Castle Howard is a stately home dating from 1699, located 15 miles north east of York . It was the setting for the 1980s TV series ‘Brideshead Revisited’ and had been on my hit list of places to visit for over 30 years.
Many years previously we had booked a weekend stay in York which was supposed to include a visit to Castle Howard. Sadly for us on arrival at the hotel we discovered that the house was closed for the winter season and we were offered a visit to Eden Camp instead! While this was very interesting in its own right, Castle Howard it was not 🙁
It was, therefore, with great anticipation that we headed across the M62 in the trusty campervan aiming for the Lakeside Holiday Park. This was a perfect way to spend not just one day, but the whole weekend, as not only do they offer discounted entry but a second visit within a week is included. Perfect for a weekend of total Brideshead immersion.
The Stable Courtyard is where the ticket office, cafe and giftshops are found and there is plenty of parking for cars, campervans and coaches. Castle Howard does seem to be a popular spot for coach trips, particularly those full of overseas visitors on whirlwind tours of the UK, stopping only for brief photo opportunities between Cambridge and Edinburgh! We visited the Courtyard on our first afternoon for tea and cake and a mooch around the shops, before heading to the campsite.
There is, of course, plenty of other accommodation nearby but the Lakeside Holiday Park is a mile away from the entrance to Castle Howard and offers excellent views of the house both from the Lakeside walk and roads nearby.
From the site it is possible to walk to the house, however the route is along the busy access road, so the next day we decided to drive, confident that we would be getting plenty of exercise walking around the grounds once we got there. The fact that it was raining was the deciding factor! Rain was also the deciding factor driving us into the house as soon as we arrived. We spent about 2 hours inside, enjoying the magnificence of the interior, the exhibitions and the history of both the house and the family. The following pictures are just a sample of the rooms seen on the house tour.
The China Landing is the first room in the house. It is a lovely bright and airy space due to the huge skylight. It is up a flight of stairs that was purpose built for visitors but does have a stairlift.
The Antique Passage shows the bust and statue collection of the 4th Earl.
The Great Hall and Dome are pretty awesome. This area is used for weddings – what a spectacular venue.
The Turquoise Drawing Room was refurbished in 2002 and is quite stunning.
We particularly enjoyed the ‘Duty Calls’ exhibition, which explains the story of the house, family and tenants in times of war, and the story and photos of the 1940s fire and ‘Brideshead Restored’.
After a morning in the house we were ready to eat. There are several places that provide food and drink. By the end of the weekend we had enjoyed afternoon tea in the Courtyard Cafe (with Wifi should you need it) and the Boathouse Cafe (lovely setting by the lake, spoiled only by paper cups!) and two excellent hot lunches in the Fitzroy Room.
There is a programme of free guided walks on the hour which last about 35 mins and start from the Boar garden. These have various themes; we chose the ‘Introduction to Castle Howard’ which took us around the building and highlighted various points of interest, including the time capsule from 1982 to be opened in 3982! It is worth planning your day around these walks as they do give a special insight into the house and garden.
Happily for us the rain had stopped by the time we were ready to explore further. There is ample opportunity for fresh air and exercise with lots to discover outside and plenty of photo opportunities available.
The Atlas Fountain was commissioned in 1850 and transported from London by railway. What a sight that must have been. It usually operates between 10.30am and 4pm.
There is a nice view of the house and Prince of Wales Fountain from the South Lake.
The Mausoleum and New River Bridge can be seen from the grounds but are not part of the tour.
The Walled Garden, including the Rose Garden, is the place to head to if you like flowers.
Much of the site is flat and accessible. For anyone less mobile or just wanting a ride there is a Tractor Train or Kelly Car which travels between the Ticket Office, the house entrance and the Boathouse Cafe and Adventure Playground.
Returning the next day, the sun came out and we were able to make the most of our two day ticket by revisiting the house and taking a pleasant stroll around the grounds to take sunnier pictures (albeit with background of ‘dramatic’ skies). It has to be said that amazing as the house and garden at Castle Howard are, the staff are most definitely one of their finest treasures. Everyone we met was delightful, super friendly and only too happy to answer questions. A thoroughly lovely weekend, thanks to all.
You can find out more about Castle Howard at their brilliant website www.castlehoward.co.uk