In planning our trip to explore England at Christmas, we knew we’d have to be pretty selective. There is so much to see, it’s easy to get carried away, overbook and end up exhausted by hurtling from one place to the next. So we decided to divide the trip into three main chunks. The first leg was around Oxford, which included Windsor,  Waddesdon’s Christmas Market and Waddesdon Manor. We finished up in London to see the lights and do some shopping. In between, we headed up to Derbyshire to see Chatsworth, which is beautifully decorated for Christmas and is renowned for its Christmas market (to say nothing of the farm shop – yum!). Chatsworth also has a lot of self-catering options and we knew we’d be comfortable there.

We enjoyed our stay at the Hunting Tower a couple of years ago, but we wanted to try something different for this trip,  Park Cottage in Baslow is just a few miles from Chatsworth and the farm shop and within walking distance of several pubs. It was charming.

It had an extremely cosy sitting room with a working log stove, which we enjoyed most evenings.

There was a really well-equipped kitchen, of which I forgot to take a picture, so I’ve scooped this one from their website. The door to the washroom is just to the left of the Grandfather clock.

Glenn was a bit taken aback by the bed. I loved it; he was less enthused. Possibly because he’d been doing the driving and was a bit tired, or maybe the thought of wrestling suitcases up the stairs didn’t appeal. but he was inclined to settle in the smaller bedroom on the main floor.  Nope. Up the narrow, twisting stairs we went.

Who could resist sleeping in a tree?

We could just envision Dundee climbing the branches and launching himself onto unwary, sleeping victims below. Happily, he was safely home in Canada and we could count on an unmolested experience.

Love the beamed ceiling and the painted wardrobe.

Tiny windows set low to the ground looked out over the roof of the sitting room.

In case you’ve never seen a thatched roof up close, here’s what they look like. The decorative ridge is usually covered with mesh, and sometimes the whole roof is. The pale green moss adds a lovely patina to the soft grey thatch.

All of the Chatsworth “outbuildings” sport the same Victorian Blue paint on the doors and fences. 

After unpacking, we took ourselves off to the Chatsworth Farmshop to procure some wine to supplement the lovely welcome basket that greeted us which included ground coffee, bacon, sausages, sliced ham, tomatoes, fruit, eggs, butter, bread, milk, jam, scones, a pork pie, cheddar cheese, crisps, a lemon cake and chocolate biscuits, It was more than enough for four days of breakfasts and snacky dinners. They’d also left us tickets to view the house as often as we wanted during our stay. We had booked a separate evening tour to see it at night, which they offer on Thursdays and Fridays during the Christmas season.

The following morning we set out to see the Christmas Market and tour the house. The cheese stall got our mouths watering right away.

Especially when we spotted the Lancashire Bombs, a marvellous creamy cheddar we first tasted while staying at Bovey Castle in Dartmoor a few years ago. Covered in a thick black rind and shaped like a vintage bomb, the cheeses are quite distinctive. We bought several as gifts (and for our own consumption, naturally), having determined that Canada Customs allowed us to bring 20 kg of cheese back (I kid you not). To get them home, I ended up putting them in our camera backpack, snuggled between the dividers normally used for lenses. It worked!

I was intrigued by the bird-seed wreaths. What a splendid idea!

Net bags of various bird seeds and peanuts adorned moss-covered wreaths.

The hedgehog version was adorable, too.

They also had more conventional wreaths – boxwood with bright berries in reds, oranges and blues.

And sturdy pinecone wreaths, made colourful with pomegranates and berries.

The hellebores were blooming away in the chilly atmosphere. The English climate is fabulous for gardens.

I was very tempted by this hedgehog pillow but tried to be mindful of packing space. I’d already acquired Christmas dresses for granddaughters at John Lewis in Oxford, and London was still to come.

Where else but Chatsworth would offer a champagne bar? It’s never the wrong time for champagne, in my books.

Coming right up, madam! The copper vats held hot cider and mulled wine. Well! We’ll be back for some of that.

Then we spotted some rather more, er, unusual drinking vessels.


Really… I knew my zany daughter Lauren would love one, but I resisted temptation. I could just imagine what Customs would have to say. “You’ve brought back bomb-cheese and Viking drinking horns. What was the purpose of your journey, and where did you say you’d been?”

Let’s look at some of the other booths, instead.

Sheepskin mittens for babies. How cute are those?

At this point the heavens opened, so we took refuge in the Stables gift shop. Here I tossed caution to the wind and acquired some wonderful sticker books for the older granddaughters and a melamine tea set for our youngest granddaughter, Riley. The older cousins got china ones for Easter one year, but she had not yet made her appearance.

Isn’t the cottage container adorable? It’s by Emma Bridgewater, so the cups, plates, etc. sport her characteristic polka dots. Yes, Glenn did give me the eyebrow, as if to say “and you’re getting that home, how, exactly?” That problem didn’t have to be solved today. 

Some intriguing decorations gave us a clue about what to expect in the house decorations. The theme was Fairy Tales, and Mr Frog was waiting to turn into a prince.

Carrots and cabbages. Where might we find those, I wondered?

There were abundant naturally-themed decorations, too, including nuts and oranges. When we go into the house you’ll see where they featured!

That’s where we’re going next! 

I’m sharing this post with Between Naps on the Porch.