Whilst staying in the North York Moors National Park for a couple of nights we popped in to visit Castle Howard. This incredible stately home is located just outside the national park, about 15 miles north of York.
Despite what the name suggests, Castle Howard is not a true castle. This term is also used for English country houses which were built on the site of a former military castle. In this case it was the ruined Henderskelfe Castle.
This house has been the home of the Howard family for more than 300 years. Building began in 1699 and took over 100 years to complete. In 1952, the house was opened to the public although the family still lives in an apartment in a separate wing of the house.
Castle Howard is widely known as the location of ‘Brideshead’ in the television series Brideshead Revisited, as well as the more recent film of the same name.
I hadn’t seen many photos of the interior of Castle Howard before I visited, so I was completely blown away when I stepped into the Great Hall. The 80 feet high painted dome looked more like something which belonged in the Vatican, it’s hard to believe this is someone’s home!
Looking up at the dome, you wouldn’t guess that it was completely destroyed by a fire in 1940, along with the central hall, the dining room and the state rooms on the east side of the house. The dome was rebuilt in 1960–61 and in the following couple of years the paintings inside the dome were recreated. It has been remarkably well restored although you still see signs of the fire in other areas of the house.
Some of the first floor rooms were restored for the filming of Brideshead Revisited in 2008. These rooms now house an exhibition which tells the story of the 1940 fire and restoration, and the role the filming played in Castle Howard’s resurrection.
There were still more rooms to see once I finally dragged myself away from the Great Hall, including the The Crimson Dining Room, Music Room and Turquoise Drawing Room.
There’s also a chapel which is regularly used for services for local parishioners.
Outside the house there are over 1000 acres of parkland to explore, including woodlands, temples, statues and formal gardens. I wish I’d had more time to find the Temple of The Four Winds which is supposed to give 360 degree views of the surrounding hills and monuments.
- The house at Castle Howard is open April - October, and from mid November to just before Christmas. The gardens and stable courtyard are open daily year round, except for Christmas Day. Check the Castle Howard website for up-to-date information.
- Adult admission price to the house and gardens is £18.95. You can save 10% by booking in advance online.
- Historic Houses Association members can visit Castle Howard for free once per calendar year, except for during the annual Flower Festival and Christmas opening.
- Plenty of free parking is available on-site but if you don’t have a car there are public transport options available from York.