I love any excuse for a research trip so when I managed to persuade my sister and her husband that they would enjoy a few days in Derbyshire looking at houses like Chatsworth and Haddon Hall I was thrilled. We stayed in a pub in the picturesque village of Beeley which is on the Chatsworth estate and a short walk from the great house itself. On our first day we were lucky with the weather and the sun shone. We did the walk which took us along the side of the river Derwent. There were few people about and I couldn't help thinking how beautiful the landscape was with its backdrop of high wooded hills. I'm not quite convinced that Jane Austen transplanted Chatsworth for Pemberley, but these words from Pride and Prejudice came to mind.
Elizabeth's mind was too full for conversation, but she saw and admired every remarkable spot and point of view. They gradually ascended for half a mile, and then found themselves at the top of a considerable eminence, where the wood ceased, and the eye was instantly caught by Pemberley House, situated on the opposite side of a valley, into which the road with some abruptness wound. It was a large, handsome stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills; and in front a stream of some natural importance was swelled into greater, but without any artificial appearance. Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned. Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!
The interiors of Chatsworth are stunning, but I particularly loved the details of rooms and objects and artefacts displayed. This limewood carving by Grinling Gibbons caught my eye, I cannot imagine where he would have even started to make such a carving. I particularly loved the dining room, too, with a table laid out with a beautiful service in green contrasted by cranberry glass.
There is a lovely exhibition on at the moment featuring the costumes from the film 'The Duchess' which is based on the life of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire. There is also a room full of Georgiana's personal belongings and letters which are fascinating to read and a fun room where you can try on some costumes and wigs to transport yourself back in time. Chatsworth featured prominently in the recent production of Pride and Prejudice - the nearest I got to seeing Mr Darcy was the bust they had made of Matthew Macfadyen! But I'm sure fans of the film would not only love to see that but would enjoy wandering round pointing out all the places that were used in the film.
A walk round the gardens is a must though the heavens decided to open as we walked to the cascade. The garden covers more than 105 acres and it is a good idea to take a trip round in one of the special buggies they have. We explored on foot and I didn't mange to see everything I would have liked - I will just have to go again another day.
Last, but by no means least I am excited to show you the cover of my new book, Willoughby's Return, which will be published by Sourcebooks in November. I think it's gorgeous - thank you to the wonderful designers at Sourcebooks! There is more information about the book on my website Austen Effusions and an extract from the book.