Illustrious Castle Howard – one of the grandest stately homes in England – is probably best recognised (at least by slightly longer in the tooth members of the family) as Brideshead, the home of the aristocratic Marchmain family, in ITV’s celebrated 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s novel.
The real-life inhabitants – the Howard family, which includes children Merlin and Octavia – had their home used for filming again, for the 2007 film version of the novel, starring Emma Thompson and Michael Gambon. Mindful of its pre-eminent position in the nation’s psyche, the family has made great efforts to make their historic, listed home, accessible to all; no mean feat for such a dramatic structure. With its crowning central dome, the baroque exterior of Castle Howard is spectacular, and the superbly decorated and furnished interior is equally breathtaking. Every room is unique and stocked with world-famous collections of paintings, porcelain and murals. Highlights include Lady Georgina’s Bedroom, the Grand Staircase, the Antique Passage and the magnificent Great Hall: the well-informed tour guides provide oodles of background. If the children tire of the history lesson, they can be rewarded afterwards with an exploration of the vast, cleverly landscaped grounds – send them on a treasure trail to discover the strategically placed monuments dotted around and meander along the woodland walk. Whatever the season, you will all be wowed by the incredible panoramas.
Designated disabled parking spaces are available and there are accessible cafés, shops and toilets too. Wheelchair users and other visitors with reduced mobility can reach the interior of the house by using a stair lift, which is compatible with manual chairs only. Inside, a surprisingly large number of public rooms can be easily accessed, although the High South has around forty stairs and no lift and the chapel can only be reached by climbing around ten steps. Outdoor paths are firm and smooth and key routes have been ramped, so even monuments like the Atlas Fountain can be reached easily. What’s more, an accessible land train tours the extensive grounds, making those awe-inspiring views available to all. If you wish to take it all in, a trip requires planning – but if you don’t manage to see everything, don’t worry, because it can always be revisited.
Food & drink: The Courtyard Café is a bistro-style restaurant serving hot and cold meals, using locally sourced produce, often from the estate itself. The outdoor Lakeside Café also serves excellent snacks, as does the Fitzroy Room in the house.