METROPOLITAN LIFE ...follow in Mr Darcy's footsteps
THE final episode of the BBC production of Pride and Prejudice goes out tonight; from tomorrow, the nation will be bereft. Addicts can stave off the pangs of withdrawal a little longer by going on a pilgrimage to Pemberley, one of the hallowed spots where Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth fought and flirted as Elizabeth Bennet and Fitzwilliam Darcy. Mr Darcy's estate was supposed to be in Derbyshire, but in fact, Lyme Park, alias the BBC Pemberley, is in Disley, near Stockport.

The house is every bit as beautiful as it appeared when Elizabeth Bennet swept around the corner in the open-topped coach and paused at the view over the lake. No wonder Elizabeth looked stricken when she realised what she'd thrown over along with Mr Darcy's hand in marriage.

The garden at Lyme Park is 16 acres of formal parterres and herbaceous borders (plus a Victorian conservatory and an Edwardian rose garden that Miss Bennet of course would not have seen). Its gravelled paths are ideal for Darcy-like stalking with furrowed brow, or skipping happily about in the fresh air, bosoms aheave, a la Miss Bennet. If you are not tricked out in a bonnet and an Empire-line dress there is a narrow walk alongside the agreeably overgrown stream that feeds the lake.

Outside the formal gardens, this is a paradise for energetic ramblers like Elizabeth. There are 1,300 acres of moorland park to stride around in, muddying petticoats and rendering cheeks brilliant to show off fine pairs of eyes.

The Hall itself closes for the winter on Tuesday; not such a blow for Janeites, however, as the interior scenes at Pemberley were filmed at Sudbury Hall, Ashbourne, in Derbyshire (tel 01283 585305). Covering the two in a weekend would mean a drive through some of the Peak District's most beautiful countryside, but this will have to be saved for the spring - Sudbury also closes for the winter at the end of this month.

how to get there

Lyme Park, which is owned by the National Trust, is situated on the south side of the A6, six miles south-east of Stockport, nine miles north-west of Buxton. The entrance is on the western outskirts of the village of Disley.

where to eat

There is a snack kiosk in the car park, and a coffee shop in the garden. Those who require more substantial provender following an afternoon romping about the park should direct the coachman to follow the A6 into the village of Disley. There are a number of inns, but the Cottage Tea Rooms, situated at No 7 Market Street, the principal road through the village, are worthy of particular note. Tea Rooms is something of a misnomer, as the special of the day is likely to be a huge portion of a traditional French speciality such as coq au vin or navarin of lamb, but the teas are delicious too - try the excellent home made cakes or sample the Cheshire tea, which comes with a slab of local cheese (telephone 01663 764259).

where to stay

The Alderley Edge Hotel (tel 01625 583033) is a good base to explore the countryside round Lyme Park. Two-night weekend bed and breakfast breaks are pounds 67 for a double room, pounds 36 for a single. Further information on accommodation in the area from the North West Tourist Board (tel 01942 821222).

Lyme Park 01663 762023; information line 01663 766492. From 1 November: the Park is open 8am-6.30pm daily or until dusk if earlier; the Gardens and the new Mill Pond Coffee Shop and gift shop by the lake Saturdays and Sundays, 12 noon-4pm. The Hall and Tea Room are closed from 31 October, and will not reopen until 30 March 1996. Admission to Park pounds 3 per car, to the Garden pounds 1, free to National Trust members.

HESTER LACEY

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