Bolsover Castle & Hardwick Hall


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Europe » United Kingdom » England » Derbyshire » Bolsover
August 7th 2018
Published: August 9th 2018
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Yet another beautiful day was forecast for today so we re-traced our route from yesterday over the peaks, but turned south on the M1 when we reached the motorway. We remained on the M1 until Siri guided us into Bolsover via the scenic route through the industrial estate!

It was a little bit tricky finding a park at Bolsover Castle. The main car park was full and we drove straight past the entrance to the overflow car park before we realised it was the overflow car park for the castle. Bernie eventually managed a three point turn on the steep, narrow road down the hill from the castle and we returned to the overflow car park.

Car sorted we walked back to the main car park only to discover that it’s adjacent to a pub. The actual castle entrance was a very unobtrusive lane between the two car parks. Bernie flashed our OVP and we recouped another £12.50 (each) with our ‘free’ admission to Bolsover Castle. English Heritage is definitely not going to be the winner on our OVP because we are confident that we are going to visit heaps of EH properties between now and the 22nd of August. We are such history nerds.

Today’s show at Bolsover, that had commenced shortly before we arrived, was ‘Top of the Chops’ and we could hear the crowd cheering for who should get the chop as we walked towards the south-east gateway to the keep! Hmmn, very entertaining for the kiddies on school holiday outings I’m sure.

Anyhow, to the history - the 17th century rebuilding of Bolsover Castle on the hilltop in the small town of Bolsover in Derbyshire was commenced by Sir Charles Cavendish and completed by his son William Cavendish. It was not the family’s principal home, but a fashionable retreat where influential guests and even royalty were entertained.

William was a keen horseman and built not just stables, but a Riding House Range where he could practice the art of manege which later evolved into the sport of dressage that we know today. William Cavendish is considered to be the ‘father’ of dressage. He was a widely acknowledged expert in the art of manege and his two manuals of horsemanship are still considered relevant and the gentle training techniques he used are widely practiced in dressage training today. This section of the castle is in very good repair and still hosts dressage displays regularly.

The next wing of the castle - the Terrace Range - is not in good repair, it is a ruin. In its heyday it was a wing devoted to extravagant entertainment with lodging for guests, a huge dining room and hall and a gallery with amazing views out over the Derbyshire countryside.

The real jewel at Bolsover is the Little Castle. It was created as an extravagant retreat by William Cavendish. With medieval-style turrets and towers it was a building designed to surprise and delight. William entertained royalty here in 1634. He spent his annual income (around £15,000) on banquets and entertainment for King Charles I and his Queen Henrietta Maria. I think this was some serious sucking up to gain favour at court!

Despite years of neglect the Little Castle was miraculously well preserved and with some sensitive conservation and restoration provides visitors with an amazing insight into the life of landed gentry in the 17th century. The Little Castle features richly coloured wall art, carved marble fireplaces and stunning painted ceilings.

Our tour of Bolsover Castle concluded with a stroll along the wall walk and through the Fountain Garden which features a newly restored Venus Fountain at its centre. Although the garden is beautiful we found ourselves constantly dodging the gardeners who were busy weeding and mowing today! It was an exercise in patience trying to take photos without men in hi-viz vests in them. After some sandwiches from the cafe at Bolsover Castle we made our way to the next EH property on our list - Old Hardwick Hall, the home of William Cavendish’s grandmother.

Siri guided us the few miles south to Hardwick Old Hall without any trouble. As we approached the gate house it was indicating that there is a £4.00 parking fee that is separate from the entrance fee. Hmmn, Bernie handed over the OVP only to be told that it only covers entry to Hardwick Old Hall which is closed today due to urgent conservation works being undertaken. The rest of the estate, the ‘new’ hall and the gardens, are administered by the National Trust. OK, we have an Australian National Trust card. This card was duly shown and we were admitted for free. We didn’t even have to pay the parking fee due to our reciprocal NT rights.

Unfortunately, the new hall’s opening hours are Wednesday to Sunday so we weren’t able to go into either the old or the new Hardwick halls but ... we could photograph them from the outside and enjoy the gardens.

Both the halls were built for Bess of Hardwick or Elizabeth Shrewsbury. Married four times Bess went by a number of other names, but these two names were the ones used most often to record her place in history. The ‘old’ hall was substantially reconstructed between 1584 - 1597. Before it was finished work commenced on the ‘new’ hall in 1590. All very confusing because, in fact, the construction periods overlapped so the so called ‘old’ hall isn’t really much older than the ‘new’ hall. Hardwick Hall (the younger) has, however, stood the test of time more successfully and is very well preserved. In contrast, Hardwick Old Hall is an atmospheric ruin.

One of Bess’s claims to fame, together with her husband, George Talbot, the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury, was ‘hosting’ Mary Queen of Scots for Queen Elizabeth I. The Queen felt badly about having Mary interred in the Tower of London so sent her to her good friends the Earl and Countess of Shrewsbury. Although Mary was no longer imprisoned she was effectively under house arrest with trusted members of the royal court.

After enjoying the sunshine as we strolled around the extensive walled garden surrounding the new hall we returned to the car and set the SatNav for Stalybridge.



Steps: 11,615 (8.93kms)


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10th August 2018

Love the UK
Was in the UK for three weeks this June - had only ever visited London previously - and was blown away by the beauty of the scenery and magnificent buildings. Love your photos!

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