Christmas Markets are such a huge thing in the UK now, and I for one love it. I’m a big fan of Christmas, it’s such a special time of year. Even though I’m grown up now, and the ‘magic’ may have faded, it’s replaced with Baileys and spending long-overdue quality time with family and friends. Preferably with Baileys. This year, however, I’ve been struggling to find the fairy dust and get festive. Or rather I was, until I went to Chatsworth House.
Oh my. I have so much love for Chatsworth House Christmas Market and this is only the second time I’ve been. It seemed so much more special this year, partly because The Great Dane and I went as a couple, so it was extra snuggly and lovely. Urg, sick in a bucket, right? Soz. The main reason though, was this year we went in to the house, which I’ve never done at any time of the year. We booked our tickets online in advance, and opted for the Complete Christmas package at £21.90 each. This included entrance to the house, gardens and farmyard (yes!) plus the cost of parking for the market. Plus, it includes a voucher for one half price entry for another visit before the end of April 2017, which we will definitely use. There are other ticket options – one even includes afternoon tea – and family packages. Click here to visit Chatsworth House ticket page
It’s worth knowing that when you book online, you need to select what time you’d like to visit the house. As part of the festivities, the tour is timed, which judging by the number of visitors when we were there, is definitely a good thing to avoid overcrowding. It can also help plan your day, as there is so much to do on the Chatsworth estate on a ‘normal’ day, let alone with the Christmas market. We opted for brunch first in nearby Bakewell. And obviously a Bakewell pudding, not tart (I’ll be writing a little post about Bakewell soon).
It’s only a short drive from Bakewell to Chatsworth House, and we got there about lunchtime. We’d already made the decision to focus on the market, the house and the gardens this time – so the farmyard will have to wait for our next trip.
The Christmas Market itself runs alongside Chatsworth House, up to where the coach house and stables used to be. And it smells delicious! From the spicy glühwein and sizzling sausage to roasting garlic and Christmassy pine, I was beginning to regret eating before we arrived. There are plenty of places to grab a snack, some of which are pretty generous with the portion sizes. The Great Dane still had room to get a hot dog, but there’s also hog roasts, churros, pancakes and so, so many sweet goodies.
I treated myself to a glühwein as we worked our way around the stalls. There are over 100 to visit and, as far as I could tell from speaking to some of the vendors, were all small independents, which made everything a little more special. I recognised a few of the stalls from my last visit, thankfully, as I was searching out a lady who makes cute Christmas cards. A lot of the stalls featured hand-made jewellery or homewares from reclaimed wood, plus smellies, clothes and even gifts for the four-legged members of the family.
We went mid-week, hoping it would be a bit quieter. Although it was busy, we could wander round at our leisurely pace, and the stall-owners still had time to chat to us. The atmosphere is so delightful – I know that sounds so twee, but it’s true. We saw visitors of all ages, and lots of dogs. Perhaps one of the sweetest things at the market, for me anyway, is the brass band. Yes, there’s a brass band that bobs around, playing songs like Bad Romance by Lady Gaga, which is guaranteed to raise a smile.
Chatsworth House Christmas Market runs throughout November.Personally, I’d like it if the market went on in to December, when I’m festive AF, but I also totally understand that those precious few weeks before the big day are so busy for so many people, that it’s probably not practical. After all, I’m sure even the stall owners have to fight over sprouts in Tesco!
I’m not sure if there are enough superlatives to describe the house. I can only really describe it with this phase: decoration envy! Seriously, the trees, the wreaths, the garlands; I just might not bother this year on the basis of how perfectly decorated Chatsworth House is.
Every year Chatsworth House has a theme, so when you visit at Christmas, you won’t see the house as it normally is. This year’s theme is The Nutcracker, and visitors follow the story via a trail through the rooms. Each one more wow-inducing than the last. I’m ashamed to say I’m not that familiar with the story – I can see my dancer friend wincing, sorry! But it honestly didn’t matter. Especially when you’re given a story map to follow through the house which explains what each room is about and tells you a little bit about the story. Plus, for younger visitors, they have a mouse hunt – in each of the rooms you have to find the hidden, mischievous mouse. Yes, of course we took part. The only one we didn’t find was in the chapel, so if you know where it was – please do tell!
Speaking of the Chapel, I think it was possibly my favourite room. The snowflakes floating from the ceiling and catching the light genuinely looked like real life magic. For me, I also loved how they juxtaposed against the religious imagery. This is going to sound really daft, but it made me feel really calm and hopeful. Two things I think everyone needs to feel in the run up to Christmas as it can be such a stressful time.
As you go through each room, and get increasingly jealous at how beautiful the decorations are, staff are on hand to talk about The Nutcracker or Chatsworth House. They’re dressed in costume, and as you’d expect, they’re really helpful and knowledgable.
The photo above is the main hall. Yup. Beautiful isn’t it? A few moments after this photo was taken, a ballerina stood where I was, performing pirouettes.
It took us a good hour to get around the house, and at the end you’re taken to a collection of memory trees, where you can write your own Christmas wishes. Some were funny, others sad, and it really brought home what a heartwarming and heartbreaking time of year this can be.
You finish the tour of the house at the orangery shop. Which, if you’re a bit of a fan of Christmas decorations, you could spend a fortune. I found the prices for most things were really reasonable, but there is so much choice.
With only really half an hour or so to spare, we didn’t get to wander the extensive gardens for as long as I’d have liked, but I’ll make the most of that on our next visit. We did, however, have time to see the Great Fountain in the Canal Pond. Even better, we got to do this as a marvellous pink winter sunset took place which made the house glow.
We also got to see the Cascade, but from a distance. The Chatsworth House Gardens are home to many walks, sculptures, waterfalls and ponds, so I’d recommend checking out the website to work out what you’d like to see most. Or, if you’re like me, don’t and just let it surprise you.
And You’re Off:
If you want to visit Chatsworth House over the festive period, their festivities run until January 3rd 2017. They are closed 24-26th December and also New Year’s Day. During December they also have late night opening of a Thursday and Friday. Ideal if you’re a short drive away and wanted to go after work. Unfortunately the Christmas market finished on November 30th.
Please do let me know if you loved it as much as I did.