Walk: Lyme Park, Cheshire
When it comes to romantic screen moments, few are more iconic than Mr Darcy’s ‘lake scene’ in the 1995 BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Visit the grounds where the pulse-racing scene was filmed
In the 1700s, the Legh family rebuilt a palatial house on the edge of the Peak District, incorporating a flamboyant mix of Elizabethan, Baroque and Palladian architecture.
It is in the grounds where the action of the 1995 TV series takes place. The expansive parkland, deer park, hunting tower on the ridge (The Cage) and gardens make the estate a joy to walk in. Follow in the footsteps of Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet on the National Trust Pemberley Walk and you will see why Lyme Hall was the chosen set for the BBC adaptation.
Lyme Park walk
2.2 miles/3.6km | 1.5 hours | easy
1. Pemberley path
Leaving the car park and information centre behind, turn left on to the driveway to climb the hill, passing over a cattle grid. In the TV series, this is where we see Elizabeth Bennet arriving at Pemberley Estate for the first time.
Ignoring the right fork, turn left after a clump of trees to follow a grassy path. Pass the dipping pond and go through the black gate ahead, then a second gate through a wire fence to follow a winding path uphill. This is where we see Mr Darcy riding across the parkland on his white horse. Continue along the ridge to Paddock Cottage, where far-reaching views open out over the Cheshire Plains.
Restricted by war, production of 1940’s Pride and Prejudice never moved beyond Hollywood’s MGM Studios. In it, Laurence Olivier (left) delivered such a fine performance as Darcy that it gave Colin Firth cause to hesitate before accepting the role for the 1995 TV series.
The 2005 film, starring Kiera Knightley and Matthew McFadyen, showcases the imposing Chatsworth House in the Peak District and Stourhead Gardens in Wiltshire, while interior scenes were shot at Wilton House near Salisbury. All these houses are open to the public.
2. Darcy dip
Take the path downhill, passing through a large gate on the left. Go between a wire fence and wall then through another gate leading to Darcy’s pond. This is where dashing Mr Darcy strips down to his thin white shirt and dives into the water.
3. Meadow ride
Continue around the pond and follow the wide grassy path over Drinkwater Meadow, the route Mr Darcy takes to return to the house with his horse. The path veers right, descending to a stony track – the Gritstone Trail. Head through the gate and back down to the information centre and car park.
4. Into Eden
Continue up the sloping path running alongside the walled garden, leading to the stately home. Go through the archway to the inner courtyard.
After the awkward encounter between Elizabeth and a damp Mr Darcy, he changes and runs down to the courtyard to welcome Elizabeth to his home in a more dignified manner.
5. Blushing Bennet
Head into the gardens and circle the lake anti-clockwise. From here you can enjoy the view of the grand house that impressed Elizabeth on arrival. Head around the top lawn, then drop down steps to the orangery, turning right. The path here is where an embarrassed Elizabeth had previously bumped into Mr Darcy, his wet shirt clinging to his torso. Later, they stroll here together. Exit the garden and take a break at the Ale Cellar or Servant’s Hall before exploring the opulent house.
Car park open 8.30am–5pm in Feb (8pm end of Mar–Oct). Garden open from 10.30am; closing time through spring and summer 4.30pm (varies in winter, including February). House reopens from 12 Feb, 11am–4pm, £8 per adult. nationaltrust.org.uk/lyme
Lyme Park map
Helen is the author of Slow Travel The Peak District, Bradt and A Time of Birds, Saraband, a memoir and travelogue describing her journey across Europe to Istanbul on her sit-up-and-beg bike.