The Dukeries Estates and Country Houses

The Sherwood Forest area is also known as the Dukeries. So called for the Ducal Estates of Portland (Welbeck), Newcastle (Clumber), Norfolk (Worksop) and Kingstone/Manvers (Thoresby). These Ducal families had famililial connections to the Duke’s of Devonshire (Cavendish) whose principal seat is Chatsworth in the Peak District. The Devonshire Houses at Bolsover Castle (English Heritage) and Hardwick Hall lie along the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire border. So interlinked are these families that the Dukeries and North East Derbyshire have been termed by some as Cavendish Shire. Other country houses in close proximity to Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage include Rufford Abbey (Earl of Scarborough) who were the Lords of Ollerton and Newstead Abbey home of the poet Lord Byron, Hardiwch Hall and Bolsover Castle.

Clumber Park
(7.6 miles from Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the heart of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Country)

One of the largest country parks in Europe, covering over 3800 acres, Clumber Park was once the seat of the Dukes of Newcastle-under-Lyme. The grand house built in 1770 was demolished in 1938, though the stable block (now used as a café), walled garden and dramatic gothic chapel remain. The National Trust now owns the estate and, through a careful management programme, ensures that the diverse landscape of heathland, woods and parkland is preserved for the public. Highlights of the Clumber Estate include the vast lake and the beautiful ‘Lime Tree Avenue’ – a sight not to be missed in Autumn.

Location/parking: There is a small charge for parking (free to NT members)
Postcode S80 3AZ
Admission: Free
Open: Clumber Park is open daily from dawn to dusk, but there are special opening times for some of the buildings
Contact: The National Trust on 01909 544917.

Rufford Abbey and Country Park
(2 miles from Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the heart of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Country)

Founded in 1147 by Gilbert of Ghent, the Cistercian Abbey of Rufford later became home to the Lords Savile who developed the building as a country residence. Although many of the buildings were destroyed in WWII, those remaining have undergone restoration, and now house an internationally-respected ceramics and craft centre, a restaurant and café. A display explaining monastic life can also be found in the dark, and reputedly haunted, abbey undercroft. The sculpture garden continues the artistic theme into the 150 acre wooded country park and there are formal gardens excellent childrens play areas as well as a 25-acre lake.

Location/ parking:
near Ollerton, signed from the A6142 miles south of Ollerton. There is a small charge for parking, except for the disabled
Admission: Free
Postcode NG22 9DF
Open: Rufford Abbey and Country Park (8.30am-5.30pm daily throughout year), Craft Centre (January-Feb 10.30am-4pm, March-December 10.30-5pm); Abbey (Easter-end of September 10.30-4pm). However, times may vary, please check
Contact: 01623 822944 or email:
There is more information about the Craft Centre specifically at

Thoresby Estate
(5 miles from Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the heart of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Country)

Thoresby Estate was originally the seat of the Earls and Dukes of Kingston. The imposing Grade I–listed Hall we see today was not the first mansion to be present on the estate, but was designed by the revered Victorian architect Anthony Salvin to be a romantic palace in an ‘Elizabethan style’ for the 3rd Earl Manvers. In recent times Thoresby Hall became empty and was put on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register. However, Warner Holidays acquired Thoresby Hall and renovated it, it is now a luxury hotel. Non-residents can take a stroll through the picturesque parkland, visit the courtyard shops and gallery (read more about this) and pop into the Bay Tree Café for a bite to eat. Parts of The Hall, such as the vivid and ornate ‘Blue Room’ are accessible to the public, as they have been converted into dining areas and serve lunches, Afternoon tea and evening meals.

Location/parking: Signposted from the A614 at Ollerton Roundabout. Parking is free of charge
Admission: Free
Open: The Park is open daily from 10.30-5pm
Contact: Gallery Tel: 01623 822009 or visit Thoresby Hall Tel: 01623 821000 or visit

The Harley Gallery at Welbeck Estate.
(9.3 miles from Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the heart of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Country)

The Harley Gallery is home to the historic Portland Collection of fine and decorative art. Displays from this internationally significant collection are accompanied by exhibitions from leading contemporary artists.

Additional attractions include events, ranging from tours of the State Rooms at Welbeck Abbey to meeting craftspeople at the Open Studios (prebook only), a café serving homemade meals and snacks, shop specialising in contemporary crafts, and family activity area and award winning farm shop.

Situated on the picturesque Welbeck Estate in Nottinghamshire, The Harley Gallery is easily reached from the A1 and M1.

Location/parking: FREE admission and FREE parking. Off the A60 at Mansfield Road, Worksop S80 3LW

Open Monday – Saturday 10am – 5pm and Sunday 10am – 4pm / Portland Collection 11am – 4pm daily.
Closed over the Christmas period and Easter Sunday.

Hardwick Hall
(19.2 miles from Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the heart of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Country)

It was Bess of Hardwick the richest woman in England after Elizabeth I who first created Hardwick in the 1500’s Set on a panoramic hill between Mansfield and Chesterfield the house was conceived to be a conspicuous statement of power and wealth. It is an Elizabethan architectural masterpiece. Inherited by her son William Cavendish Earl of Devonshire. The house stayed in the family until Death Duties forced it’s sale in the Twentieth Century it is now managed by The National Trust.

The Hardwick Estate is open every day, for house tours, countryside walks with picturesque views, woodland family play trails, locally sourced gifts in the shop and delicious seasonal menus in the restaurant.

Location/parking: 3 miles NW of Mansfield via A617 should you wish to use a SATNAV please use postcode S44 5RW
Admission: Free to National Trust members otherwise adult price for house and gardens £13.76, child price £6.88

Newstead Abbey
(15 miles from Blue Bell Self Catering Holiday Cottage in the heart of Sherwood Forest Robin Hood Country)

A beautiful historic house set in a glorious landscape of gardens and parkland within the heart of Nottinghamshire. Founded as a monastic house in the late 12th century, Newstead was home to the poet Lord Byron between 1808 – 1814. Inside the Abbey there is much to explore including Victorian room settings, and the poets private apartments.

The gardens and parkland at Newstead Abbey cover more than 300 acres with paths that meander past lakes, ponds and waterfalls.  The formal gardens are the perfect place to relax and offer something in all seasons from the bright colours of the rhododendrons in late spring to the Japanese maples in autumn.

Newstead Abbey hosts a variety of special events and temporary exhibitions throughout the year.

Location/parking: Newstead Abbey is located 12 miles north of Nottingham on the A60
Postcode for SATNAV NG15 9HJ
charges of £6 apply (2017)
Admission: to House £6