THERE is a wonderful walk along the River Derwent from the sturdy village of Beeley to Chatsworth House – regularly voted Britain’s best-loved stately home, quite rightly. Take a spring-fevered chihuahua with you – on a lead necessarily, ducks and deer, you know – and it’ll be quite a meander. We found it so on a sunlit March evening as he made the most of his minimal body mass, to pull up for a sniff at every boulder or bush.
'At Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire they even have a Doggie Lounge, which is decorated with velvet dog print wallpaper and pooch paintings'
No limestone upland challenge this route, just an undulating, civilised saunter across manicured grounds. Then you round a corner beyond the weir and there set out before you, like a distant dream, is Chatsworth itself, enduring bastion of the Cavendish dynasty for 16 generations. All mellow stone and glittering windows.
Alas, our chihuahua, Captain Smidge, veteran of many a dog-friendly holiday, is not allowed into the magnificent House, while the 105 acres of gardens are also out of canine bounds. Not that we were expecting our small companion to appreciate the giant red stiletto heel centrepiece of Michael Craig-Martin’s sculpture display that is the artistic highlight of the season. I had expectations of a cocked-leg photo-opportunity, but sadly it wasn’t to be.
Not that we were overly concerned. With dog-friendly breaks there are always limitations. Smidge had to be left in the car when we visited the Chatsworth Farm Shop and he wasn’t allowed into the bar/restaurant at our welcoming base, the Devonshire Arms at Beeley.
But still he loved sharing our room at the inn’s separate Brookside House quarters (overlooking a babbling stream, right) and, even more, snaffling huge chunks of lunchtime minty lamb in the dog-friendly bar of the other estate Devonshire Arms three miles away at Pilsey. And you can’t go wrong round for “walkies” round this corner of Derbyshire. Beeley Moor is great for a romp among the heather and prehistoric barrows.
The Devonshires are pretty good to dogs. At their most celebrated Devonshire Arms (there is a theme here) at Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire they even have a Doggie Lounge, which is decorated with velvet dog print wallpaper and pooch paintings.
En route to Chatsworth along the A6, we had encountered a downmarket but charming version in Disley – at the White Lion, where a whole room is given over to celebrating man’s best friend. Water in a bowl is free but “doggy dinners” are served in return for a donation to the Dogs Trust charity.
The Beeley and Pilsley inns are definitely more upmarket with the mark of Amanda, the design-conscious Duchess all over them. Vibrant colour schemes and contemporary art complement the cosy and country aspects of both places. Beeley became the hotel it is today in 2004, Pilsley five years later.
The style of the latter, all neutral shades and polished wood floors, is very much pub with rooms under the ebullient management of Tracy Miller. It is currently being expanded into a house across the car park.The food, though unpretentious, is casually accomplished, with cask ale mainly from a micro-brewery on the estate, Peak Ales.
We got there early on a windy day, which showed how exposed the village’s situation. We found a sheltered path in a pine wood clinging to a spectacular ridge, which promoted my appetite for a lunchtime steak and kidney pudding. The chihuahua, as we mentioned before, opted for most of my wife’s minty lamb.
Back at Beeley, before a more ambitious dinner with wine in the restaurant/brasserie, I discovered a framed yellowing cutting of a restaurant review I’d done about the place six years ago. I liked it. The same chef/patron Alan Hill is still there. The Cavendishs inspire a loyalty among their employees. Regular visitors, too, show a similar loyalty. Chihuahuas can be more fickle!
Three fun places to visit in the Chatsworth area (you can always leave the dog in the car briefly, with the window slightly open, never on a hot day):
1 The Bookstore at Brierlow Bar
It’s a browser’s paradise. In an airy barnlike structure more than 20,000 (well-ordered) titles in stock covering most subjects, remaindered and often way under half price. They also sell CDs and, bizarrely, a wide range of wild bird food and feeders.
Ashbourne Road near Buxton SK17 9PY (tw0 miles south of Buxton on the A515 to Ashbourne). www.bookstore-uk.co.uk
2 Ibbotsons of Ashford
Pickle heaven for aficionados in this exemplary deli in one of the Peak District’s loveliest villages. They serve a range of goods but the pick is Ken Ibbotson’s home-made hot, crunchy pickled onions.
1 Church street, Ashford-in-the-Water DE451QB. www.homemadepickles.co.uk
3 Haddon Hall
Homely in comparison with magnificent Chatsworth, it was described by Simon Jenkins in England’s 1,000 Best Houses as “the most perfect house to survive from the Middle Ages”.
A mile south of Bakewell, thsi grey, fortified manor house sits among woods overlooking the River Wye. For 200 years until 1921 it lay empty like some castle in a fairy tale until the Duke and Duchess of Rutland resumed residence. A must-see.
DE45 1LA. http://www.haddonhall.co.uk
There are two splendid packages available at the two country inns until December 15, 2104 (Sunday to Thursday only).
Guests booking the Celebrating Chatsworth offer at Beeley will be welcomed with a chilled bottle of Laurent Perrier Champagne, then stay B£B, with a £25 allowance per person for dinner and complimentary tickets to House and Gardens, all for just £109. per person. The Charming Chatsworth offer at PIlsley is great value, at only £54.50 a head B&B, again with entry to House and Gardens.
This season beside the Craig-Martin sculpture show, there are two fascinating exhibitions – Chatsworth In Wartime, exploring what life was like on the Estate for both family and their workers during the First and Second World Wars, and Florabundance, a colourful celebration of all things floral when the house is transformed for the spring flower festival.
To book a stay with the Celebrate Chatsworth at Beeley or Charming Chatsworth at Pilsley ring 01756 71811 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The offers are based on bookings for 2 people in a standard room. A weekend supplement of £20 applies.
Chatsworth House: 30 stately rooms, internationallly renowned art collection, range of shops in The Stables and The Orangery; for youngsters, The Farmyard and Adventure Playground.Book in advance and park for free. Full details, including special events throughout the year, and admission charges, visit www.chatsworth.org.
Dog-friendly Guide To The Peak District: visit this link.
And for a list of dog-friendly pubs in the area visit this link.
For a refreshing bowl of water en route, The White Lion, 135 Buxton Road, Disley SK12 2HA. 01663 762800; Facebook page.
Latest dog-friendly travel news on the site: The Ultimate Ruff Guide.
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