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Things to do in the house at Calke Abbey

Image shows the Dining Room at Calke Abbey. The dining table is in the centre of the room and the table is laid for a meal.
The Dining Room at Calke Abbey | © National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick

Calke Abbey is the house where time stood still, vividly portraying a period in the twentieth century when many country houses did not survive. Discover why Calke Abbey is affectionately known as the ‘un-stately’ home and uncover fascinating collection items.

Winter in the house

From 5 November 2023 – 29 February 2024, most of the house is closed to the public while the collections team carry out important conservation work. During this time, we’re inviting you to to delve into the rich and varied collections of Calke and the fascinating stories of the people who once lived and worked here on a guided tour or a visit to the Family Apartments.

Buggy service available over winter

The buggy service will be available daily from November – February from 10.30am – 2.30pm (subject to volunteer availability), providing visitors with mobility needs or wheelchair users access to the house and gardens from the ticket office.

Guided tours

Take your pick from one of two tours and join our passionate volunteers, as together you uncover more about Calke and its historic collections.

Please note: all visitors, including National Trust members, need to pre-book their guided tour.

Treasures and Tales

Available on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 6 November 2023 – 29 February 2024, excluding Christmas Day.

Featuring for the first time this winter, delve into Calke's varied collection and discover items you've never seen before on this exclusive tour. Every object has a different tale to tell and provides valuable insight into the history of Calke and its people. Unearth these stories with your knowledgable guide.

In the Steps of Servants

Available on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 November 2023 – 29 February 2024.

Follow in the footsteps of the people who kept this great house running like clockwork and discover their stories and the contributions they made to this great estate. Explore rooms and spaces specifically connected to the servants, venturing into areas not seen on the normal visitor route.

Nature's Home Experience

The ground floor of the house is open every Saturday and Sunday from 11 November 2023 – 25 February 2024, excluding Christmas at Calke weekends in December.

The ground floor will also be open daily during February half term from 19 February 2024 – 25 February 2024.

Come and visit Nature's Home – an experience with fun for all the family. Ever wondered how children explored the natural world before the internet, television or David Attenborough? Come in to find out more and discover Calke's very own indoor parkland which needs your help to bring it to life.

With rooms not usually open to the public and collection items you may not have seen before, we’ll be exploring nature through a child’s eyes and looking at how children in Calke’s past developed an understanding and interest in the natural world. Curl up with a book or craft a flower or animal to live in our great cardboard parkland.

Park and Garden admission applies to all visitors (free for National Trust members), but there’s no additional admission for visiting Nature's Home.

Planning your visit

If you’re planning a visit to the un-stately home, please bear this information in mind before visiting.

To visit the house, you'll need to purchase a separate admission ticket from the Ticket Office. National Trust members can explore inside free of charge but will need to show their membership cards at the entrance.

Please bear in mind that there may be a potential wait at the front of the house on busy days.

You can help us care for the house and its historic collection by:

  • Leaving bags behind.
  • Borrowing a baby carrier and leaving pushchairs and buggies outside.
  • Grabbing a snack beforehand – food and drink cannot be taken around the House.
  • Turning the flash off before taking any photographs on your visit.
  • Using one of our scrapers for muddy boots.
  • Leaving heels and pointed walking sticks behind, as they could damage the historic floors.

Image shows two children sat in armchairs in the nursery. One is pictured reading a book.
Take a seat and pick up a book in the Nursery | © National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick

Calke Abbey: the 'un-stately' home

Built on the site of a former priory, Calke Abbey was sold to the Harpur family in the early 17th century, who extended and developed the house over several generations. Sir Henry Harpur, 7th Baronet, also expanded the lime works, a decision that brought him great wealth. The house stayed with the Harpur-Crewes until the National Trust began caring for it in 1985.

By 1985, many of its rooms had been abandoned for decades and were in a state of decay. We've decided to preserve these rooms as they were found, vividly demonstrating how country houses like Calke Abbey fell into decline.

Visiting the house is journey from grandeur to abandonment. Experience state rooms, peeling wallpaper and vast collections of strange and unique objects – presented and preserved exactly as we found them.

Explore the rooms at Calke Abbey

You'll begin your journey the Entrance Hall and explore the 'stately' rooms at the front of the house, including the Dining Room, the Library and the Saloon, where you'll find plenty of taxidermy, an impressive book collection and grand paintings.

As you make your way towards the servants' quarters, experience a sense of abandonment in the School Room and Sir Vauncey's childhood bedroom, where a great number of belongings were stored, and simply left.

Wandering through the house, you'll discover deep and complex stories of the family who amassed a huge collection of treasures, and who shaped the Calke you see today. Why not speak to a Room Guide to learn more of Calke's secrets?

Collection items to look out for

From the grand and lavish to the abandoned and broken, there's a vast and unique collection housed at Calke Abbey, and you're bound to notice hidden details on every visit. Here are some highlights from the collection to look out for as you explore the 'un-stately' home.

Image shows a curlew from Calke's collection positioned on the table with birds in the background
The Bird Lobby at Calke Abbey | © National Trust/Rod Kirkpatrick

Natural history collection

Calke Abbey is home to one of the largest natural history collections in the National Trust, and you’ll find stuffed animals in most rooms of the house – from birds and mammals to fish and reptiles. What you see is actually half of the original natural history collection, much of which was sold off to meet death duties.

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A view of the west side of the house and  a glimpse of the Pleasure Grounds through trees on a sunny day at Calke Abbey

Discover more at Calke Abbey

Find out when Calke Abbey is open, how to get here, the things to see and do and more.

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