A 6.5-mile walk through the Hardwick Hall Estate

Stunning Hardwick Hall

Stunning Hardwick Hall - Credit: Gary Wallis

Helen Moat enjoys a gorgeous ramble through through the historic and beautiful Hardwick Hall Estate

This is a glorious walk through the wider Hardwick Hall Estate, views of Bess of Hardwick’s old and new halls in sight for much of the 6.5-mile ramble.  

Starting from the National Trust Car Park beside the halls (charges apply for non-members), take time to explore the superb Elizabethan manor, a stunning statement of Bess of Hardwick’s power and wealth.  

Approaching the doorway to the house, the first thing that strikes you is the size of the windows, the frontage more glass than wall – reminiscent of Dutch architecture.  

Inside, a darkly atmospheric stone staircase leads to the High Great Chamber, a magnificent room with an exotic 16th century frieze and intricate tapestries.  

The Long Gallery of sombre portraits is a roll-call of the Great and Good – a display of Bess’s sphere of influence. Having viewed the hall, step out into the fresh air, ready to tackle the rise and fall of the surrounding estate.  

Hardwick Hall Country Park, with Hardwick Old Hall in the distance

Hardwick Hall Country Park, with Hardwick Old Hall in the distance - Credit: Gary Wallis

1. From the car park, follow the fingerpost signed ‘Lady Spencer’s Walk’ through woodland.  

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The mother of Georgiana Cavendish (wife of the fifth Duke of Devonshire), Lady Spencer created the walk with her granddaughter during a visit.  

Rather than continuing through Lady Spencer’s Wood, follow the path as it sweeps a curve before dropping down through grassy parkland to the exit driveway of the stately home. 

2. At the grid, just before Hardwick Inn, turn right to follow the boundary of woodland, looking out for a metal kissing gate on your left. Go through it and descend through trees to a mere.  

The picnic bench on the water’s edge invites you to stop for a break and enjoy the waterfowl. 

Continuing on, turn right to follow the edge of the Great Pond, home to swans, coots, moorhens and mallards. You’ll emerge at the approach road to Hardwick’s lower car park.  

Turn left here, then right to walk under the motorway bridge. At the end of the tunnel, you’ll see a walk post on your left.  

Follow the pathway straight up through fields newly planted with trees, patches of delicate speedwell in among the green.   

Emerging from woodland

Emerging from woodland - Credit: Helen Moat

3. Reaching a field boundary at the top of the rise, cross it and drop down the field path diagonally to another boundary. Cross it and follow the path up towards a beech woodland.  

Climb over the stile and take the path down through the field with Harehill Wood on your left. On reaching another field boundary, cut through the steep slope in the hedgerow, then bear left towards a wicket gate.  

Continue along a wider grassy track and over a bridge to climb up towards the pretty village of Astwith. A bench outside a dwelling, presently under restoration, offers another opportunity for a rest.

4. Emerging onto Astwith Lane, turn right. Where the road veers northeast, continue straight on past a pillar signed Manor Farm.  

At the end of the cul-de-sac surrounded by properties, follow the signpost to drop down through a field on your right, crossing a footbridge over a stream, the field path leading down to Hawking Lane. 

Cross the lane and climb the stile on the opposite side to continue downhill through another field.  

At the elbow of a field boundary, follow the yellow sign pointing right, switching over to the other side of the hedge boundary after a while to continue along a farm track leading to Hawking Lane further down the hill.  

The pretty village of Astwith

The pretty village of Astwith - Credit: Helen Moat

5. Descend the road through Stainsby, looking out for a wicket gate on the left-hand side on the embankment above the country lane. Go through it and drop down to Mill Lane.  

Cross over the road, and turn left at the junction almost opposite, following the brown sign for Hardwick Hall and Stainsby Mill.  

The road, a continuation of Mill Lane, goes under the M1 bridge and on to Stainsby Mill. There’s been a working mill on this site for over 800 years.  

When not closed for maintenance, it’s well worth a visit. Please note, you must pre-book your visit.  

If the mill is closed, a bench at the war memorial offers another opportunity to rest up before tackling the long approach driveway up to Hardwick Hall.  

6. Continue along the road (now Hodmire Lane) to the entrance of Hardwick Hall. Go through the gates and follow the driveway through the estate back to the hall and car park.  

If you wish, you can explore the gardens and drop into the restaurant for refreshments after a very satisfying walk through the Hardwick Estate. 

COMPASS POINTS 

Start point: SK 4654 6345 

Parking: Hardwick Hall main car park 

Map: Ordinance Survey Explorer 269 

Terrain: Moderate. An undulating ramble through estate parkland, fields and country lanes. 

Distance: 6.5 miles 

Refreshments: Hardwick Inn and Hardwick’s Great Barn Restaurant