I loved visiting Haddon Hall on our trip to Derbyshire and not just because it features in one of my all-time favourite films, the Princess Bride.
It’s entrance provides the perfect backdrop for Buttercup’s presentation to her subjects as she prepares to marry the evil Prince Humperdinck.
If you haven’t seen the film, watch it. You can thank me later.
Nor do I love Haddon Hall for its Elizabethan Walled Garden, the beautiful roses and fragrant herbs or its ancient bridge (incidentally the one over which Buttercup flees on her trusty steed when trying to escape her fate.)
It’s simply that, unlike many historic houses in England, it has a real lived-in feel.
That’s because, just like another of my favourite historic houses the Manor at Hemingford Grey, it is still a family home.
Built more than 900 years ago Haddon Hall has survived, almost untouched, throughout the centuries because of a strange twist of fate.
Owned by the Vernon family and their descendants, the whole house was mothballed for more than 200 years from the reign of Queen Anne to the late 19th century.
Everything stayed exactly as it was; the raised dais in the banqueting hall, the tapestries on the walls, the fire irons in the hearth and the pewter tableware stored in the cupboards.
So when the family returned to its ancestral country house and undid the locks, Haddon Hall was revealed again in all its glory.
The medieval kitchen, the private chapel, the glorious windows looking out onto the garden terraces dropping down the the River Wye below.
Visiting Haddon Hall
Unlike many other stately homes there’s no set route for visitors to follow or guides urging you on.
There’s just a map and a sense of the centuries.
We took hours to explore its rooms, passageways and grounds, wandering at will, back and forth to allow the feel of the place to sink into our bones.
Guides are available in almost every room and we found them helpful and informative but never intrusive.
Haddon Hall stands on a sloping site, and is structured around two courtyards; with the Eagle Tower overlooking the upper northeastern courtyard while the lower, southwest courtyard houses the Chapel.
In between lies the Great Hall but, as was the case in most medieval great houses, many of the rooms can only be reached from outside or by passing through other rooms. Not very convenient!
Because of its years of slumber, much of the house remains unchanged.
The original frescoes adorn the chapel walls and the kitchens retain their original features, including stock pot, chopping boards, baking ovens, work tops and butchery.
Fresh herbs from the garden add to the sense of place and there’s a lingering smell of charred wood.
Most spectacular of all is the the Long Gallery, described by some as the most beautiful room in England, with sparkling glass windows, intricate panelling and an ornate ceiling.
You can easily imagine the ladies of the house, penned in by bad weather or other danger, taking their daily exercise along its stately length.
We also lingered a long time in the colourful grounds with their Elizbathan knot garden, wild flower meadow borders and ancient topiary.
The terraced areas flow down towards the river adding interest and providing different views over the surrounding deer park.
Again there’s no-one there to rush you and when we returned to the formal gardens close to the house I left Pork Belly to wander, while I sat in the sunshine and the sweet smelling perfume of roses.
Drinking in the view of Haddon Hall – the great survivor.
About Haddon Hall
Haddon Hall is on the River Wye just outside Bakewell in Derbyshire and is a former country seat of the Dukes of Rutland.
Parts of the hall date back to the 11th century with additions at various stages between the 13th and the 17th centuries.
The current owner is Lord Edward Manners (brother of the current Duke) and his family still live there in private apartments.
Haddon Hall has appeared in many films and TV shows including three different film adaptations of Jane Eyre and the 2005 film version of Pride & Prejudice and of course the wonderful Princess Bride.
For up to date opening hours and prices see their website