I recently spend a very enjoyable Sunday visiting the magnificent Castle Howard which has been home to the Howard family since it was built for them nearly 300 years ago.
The run up to Christmas is a great time to pay a visit to this stately home as the sumptuous rooms are ornately decorated with a range of festive decorations, and you can even enjoy some hot roast chestnuts after looking round the great house. Here are my top five things to love about Castle Howard:
1. The location in the Howardian Hills
The Howardian Hills are in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and driving through them to Castle Howard it isn’t hard to see way. We approached from the north and drove through some lovely villages such as Hovingham where you can always stop for refreshments at The Malt Shovel. The main approach to Castle Howard is pretty spectacular and there are are a number of vantage points inside the grounds which are great for looking out over the hills.
2. Exploring the grounds
We spent a couple of hours exploring the gorgeous grounds surrounding Castle Howard. After a walk through Ray Wood we stopped by the Temple of the Four Winds which has 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside. I recommend heading back towards the main house via Temple Terrace, a lovely walk which passes four beautiful statues and has some great views of South Lake and the Prince of Wales fountain.
Of course no visit is complete without visiting the Atlas Fountain, which is probably one of the most recognisable features of Castle Howard.
3. A picnic by the Great Lake
Although there are a number of cafes and restaurants at Castle Howard, in my opinion you can’t beat a good old-fashioned picnic so this was the option we went for. Head to the Great Lake - handily right next door to the adventure playground if you are taking any children with you, and there are a number of picnic tables to sit down at and take in the view. If you fancy a hot drink (and cake) to accompany your picnic there is also a cafe selling a selection of food and drink.
4. The beautiful Christmas decorations
The highlight of any visit to Castle Howard at Christmas has to be the magical decorations – they really do go all out. Christmas trees on display included a giant one measuring 22 feet in the Great Hall, an upside down tree (with its roots painted gold) suspended from the atrium in the Long Gallery and a tree made of books in the Castle Howard Dressing Room.
My favourites through were the gingerbread replica of Castle Howard and the sumptuous dining table – all set for a Christmas Dinner to remember!
5. Being transported back to the 18th century!
The rooms at Castle Howard really will transport you back to the times of grand balls, where games and music would take place after dinner (each in their own rooms of course) and everything was ornate and opulent. I loved the glimpse into the bedrooms and dressing rooms and just the sense of grandeur in the long corridors and impressive spaces.