Posted by: marymarthatours | October 8, 2011

Castle Howard: Big House on a Mini Tour

With the Gardens of Ireland Tour behind us, Martha and I are now busy planning for the England in Miniature Tour that we will offer in 2012. We have a head start this time, because we offered a similar tour in 2010 that didn’t fill. But given some time to reflect, we’ve decided to “tweak” the itinerary to make this tour even better. One of the changes we’ve made is to add a visit to the magnificent Castle Howard in Yorkshire.

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Castle Howard, south face (photo by Chris)

Castle Howard is one of the grandest private homes in England, designed by John Vanbrugh, who also designed Blenheim Palace. The east wing of the Baroque-style residence was built between 1701 and 1703 for Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. The central block and the west end were begun after 1703, although the west wing was not completed until after 1738 when it was redesigned in the Palladian style. Rooms in that wing were finished one by one until the building was finally completed in 1811.

Although only some of the 145 rooms are visited on the house tour, the rooms that one sees are amazing. Full of artwork and magnificent furnishings, the rooms at Castle Howard are guaranteed to evoke a sense of awe and to provide inspiration for miniature creations.

I first visited Castle Howard in 1980 while leading my very first tour group. Martha and I were there together in 1999 as participants in an Arts & Crafts tour that traveled throughout Scotland and England. The main focus of that visit was to see the Chapel which includes stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones and embroideries by Mae Morris, daughter of William Morris.

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Scenes from the Castle Howard grounds

But there’s much more to the Castle Howard experience than just the impressive house. “Two major garden buildings are set into this landscape: the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden, and the Mausoleum in the park. There is also a lake on either side of the house. There is an arboretum called Ray Wood, and the walled garden contains decorative rose and flower gardens. Further buildings outside the preserved gardens include the ruined Pyramid currently undergoing restoration, an Obelisk and several follies and eyecatchers in the form of fortifications. A John Vanbrugh ornamental pillar known as the Quatre Faces (marked as ‘Four Faces’ on Ordnance Survey Maps) stands in nearby Pretty Wood.” (Wikipedia)

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When we visited Castle Howard in April of 1999, Martha and I spent quite a bit of time exploring the Ray Wood Arboretum. The woodland was ablaze with rhododendrons and azaleas and was very beautiful. Although we won’t have the spring color in September 2012, we’re excited to be adding this inspiring location to our England in Miniature Tour itinerary.

 Martha in Ray Wood, 1999
Photo credits: Castle Howard photo copyright Chris and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons Attribution License 3.0.
All other photos: Mary Wallace, 1999
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