Castle Howard: A Great Day Out for All the Family

Castle Howard North Yorkshire visit

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My first visit to Castle Howard was when I was around six years old.

I remember running down one of the long grassy banks holding my dad’s hand as we ran quickly down with me feeling like I was flying.

Thirty Years Later – I took my own children back to a place full of happy childhood memories in the hope that I’d create similar ones for my own children.

The later visit certainly brought back those memories, but it also created new ones for me.

A lot has changed in the last thirty or so years.

And it’s no wonder Castle Howard says that it is “a place like no other.”

How to Get There

Castle Howard sits in its own large estate, 15 miles Northeast of York.

Castle Howard map
Castle Howard location

It is easy to get to from the A64 road that connects York and Leeds as well as the Yorkshire Coast.

Most people arrive by car, but there is a direct bus service called CastleLine that runs from York to the estate.

The nearest train station is at Malton and there is also a bus service that runs from there.

The House and Howard Family

Before we launch into what a fantastic time you can have there, let’s have a look at a bit of its history.

Castle Howard is a national treasure, with a focus on preserving the Howard family home for visitors to enjoy.

Castle Howard view
Castle Howard family

It wasn’t always open to the public, however.

The castle was built by Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle (1679-1738) with work starting in 1699.

Building it took over a century before it was fully completed.

Since Then – The next eight generations of the Howard family have lived in the Castle, with each generation guiding the grand house with its estate through many challenges.

The Castle was first opened up to the public in 1952 by George and Cecilia Howard.

George inherited the castle unexpectedly when his brothers died in WWII. George and Cecilia’s son, the Hon.

Nick Howard, now runs the Castle with his wife Victoria.

Visiting Castle Howard

You can come and see Castle Howard’s history for yourself.

The knowledgeable team at the Castle give tours and talks giving you a greater insight into the estate’s history.

Castle Howard garden fun
Running down hill

If there is anything of particular interest, they’ll also try and cater for your needs, whether you want to learn about the hidden lives of the women of the Castle or more about Queen Victoria’s visit in 1850.

The House hosts exhibitions and displays that change regularly.

Sometimes these will focus on a particular time in the castle’s history or perhaps highlight some of the House’s art collections.

The Gardens

There is so much more to Castle Howard than just the House and its contents.

Many people come to Castle Howard to visit the grounds and gardens without actually visiting inside the House.

Gardens the Castle Howard
Gardens behind the Castle Howard

There are magical woodlands to explore, you can:

  • picnic by the lake
  • take in the birds and other wildlife
  • and explore the Walled Garden

Children are always enthused (as I was) by running along the many paths in the grounds and hopping on the Land Train.

The Land Train takes you through the estate to the play area at the lakeside where there are many towers, bridges, swings, and slides for them to burn off some energy.

More about that later!

You Can Bring Your Dog!

Castle Howard’s grounds are also dog friendly!

You’ll be pleased to know that you can bring along your beloved pooch to explore.

There are a few restrictions, of course. Your four-legged friend must be kept on a lead, and you must clean up after him!

Dogs are also welcome inside the Courtyard Café (if they’re well behaved!) and there’s even a free bone or two available for them at the Farm Shop!

Understandably – Your furry pal isn’t permitted to go on the Adventure Playground, Skelf Island, in the House or on the Land Train. But he’ll certainly have a great time regardless!

Skelf Island

Skelf Island! It’s a wonder to behold.

The treetop adventure traverses across the Great Lake taking children on a marvelous escapade.

The interconnecting nets, slides, bridges, and walkways have been carefully designed to preserve the area as well as make it accessible to all – even children with additional needs.

Visiting ancient site called Henderskelfe
Skelf Island

Unfortunately, those with limited mobility and wheelchair users will not be able to access the high levels.

However, Castle Howard has installed additional equipment especially for wheelchair uses including an accessible pathway and wheelchair swing.

You may wonder how Skelf Island got its name. Well, Castle Howard sits on an ancient site called Henderskelfe.

Faerie-like creatures called Skelves are said to live within the nooks and crannies of Skelf Island. But will you spot one?

Eating, Drinking and Shopping at Castle Howard

Castle Howard boats several eateries:

There’s:

  • the Fitzroy Café
  • the Boathouse Café
  • the Courtyard Café
  • the Coffee Shop

All offer a range of refreshments, including seasonal treats such as a festive Christmas menu in the winter season.

There are also several shops within the grounds.

The House Gift shop is within the Castle itself and is bursting with gifts and souvenirs.

Atlas Fountain in garden Castle Howard
Atlas Fountain by John Thomas 1850

The Farm Shop stocks fruit, veg, meats, cheeses, and other deli delights.

You can even buy beer and wine! If it’s plants or shrubs you’re after, you can take a look in the Castle’s Garden Centre too.

There’s even a tree nursery. Castle Howard also has its own gin that you can buy!

Staying at Castle Howard

If one day isn’t enough, it’s possible to stay nearby and extend your visit.

Castle Howard boasts some holiday cottages, a camping and caravan park and the Lakeside Holiday Park where people purchase their how holiday home in the Castle Howard estate.

The Lakeside Holiday Park is just a mile from the House and is set next to the Great Lake.

Holiday home owners also enjoy free Family Silver membership to the house and gardens.

Special Events

Castle Howard is the place to be when it comes to events!

At Christmas time, there are a whole host of festive treats in store, including visits from the big man in the red suit himself!

Beautiful estate North Yorkshire
Castle Howard events

There is a storytelling grotto, enchanted theatrical projections and illustrations as well as top-class soundscapes.

You can buy your Christmas dinner produce in the farm shop as well as pick up your Christmas tree from the Garden Centre.

The festive afternoon tea with mulled wine is to die for! Watch out for other seasonal special events too.

Summer 2022 saw the ABBA Symphonic visit the Castle! There’s always something on the cards when it comes to special events.

Castle Howard in TV and Film

If you’re thinking you’ve seen Castle Howard somewhere before then the chances are you probably have!

Castle Howard has featured many times on the big screen.

Most Recently – Castle Howard was the filming location of The Courtship which was described as an “ultimate social experiment” that took its cues from romances and classical traditions such as those in Bridgerton and Pride and Prejudice.

The reality TV show takes Nicole Rémy through her courtship with 16 potential suitors in the same way that a young lady in the regency period may look to find a husband.

Stay the night north yorkshire
Walk around Castle Howard

Talking of Bridgerton, episode six, season one of the hit show saw Castle Howard feature as the country residence of The Duke of Hastings and doubled up as Clyvedon Castle.

The House’s Archbishop’s Bedroom is also where some of the more intimate scenes between Daphne and the Duke were filmed.

If we head back a little further into the TV archives, Brideshead Revisited was a show that catapulted the Castle into the public domain.

Small Fountain Castle Howard
The Walled Garden Fountain

The more recent remake also reprised the filming location!

If these films and shows aren’t enough TV history for you, Castle Howard was also a filming location of the ITV drama Victoria, the BBC adaptation of Death Comes to Pemberley as well as the location of the Arctic Monkey’s video to their single ‘Four out of Five.’  

Final Thoughts on Castle Howard

If you’re looking for a family day out that is jam-packed with history, beauty and adventure, Castle Howard is the place to be.

Whether you want to let the kids run loose on Skelf Island, grab a coffee in the coffee shop, potter around the house exploring its history or walk around its extensive gardens and grounds, Castle Howard has it all.

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