Calke Abbey: The Un-stately Home

Back in March, I was meant to head to Heidelberg in Germany for a weekend but work had been literally awful and I just needed to collapse. With my husband in Japan, I decided there was no better place to go to rest than back home to my parents. After a week at the laptop, I wanted to get a nice long walk in on Saturday and so off we headed 30 minutes up the road to Calke Abbey for a stroll.

The three musketeers at Calke Abbey

Mum and I had planned the route, so obviously didn’t know where to go or what direction – from Calke Abbey car park, I eventually led us off on a path (which turned out to be the completely wrong one) entering some lovely woodland and followed along a stream to the nearby reservoir. The reservoir is man made, covering 209 acres with a capacity of 1400 million gallons, benefiting around 800,000 people in Leicestershire. It’s one of the most modern and efficient reservoirs in Europe – you learn something new every day.

At the Reservoir

We walked round the reservoir, and then through Calke Village and back on to the Abbey grounds. Just a week before the weather here in England had turned really mild and the daffodils started blooming, but it lulled us in to thinking Spring was here before hitting us with Winter Part 2. As we walked back on to the Estate, I could barely feel my hands and my eyes were watering at the cold. We strolled past the beautiful church and then Calke Abbey itself came in to view. I decided I was far too cold to continue on our walk and instead we decided to warm up in the house.

Calke Abbey on the horizon

As with anything with an Abbey in the name, the site was of course once an Abbey until Henry VIII came along. However the current building was built well after that between 1701 and 1704, as a Baroque mansion. The house was owned by the Harpur Family for nearly 300 years, but passed to the National Trust in 1985.

The beautiful home

The house is really unique as it has been preserved in the state in which it was handed to the National Trust. It really is as if time stood still, and illustrative of how many of these grand houses gradually fell in to a state of disrepair, unsustainable post two World Wars and the introduction of inheritance tax. In fact, the Harpur who passed it to the National Trust did so in lieu of an £8m inheritance tax bill.

What’s also interesting is that slowly over time bits of the house had already been closed off by the Harpurs to try to make running the estate more affordable. What it means is you now have a mish-mash of rooms – some well kept and found in an impressive state, and others completely decrepit after years of abandonment. There are signs of the once splendid grandeur of the early generations, with servants bells (labelled Lady Harpur’s bedroom and so forth), grand fireplaces and a library of incredible books, but there are also many mouldy, torn and worn rooms. I quite liked it because it had character.

Lovely Library

An un-stately home indeed.

After warming up, and a spot of lunch in the Café, it was back to the walking route I’d already messed up. With Dad at the helm, we walked up north to the nearby lime kilns. These kilns lie on the Calke Estate, and were once used to create mortar to enable the bonding of bricks to build buildings by burning the limestone to make quicklime.

Dad and I in the woods!

We then looped back down to the Estate, through more pretty woodland and open fields before collapsing in to the car. In total we walked about 8km in a very inefficient loop, but it was still beautiful and a lovely day out. The perfect way to clear my head after a long week at work, and to re-set myself before starting all over again on Monday.

Thanks so much for reading – what did you think of Calke Abbey? I loved this affectionately labelled un-stately home, and thoroughly recommend a visit to anyone who might be in the area. Stay safe and happy travelling!


  1. Nice to spend time with family, indeed, on a hike along the reservoir. And, the historic Calke Abbey & Calke Estate look amazing, with such a fun photo with your Dad, also. Thanks for sharing your wonderful adventures, Hannah 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Here in SA there is also a Heidelberg (actually there are two – one in the south and one in the north)… can you believe it? No better place to rest than one’s parents’ house! It just looks cold, but as always you got some pretty pictures. It must be quite a task to transform that house so that all rooms can look as nice as the ones that have already been redone, right? Good luck at work – take deep breaths and hopefully you’re already planning your next getaway!

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  3. I really like the mismash of staged and stately and disarray and disrepair throughout the house- it gives it more of a real sense of the years and generations that have been there. Looks like a great place for a walk with your folks- great picture of the three of you! 🙂

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  4. I love all the photos, particularly the ones of you and your parents; you look like your Dad. It’s seems like time with your parents was just what you needed to recover and recharge. The abbey looks really interesting with so many old knickknacks and other collectibles. Lovely places to walk too; sometimes a wrong turn leads us in the right direction!

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  5. How fun to spend some time with your parents. And there’s nothing better than spending time outdoors to help you decompress and disconnect from work. This looks like a lovely walk and you even got to explore a beautiful historic house.

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  6. Some fresh air and time with your parents is always a great way to lift your sprits after a tough week. That home is very interesting, I’ve never seen anything like it. Usually places would close off the rooms that weren’t up to standards.

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    1. Definitely, it’s so nice to be able to do 🙂 I totally agree, it was a conscious decision to keep it that way to show how these houses declined over time which I found quite unique and interesting.


  7. That wrong-direction hike turned out pretty well, I’d say. Calke Abbey looks fascinating, I’d be in my element looking through and photographing those ramshackle rooms full of treasures and antiques. The library really is lovely and that’s a fun father-and-daughter shot at The Lime Kilns.

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  8. Calke Abbey looks fascinating. I love that the National Trust has kept it as it was when it was handed over to them, it gives such an insight into what life was like for these aristocratic families as their fortunes dwindled. The contrast between the abandoned rooms that are falling to ruin and the grand, lavish spaces is amazing. Hope work’s improved for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I liked it too, and it really brought to life the years of the family living there and their varying fortunes – I liked it as it was a bit different. Still a long old week, but hopefully from next week it eases for another couple before ramping up again 🙂

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  9. I enjoyed your hike and your tour of the home. What an interesting place, and it’s quite intriguing that the National Trust chose to leave some rooms as they were. How sad though that the family home had to be given up due to inheritance taxes. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Very fascinating to see a place that’s a combination of run-down and luxurious, as it is in the Calke Abbey! You’re fortunate that this lovely estate is close to home, and all the more to spend it with your family!

    Liked by 1 person

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