Ever since I started working in bridal wear 10 years ago, I’ve always dreamed of having my own bridal boutique. And I feel so lucky that Alexandra Anne is slap bang in the middle of some of the most amazing scenery the UK has to offer. Whether the sun is blazing or the snow is deep, there are so many wonderful sights to behold and photos to take! I’m still discovering new places all the time, but here’s a handy local guide to make the most of your time in the area.
Love and happy trails,
Turn your Bridal Appointment into a Proper Day Out
When I’m driving across the Peak District to the shop here on the Chatsworth Estate, I still have to pinch myself at just how beautiful this part of the world is. The National Park, Chatsworth House, Bakewell… It’s day-out central. It really is a special place, and it’s always lovely to welcome brides and their families and friends and make it a day out with a difference.
5 Things to Do near Chatsworth
1. Pilsley Village
Alexandra Anne bridal boutique is nestled in the quaint little Derbyshire village of Pilsley, right in the heart of the Chatsworth Estate. Expect limestone cottages, a village shop that’s also the post office, a charming old pub (the Devonshire Arms, see below) and some great countryside walks if you bring your wellies. It might not be the place you’d expect to find the latest in bridal fashion, but that’s what we love about it!
Our bridal shop is set in a cluster of converted barns just behind the Devonshire Arms pub. As well as Alexandra Anne, you can get your interior design on at Penrose Interiors, or check out the artistic prowess of wildlife painter Richard Whittlestone at his gallery, Whittlestone’s Wildlife, right next door to us.
Top tip: There’s plenty of free parking in the area behind the Devonshire Arms, so park up there and beat the crowds at the Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop. Speaking of which...
2. Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop
A five-minute walk from Alexandra Anne, hop over the main road between Bakewell and Baslow and you’ll discover the delights of the Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop, one of the oldest farm shops in the UK.
Warning: this place is foodie paradise!
The Farm Shop has its own on-site patisserie (dangerous), and the deli counter is the perfect spot to grab scrummy lunches on the go. You can also find an endless selection of local produce and unusual gift ideas. Ideal for family or friends who’ve joined you on your wedding dress-buying adventures.
Top tip: Go before midday if you can. The farm shop is very popular and gets busy busy from lunchtime onwards, especially on weekends. Plus you’ll have more chance of grabbing a hot bacon/sausage/veggie roll from the deli before they all run out! (I’m speaking from sad experience here…)
3. Chatsworth House
If this place doesn’t make you feel full-on Pride and Prejudice, nothing will!
Chatsworth House is arguably the most famous stately home in the UK. It’s also one of the most popular visitor attractions in Derbyshire, and it’s easy to see why. We’re talking serious grandeur here.
As the story goes, not long after Bess Hardwick – one of the most famous women of Elizabethan times – married Sir William Cavendish, the couple bought the manor at Chatsworth in 1549, and Chatsworth House has been home to the Cavendish family ever since.
In other family news, back in 1838 the 6th Duke of Devonshire decided he wasn’t a fan of having the nearby village of Edensor (pronounced ‘Enza’, because: English) in his eye-line looking out from the House. So he had all but one of the buildings moved out of his way over the brow of a hill! What a diva.
The current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire seem a lot happier with the views. In fact, they’ve just finished a £32 million renovation project, and Chatsworth puts on a wide-ranging calendar of events each year to keep the whole family entertained. Mary Berry was baking there last summer!
Jane Austen was said to have based Mr Darcy’s Pemberley residence in Pride and Prejudice on the real-life Chatsworth, and the House was used in the Keira Knightley film version in 2005. Chatsworth was also the place where Mary, Queen of Scots was held captive by her cousin Elizabeth I in the 1570s. And as it happens, the 2019 film Mary Queen of Scots, starring Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan, was filmed close by at Haddon Hall (near Bakewell) and Hardwick Hall (near Chesterfield). We’re so Hollywood round here!
Top tip: If you don’t fancy doing the full tour of the House and Gardens, you can explore the 1,000-acre Chatsworth Park – designed by Capability Brown – without paying for admission (just your parking). Why not take a picnic into Stand Wood, or down by the River Derwent?
Best known for its cherry-based puddings, Bakewell is well worth a visit. It’s a shining example of a Derbyshire market town in full flow. A ten-minute drive from Alexandra Anne, you’ll find picture-postcard cottages, meandering riverbanks, outdoorsy-type shops, and inter-bakery rivalries that are as adorable as they are fierce! Plus the constant influx of tourists from all over the world means that there are now plenty of options if you’re gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan.
Legend has it that the Bakewell Pudding – not the tarts we get from Mr Kipling (we don’t talk about them around here) – was invented by accident after a recipe mishap at the Rutland Arms Hotel in the 1860s. And more legend has it that Jane Austen stayed at the same hotel while working on Pride and Prejudice. (Okay, ‘legend’ might mean ‘made-up’, but it’s more fun this way!)
Top tip: Work up an appetite with a stroll along the River Wye, and then take on the tricky task of deciding who makes the best Bakewell pudding in town… More on that below.
5. Ashford in the Water
If you love taking photos, this is the spot for you. Whether you’re an Insta addict or an 35mm purist, you’ll want to get yourself to Ashford in the Water. This little village – just down the road from Bakewell – is as picturesque as the name sounds.
Even from the main road you’ll catch a glimpse of the gently weeping willows and the impeccably groomed hedgerows that conceal this chocolate-box village. The ancient Sheepwash Bridge over the River Wye is an absolute must for an impromptu photo-shoot. Perfect for magic-hour pics for your Instagram feed. I’m getting FOMO just writing about it, and I’ll be driving past it on my way home!
Top tip: Ashford in the Water is right next to the A6, so it’s the ideal stopping point if you’re short for time on the way to/from your bridal appointment and you still want some extra photogenic memories of your day out in the countryside.
5 Places to Eat near Chatsworth
1. The Devonshire Arms, Pilsley
Walk through the stone archway next to the boutique and you’ll find a real Chatsworth landmark, the Devonshire Arms at Pilsley.
We’re so close to this cosy gastropub that you can be finishing your bridal appointment one minute, and soaking up the hillside views with a glass of wine in their garden the next. It’s a popular choice for brides and their families/friends when they’re mulling over their wedding dress choices and making the big final decision.
It’s also a good carrot to dangle in front of any of the men in your life who might not embrace the bridal boutique visit the same way you do!
And as if a pub with local ales like Bakewell Best Bitter and Chatsworth Gold isn’t enough, you can always send your favourite beer drinker to the Peak Ales Brewery Shop and Visitor Centre down the road. Bonus daughter/fiancee/sister points, for sure.
The food is great at the Devonshire Arms, too. If you’re having gourmet burgers or sharing nibbles for lunch, or staying for a full three-course dinner with family, you’ll get high-quality local produce cooked with skill and love. Plenty of veggie options, too (the vegan tagine is a winner).
2. Rowley’s, Baslow
When I first moved here with my other half, we decided to stop off in Baslow for a bite to eat after a long day’s work setting up the shop. It was a Monday night, so we figured we’d be alright without booking. How wrong we were! It turned out that the pub we’d stopped at, Rowley’s, takes its name from Rupert Rowley, the head chef at the very fancy Michelin-starred Fischer’s Baslow Hall just up the road. So yes, kind of a big deal.
And don’t take our word for it. Here’s what this year’s Michelin Guide has to say: “Stone-built former blacksmith's; now a contemporary bar-restaurant with a small terrace and friendly service. Dine in the buzzy ground-floor bar or more intimate upstairs rooms. Hearty, satisfying dishes have classic French roots.”
If you’re wanting somewhere extra special to take family or friends after your visit, Rowley’s is definitely worth a look. Just make sure you book ahead!
3. Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop Cafe
Oh Chatsworth Estate Farm Shop, what have we done to deserve all this goodness?
As well as the wonders on offer at the farm shop itself, there’s also a lovely cafe at the back with amazing views out over the estate (and a very sweet herd of cows who are absolute posers for photos).
You can get breakfast from 9am, with a selection ranging from crushed avocado on sourdough toast to eggs Benedict or a traditional full English. Lunch is served all afternoon until 5. Try the filled Derbyshire oatcakes with Cheddar, bacon and mushrooms or the veggie version (yum).
And, of course, there’s also the very fine Chatsworth Afternoon Tea to treat your entourage to. So, the food is scrumptious, the space is beautiful, the views are divine, and the staff are delightful. Plus it’s only a two-minute drive from our front door!
4. Bloomers of Bakewell
This is a controversial one! While it’s the Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop that lays claim to the original (secret) recipe for the world-famous pud, I reckon it’s Bloomers that takes the crown for the best Bakewell in Bakewell.
The Bloomers bakery is tucked away off the main road, and you do get a sense that this is the place the locals go. And they’ve got to be the best judges, right?
Bloomers even have their own Post-a-Pudding service (!), so you can share the puff-pastry love with anyone not lucky enough to be in Bakewell with you.
Confused between Bakewell puddings and Bakewell tarts? Here’s a quick rundown. Essentially what you’ve probably seen anywhere outside of Bakewell is a Bakewell tart: a shortcrust pastry case, a layer of strawberry jam, and an almond sponge on top. A Bakewell pudding might have similar ingredients, but it’s a very different beast to look at (it looks straight out of medieval times). The pudding is puff pastry, strawberry jam and a kind of set almond custard.
This way you don’t need to worry about making the ultimate Bakewell faux pas and never being invited back… And remember, no cherries! If you’re an avid baker, you can give one a whirl yourself with this Mark Hix recipe.
5. Curry Cottage, Stoney Middleton
Sometimes I like to think that Stoney Middleton is the cool long-lost sister of Kate and Pippa, and one day she’ll come to the shop for her wedding dress... But in reality it’s the name of a Derbyshire village on the road from here to Manchester.
It’s also not the place you’d expect to find a great authentic Indian curry, but you’d be wronger than a naan that’s not Peshwari.
Curry Cottage is set below the spectacular Lovers Leap cliff-face in the Hope Valley, not far from Eyam. It’s really a long line of converted cottages, and the curries inside are flipping marvellous. Try the Rajasthani laal maas for a special lamb curry cooked with lime, or the mutter paneer with aubergine pakoras on the side if you’re feeling veggie.
This has become one of our go-to places for dinner if we have family or friends visiting, and we’ve never been disappointed. The staff are friendly and slick, and you’ll leave thinking that you’ve made a real discovery. Plus it’s BYOB, with no pesky corkage charge, so you can make a night of it if there’s a big group of you. No wonder Curry Cottage is such a consistent performer on TripAdvisor.
Well worth a stop-off on your way home to Sheffield or Manchester – hopefully to celebrate your new wedding dress purchase!