If you’ve ever wanted to become a real-life Mr Darcy and/or Elizabeth Bennett, I can highly recommend a stay at the Hunting Tower, Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
Not only do you get to stay in an imposing building overlooking Chatsworth House and the whole of the Chatsworth Estate, but you get to visit this imposing stately home as many times as you like and enjoy its beautiful grounds long after the day trippers have gone.
Plus, if you really want to go all ‘Colin Firth’ and plunge into some water with your white shirt on, then there is ample wild swimming in the river running through the estate which makes for a fabulous (if bracing) Austen moment. Chatsworth was supposedly the real-life inspiration for Pemberley, Darcy’s country house, and while the BBC adaptation with Colin Firth’s famous plunge in the lake wasn’t in the book itself, there was no way I was going to miss out on the chance to swim next to one of the grandest stately homes in the country.
That was all to come though…
Holiday at the Hunting Tower Chatsworth
I was staying at the Hunting Tower thanks to my friend Anna, who was spending a week at the Hunting Tower with her husband and kindly invited me and my partner to join them for a few days. She’d actually booked the holiday several years ago, only later realising the reservation was for 2023, but it was worth waiting for as our stay coincided with some wonderful weather so we could soak up the sunshine along with the views.
It’s possible to stay on various cottages or ‘Boltholes‘ on the Chatsworth estate, of which the Hunting Tower is far the most striking in design and location. The tall, round, four-storey building stands high on the escarpment which is 400 feet above Chatsworth House stately home, one of the finest stately homes in England. It was completed around 1582 for Bess of Hardwick, ancestress of the Dukes of Devonshire who still live at Chatsworth and whose home and gardens are visited by thousands of people every day. The joy of staying at the Hunting Tower is that, while everyone else has to leave at the end of the day, we got to stay and have the place to ourselves.
The Hunting Tower may have been a banqueting house or summerhouse and, as its name implies, it was also used by the ladies to watch the hounds racing along when hunting in the park below. In modern times it was lived in by members of the estate staff and, most recently, by the Duke’s nephew – famous guests include Prince William, whose photographs hangs on the kitchen wall.
Getting to the Hunting Tower
Anna was instructed to pick up the keys to the Hunting Tower at the nearby Devonshire Arms pub, one of several lovely hotels in the area owned by the Chatsworth Estate, and getting to the Hunting Tower itself is very easy. Day visitors to the estate wishing to visit the Hunting Tower and enjoy its great views across the estate have to walk up a fairly steep path to get there – I reckon it would take around half an hour from the house itself – but we were permitted to drive up all the way up to our front door, where we were greeted by some great views and even some historic cannons guarding our estate.
Inside the Hunting Tower
There are two entrances to the Hunting Tower, making it very handy for people who are sharing with family or friends but still want their own privacy. The steps to the main front door lead straight into the kitchen, while there is another door which takes you down into the lower bedroom.
The kitchen is, like all the other rooms, is completely round, reminding me of Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree books, and kitted out with everything you need, including a large fridge-freezer, an Aga-style oven, kettle, toaster and lots of pots, pans, cutlery, crockery and other essentials.
Steep stone spiral steps off the kitchen (it’s a good idea to hang onto the handrail) take you up to the first floor lounge and the second floor master bedroom, or down to the second, twin bedroom. Both bedrooms are ensuite – there’s a terrific shower in one of the towers off the master bedroom – and having two stone floors between the bedrooms ensures total privacy.
The lounge has a traditional, cosy feel with squashy sofas and armchairs, and a lovely writing corner for aspiring novelists. Thanks to the glorious sunshine, we spent most of our time outside, soaking up the views along with the sun, and the little rope around the Hunting Tower made sure that hikers weren’t tempted to wander inside. It was lovely to chat to people however as they caught their breath at the end of their exertions, and everyone was fascinated by the idea of staying in the tower for a holiday.
The weather was so good that it would have been nice if there’d been a picnic table or some outside seating for residents of the tower as we would loved to have had our meals outside, and instead had to sit on the stone steps for an al fresco breakfast, but it was lovely walking out of the kitchen and having such glorious views right in front of us.
A visit to the house and grounds is a must during any stay at the Hunting Tower and Chatsworth kindly provides complimentary passes for guests. Chatsworth is deservedly one of the most popular stately homes in England and is stunning inside and out. Inside the house itself are works of art that span 4,000 years, from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to work by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash.
There are over 25 rooms to explore, from the magnificent Painted Hall, regal State Rooms, restored Sketch Galleries and beautiful Sculpture Gallery and being a temporary resident meant that we could go back as many times as we liked, which was a good way to see a bit at a time without getting overwhelmed.
The gardens at Chatsworth cover 105 acres and are an excellent mix of formal lawns, wildflower meadows, paths and sculptures to suit your mood: there’s even a maze, a cascade water feature (perfect for cooling off in on a hot summer’s day) and even a market when we visited where we could buy anything from pot plants and art work to hats and Prosecco (I couldn’t resist buying a hat).
Dining at Chatsworth
There was an excellent Chatsworth estate farm shop at the nearby village of Pilsley where we stocked up on lots of delicious meat, cheese, bread and beer (the essentials of a good holiday) so most evenings we enjoyed dining ‘at home’ at the Hunting Tower. One night we ventured further afield and booked dinner at the nearby Cavendish Arms in Baslow, just a short walk or even shorter drive through the estate. It was such a lovely evening that we decided to walk there from the Hunting Tower, arriving just before the heavens opened, and had a lovely meal at its newly refurbished Garden Room.
Chatsworth is extremely handy for a number of lovely towns and villages in the surrounding areas, not least Baslow with its several pubs including the above Cavendish Arms, Bakewell and Matlock. We spent a lovely day exploring Bakewell which has a great selection of shops and a market every Monday and then headed to the nearby Thornbridge Brewery and its excellent tap room. For anyone who is interested in craft beers or who just fancies a drink and a pizza in different surroundings, I would highly recommend a visit, and an onsite shop meant we could load up with beers for our designated driver to enjoy back at the Hunting Tower.
Local drink, local food and our very own Hunting Tower – life at Chatsworth was sweet indeed. There was just one more thing we had to do… frilly shirts and frocks at the ready!
Infomation and to book the Hunting Tower, Chatsworth
There are many choices of accommodation at Chatsworth including Shepherd’s Huts, restored barns and cottages and of course, the Hunting Tower itself – check out the full Chatsworth Collection.
The Hunting Tower sleeps four and due to its steep spiral staircase, probably isn’t suitable for young children, the elderly or those with mobility issues.
Cost of hiring the Hunting Tower: 4 nights midweek from £331 per night, 3 nights over the weekend from £552 per night and 7 night from £315.00 per night
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