Friday, 3 May 2013

A day at Castle Howard

On Monday I escaped the miry bog of dissertation drear and hopped on a bus to Castle Howard with Alex. It's not actually a castle in the medieval sense; rather, it's a stately home built on the site of the original castle. If you're ever in the York area, I can't recommend this place enough, it's gorgeous!
If you feel like the house looks familiar, it's because it was used in two film versions of Brideshead Revisited:
To begin with, we were greeted by a pretty little courtyard with a few small shops and a café (I'll come back to these later!). After purchasing our tickets to the House and Gardens, we made for the Rose Garden. It turned out to be a lovely spot for our picnic lunch (Alex actually bought all the food from Tesco about 3 minutes before the bus arrived). There aren't any roses in the Rose Garden at this time of year, but it's still a nice spot. This personable little chap was our lunchtime companion:

After lunch, we decided to explore the grounds a bit further. Firstly, the incredible Atlas Fountain (which does usually spout water):

(I now realise how pathetic this looks.) This isn't the only example of great sculpture in the grounds - there are dozens dotted around.

We rambled about for a little while until we came across a wood, filled with unexpected flashes of colour:
 Apparently, Alex has never seen a tree before:
Next on our to-do list was the House. Unfortunately, we didn't take any pictures inside, although I'm pretty sure photography is allowed. What happened was that every time we entered a room, a friendly guide would strike up a conversation with us and tell us historical anecdotes, so that it seemed a bit rude to take photos while they were talking. What they said was very interesting, though; I would especially recommend paying attention to the bits about the Second World War. Also, the Great Hall is amazing. 

The tour ended with me signing the Visitor's Book with the most lacklustre comment ever ("This is a lovely place"). The comment didn't reflect my reaction, I just felt under pressure to sign it quickly before another visitor finished the tour. The sun had gone behind the clouds, so after looking around the House we stopped for a tea break. 
I drank about five cups of tea, and Alex had a hot chocolate (he is not a tea-drinker and is, coincidentally, certifiably insane). Appropriately refuelled, it was time to shop! The courtyard shops I mentioned earlier comprise a bookshop, a homeware shop and a farm shop. I bought a Fairisle knitting book that was on offer (I expect all my Christmas presents to other people will now be gaudily-patterned scarves), and we also bought lamb and mint burgers for dinner (they were delicious). Oh, and I bought some homemade lemon curd. I am such a sucker for lemon curd.

It costs around £15 to enter the House and Gardens, but if you get the bus then they discount it to about £8. Castle Howard makes for such a satisfying day out, and it's even better in the summer when everything is bright and blooming. If you're into stately homes, history, period dramas, gardens or birdlife, you'll love it. If you're not into these things, it's still worth it for the scenery, cafés and shops. Here is the website if you want to find out more:

Images: Alex's camera, Luscious

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