Elvaston Country Park is one of the oldest country parks in the country, which boasts the even older gothic-revival Elvaston Castle as its centrepiece and offers 200-acres worth of pleasure gardens perfect for exploring, jogging, and relaxing. Boasting all the splendours of a Victorian-era pleasure garden, Elvaston Castle Country Park features a labyrinth of topiary, exotic flowerbeds, and secluded, secretive gardens, all laboriously landscaped by former head gardener, William Baron, during the 18th century.
The grounds were the home to the Earls of Harrington, the Stanhope’s, for nearly 400 years, and each consecutive heir to the lands added their own touch, either to the lands or the gardens, making the present Elvaston Castle Country Park the product of four centuries worth of ideas and innovation. Opened as a Country Park in 1970, the park has been enjoyed for half a century as a place tranquillity and leisure.
Visitors are free to explore the grade-II listed extensive parklands and follow the bridleways through walled gardens, nature reserves, and past the Moorish temple, ha-ha wall, and rockwork structures, while taking in the imposing gothic castle from all angles.
On site there is also a children’s playpark, an information centre, and a gift shop.
The grounds of Elvaston Castle, alongside the neighbouring parishes of Thulston and Ambaston, is thought to have originally played host to Vikings, with the remains of a settlement within the gardens evident, estimated to be dating to around 900AD.
The great survey of England, the Domesday Book of 1086, describes Elvaston as being in the possession of Geoffrey Alselin, one of the King’s barons. Later, the land become the ownership of the Shelford Priory, who maintained it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
The estate was sold by the crown to its long-term owners, the Stanhope’s of Rampton, first in 1538 to Sir Michael Stanhope. The property was inherited by his son, Sir John Stanhope, who in turn passed it onto his second son, also named Sir John Stanhope, who set to work on constructing the manor house, originally designed in an Elizabethan-style.
Tweaks were made to the castle in the subsequent centuries, with a major reconstruction taking place in the early 19th century; renowned neoclassical architect, James Wyatt, was hired by then-heir, Charles Stanhope, to both extend the property and also update it to the then-vogue gothic revival style. Wyatt added the the new wing and the grand hall, but his untimely death left the project half complete; it was continued instead by Robert Walker from 1815 to 1829, and the final altercations were completed by Lewis Nockalls Cottingham in 1836.
The gardens were redesigned under the eye of the Fourth Earl of Harrington, Charles Stanhope, who hired the landscaper, William Baron, to design and maintain the intricate formal gardens, from the Tuscan-inspired Italian Garden to the temple-topped Alhambra Garden – all of which appears much the same today.
The Stanhope dynasty moved out of Elvaston at the advent of war in 1939; the house was utilised as a teacher training college until 1947; after which, the house remained empty for two decades.
The estate was briefly owned by a mineral extraction business; luckily, before this company got the chance to dig any holes into the landscape, and following the Countryside Act of 1968, the estate was procured by Derby Borough Council, and converted into one of the first ever ‘country parks’, which was open for public recreation in 1970.
Things to do at Elvaston Castle Country Park
Explore the Country Park – Elvaston Castle’s formal gardens and expansive parklands offers a plethora of activities for visitors of all ages. Meticulously designed by William Baron in the 19th century, this 200-acre pleasure garden boasts some fascinating examples of topiary and stonework throughout, while showcasing some of Baron’s innovative landscaping and design, from the Moorish Temple, to the ha-ha wall, and the surrounding golden gates. The garden is the perfect place for walking, jogging, and cycling, with numerous paths and bridleways stretching the length of the park, and alongside its nearby nature reserve. There is also a lake, a children’s play park, and numerous picnic areas throughout.
Information Centre and Shop – Found through the archway underneath the clocktower, the Elvaston Information Centre and Shop is where you’ll find expert staff, who can detail all there is to know about Elvaston Castle and the surrounding gardens; you’ll also find a gift shop, boasting a range of souvenirs, greetings cards, and picnic blankets. The shop also offers hot and cold drinks, alongside a selection of snacks and ice creams.
Old English Garden – Get lost in reverie at Elvaston’s Old English Garden, which is a guaranteed to offer peace and tranquillity even on the Castle’s busiest days! Landscaped by William Baron during his tenure as head gardener to the Stanhope’s, the English Garden maintains its Victorian-era elegance, and boasts a lovely selection of flowerbeds and some examples of topiary. A small corner of the garden has also been converted into a sensory garden.
Wyatt’s Tea Rooms –Named after the leading architect who helped turn Elvaston into the gothic revival masterpiece it is today, the Wyatt Tea Rooms is found inside the castle itself – next to the courtyard – and boasts terrific views of both the castle and surrounding pleasure gardens. On top of an extensive coffee and tea menu, the Wyatt’s Tea Rooms also offers light lunches in the form of filled rolls, ciabattas, and samosas, and soups; confectionaries and ice creams are also available.
How to get there
By Car – Heading northward along the M1, take junction 24a onto the A50. In roughly 5 miles, take the 2nd junction onto a slip road that is signposted as Alvaston/Derby. Follow this for 1 mile until a roundabout is reached, at which point, turn right onto the B5010 – which will have Elvaston Castle Country Park signposted. The park will appear on your left after roughly one mile.
Postcode for Satnav – DE72 3EP
Carpark – Upon entering the Country Park, a carpark will appear on your right. It charges £1.60 for 2 hours, £3 for four hours, or £4.80 for the full day.
Public Transport – There is no bus service that stops nearby. Unfortunately, the nearest railway station is Derby, which is 5 miles away.
Good to Know
– There is no tour of Elvaston Castle available, however, the main Gothic Hall can be hired out for weddings or other events.
– There is plenty of picnic space throughout the gardens.
Opening Times and Prices
The Country Park is open all year round, seven days a week.
October to March – 9am – 5pm
April to September – 9am – 8pm
Entry is free!