How better to delve into the past than with a look around one of Yorkshire’s grand historic houses? Many come with beautiful grounds and gardens, perfect for enjoying a picnic before taking a tour of the grand stately home. Little ones won't be bored - apart from miles of gardens and woodland to explore, some of our most beautiful homes have play areas, mazes and adventure playgrounds to amuse younger family members. Don't think that you can't take a four-legged friend with you either - though many historic houses don't allow dogs inside the actual property, most welcome them in their many acres of grounds and formal gardens, as well as on the outside terraces of their cafés.
Though it's difficult to find a place to stay as grand as our number one historic house, Castle Howard, we do have a delightful selection of cottages for you to return to at night. The grandeur of Britain's stately homes is all very well for a few hours, but who doesn't want to sit back in front of a roaring fire with a glass of wine in their own cosy cottage of a night? If this sounds like your idea of heaven, have a look at our collection of cottages below.
1. Castle Howard
Castle Howard is arguably one of the most-recognised stately homes in Yorkshire and has been featured in several versions of Brideshead Revisited. Built during the 1700s it contains both Baroque and Palladium architecture and the beautiful rooms include the Grand Hall with its painted domed ceiling.
The house is set in magnificent grounds in the Howardian Hills and many of the restored rooms are open to the public and are styled to look as they would have done in Castle Howard’s heyday. There is a lot to explore outside too, including walled gardens, fountains, statues, a boating lake and Ray Woods. It’s a lovely day out for the whole family and there is a great farm shop on-site too, where free bones are on offer if you have a dog with you! (subject to availability).
There's a great calendar of events throughout the year to enjoy at Castle Howard - from a weekly Parkrun every Saturday at 9am to the spectacular classical concert held in August in the gardens, you'll always find something fun to get involved in. Dogs are very welcome at Castle Howard - take Fido for a stroll around the glorious gardens on-lead and then in for a special gift. They are also welcome in the outdoor seating areas at the cafés and if the weather takes a turn for the worse, well-behaved dogs are also welcome inside the Courtyard Café.
Read our guide to Castle Howard if you want a little more info on this stunning stately home.
2. Harewood House
Harewood House is a magnificent stately home between Harrogate and Leeds. Built in the 18th century by Edwin Lascelle, Harewood House is known as one of England’s treasure houses. No expense was spared on its creation and you’ll find family portraits by Gainsborough, furniture by Thomas Chippendale and gardens designed by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
There are lots to do in the grounds of Harewood House too, with boat trips, giant games in the walled garden, an open-air cinema and even penguin feeding. The impressive Yorkshire stately home was also featured extensively in ITV’s Victoria. The house puts on some fantastic exhibitions too, with all of 2020 dedicated to Harewood's bird collection as well as some great historic exhibitions.
You can also book one of their specialist workshops such as the art of willow weaving or Spring flower arranging or if you want something a bit more active, they often put on charity half marathons and fun runs.
If this beautiful house has inspired you to up your romantic game, then check out our top six romantic days out in Yorkshire.
3. Nunnington Hall
Nunnington Hall is a Yorkshire manor house that’s located on the banks of a peaceful river near York. A stone bridge over the river separates the grounds of the house from the village if you want to take a stroll. Explore the beautifully-restored period rooms within this National Trust property and outside, a walled garden, peacocks and flowering meadows can be enjoyed by all the family. We recommend taking a look at the Carlisle Collection of 16 miniature rooms, which contains items such as musical instruments and the entire works of Shakespeare – all in miniature!
The house puts on a variety of high profile art and photography exhibitions throughout the year in the attic gallery and the hall. Celebrating the best of national works and local artists, lovers of all things art will have a great afternoon out here. Music lovers should visit the stunning collection of sixteen miniature rooms which display beautifully detailed musical instruments, furniture and accessories.
If you've got children to entertain at Easter time, make time for the annual Cadbury Easter Egg Hunt which are put on across various National Trust properties across the UK. Visitors at any time of year will love to take afternoon tea at the atmospheric tearoom which boasts wonderful views across the garden, or a quick browse in the attic shops where you will find lots of lovely goodies on display.
4. Newby Hall and Gardens
Newby Hall and Gardens near Ripon is a great family-friendly day out in Yorkshire. This 18th-century country house beside the River Ure is a grade I listed building with a delightful collection of furniture, paintings and precious artefacts. Inside the Hall, rooms include the tapestry room, the statue gallery and the billiards room, all an exceptional example of 18th-century interior design. Built in the 1690s by Sir Christopher Wren, the house was later adapted and enlarged by both John Carr and Robert Adam.
Children will absolutely love the miniature railway and adventure playground within the grounds of Newby Hall. Both children and adults will love visiting the teddies at Gyles Brandreth's Teddy Bear Collection, in their 'paw'pose built home in the gardens. Little ones can also check out the Mr Men and Little Miss items on offer in the gift shop while their parents find something lovely to buy.
Whatever your age, don't miss the Dollshouse Exhibition, the permanent home to one of the finest collections of dollshouses and miniatures in the world. Due to the generosity of collectors Caroline Hamilton and Jane Fiddick who have had a passion for dollhouses for over 40 years. The attention to detail is outstanding, from small 'room boxes' like Grandmama's Parlour to the much grander Beagle House. The exhibition is free to visit with a gardens admission ticket.
It's not all about the house - the gorgeous gardens are reason enough to visit. Have a look at our guide to 10 Yorkshire gardens to visit this summer.
5. Duncombe Park
Located on the edge of Helmsley in the North York Moors, Duncombe Park is a historic house that’s set in 450 acres. The land comprises gardens, 300 acres of parkland and a nature reserve so there’s plenty to see and do on a visit. One of Yorkshire's finest historic houses and estates, it is the seat of the Duncombe family whose senior members assumed the title Earl and Countess of Feversham until 1963.
Events throughout the year include steam, country and antique fairs and the International Centre for Birds of Prey is based on the grounds too. Many people go to just discover the parklands with their waymarked walks, discovery trails and orienteering courses for all ages.
Amble through meadow, river valley and woodlands and then explore the great lawn and terraces of the gardens, including the 'secret garden' around the old conservatory.
6. Scampston Hall
The 17th century Scampston Hall is a wonderful example of a Regency country house. It’s first and foremost a family home although you can arrange a tour with Sir Charles Legard and a team of friendly guides. The house has many fine works of art, furniture and porcelain to discover, and it is often used as a wedding venue and setting for corporate events. Home to Christopher and Miranda Legard, and lovingly restored by the family, you won't be kept behind ropes or barriers, enabling you to see everything at close quarters and ask any questions that you may have about the house.
Outside, the Scampston Walled Garden is set within the walls of Scampston Hall’s original kitchen garden and was designed by the renowned Dutch gardener, Piet Oudolf, in 1999. It’s a fabulous space to explore and was created to complement the adjacent 18th-century Capability Brown-designed parkland.
Scampston offers a diverse range of events throughout the year, including plant fairs, gardening courses, academic lectures and painting classes. You'll certainly have a whole host of inspiration all around, to help you get to grips with a new hobby or perfect a current one! There are some interesting outdoor events too, such as guided family discovery walks where you can discover the estate's hidden secrets and the annual Yorkshire Game and Country Fair which is held in the spectacular parkland.
7. Burton Agnes Hall
The Elizabethan Burton Agnes Hall has been described as the perfect English country house and has a beautiful setting in the Yorkshire Wolds. It’s filled with treasured art and furniture and was originally designed by Robert Smithson – Master Mason to Queen Elizabeth I. Set in the village of Burton Agnes, near Driffield in the East Riding of Yorkshire, it was built by Sir Henry Griffith at the beginning of the 17th century to designs attributed to Robert Smythson. Home to the same family for over 400 years, fifteen generations have filled the Hall with beautiful treasures, from French Impressionist paintings to tapestries and carvings.
The grounds are home to gorgeous gardens, a woodland walk and giant games to keep younger visitors happy. They will love ambling along the shady path to the woodland adventure playground which sits in a grassy glade at the side of the home. Hop on the double zip wire, tyre swings and five-person seesaw and if you have toddlers with you, there's a gentler play area for them to burn off some energy without getting hurt.
Burton Agnes hosts a renowned jazz festival on its grounds each year - held over three days in July, it's a popular event which brings jazz lovers from all over the country to listen to a great line up of musicians.
8. Burton Constable Hall
Another Elizabethan stately home in the Yorkshire Wolds is the magnificent Burton Constable Hall & Grounds. A Grade I listed building set in a 300-acre park, it is known for its 18th and 19th-century interiors and its fine 18th-century cabinet of curiosities. There are grand rooms filled with art and architecture as well as a restored stable block with exhibitions telling the history of the stables through the years.
Behind the scenes tours lets you delve into the nooks and crannies of Burton Constable and there is lots of historic parkland to discover which was designed by Capability Brown.
Home to the Constable family for over 700 years, Burton Constable is one of the most interesting country houses to survive complete with its historic collections, making it a fascinating historical day out for all the family. If the house isn't enough, there are a variety of events on throughout the year including mindful yoga, willow weaving and the fun Muddy March.
9. Hovingham Hall
The Palladian-style Hovingham Hall is located in the Howardian Hills (an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and lies between Helmsley and Malton. It's a thriving rural estate which has been owned by the Worsley family for 450 years and was the childhood home of the Duchess of Kent. Built in the 18th century on a site that the family have owned since the 16th century, it makes a great day out for those who love a little history in a beautiful location.
The house includes a beautiful domed ceiling, lots of architectural features and an array of artwork and furniture. Cricket is regularly played on the ground at the front of the house so you may well catch a game on a visit to Hovingham Hall - it is said to be the oldest continuously played on, private cricket ground in England.
As the majority of the estate lies within the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it really is a joy to visit - head to the Flower Gardens and The Dovecote, with the Glasshouse offering a taste of the tropical for those who like their blooms a little exotic.
10. Fairfax House
Fairfax House is located in the centre of York and is one of the finest examples of a Georgian townhouse in England. The house has regular events and exhibitions throughout the year and contains an impressive collection of furniture, clocks and paintings. Explore hidden treasures and discover the secrets within the house as you are taken back to the glory days of city-living in 18th-century York. Originally the winter home of Viscount Fairfax and his daughter Anne, the house's richly decorated interiors and elegant stucco ceilings make it a masterpiece of Georgian design and architecture.
Children will love meeting Gregory, the Townhouse Mouse, who along with his friends has left a family-friendly trail to follow through Fairfax House. The house is centrally located in York so a visit to Fairfax House can be easily combined with a visit to other York attractions. Walk around the city imagining the streets in Georgian times and visit the Jorvik Viking Centre if you fancy taking a trip even further back in time!
Gorgeous Cottages are the booking agents for a collection of Yorkshire Holiday Cottages. If you are thinking of booking a short break or holiday to Yorkshire give us a call.