Calke Abbey is a bit different from the standard National Trust propery - it is presented in the same state as it was given to the Trust (with a few changes,such as the display of the royal gift of Chinese silk bed drapes and costimes)) so that the visitor can see the upward struggle that the Trust faces when presented with a disused stately home.
However, whether you visit the house, with its knowledgable and friendly guides or not, the grounds of the house are magnificent and there are plenty of places to explore. In addition, the walking around the grounds and beyond is superb (rolling woods and farmland rather than dramatic mountains, but lovely nonetheless).
At Christmas, the place really does come into its own. While the daytime is lovely (with craft for the kids, carol singers, a smithy, a wishing tree, and an owl display on the day I visited - 15 December) the crowds really start to come in as dusk falls when the path the church from the house, and parts of the grounds are lit up with beautiful Christmas trees, lanterns and lights. It really is magical.
There is also a pretty good shop (as you'd expect from the National Trust) and a cafe which, sadly in common with all NT cafes I visited recently, is a bit disorganised in terms of staffing - food is lovely, but oh, the queues!
A superb day out for kids and adults alike, and a good playground for the little ones as well.
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