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Castle Howard, A Great Day Out For All The Family

Located just 15 miles North of York and within the glorious North York Moors National Park, Castle Howard is one of England’s finest historic houses and the perfect place to spend a day with all the family. We visited at Easter and loved every moment. 

Set in over 1000 acres of gorgeous parkland Castle Howard is home to some of the finest historical collections. All of which have been put together by succeeding generations of the Howard family. The grounds are dotted with lakes, fountains, temples, statues and the magnificent Yorkshire Arboretum. Here is our experience and more information about Castle Howard.

We Visited Castle Howard at Easter and had a fantastic day out. Castle Howard in Spring time.
We visited Castle Howard at Easter and had a fantastic day out.

Castle Howard History

The building of Castle Howard started in 1699 under the instruction of Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. It did not get finished under the 4th Earl, Henry Howard, for another hundred years and not exactly to plan. Original designs for the Baroque west wing were put aside and transformed into a contrasting Palladian style. Despite the changes, Castle Howard was and is a truly stunning example of Baroque exuberance, with cherubs, coronets, urns, and cyphers displayed in abundance. The central dome has to be seen to be believed!

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Child at Castle Howard fountain on a family day out.
Castle Howard is great to visit at any age.

Tragically on the 9th of September 1940, a chimney fire was fanned by strong winds. The dome, central hall, Eastside staterooms, and dining room were utterly destroyed. By the time York and Malton, fire brigade had the fire under control, 8 hours later, 20 pictures, several valuable mirrors, and Antonio Pellegrini’s ceiling decoration on the dome had all been lost!

Over the following decades, some devastating damage to Castle Howard has been repaired. For example, in 1960-61, the central dome was rebuilt, and a copy of Antonio Pellegrini’s ceiling painting was recreated. Unfortunately, the South-East wing remains a shell, though it has been restored externally. Castle Howard remains in the Howard family, with over eight generations making it their home.


Things to do at Castle Howard

The house is a magnificent place to explore, with over 145 rooms (not all open to the public), including the stunning chapel. This is part of the mid-18th-century West wing of the house and is decorated in Pre-Raphaelite designs by Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris. The chapel is still used for services today.

Castle Howard is also home to many collections and archives, including pictures, tapestries, sculptures, Howard family papers, bills, and notebooks that all document the life and times of Castle Howard and its inhabitants over the centuries. They are a fabulous peep into history and national treasures everyone should enjoy.

Castle Howard Gardens are a great day out for all the family.
There is so much to explore at Castle Howard; we were overwhelmed at how much there is to do here.

Castle Howard has some marvellous gardens for you and the family to enjoy outside the house. A walled garden, woodland garden, lakes, fountains, temples, monuments, an adventure playground, and even a mausoleum exist. Standing 90 feet high and with 20 decorative pillars, the mausoleum is still used as the burial place for Howard family members and is not accessible to the public.

Another must-see whilst in the gardens of Castle Howard is the Yorkshire Arboretum which is run in conjunction with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. This is a 120-acre garden with trees from around the world, many rare, alongside native plants and wildlife. The spectacular display of flora comes from Chile, North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia.


Special events, talks, and tours at Castle Howard

Castle Howard runs a year-round changing program of special events such as musical performances, Santa visits, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and contemporary/historical exhibitions. An example of what you can expect is the ‘Duty Calls’ exhibit which tells the stories of Castle Howard during the war, from the battle of Waterloo to World War 2.

You can also pre-book talks and tours at Castle Howard, including early morning private tours of the house and talks on subjects such as the secret lives of women in the castle and the visit of Queen Victoria. Then, for a little light-hearted history, try the ‘Grand Tours and Farcical Journeys’, which covers tales of Howard’s travels and the objects they brought back. Find more event information here.


Our experience visiting Castle Howard at Easter

We stayed nearby in our campervan at Castle Howard Lakeside Holiday Park and decided to visit Castle Howard during Easter. The campsite was brilliant, with great toilet and shower facilities. There is a dedicated area for tents and hard-standing for caravans and motorhomes. Hard-standing pitches come with electric hook-up, whilst the grass pitches have a choice of electric hook-up or non-electric. The area was beautifully maintained and we will definitely return.

With our stay, we received by one get one free adult entry for the gardens at Castle Howard; this includes access to over 1000 acres of 18th Century gardens and woodland. The Gardens open daily from 10 am, with the last admission at 4 pm.

Castle Howard Sculpture Trail
There is so much to explore at Castle Howard; we were overwhelmed at how much there is to do here.

You can choose to purchase admission to the Castle and the gardens or just the gardens. We just wanted to participate in the Wildlife Willow Sculpture Trail, which had been updated for Easter and finished with a chocolate treat. So on this occasion we made the most of the offer from the campsite and purchased just garden tickets. We got lucky; the sun was shining, and it was a fantastic way to spend time outdoors together.

Willow Sculpture Trail at Castle Howard
The Wildlife Willow Sculpture Trail is a great way to explore the grounds.

The great thing about this trail is that it covers the grounds well so you can see a little bit of everything. It ended at the adventure playground, Boathouse cafe and Skelf Island, perfect for us as our little one had lots of fun playing after the trail.

We made a chocolate lollipop at Castle Howard.
We completed the trail and had lots of fun at the adventure playground.

We got lucky and got the Kelly Car Train back to the entrance as we wanted to participate in the Chocolate Lollipop-making workshop. The Kelly Car Train is available daily during the main season from 1st April to 29th October and is great fun; it’s also included in your ticket price.

Making a chocolate lollipop
Making our chocolate lollipop!

At the end of our day trip, we participated in a chocolate lollipop making workshop in the courtyard at the Little Chocolate Factory with York Cocoa Works. My son loved this hands-on experience; the staff were friendly and lovely. They helped him out and made it a really enjoyable activity.

We talked the entire time we were there about visiting again and seeing more of Castle Howard. It is a lovely place, and we cannot wait to visit again.


Shopping, eating and staying over

When you’re hungry, there are some fine eateries available. There are several cafes around the grounds and the fabulous Fitzroy restaurant. All of these serve fresh, local, and seasonal produce every day.

Castle Howard Restaurant

Shopping-wise, whether you want a souvenir of your day or something a little different, ‘Yorkshire’ Castle Howard has two gift shops for you to browse. They also have a fabulous garden centre and tree nursery.


If one day of exploring is not enough, or you want to explore the area further. You can stay at the house’s caravan and camping park or in one of the holiday cottages, just a stone’s throw away from the house. Castle Howard is around a 25-minute drive from York and a 1-hour drive from Whitby. Both are great bases and have plenty of attractions and accommodation available.

For opening hours, tickets and prices, visit their website – https://www.castlehoward.co.uk/ and let us know in the comments if you have ever visited. 

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