I couldn’t wait to get to Yorkshire and explore. My plan is to visit at least two places in the UK each month. There have to be places I’ve never been to before. Castle Howard is a sprawling estate with gardens, pleasure grounds, a landscape park, woodland, and agricultural land. The site combines formal and naturalistic elements.
What is Castle Howard?
Castle Howard is a beautiful 18th century stately home with 1,000 acres of picturesque grounds. You might recognize the house itself from the film and TV productions of Brideshead Revisited.
The family still resides in a part of the house, with other parts being made open to the public for tours. I was surprised to find the house absolutely full to the top with antiquities. We recently visited Paris and some of the artwork reminded me of the Louvre – this was not exactly what I was expecting from a stately home in Yorkshire! During the house tour, you get to sneak a peek at a couple of bedrooms complete with lavish four-poster beds, walk through the halls decorated with portraits of various Howards through the years, marvel at the painted ceiling in the Great Hall, and take in the extremely intricate detail of the serene chapel.
Personally, my favorite part of the house was seeing how the house had changed over the years. You can see how the house was built and then rebuilt after a devastating fire in 1940. Some of the damage has been preserved and that area is currently used as a Brideshead exhibition.
What is there to do at Castle Howard?
Besides the house tour already mentioned, the grounds are impressive. There are 1,000 acres to explore including a farm shop, cafe, various gardens, fountains, a temple, boating lake (with tours), an adventure playground, and woodland (with tours).
The Temple of the Four Winds was initially named as the Temple of Diana due to the presence of a Diana statue in Ray Wood. It was designed by Vanbrugh and is situated at the south east corner of Raywood at the eastern end of Temple Terrace. The temple is built in the shape of a cube with a dome and four porticoes. Four female figures stand on the temple’s steps. A cellar just underneath the temple was used for food preparation and storage.
The Mausoleum was designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, but Lord Morpeth, Sir Thomas Robinson, and Lord Burlington made significant changes. It’s about a mile away from the house, to the south-east. It is 90 feet (27.4 meters) tall. It is a cylindrical structure enveloped by a circular bastion wall and supported by a colonnade of 20 pillars. The domed chapel is reached via steps. The ceiling of the chapel rises 70 feet (21.3 meters) in the air and is decorated with carved cherubim heads and acanthus leaves. The interior wall is surrounded by eight Corinthian columns. The crypt, which is located beneath the chapel, has 63 loculi for receiving coffins. The Mausoleum is currently closed.
Hawksmoor designed the Temple of Venus, which is located a quarter mile north of the Temple of the Four Winds. Only the pedestal remains, and it was heavily grassed over when the survey was conducted in 2001. The original plan called for an open rotunda with eight Tuscan columns beneath an octagonal entablature and dome. A statue of Venus stood in the center, which is now housed in the Walled Garden. The temple was already in a state of disrepair in 1931. Ray Wood was clear felled in the early 1940s, and a tree was felled on top of it to cause it to collapse because it was deemed unsafe.
Hawksmoor designed the Pyramid. It is east of the Gatehouse (Pyramid Gate) and has a clear view of the house. It’s a squat pyramid made of rough grass. Inside is a massive bust of Lord William Howard, the pioneer of the Howard family’s Carlisle branch and fortune. It is not accessible to the general public.
Don’t forget there is also a restaurant and gift shop located in the house.
Where is it?
Castle Howard is located 15 miles north of York, just off the A64 toward Malton. If coming from the north, exit the A1 and take the A61 to Thirsk, then the A170 to Helmsley. Just before Helmsley, take the B1257 and follow the brown signs. From the south, exit the A1M at junction 45 and merge onto the A64, which will take you to York. Once you’ve passed through York, keep an eye out for the brown signs. Castle Howard can also be reached by public transportation by taking the 5 mile journey to Malton.
Why did we go?
The size of the estate and the various facilities there are what drew us to Castle Howard. We were looking for somewhere we could spend all day and enjoy the scenery on the drive too.
A tour of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire England
I loved exploring the vast grounds, especially the woodland, lakes, and stunning views of the Yorkshire countryside. It was a great experience to wander around taking photographs and imagining what life was like residing at Castle Howard over the years. The best view was standing out at the Temple of the Four Winds and taking in the breath-taking 360-degree view of Yorkshire. Also, the hot food in the restaurant was great value for money (due to the generous portion size) and was just what we needed on a sunny but blustery April day.
We didn’t have time to see all of the grounds – even though we spent 5 and a half hours at Castle Howard! The parts we missed were the rose garden, ornamental vegetable garden, farm shop, garden center, and boat trips across the lake.
Would we go again?
Definitely, yes. It was a brilliant day out. Also if you have kids, which we don’t, they really seemed to enjoy the adventure playground and the woodland. We could often hear shrieks of excitement as we were wandering around the grounds.
If you would like to know more, here is a link to Castle Howard’s website.