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In her book The House, the Duchess of Devonshire starts by saying that Chatsworth is not a palace, not a castle, not a museum, but a house. In a very human, often humorous manner she goes on to describe the drawbacks of living in such an enormous home. It is, she says, an impossible place in which to train a puppy, and putting the dog out at night is quite a performance. If she absentmindedly lays something on a chair, it can mean tramping for miles to find it, and of the Duke's bedroom she writes "we don't use this room any more, It is a day's march to the nearest bathroom."

In its 1,100 acre park designed by the renowned Capability Brown, Chatsworth is located in wonderfully lush Derbyshire countryside. Repeat visitors often by-pass the house to wander through 100 acres of landscaped gardens. Others pay only the small fee required to park their cars, then take folding chairs and hampers for a picnic beside the river.

Where possible, Chatsworth has always been open to the public. In the eighteenth century, when its owners lived mostly in London, housekeepers had instructions to show every visitor around. Sometimes they were even given dinner. By 1849 a new railway was bringing as many as 80,000 people during a single summer, and by 1908 an admission fee was being charged to cover wages for guides.

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IF YOU GO: Chatsworth is near Baslow, east of the A6, about 20 miles north of Derby. It is open daily late March through late October between 11 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Adult admission to the house and garden is 6.50.

TRAVELLER'S TIPS: The restaurant serving hot and cold meals can be very crowded. If the weather co-operates, you may be happier to shop for a picnic to eat beside the river.

Located in the Chatsworth Estate, the Cavendish Hotel has 23 luxurious rooms. In addition to its dining room, the hotel has a table set in the kitchen for guests who would like to watch the award-winning chefs at work.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact Chatsworth House, Bakewell, Derbyshire DE45 1PP, tel (01246) 582204.