Follow Darcy and Elizabeth on a Pride and Prejudice walk
- Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Celebrate the 25th anniversary of the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice with an autumn visit to Lyme Park
It is a truth universally acknowledged that when Lyme Park made its debut as Pemberley in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice, no one could have predicted that 25 years later it would still be the must-see location for Jane Austen fans. Devotees from across the world visit Lyme each year to walk in the footsteps of Elizabeth and Mr Darcy – and the 1,400-acre National Trust estate is happy to welcome them.
Lyme Park is the perfect place for a walk at any time of year. In autumn, however, there is something very special about this small corner of Cheshire, nestling on the edge of the Peak District with its wild moorland and far-reaching views across the county, Manchester and beyond. As the temperatures cool and the days get shorter, the changing colours of the woodland canopies create the perfect backdrop for the iconic scenes we recognise in Pride and Prejudice.
There are two routes where you can experience the different parts of Pemberley. One takes in the peaceful surroundings of the garden, passing many of the locations Pride and Prejudice aficionados will be familiar with, such as the moment Elizabeth Bennet arrives by carriage and sees for the first time the home of the man she has rejected. The second takes you further afield, exploring the wider estate with the contrasting colours of autumnal woodland to catch your eye, leading you to the iconic Darcy’s Pond.
So many visitors to Lyme come because of that scene, where Colin Firth as Mr Darcy dives into the lake, emerging a little less formally attired, only to run into the woman with whom he is desperately in love with. While many believe this scene took place by the reflection lake in the beautifully manicured garden, it was, in fact, filmed in a wilder, more secluded spot, off the beaten track and often missed by visitors.
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Where Mr Darcy goes riding… and for that swim
Located off the Gritstone Trail, to reach the pond, head through the gate at the far side of the car park in the direction of Knightslow Wood, with its contrasting green pine and golden beech trees. Follow the path uphill before bearing to the right into Drinkwater Meadow, keeping the drystone wall to your right. It is across the meadow, as you approach Pursefield Wood on the other side of the wall that you stumble across the isolated pond where Darcy took a dip. This quiet part of the park is a lovely spot to stop and take a moment’s rest.
As you head back the way you came, note that it is through Pursefield Wood, now on your left, where we saw Darcy arrive home, riding his horse towards Pemberley. Looking ahead towards the Gritstone Trail, you may remember Darcy heading this way after his swim, handing his horse to his groom and making his way towards the house, which you will see peeping through the trees.
This area of the estate is sometimes closed when sheep are grazing in Drinkwater Meadow and it’s often best to check it is open if coming to Lyme to specifically find the pond.
Conservation grazing plays a huge part in our care of Lyme. The deer, sheep and Highland cattle help to shape many of our habitats, allowing the development of rich and diverse wildlife communities as well as the flourishing of wildflowers and delicate grasses. Grazing is the most effective and sustainable way to maintain our grassland, meadows, moorland and heathland and their huge variety of plants and animals.
Where Elizabeth Bennet is wooed by Fitzwilliam Darcy
The second part of the tour of Pemberley takes you back across the car park and up the hill towards the house. It is as you head towards the eastern side of the park that you are more likely to spot, or even hear, another familiar hint that autumn has arrived at Lyme.
Regular as clockwork, the rutting season commences every autumn. The stags store up energy through late summer to ensure they are at peak strength for the mating season. With their antlers fully regrown and their coats a rich auburn, the stags can be spotted running back and forth to challenge one another, locking antlers to demonstrate their strength, with their bellows echoing across the valley.
Continuing the retracing of Darcy and Elizabeth’s steps, head to the north front of the house. It is just outside the turning circle that we see Elizabeth’s carriage arrive at Pemberley. Take a moment to enjoy the piazza-style courtyard, created by Leoni in the late 1700s, which features in the series.
On entering the garden, turn right and take a moment to enjoy the Italian Garden where Elizabeth and Mr and Mrs Gardiner took a stroll when visiting Pemberley. While the beds won’t now be in full bloom, the views across the woodland make up for it.
Follow the footpath around the back of the lake until you reach the far side. It’s here, through the gap in the trees, that Elizabeth enjoyed her first sight of Pemberley. An iconic view of Lyme, it is particularly wonderful on a calm, autumnal day, when a true reflection of the house rests upon the lake, framed by the golden colours of the nearby trees. Take a moment to enjoy the peaceful sounds of the garden – a quieter time of year than in the summer months.
Following the edge of the lake around to the lawn in front of the house, you find yourself at the spot where in his now famous wet shirt, Darcy comes face to face with Elizabeth. It is an incredibly awkward moment; Elizabeth is mortified as she had understood the family were away from home. For Darcy, though uncomfortable, he realises he has but a few minutes to convince her he has changed.
He heads into the house to dress and emerges into the courtyard you just passed through, running down the steps and catching up with the visiting party by the turning circle. It is here he makes every effort to be engaging and thoughtful, exactly the opposite of what Elizabeth had accused him of being.
Darcy invites Elizabeth and her family back into the garden and they head up the steps by the Orangery. Take a moment to enjoy the terrace borders, or call into the Orangery to see a variety of plants on display. As you reach the final flight of steps and meet the path that encircles the top lawn, we meet the point where Elizabeth and the Gardiners climb back into their carriage and make their way back to Lambton, with Darcy waving them away on their journey.
1. Comprising a grand mansion, landscaped gardens and an extensive deer park, Lyme was the home of the Legh family for more than 550 years before becoming a National Trust property in 1947.
2. While Lyme was used for the exterior shots, the interiors were filmed at Sudbury Hall, Derbyshire.
3. Lyme Park, Disley, Stockport, Cheshire, SK12 2NR, is open daily. The park is open 9.30am to 4.30pm for pre-booked vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. The house is open Friday-Tuesday, 10.30am to 3.30pm; the gardens are open daily 10.30am to 4.30pm. Tickets can be booked in advance via nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme. Each ticket covers entry to all areas. All vehicle and pedestrian entrances are locked at 4.30pm.
This information is subject to change depending on government guidance. Check nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme before visiting.