A Particularly Charming Time – Part II: Winchester, Bath and Lacock

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Outside Winchester Cathedral

So… what day is it?

This was a frequent question during the three days Ada Bright and I spent together on our trip last month to celebrate the launch of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen. For me and my husband, this was more about being on holiday and easily losing track of the day of the week once out of routine.

For Ada and her husband, it was down to having left LA on a Monday and arriving in the UK on a Tuesday… except for them, it was still Monday!

So, after our busy morning in Alton and Chawton straight after arriving at Heathrow, it’s no surprise things were getting confusing! We arrived in Winchester at lunchtime (at least, our lunchtime. For our friends, I think it was still the middle of the night!) It was raining a little, so we headed straight to The Wykeham Arms, a lovely pub and restaurant tucked away behind the cathedral and just around the corner from the house in College Street where Jane Austen spent her final days and sadly died on 18th July, 1817.

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Jane Austen’s Grave

The friendly staff serve delicious food here, but it also has a huge amount of charm. The tables in the main bar are old school desks (from Winchester School, I believe), with old-fashioned lamps above them. There are interesting things on every wall, shelf and even the ceiling – you almost don’t know what to look at first (after you’ve consulted the menu, of course)!

After lunch, we meandered back into College Street and some welcome sunshine and followed the route of Jane’s last journey back to the cathedral and went inside. There are many impressive churches and cathedrals, and Winchester is no exception, having the longest nave and greatest overall length of any Gothic cathedral in Europe!

We paid our respects at Jane’s grave, as you do, carried out a little research and recording for what may be the next book and then made our way through the town and back to the car for the onward journey to Bath, our base for this short trip.

Outside No 4 Sydney Place

Outside No 4 Sydney Place

Soon settled into our lovely apartment just off Great Pulteney Street, we made a quick trip across the road to say hello to No 4 Sydney Place (the venue for the book launch party later in the week).

Then, it was a quick raid on Waitrose for essential supplies for the apartment (wine, rum, vodka, biscuits, cereal, popcorn and lots of Cadburys!) before heading into town to… yes, you’ve guessed it: have another meal!

One of the fun things about setting a story in a place that actually exists, like Bath, is choosing the places where your characters will act out their scenes and, of course, have those all important meals where significant conversations are taking place!

This was something we enjoyed looking into in April 2015 when plotting out the book (and we made sure to visit many establishments, all the in the name of research, of course!)😉  Our first stop had to be Hall & Woodhouse, especially as it features in not one but two particular scenes in the story.

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Relaxing in Hall & Woodhouse as we await our food!

Hall & Woodhouse is housed in a fabulous building on Old King Street, tucked away just off the north-east corner of Queen Square. It’s in a former warehouse and offers a huge ground floor bar area, an upstairs restaurant and a roof-top terrace with views over the rooftops of Bath – perfect on a summer evening. They do great food and there’s a relaxed, friendly atmosphere at all times of the day.

This particular day, however, had been long, and all that was on our minds was sustenance. Soon fed and watered, my husband and I shepherded our two tired travelling friends back to the apartment, where we could relax and reflect on our busy first day and make plans for the next one!

The following morning, once we had established that it was a Wednesday (it took some debate!), we headed out to Wiltshire to visit the village of Lacock.

Outside the Red Lion Inn (featured as the Meryton Assembly Rooms)

Outside the Red Lion Inn (featured as the Meryton Assembly Rooms)

Lacock is a small village owned entirely by the National Trust. It has played a starring role in many film and television productions, including, of course, as Meryton in the iconic 1995 TV series of Pride & Prejudice.

After having some lunch in one of the village pubs (I’m beginning to wonder if this should have been a gastronomic tour!), we strolled around, paying our dues to the Red Lion Inn as we passed (location of the Meryton Assembly Rooms in the aforementioned series) and then walked back to explore Lacock Abbey.

The abbey has also been used in several productions, not least hosting a few scenes from the Harry Potter film series. At the time of our visit, the great hall had a display of costumes from The Hollow Crown starring, amongst others, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dame Judi Dench.

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Lacock Abbey

Adjacent is the Fox Talbot Museum which tells the story of the history of photography, and we also explored this before leaving for Bath in time for a quick freshen up. It was then time to go out to meet friends who had started to arrive in Bath for the impending book launch party on the following day!

Our friend, Chrystal, had flown in from Texas, and she joined us in The Boater, a traditional pub located in Argyle Street, just off Laura Place, for a quick, pre-dinner drink (yet more locations for scenes in the book, of course!) before we walked into town to meet with another friend, Julia, who had travelled over from Sussex.

We had a fun meal in Bill’s Restaurant (yes, you’ve guessed it!) before being joined by Rachel and Rob from Harrogate. I do believe we made quite an evening of it and were the last people to be kicked out… er, I mean asked to leave!

And so ended the second of our three days. More later…

More information on The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen can be found at our Blog, Tabby Cow, here, including a couple of excerpts from the book!

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All photo credits go to: Ada Bright, Cass Grafton, Steve Scheidler

 

 

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A Particularly Charming Time – Part I: Chawton & Alton

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Trying on bonnets at the Jane Austen House Museum

Well, what a whistle-stop week we enjoyed recently, celebrating the launch of our new novel, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen! So much happened in so little time, but I’m finally taking time to look back on a wonderful few days spent with some very special people!

It all began early on the Tuesday morning, when my husband and I met my co-writing partner and dear friend, Ada, and her husband, at Heathrow airport. It had been more than a year since Ada and I had last met – back in April 2015 – when we got together in the beautiful city of Bath to map out the plot for our book, defined the main characters – their names, ages, backgrounds and appearances (cue a rather enjoyable hour or so on Google Images!) – and started writing the opening scenes.

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Chawton Cottage

Despite having flown in from LA, Ada and her husband were up for anything, so we headed straight for Hampshire. Two scenes in the book are set in Chawton, where the Jane Austen House Museum (Jane’s former home) is, but Ada had never been there. With the word ‘sequel’ whispering in our heads already, it seemed important to let her experience the village first-hand at last!

Joan Coat

Joan in her stunning coat!

Before that, however, we had our first joint book signing with the lovely Joan Mossop. Joan runs a beautiful B&B, St Mary’s Hall, located on the outskirts of Alton and only a mile’s level walk to the picturesque village of Chawton. She welcomed us warmly, plied us with hot drinks and biscuits, and modelled for us the gorgeous coat she recently purchased for her son’s wedding!

Then, it was time for us to sign a copy of the book for her – I felt incredibly self-conscious, but with Ada by my side and her husband ‘directing’ us, we managed to get some lovely photos of a very special moment!

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St Mary’s Hall (photo from website)

If you’re ever visiting the area, we cannot recommend Joan’s B&B highly enough! It’s housed in a converted chapel – full of character but with every luxury you could hope for! It has a charming garden, parking, excellent WiFi and a fridge for chilling your wine. What’s not to like?! As if that wasn’t enough, it is, as previously mentioned, located an easy walk from Chawton, as well as from Alton town centre, where there are plenty of pleasant hostelries (though we must give a special shout out for the excellent George Inn!) The welcome from Joan could not be warmer or the breakfasts more delicious! I’m lucky enough to have stayed there around half a dozen times in the last 6 months or so, and I can’t wait to go back!

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Great time of day to visit – nice and quiet!

We said our farewells, and drove the short distance to Chawton (not having the leisure of time to enjoy the walk), and before long we were living and breathing a scene from the book as we entered the beautiful, peaceful cottage gardens and then the house.

It’s always a moving place for me to be, though rarely melancholy, except for when I stand in the small room on the upper floor and read Cassandra Austen’s letter of Jane’s final hours and her feelings over her loss. I can feel Jane all around me here, and it’s a comfort more than any other emotion.

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On the drive to Chawton House Library

We then headed down the lane to visit St Nicholas’ church, where another key scene is set. Ada took a seat on a significant bench, a very special moment, which you’ll ‘get’ if you’ve read the story! We also ventured inside the church and then visited the graves of Jane’s sister and mother.

Then, with a last glance down the drive to Chawton House Library (known to Jane as ‘the Great House’), we clambered back into the car and headed for Winchester and more welcome refreshment!

To be continued next week in Part II: Winchester & Bath…

 

More information on The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen can be found at our Blog, Tabby Cow, here, where there’s also a double giveaway still running until Sunday, 31st July!

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Photo credits (unless otherwise stated): Ada Bright, Steve Scheidler, Cass Grafton

 

 

 

 

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Now Available! The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen

split pileIt’s finally here!

So delighted with my delivery of books, and so excited to say that The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen is now available!

It’s a contemporary mystery-cum-romance, set in the beautiful city of Bath during the annual Jane Austen Festival – with one particularly special attendee!

We hope you’ll give the story a try! Full details are available on our Blog, Tabby Cow, which can be found here.

We have plenty of deleted scenes which ended up on the cutting room floor which we will be sharing over coming months on the Blog too, along with all the news from Bath next week, where we will be holding the official launch party of the book’s release at No. 4 Sydney Place.

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Pre-Order Now Available for The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen!

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We’re just over a week away from the official release date of our new novel, The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen, and the book is now available for pre-order from all the usual online book stores (links below)!

There are TWO chances to to win copies of the book tomorrow over at Tabby Cow, our new Blog, as well as other gifts (open internationally) and further chances to win coming up as we visit the following Blogs, where you can also learn more about the story as we talk about the characters, the setting and share excerpts:

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Ada’s map of key locations in the story

1st July – Jane Austen Sequels

5th July – More Agreeably Engaged

11th July – Austen Variations

18th July – Diary of an Eccentric

Other dates to be announced soon!

The Blurb:

What is The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen about?

Well, it raises a question: what might life be like if something had prevented Jane Austen from ever publishing any of her books? Our heroine, Rose – a dedicated Janeite – is about to find out!

When the story opens, it’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the Jane Austen Festival, an annual celebration of the famous author and her works.

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The location of Jane Austen’s main Bath residence

Rose, a Bath resident as well as an avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and for the Festival to start, but she’s unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

~o0o~

The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen pre-order links:

Amazon.com (Kindle)

Smashwords  (for all eBook format, including Kindle, Nook, Kobo, iBooks, PDF etc)

Barnes & Noble (Nook)

Kobo 

iBooks (for iPad, iPhone etc)

~o0o~

We hope you will join us over the coming weeks as we celebrate the release of the book on 7th July 2016!

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Cover Reveal, Giveaways and More!

I’m so excited to be able to reveal the cover for our upcoming release (July) of The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen!

My writing partner, Ada, produced the images for this cover and, in the hands of our talented designer, Kevin Rylands, they became this gorgeous combination:

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We love it, and we hope you love it too!

What’s the book about? Well, it’s September, and the city of Bath is playing host to the annual Jane Austen Festival, a celebration of the famous author and her works.

Rose Wallace, Bath resident and avid Jane Austen fan, can’t wait for her friends to arrive and the Festival to start, unaware one of the recently arrived guests will turn her life upside down by sharing with her a secret that ultimately puts Jane Austen’s entire literary legacy at risk.

With the support of a displaced two hundred year old author and a charmed necklace, can Rose help to bring back some of the most beloved stories of all time and turn her own life around in the process?

~oOo~

We’ve a series of guest bloggers lined up for our Blog, Tabby Cow, in the run up to publication in early July, and there will be lots of giveaways too, so please follow us over there to have multiple chances to win prizes and copies of the book.

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The Particular Charm of Miss Jane Austen

I’ve been in self-imposed hibernation this past 12 months, but for very exciting reasons.

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Bath

A year ago this week I was in Bath, England, meeting with my friend, Ada Bright, and we were sketching out our plot and characters for a co-written novel we planned to work on (title above). The book is now finished and is in the hands of the proof readers, formatters and cover designer, and we can’t wait to start telling people about it!

As a result, we’ve started a new joint Blog called Tabby Cow (yes, it’s a strange name, but the reasoning behind it seems perfectly logical to us!) and you can find it here.

It’s nothing like my first venture into publishing a few years ago. The story is a contemporary mystery-cum-romance, set at the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath, and the only Mr Darcy in it has four legs – furry ones!

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Ada and I in Bath, April 2015

You can see the blurb for it on Tabby Cow here – and aside from writing it for ourselves, it’s also for fans of Jane Austen, the city of Bath and friendship. We hope you’ll join us for the undulating ride towards publication this summer by following our exploits over at Tabby Cow!

 

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The Darcy Brothers Virtual Book Launch Party with Authors, Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds

Exciting news!

I am delighted to announce the release today of The Darcy Brothers, a story co-written by five Austenesque authors (including me!)

Come and enter the fab giveaways at Austenprose and follow Theo Darcy as he goes ‘on tour’ (but shhh, don’t tell his brother!!!)

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

The Darcy Brothers by Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds We are very pleased to welcome Monica Fairview, Maria Grace, Cassandra Grafton, Susan Mason-Milks and Abigail Reynolds to Austenprose for the official virtual book launch party of their new novel The Darcy Brothers, released today by White Soup Press.

Inspired by Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, The Darcy Brothers is an original variation based on Austen’s classic in which Mr. Darcy has a charming younger brother named Theo who meets Elizabeth Bennet and vies for her affections. Written by five Austenesque authors, you may well ask, as we did ourselves, how they could pool their talents and create one novel together? Abigail Reynolds has kindly supplied a revealing guest blog to share the experience with you. And, any  celebration would not be complete without gifts. Please enter a chance to win one of the four fabulous prizes being offered by their publisher by leaving a comment. The giveaway details…

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Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds: A Jane Austen Jewel Box Novella, by Jane Odiwe – A Preview & Exclusive Excerpt

Jane Odiwe is one of my favourite Austen-inspired authors (and artists!), and I am delighted to say she recently released a new novella, Mrs Darcy’s Diamonds. There’s a lovely excerpt and some background to the story over at Austenprose, an excellent Austen-related Blog with all sorts of interesting and entertaining posts relating to everything to do with Jane Austen. Just follow the link, sit back and enjoy!

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

Mrs Darcys Diamonds by Jane Odiwe x 200We are very happy to introduce you to Austenesque author Jane Odiwe’s new novella called Mrs. Darcy’s Diamonds, just published last month by White Soup Press. Jane tells me that she loves Georgian-era jewellery, and thought it might be fun to write a series of books with a jewellery theme, and have every piece different. She imagined there would be some family jewels at Pemberley, and that a ring given to Elizabeth by Mr. Darcy could help create much tension and drama for a wintry tale.

PREVIEW (from the publishers description)

Elizabeth is newly married to Fitzwilliam Darcy, the richest man in Derbyshire, owner of a vast estate, and master of Pemberley House. Her new role is daunting at first, and having to deal with Mr Darcy’s aunt, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, is a daily challenge. But, Elizabeth is deeply in love and determined to rise to every test…

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Jane Austen’s First Love Virtual Book Launch Party & Blog Tour with Author Syrie James, & Giveaways

Fabulous news! A new novel from the talented Syrie James! Read on for some delicious background on how the story evolved, an excerpt and some great giveaway prizes!

Austenprose - A Jane Austen Blog

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I am very pleased to welcome author Syrie James to Austenprose today to officially open her virtual book launch party and blog tour of Jane Austen’s First Love, published by Berkley Trade. This new Austenesque novel is a fascinating combination of fact and fiction, exploring the first romance of fifteen year-old Jane Austen with the handsome and sophisticated Edward Taylor. 

Syrie has generously offered a guest blog sharing her inspiration to write her new book—and to add to the festivities—we will be offering an amazing selection of giveaways including: trade paperback copies of Jane Austen’s First Love, a muslin tote bag stuffed with Jane Austen goodies, and a specially commissioned painting inspired by the novel. Just leave a comment following this blog post to enter. The contest details are listed below. Good luck to all. 

Please join us in welcoming Syrie James.

The inspiration for my…

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Three Shades of Pemberley!

I recently spent a busy five days in the northeast of England, ending my trip with a day in Derbyshire before flying home.

My mission? To visit three different ‘Pemberleys’ in one day! With the lack of time available, these were exterior ‘gardens and grounds’ visits only, but as interiors are often located elsewhere in Austen adaptations, it seemed a fair compromise!

The lawn where Lizzy is walking when Mr Darcy appears

The lawn where Lizzy is walking when Mr Darcy appears

As I was driving from Harrogate in North Yorkshire to Manchester Airport, my journey took me south and then east to west across the Peak District. My first stop, therefore, was Renishaw Hall and Gardens at Renishaw in Derbyshire.

This was a real find! The property has beautiful, classical, Italianate gardens, woodlands and a wider parkland with lakes. Though laid out in its present form by Sir George Sitwell at the end of the 19th century, it was used as the exterior and grounds for Pemberley in the BBC’s 1980 production of Pride & Prejudice.

The steps which the Gardiners and Lizzy took to begin their tour of the grounds

The steps which the Gardiners and Lizzy took to begin their tour of the grounds

The lawned gardens and flower beds are a delight, bordered by clipped hedges, stone statues and laid out as though in a series of outdoor ‘rooms’, with steps between the levels, fountains, and views across extensive parkland from the boundary. However, although I followed the path to the lakes, I could not see any resemblance to the waterside location where Mr Darcy later catches up with the visitors , so I suspect it may have been filmed elsewhere.

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The hedge around which Mr Darcy appears!

The gardens were incredibly peaceful and so beautiful in the warm sunshine. I could have lingered for hours, but alas it was not to be. As it was, I consoled myself by indulging in a cup of tea and slice of cake in the stables café before reluctantly tearing myself away, determined to revisit another day when I had more time available.

Back in the car, I headed west across the Peak District to my next stop: Chatsworth!

Chatsworth House near Baslow is actually mentioned in Pride & Prejudice and there has long been speculation over whether it was Jane Austen’s model for Pemberley. The description of its situation is certainly reminiscent of the house’s location:

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (see photo credit below)

Chatsworth House, Derbyshire (see photo credit below)

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… they descended the hill, crossed the bridge, and drove to the door.
Pride & Prejudice, Volume Three, Chapter 1

However, I’ve recently attended a couple of talks on houses in Jane Austen’s works, and both of these, along with some further reading, has led me to suspect it is unlikely she envisaged it as such – Mr Darcy’s £10,000 a year, according to the experts, would be insufficient to support such a vast estate as Chatsworth.

Hot house at Chatsworth

Hot house at Chatsworth

Despite this, it is a wonderful place and certainly very pleasing to the eye! Exterior shots of the estate were used in the 2005 film of Pride & Prejudice, and include the Gardiners and Lizzy’s arrival to tour the property and Lizzy’s dash down the stone steps to get away from Mr Darcy when she is caught spying on his reunion with his sister.

I stopped for a quick lunch (soup and yet another cup of tea!) in the Stables Restaurant and left Chatsworth with a sigh of contentment. It never fails to cheer me, and I look forward to returning whenever the next opportunity presents itself.

Lyme Park, Cheshire

Lyme Park, Cheshire

My final destination before heading for Manchester airport was Lyme Park, known to all Colin Firth’s Darcy fans as Pemberley in the popular 1995 television series of Pride & Prejudice.

The gardens date back to 1570, but the original heather moorland was only developed and tamed after the Legh family came to Lyme in 1643, one of the first creations being the avenue of Lime trees. Gravelled walks followed, along with bowling greens and tennis courts, hot beds and greenhouses.

The stepped walk where Darcy and Lizzy talk

The stepped walk where Darcy and Lizzy talk

 

In 1687, a canal and fountain were added, allegedly influenced by enhancements on the Chatsworth estate. There then seemed a lull in the gardens’ development until 1813, at which time they were remodelled and the orangery begun. An Italian garden was developed in 1860, but this later became the Dutch garden due to the planting of many beds of tulips. The rose garden and herbaceous borders were not added until the early 20th century.

The only downside to Lyme Park being depicted as Pemberley is in its location! It isn’t in Derbyshire, but in the neighbouring county of Cheshire!

Darcy's steps!

Darcy’s steps!

I had no time for indulgence in tea here, sadly, but enjoyed a brisk walk around the gardens and grounds, the adaptation clear in my mind as I walked. Amusingly, the map of the grounds has ‘Darcy’s Lake’ marked for those who are prepared to walk to see it – I didn’t have time on this visit but will make sure I go there next time!

I really enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of three Pemberleys in one day (and even passed the entrance to another when I first left Yorkshire – Harewood House – recent location of the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, which played its part as Pemberley in 2008’s hilarious Lost in Austen.)

All in all, it was a very Pemberley sort of day!

(Oh, and I haven’t forgotten about Part 2 of Stalking Jane Austen, but this was fresh in my mind this morning and jumped in the middle!)

Details on the three Pemberleys mentioned above can be found here:

Renishaw from the lower lawn

Renishaw from the lower lawn

Renishaw Hall Guided tours of the house available on selected dates; gardens and grounds open seasonally 5 days a week.

 

 

 

 

The approach to Chatsworth from across the valley

The approach to Chatsworth from across the valley

Chatsworth House House and grounds open daily Mar-Dec

 

 

 

 

Lyme Park from the walled garden

Lyme Park from the walled garden

 

Lyme Park – House open Feb-Oct 5 days a week; Garden open Feb-Oct 7 days a week; Park – open all year.

 

 

 

 

 

All photos are my own other than the really good one of Chatsworth from beyond the bridge, which belongs to http://www.timetravel-britain.com!

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