind blowing to think it was originally just somewhere to house one family’s horses.
We didn’t go in the actual house and grounds as the farm seems more toddler appropriate, and you do not have time to do it all.
The farm itself is set up the hill a little, presumably to not get in the way of the view from the house. Even though it is a tucked away working unit, you can tell it was used by a wealthy family as all the buildings are still fancy (for a farm).
Covid meant the shop was closed but there was a coffee shop with decent espresso and ice cream.
The animals were pretty friendly and we could feed this guy:
And his little mates:
I got a bit keen and took a stupid amount of animal photos that day. But there were plenty of things for Instagram addicts, for example this shiny red tractor:
Toddler fun things
Photo opportunities aside it was really fun for children. They had an area set aside with cars and tractors that we spent way too much time in.
Up the hill again there was a huge play area with big kit for older kids with big climbing and zip lines:
But they also had a really good toddler area with a huge sandpit with a hand pump coming out of the stream running along the back: