A Winter Weekend at Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

Ah, Chatsworth.  My home from home.  It feels like so long since I’ve last visited (maybe 3 weeks or so – practically a lifetime!) but we certainly made up for it a couple of weekends ago.

We’d had this particular weekend booked in our diary for a while.  Chatsworth always send a little set of stickers to put in your diary to remind you of important events.  According to my planner, the weekend of the 5th and 6th November was going to be a bit special.  It would combine the opening of the Christmas display in Chatsworth House and their annual bonfire/fireworks event.

As it was a special occasion, we decided to treat ourselves to afternoon tea for the whole family.  We don’t do this as often as we’d like anymore so it’s always much appreciated by the family.  The girls enjoyed tucking in to their sandwiches, scones and cakes while Mr Mess and I hoovered up anything the kids didn’t finish.

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I really am intending tow rite a full review of the Chatsworth afternoon tea, so I’m not going to say too much more expect YUM YUM YUM.  That little tartlet thing was particularly delicious.  Someone order me a crate load.

Tummies full, it was time to head into the house to see the decorations.  The Christmas displays at Chatsworth are the best thing ever, no exceptions. I simply refuse to hear otherwise.  The house is beautiful at any time of year but it becomes simply magical at Christmas time. The theme this year is The Nutcracker.  Moogle was particularly excited as she loves anything to do with The Nutcracker at the moment.  She even dressed up as Clara and took her little nutcracker ornament along with her.

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The Christmas decorations were as beautiful as ever.  There have been many themes over the years but I think this is one of my favourite.  (I’m thinking of doing a list of my Top 5 Chatsworth Christmas themes – another day maybe.)  As you walked through the Entrance Hall, you were greeted by traditional Christmas trees and garlands and of course, plenty of Nutcrackers.

cc1Continuing on, you come to the Chapel, which was possibly one of my favourite rooms.  A mass of glittering snowflakes hung from the painted ceiling, sparkling in the light.  It felt like some kind of winter wonderland and I could happily have sat their quietly for hours.  Sadly, sitting and quietly aren’t in Bug’s vocabulary.

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As usual in a Chatsworth Christmas display, there are so many little details that it would be impossible to see them all in one visit.  For example, I completely missed the little workmen mice, cutting up their cheese.  Luckily, having friends membership means that we can go back again and again, so I’m sure I’ll get plenty of opportunities to look closer.

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The Painted Hall looked spectacular as always.  In comparison with past years, it was quite uncluttered but this is a room that really doesn’t require much adornment.  In only a few weeks, I’ll be standing there, sipping champagne at the annual Christmas Masquerade ball.  It’s one of the most special evenings of the year and I CAN’T WAIT!  Plus, what until you see my costume!  They said evening wear, they didn’t specify a time period!!

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As you moved through the house, the theme changed from the traditional into something more whimsical.  Their interpretation of the Sugarplum Fairy, plump from eating too many sweets, was very different to anything I’ve seen before.  The Grand Dining Hall looked amazing, with its trees covered in candy canes and the dining table transformed into The Land of Sweets.

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The final room, the Sculpture Gallery, was another breath-taking sight.  A stunning tree took centre stage, while silhouettes of dancing ballerinas were projected onto the walls.  I stood their for ages watching them, trying to get a great photo, but Mr Mess took this one in a matter of seconds!

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I really feel like Chatsworth outdid themselves this year with the decorations.  The house looked beautiful and the decorations were plentiful, without feeling cluttered.  The Nutcracker Theme seemed to perfectly compliment the surroundings.  We’re going back this weekend for the Christmas Market (Without the mini-messes) so I’m looking forward to having another good look around.

On the Sunday evening, we returned to Chatsworth for their bonfire and fireworks display. Now, I’ve read a lot of mixed reviews from people about the fireworks.  Some people found it a thoroughly enchanting evening, while others thought it didn’t offer good value for money.

Having been last year, I could certainly see both sides.  If my memory serves me correctly, I paid more for my ticket last year and there was only one fireworks display.  This year, though, I was lucky enough to get the early-bird tickets and so I think I only paid £25 for the three of us (Bug was free!).  The schedule for the evening was a little different to last year, as Chatsworth reintroduced a bonfire to the proceedings and had two, yes TWO fireworks displays.

The gates to the gardens opened at 6pm, but we decided to arrive a little later.  We didn’t see the point in standing around for longer than we had to.  Once we had parked (some distance from the House) and made our way into the gardens, there was only just time to grab some candy floss (or candybloss as Bug calls it) before the bonfire was lit.

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The first of the fireworks displays was especially designed for the children and was themed around Disney Classics.  It started with “Circle of Life” from The Lion King (predictable but effective), “Let It Go” from Frozen (naturally) and finished with “The Bare Necessities” from The Jungle Book.  Being a Disney fan, there was no way this display was ever going to be long enough for me.  I wish they could have gone through more of the Disney music archives, but alas, twas not meant to be.

Having said that, it really was a beautiful display.  The fireworks were quieter than you usually get in professional displays and so was a little gentler on young ears.  Moogle is particularly timid when it comes to the loud bangs, so she really enjoyed this display.

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In between the first and second firework shows, there was plenty of time to wander around the grounds and check out the many, many food stalls.  There was something for every taste from hog roasts, to cornish pasties, to fish and chips.  The food was a little on the pricey side, kind of like festival prices, but that’s to be expected at these kinds of events where you have a captive audience.

We chose to get a couple of portions of chips to share between us and I had a cheeky mulled wine!  Bug was very happy to tuck into her chips and the mulled wine warmed the grown-ups nicely.  In no time at all, the second firework display began.

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This one was MUCH bigger than the first, with bigger fireworks and bigger bangs.  Moogle spent most of the time on Daddy’s shoulders with her hands over her ears.  The show was set to a wonderful mixture of music, from classical to contemporary. The grande finale feature the James Bond theme tune and it really was spectacular!

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Once the show was over there was nothing else to do but make the slow journey back to the car park.  There was a bit of a crush trying to get out of the gardens and it only got worse once we were back to our cars.  It never ceases to me amaze me how impatient some people can be.  I saw the most ridiculous driving – some people even broke down the barriers to attempt to get out quicker.

Nevertheless, the chaotic end didn’t spoil what had been a lovely evening.  Yes, it was very cold.  Yes, there was plenty of standing around but that’s pretty standard for a fireworks event.  The two fireworks displays were easily worth the admission price and if you have to stand around in the cold, you couldn’t ask for more beautiful surroundings.

So, there ended our fabulous weekend at Chatsworth House.  You should probably brace yourself for many, many more Chatsworth posts in the coming weeks.  We have lots of other visits planned, starting this weekend when we check out the Christmas market!

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