Lyme Hall was made famous by the BBC's 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. The film attracts many Austen fans to the hall, but even if you've never seen or read Austen's work, this beautiful manor house with its expansive grounds, located just outside the peak district, is worth a journey up from London.
Lyme Hall and Reflecting Pool. Photo by Erin Connelly.
Inside the house you can see 17th century tapestries, one of the largest collections of antique English clocks, and exquisite wood carvings by the sculptor Grinling Gibbons (famous for his work on St Paul's Cathedral and Blenheim Palace). The house has been painstakingly preserved by the National Trust and touring the inside really gives a sense of what it was like to be entitled and privileged in the 17th and 18th centuries.
The interior of the hall is well-presented and contains many intriguing artefacts, but it's the park that you really want to explore on your visit. The hall is surrounded by 1300 acres of cultivated gardens, diverse hiking paths, and challenging moorland wilderness. Lyme Park originally served as a medieval hunting lodge and herds of wild red deer still run free in the parkland.
Some of the Lyme trees in the park are thought to be several centuries old and the Orangery contains a fig tree about to turn one hundred years old. The Edwardian rose garden and various herb gardens (complete with dainty Greek statues) are captivating at any time of the year. On the south side of the house Austen fans will recognise the reflecting pond where Elizabeth Bennett encountered a sodden Mr. Darcy.
To complete the tour of Lyme Park, take one of the hiking paths for a stroll through the moorland or neighbouring peak district. Not far from Lyme Park are dramatic natural sites, such as Alderley Edge, the Cloud, and Helsby Hill, where you can enjoy breathtaking views of the Cheshire countryside.
Climb up a heather-covered peak. Photo by Erin Connelly.
Don't be put off from visiting during the colder months, the views of the countryside are made even more stunning by swirling winter clouds and the occasional storm. After hiking around the estate in brisk weather, a visit to the nearby Timber Yard Coffee Shop for hearty stews and warming beverages is that much more appreciated.
Suitable for a day trip or weekend escape, Lyme Park is certain to become a favourite excursion from city life.