Castle Howard, Yorkshire
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt.
I did one better. I frightened myself and terrorized the population of York by hiring a car and lurching off into the Yorkshire countryside in search of the beautiful Castle Howard.
Castle Howard stands amidst 1000 acres of outstanding natural beauty. It isn’t a traditional castle with moat and defensive walls, but an 18th century manor house owned by the Howard family for over 300 years. Long, narrow, hilly roads pass by fields and under archways on the approach to the castle. Views of Castle Howard itself are elusive until visitors walk through the courtyard and along a gravel path to the back of the house. Anyone willing to wander past the entrance to the house and onto the lawn is rewarded with a spectacular, panoramic view of the house.
The Great Hall and one of the many Christmas trees.
I visited Castle Howard on a sunny, cold day close to Christmas. The entire house was illuminated by candlelight and warmed by fires from the huge stone fireplaces, giving it a flavor of Christmas past. Family photos of the Hon. and Mrs. Simon Howard and their children are sprinkled liberally throughout the house and add a personal touch to Christmases present and future.
1940 fire at Castle Howard Photo via Castle Howard
An entire wing of the house, including the spectacular dome, was destroyed by fire in 1940. Much of the artwork was rescued from the blaze by the girls from St. Margaret’s School, who were housed at Castle Howard during the evacuations of WWII. The wing and Great Hall lay in ruins for decades before restorations commenced. Recreating and rebuilding the beautiful dome was a priority during reconstruction. Restoration work is ongoing and in an area open to the public.
A portion of the house is open to public wandering…bedrooms, dining rooms, the Great Hall, the library, the museum room and the chapel among others.
The grounds and gardens of Castle Howard are as spectacular as the house itself. Visitors can discover 1,000 acres of woodland trails, lakes, waterways and hidden gardens.
Temple of the Four Winds
The Howard family mausoleum
Things to Know when Visiting Castle Howard
Castle Howard is a 45 minute drive from York. I hired a car with a satnav, which I loved/hated. “Her” directions were crucial in navigating through the complicated one way streets and roundabouts of York. “She” also allowed me to concentrate on driving on the “wrong” side of the road and shifting with my opposite hand instead of reading a map or fiddling with my phone. Adjust the satnav before leaving the lot. Mine had a voice that alternated between frustration with my inability to “leave the roundabout at the 3rd exit” without circling through it at least 2 or 3 times and complete disgust. I used Hertz in the York train station. A one day rental cost £26.
If you don’t want to hire a car, you can use a bus service available from York and Malton to Castle Howard. Check details here.
The Castle has special programs available for anyone interested in knowing a bit more about the family and the estate. The Mausoleum Tour is a guided opportunity to visit the vault beneath the chapel of the family mausoleum, not ordinarily open to the public. Art and monument tours are also available. Check details here
Some visitors recognize the house and gardens from the 1981 and 2008 film versions of Brideshead Revisited. The Castle has an ongoing exhibition, Brideshead Restored: The Story of Restoration and Brideshead Revisited at Castle Howard. The exhibition tells the story of the 1940 fire, the restoration that followed and the role filming played in the castle’s resurrection.
Most children will prefer the beautiful grounds, spectacular gardens and adventure play areas to the interior grandeur of Castle Howard. The house is suitable for children, however, and the castle provides illustrated treasure hunt sheets for the little ones to follow on their way through the house.
Most of the castle and grounds are accessible for visitors with limited mobility. Details here.
As always, check details here before you go.
Do you have any tips or comments about visiting Castle Howard? Any other “don’t miss” things in the area you’d love to tell me about?” Leave a comment below and share!
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