4 December 2016

Christmas at Chatsworth House

As soon as autumn begins and there is a flicker of the festive season ahead, one of my favourite things to do is take part in as many Christmas festivities as possible. It's just such a wonderful time of year to soak up the atmosphere, get that Christmas cheer going and get yourself feeling well and truly festive for the big day ahead.

Cities and venues all over the UK are gearing up for a busy December, with gorgeous Christmas markets taking over full of seasonal gifts for friends and family, and maybe even a little treat for yourself. In November I headed over to Chatsworth House, to see what their wonderfully festive Christmas Market had to offer, exploring the house and grounds whilst we were there.

Christmas at Chatsworth House
Christmas at Chatsworth House
Christmas at Chatsworth House
Christmas at Chatsworth House

I have visited Chatsworth many times, with my mother living not too far away, it was always a favourite spot for us for family days out with a picnic on a hot summers day. The house itself is absolutely beautiful, but the grounds Chatsworth are set in are just incredible. If you adore the British Countryside like me, then it really is a sight for sore eyes, with rolling hills, wild deer and the house itself, taking pride of place. It's a beautiful destination and one well worth making the trip for.

The Christmas festivities at Chatsworth began back on November 5th, with the Christmas Market being open from November 12th - November 30th. We took a leisurely stroll around the Christmas market once we arrived, checking out all of the stalls and gifts on offer, and although it was only the middle of November and the idea of Christmas was still a distant thought, it really did make me feel festive and excited for December.

The stalls were all really unique and sold such beautiful gifts, homewares, delicious edibles; almost everything was handmade or created by small, independent British brands. I picked up a lovely Christmas tree decoration, themed around Chatsworth house no less, as well as a lovely floral wooden W for Willow's nursery; I love collecting W's for her. I'm hoping to find out if the brands and makers who had stalls at the market have websites, as there's so many things I wanted to buy that I didn't get a chance to pick up on the day! That's the great thing about seasonal markets - you are introduced to lots of lovely new brands to fall in love with.

As well as the stalls around the Christmas market, there were lots of food stalls and seating in the centre of the market to have a break and bite to eat. Add to this a rather comical trio of entertainers who were walking around playing music and singing songs that were getting giggles out of even the most serious of looking adults. The atmosphere was absolutely lovely and everyone was full of excitement for Christmas and all the lovely festivies it brings.

Once we were done with the market we took a short walk around the gardens, before getting some lunch and checking out one of the gift shops. Of course I couldn't resist picking up another Christmas decoration, and decided on a grey and gold Santa for our bedroom.

Christmas at Chatsworth House
Christmas at Chatsworth House
Christmas at Chatsworth House

Our day had, for the most part, been absolutely lovely and full of festive cheer, but unfortunately, we did leave very frustrated and I feel it is only right to share our full experience so as to better prepare anyone who may visit in the future. As our visit was arranged as a Press visit, and knowing our way there and around the grounds fairly well from visits over the years, I didn't check the website for any additional information. I had Willow with me, making a family day out of the visit, so I had her tucked up in her pushchair. Funnily enough, when leaving the house that morning I took our fabulous comfy baby carrier out of the car, thinking I wouldn't need it.

When we made our way over to the house gates to go inside and see the decorations, themed around The Nutcracker and the main reason for our visit, we were told we would be unable to take the pushchair inside. This was the first I knew of pushchairs not being allowed inside, and so I explained I was unaware of this and wondered what we were going to do. I was told that they had baby carriers which they loaned out to guests, with a secure area for pushchairs to be left - hurrah!, I thought the problem was solved! Or not, as it turned out.

The carriers available (or perhaps left over from other visitors using them throughout the day?) were for babies much younger and smaller than Willow. There was an alternative, a hip carrier I have never heard of or seen before, which was a wedge that rested on your hip, for little babes to perch on. For me, this felt like a very unsecured option (there were no clips or straps to keep Willow secure or even slightly 'attached' to me) and I would say were more suited to toddlers than a 10-month baby, but we gave it a go and I agreed to pop it on. At this point, I was left absolutely mortified by the lady dealing with us telling me, in front of quite a few people queuing to go inside, that I was 'simply too big to wear this carrier'. As a plus-size woman who is incredibly self-conscious about her body, I was horrified to have my size not only be an issue in wearing one of their carriers but to be declared so brazenly for all to hear. As a side note, I have three baby carriers that we regularly use, and all fit wonderfully and with more room to go should I ever need it.

Of course I could have just carried her, right? Unfortunately not, as I have daily back pains after my c-section and epidural/spinal block, and carrying her without a carrier for long periods of time leaves me in excruitating pain.

At this point, it seemed clear that with the pushchair a no-go and the carriers being too small, that we were running out of options. I asked the lady if she had any idea what we could do, to be told: "If you want to see the decorations that badly, leave her outside.". I was initially confused, wondering whether I had heard her right, but it turns out I did and that was the point where I decided we needed to leave as I no longer felt comfortable being there.

It's a shame that what was, up until that point, a really lovely and festive day out, had to end so badly. The lady at the gates repeatedly told me that it was 'plastered all over the grounds and website' that they do not allow pushchairs inside the house, but since visiting, I have checked the website and haven't found anywhere that states pushchairs are not allowed. I'm sure it's on the website, but it certainly isn't clear and I didn't spot any signs around the grounds on the day to say so either. A family member offered to take me back another day, with our trusty carrier so I could wear Willow around the house, but the way I was spoken to and being told to leave my daughter in the cold has put me off of returning to Chatsworth for now.

That said, if you ignored the whole house scenario, it was a lovely visit to a place I have many fond memories of. I would visit the Christmas market again next year and maybe try the house again to see the decorations, as Willow would be walking by then so it would be fine. The negative experience we had with the one specific lady at the gates doesn't change the fact that the rest of our visit was lovely, and staff all over the grounds, on the stalls, in the gift shop and cafe and even the car park, were nothing but welcoming, helpful, cheerful and a credit to Chatsworth House. I wanted to share my experience fully, not only because it would be a false representation to only share the positives of our visit, but to ensure that anyone visiting is aware of the no-pushchair rule, so hopefully you can be better prepared than we were!

You can find out more about the Christmas festivities at Chatsworth House over at www.chatsworth.org.

*We were kindly invited along as Press. 
All views are entirely my own - Disclaimer.
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