With its wide range of Stately Homes and Castles, the Peak District is the perfect place to visit for tourists seeking an inside look of homes of wealth and great luxury. From famed houses such as Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, and Renishaw Halls, to the ancient remains of castles such as Bolsover, and Peveril Castle.
This list contains houses and castles of varying style and condition, some being still occupied by the genesis families, others taken over and looked after by the National Trust. Some of the homes, such as Chatsworth and Renishaw Halls, have been restored to as close to their former glories as possible, offering a fully immersive experience of what life was like for occupants of these noble homes. Others, such as Calke Abbey, have been left nearly totally untouched, creating a somewhat exact, yet eerie look into a bygone era.
Many of the stately homes listed also offer unique museum and library services, showcasing much of the private collections of the families left behind; from the fascinating ‘Eastern Museum’ of Kedleston Hall, showcasing the former lord of the manor’s tours through Asia, to the extensive collection of natural history left behind at Calke Abbey.
Chatsworth – Chatsworth House is an English Baroque-style stately home located in Bakewell, Derbyshire. The 105-acre estate was originally procured by Sir William Cavendish and his wife Bess of Hardwick in 1594 and is today the residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, having been passed down through 12 generations of the Cavendish family.
Through the centuries, Chatsworth has played host to a vast number of the country’s rich and powerful, from noblemen to royalty; most notably, Mary Queen of Scots, who was held prisoner at Chatsworth regularly between 1569 and 1584.
The building has undergone reconstruction regularly since its inception, having been last modified in the 19th Century under the eye of then-Duke of Devonshire, William Spencer Cavendish, who contributed the newest part of the house, the North Wing.
Visitors today can explore over 25 rooms of the history-rich house, which includes restored guest bedrooms, the Victorian theatre, and the sketch gallery. Home also to Devonshire Collections – one of the largest private art collections in Britain – the house boasts paintings and artwork by the likes of Rembrandt, Veronese, and Reynolds, alongside ancient Roman and Egyptian artefacts and sculptures.
The surrounding grounds, too, are worth exploring; complete with an exotic plant-decorated Victorian rock garden, a yew maze, and several bright and decorative floral gardens. For younger age groups, there is a modern wooden adventure playpark. There is also a working farmyard, which offers daily cow milking demonstrations.
Haddon Hall – Haddon Hall is a stately medieval manor house, located on the River Wye, Bakewell. One of the best-preserved examples of its kind, this Tudor style manor showcases the development of British architecture throughout the middle ages, with some of the building even dating back as early as the 12th Century, and even features gargoyles perched around the building’s exterior. Inside, fascinating original murals and a carved-alabaster retablo can be marvelled at, alongside a Tudor-style banqueting hall, set up to look like it would have done in the 14th Century.
Haddon Hall has been used extensively in film and television, including the 1996 film ‘Jane Eyre’, 1998’s ‘Elizabeth’, and, most notably, the 2005 academy-award winning ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
The house is open to visitors all year, with free guided tours happening throughout the day every Monday. The 17th century stable block has been renovated into a restaurant, which offers gourmet food, alongside afternoon tea.
Renishaw Halls & Gardens – Renishaw Halls is a grade-I listed country house near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Originally, Renishaw was a small manor house built by George Sitwell in 1625 and was transformed into the expansive Georgian mansion it is today around the year of 1800. It has remained the property of the Sitwell family for over 350 years.
Inside, the house is bedecked with lovely Italian furniture, while a plethora of fascinating artefacts and relics decorating the halls and rooms, from fine art to Dutch tapestries. There are also a whopping 30,000 rare books kept in the house library.
Outside, the 300-acre garden is divided up into different miniature areas, each with an off-beat name such as the Swimming Pool, or the Ballroom, and each containing exotic plant life, meticulously placed statues and urns, and beautiful fountains. The former stables have been repurposed as a museum dedicated to the Sitwell family, and contains noteworthy items such as portraits and costumes.
Tours of the grounds take place during the summer months.
Kedleston Hall– Kedleston Hall is a National Trust-owned country house located in Kedleston Village, Derby. The Palladian-style building was constructed in 1765 by the then-unknown architect Robert Adam, originally intended to be ‘a temple of arts’ as opposed to a family residence. Despite this, it has housed the the Curzon family ever since.
The interior is truly a neoclassical image of wealth and grandeur; upon entering the north-side of the building, visitors are immediately greeted by a lofty marble hall that’s designed to evoke the allure of a courtyard in a Roman villa; this opens onto the saloon, featuring an impressive glass oculus dome, 62-feet high. Much of the interior rooms have been restored wholly to their original intentions, except from what once was the Great Kitchen, which is now the visitor’s restaurant.
On the ground floor, the hall features the ‘Eastern Museum’, which showcases several interesting objects obtained by George Curzon himself from voyages through Asia during the colonial period, making this an incredibly unique experience for anyone interested in imperial history.
In terms of outdoor space, the gardens are equally as pleasing on the eye as the house’s interior, featuring a neo-classical fishing room – complete with a plunge pool, a viewing tower, a lake, and a small waterfall.
Calke Abbey – Calke Abbey is a national trust-owned country house situated near Ticknall, Derbyshire. On the former site of Calke Priory, Calke Abbey, as it stands today, was built in the early 18th Century by Sir John Harpur and was the formal residence of the Harper family for 300 years. The Harpur heirs had a shared enthusiasm for natural history, and many had vast personal collections – including bones, eggs, deer mounts, and insects – are on display throughout the house.
The family were unable to maintain the house due to financial difficulties, and it was bought by the national trust in 1985. What makes Calke Abbey a truly unique experience is that it has been almost perfectly preserved in a state of disrepair and decay. It exudes the atmosphere of an abandoned building, with empty rooms, untidiness, half-stripped wallpaper, and many of the Harpur family’s belongings left untouched. This is definitely one for the ‘urban explorers’ out there.
Bolsover Castle – Bolsover Castle is in the town of Bolsover, north-east of the English county of Derbyshire, and dates to the 17th Century. The grade-I listed building is currently under the care of the English Heritage Charity and was originally built as a venue for social events and entertainment.
Today, the entrance and the front of the building is merely a shell of what it once was, but it’s not difficult to envision the gargantuan social spaces that were once there, and the lively events that took place within.
Visitors are free to explore the main body of the castle freely, much of which remains intact down to meticulous care over the years. Despite this, guests are welcome to touch anything in the castle, including the ancient frescos, tapestries, and woodwork.
Spectacular views are guaranteed of the surrounding landscape from the exterior wall, which, if walked around entirely, offers a lovely leisurely walk with fantastic scenery.
Younger visitors will no doubt find the ancient castle fascinating enough, however, if not, there is also a playground next to the gift shop.
This site, like many others like it, has become a major attraction for those drawn to supernatural occurrences, and was even voted the spookiest site in the country by English Heritage staff in 2017.
Peveril Castle – The remains of Peveril Castle are located near Castleton Village, Derbyshire, and offers unbeatable views of the Hope Valley. Cared for by English Heritage, the ruins dates to the 11th Century, having been mentioned as a Norman fortress in the Domesday Survey of 1086. The ruins are fun to explore, although a lot of it is closed off, for the time being, due to maintenance. One thing that tends to pique the interest of all ages is that there is a garderobe (medieval toilet!) still intact within the castle grounds.
There’s a small visitor centre containing a shop and few display boards, explaining the history of the castle.