This Grade I listed beauty lies in the idyllic village of Ticknall in the Derbyshire countryside. Formerly the site of an Augustinian priory in the 12th century, the present building that is Calke Abbey, did not begin life until 1701. The house was owned by the Harpur family since 1622 until they handed it over to the care of The National Trust in 1985. An aristocratic family, characterised by their isolated, withdrawn manner. This solitary nature left it’s mark on Calke Abbey and presented us with the house as it is today.
Calke Abbey tells the tale of the dramatic decline of a once, prosperous country house estate. With flaking plaster, peeling wallpaper and rooms left in a state of disarray, there is a story everywhere you look. When the National Trust took over the property, they opted to leave it just as they found it, with the neglect laid bare for all to see. They completed structural work to halt the decay of the building but chose not to undertake any restoration.
The last of the Harpur family to live here was a complete recluse and in his later years lived in just a handful of rooms. When you first walk into the property you can see where he took his breakfast each morning, left just as it was found. I adore the story this lends. The 20th century saw a massive change in England. With times changing so quickly, many country estates did not adapt quick enough and didn’t survive to the modern day. Although Calke Abbey is one of those properties, thanks to the National Trust we are still able to visit this once grande estate and see the portrayal of it’s demise for ourselves.
Here is a peek inside the beautifully dilapidated Calke Abbey.
Things To Do At Calke Abbey
Explore The House
Discover the tales of this eccentric family and have a peek at their vast collections. The last baronet was a massive collector of taxidermy and was devoted to his collection of natural history specimens. The house is filled to the brim. They were also famed for never throwing anything away – hoarders I’d say. There is a wonderful display of some of these hoarded objects put on in a few of the downstairs rooms. Some items which even the experts are unsure of the use for. My personal favourite is the old kitchens. Complete with all necessary equipment scattered in a state of disarray never to be used again. Don’t miss the stables, where you will find the original old coaches the family once used!
Visit The Gardens
Take a wander around the gardens and explore the old offices. You will get a glimpse into how prized these gardens once were. Even the awards they received at shows in days long gone are still on display in the old garden offices. The walled kitchen gardens are worth venturing into and are currently full of sheep with their lambs – it is officially spring. I am always drawn to the orangery, this too left with it’s flaky paint and crumbling walls. The light is beautiful inside and a popular spot for wedding photos.
Discover The Nature Reserve
Explore the rest of the estate which includes a National Nature Reserve and a Deer Park. The red and fallow deer are wonderful to see, as they wander freely around the 67 acres of parkland. See if you can find Calke Abbey’s two magnificent 1000 year old oak trees. Imagine the things that they have seen!
Staunton Harold Reservoir
Somewhere I return to time and again, Staunton Harold reservoir is a wonderful walk if you are visiting Calke Abbey for the day. It is located just to the east of the property. If you walk down the road towards the exit and then turn left, you will find yourself at a wonderful viewing platform over the reservoir. Walks can be continued from here. For a map and more details please click here.
Where To Stay Near Calke Abbey
The Staff Of Life | Picked for it’s proximity to Calke Abbey. Located in the heart of Ticknall, The Staff of Life is clean and tastefully decorated. Ideal for couples or families looking for a quiet location very close to Calke. To check prices and availability, or get more details, click here.
The Priest House | Picked for it’s location. This hotel is set in a beautifully quiet spot in the Derbyshire countryside, built around a Normal mill tower along the banks of the River Trent. An idyllic, picturesque location. My sister even had wedding photos taken here next to the river. To check prices and availability, click here. An ideal choice for those with cars as you won’t be able to walk to Calke Abbey from here.
Find Calke Abbey At: Ticknall, Derbyshire, DE73 7LE
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