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The Howard family are descended from Lord William Howard the youngest son of Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. The 1st Earl of Carlisle, Charles Howard was the great grandson of Lord William Howard, the youngest son of Thomas Howard. Created Earl of Carlisle in 1661 it was Charles’ grandson, Charles Howard the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, who is famed as the creator of Castle Howard. The building of Castle Howard commenced in 1699, however it took 100 to complete spanning the lifetimes of three Earls. You can read more about the building of Castle Howard here.
Upon arrival on a very misty and foggy Saturday morning, there is an air of excitement and after a short walk from the car park, a beautiful archway presents the entrance to the cobbled 18th century stable courtyard where an array of shops, café and small stalls can be found. The farm shop stocks a variety of independent produce including groceries, fruit and vegetables, a butchery counter, delicatessen counter, bread and bakery, wines, beers and spirits and lastly gifts and hampers. This is the perfect place to stock up on artisan foods such as cheese, pies and locally reared and traditionally prepared meats. The courtyard café with its seasonal menu uses local and farm shop produce to create mouth-watering breakfasts, lunches and snacks all year round. The carriage house shop stocks all manner of gifts including homeware, toiletries, accessories, books as well as outdoor ranges and Christmas decorations. A stall nearby selling a wonderful display of plants and flowers, including my favourite Christmas flower: the poinsettia generates a sense of anticipation and excitement as Christmas is imminent.
After collecting tickets and guidebooks (you can find ticket prices here), the house is a short walk away from the stable courtyard. There is a Harry Potter-esque feel when walking to the house. With open grounds, trees adorned with fairy lights and the heavy mist and fog, it’s easy to imagine you may encounter one of JK Rowling’s characters. The awe-inspiring architecture looms into view and it is simply breathtaking. Stepping through the entrance is a delight for the senses: the Grand Staircase is decorated with festive foliage from evergreens to dried fruits and apples, cinnamon bundles tied with twine, berries and royal red flora; not only provides a feast for the eyes but the aroma is simply wonderful and blends all the festive scents together seamlessly. Intertwined with fairy lights that cascade up the banister of the Grand Staircase, gardener Adele Hirst has been charged with collecting sufficient foliage from the grounds to bring the gardens into the house, so visitors can expect elaborate swags, wreaths and garlands made from the evergreen shrubs and trees, that provide the grounds with year-round colour, decorated with fruit and berries and it is clear to see that Castle Howard has been decorated in true opulent style for the Christmas season.
Reaching the top of the Grand Staircase onto the China Landing, an elegant oak branch tree hand cut from the estate woodland is decorated with cheerful red, glittering gold and winter white glass baubles interspaced with candles is a traditional Howard family decoration. The china is displayed along the walls within glass cabinets punctuated with historic paintings.
Lady Georgina’s bedroom nods to the warm and luxurious tones of the time and are enhanced with a simple tree decked with golden baubles and a winter garland swathed across the headboard.
Within Lady Georgina’s dressing room, preparations are underway for Christmas morning with the dressing room being transformed into a wrapping room brimming with luxurious papers, fancy ribbons and beautiful bows. Stacks of presents wrapped in a rainbow hue of shades from sparkling silvers to bold blues, captures the imagination of children and adults alike. With “ohhs and ahhs” from visitors, the wrapping room is reminiscent of every adults’ childhood Christmases. A bauble wreath intertwined with fairy lights is swathed across the fireplace.
Castle Howard Dressing Room was originally the dressing room and private space of the 6th Earl, is now set for a gentleman’s Christmas with its dark and moody furnishings complimented with a unique book tree made up of volumes from the estates library; a new addition to this year’s collection. Featuring accessories such as a glass alcohol decanter, books, slippers set out, it gives a sense that the gentleman in question has recently vacated the room, perhaps to carry out a country pursuit or greet guests?
The Castle Howard bedroom is beautifully decorated with a real tree and an evergreen garland echoing the green and gold hues of the room. A teddy bear with a red and gold ribbon sits neatly on the bed with squishy cushions and flickering candles add to the ambience. Cosily comforting and relaxing: this is a bedroom I’d love to stay in.
The Great Hall is decorated with a soaring 22-foot tree festooned with hundreds of glittering baubles and twinkling lights. The roaring fire makes the hall feel welcoming and homely along with the elegant Christmas classical music played by the talented Emmanuel Vass. Gatherings of visitors enjoyed the sweet music, the ambience of the crackling fire and the baubles twinkling against the fairy lights. Looking to the skies, the Great Hall features an intricate domed roof adorned with paintings, tall windows and a balcony swathed with a huge festive garland. With a grand staircase either side of the Great Hall, it is hard not to be awestruck by this spacious and grand room.