Thursday, 1 December 2016

Christmas at Castle Howard | Photo diary.

Castle Howard, York.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Warning - Photo heavy. Please allow time for photos to load.

As the festive season is almost upon us, it's time to welcome our homes to Christmas cheer. Adorn the windows with evergreens, the festive aroma of oranges and cinnamon drift lazily through the home, the sound of cheerful music and Christmas carols and admiring flickering candles by the fireside. Christmas is a magical and heart-warming time of the year; enjoying the seasonal festivities with loved ones and indulging in the delights of wholesome cooking, country walks or cosy evenings playing games. One of my favourite seasonal pursuits is to visit stately homes during the holiday season and revel in the delights of magnificent grandeur and festive décor. I was delighted to be invited along to the awe-inspiring Castle Howard. Situated near York, Castle Howard is one of Britain's finest stately homes. A truly magnificent historic house in the north of England set within 1000 acres of landscaped gardens including lakes, fountains, temples, woodland and a walled garden, a superb example of ambitious and artistic architecture with ornate décor and a 300 year old history of the Howard family woven into the fibers of the stately home.

Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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.  
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne

Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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 it's dark and moody furnishings complimented with a unique book tree made up of volumes from the estates library; a new addition to this years 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?
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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. Cozily comforting and relaxing: this is a bedroom I'd love to stay in.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Venturing along the Antique Passage towards the Great Hall, is filled with the festive aroma of citrus oranges and cinnamon spice with marble statues and sculptures in particular a lion defeating an ox line the corridor. A light and bright space punctuated with greenery among the pale marble statues and figure heads, it is wonderful to admire the craftsmanship and work of the sculptures.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Providing a sensory experience, the festive aroma showcased beautiful displays of dried oranges, candles, cinnamon bundles and evergreen foliage which lined the passage. Some were displayed in terracotta pots while others laden tables with hurricane glasses and flickering candles.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
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.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
High South presents gigantic faux fur spirals decorated with fairy lights and oversized baubles as they twist down from above. Stood in the room with the lights low, it's provides a surreal experience.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
A huge architectural model of Castle Howard takes pride of place within the heart of the stately home during the festive celebrations. London based architectural foodsmiths Bompas & Parr recreate Vanbrugh's original design of the grand estate from entirely gingerbread and icing, taking just two weeks to complete. The enormous confection measures 4 metres by 3 metres and not only depicts the famous house, dome and the parterre garden envisaged by Vanbrugh but also many of the architectural features found in the 10,000 acre estate, including the Temple of the Four Winds, Mausoleum and the 7th Earl’s monument. Adding finishing touches to the model really brings the elements together. The windows are illuminated and miniature trees descent from Ray Wood, creating the perfect winter scene. A miniature gingerbread train cheerfully weaves it's way round the model Castle Howard and gives visitors sheer delight to immerse themselves in this culinary creativeness. Peering into the model is almost like looking through into another (miniature) world. The aroma of freshly baked gingerbread fills High South and is almost intoxicating. Visitors are left mouth-watering and craving gingerbread as they admire the marvelous model.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
New Library nods towards elegant style with it's décor, furnishings and array of books that line the shelves. A open roaring fire provides a pleasant warmth while desks and comfy leather chairs await for an afternoon of delving into literature. Classically decorated with a festive red and gold tree and large red and green baubles with ribbon hang from the bookshelves.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Inspired by Felix Kelly's murals of imagination and fantasy, a frosted winter scene brings the outside in with white oak branches from the estate decorated with icy white and sparkling silver baubles. In addition, pure white peacocks perched on oak branches line the Garden Hall. It is a real winter wonderland.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
The Howard family's doll's house nestles beautifully among the winter garden created by the estates garden team. With fairy lights wrapped around tree branches, illuminated windows and a holly wreath hung on the door encompassed with a cute picket fencing; there is a sense of homeliness and feeling cosy throughout the winter season.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
The Music Room features a traditional oak branch from the estate painted gold and decorated with brightly coloured baubles with a musical theme.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
The Crimson Dinning Room showcases vibrant hues enhanced with brightly coloured baubles and a striking fireplace garland. The dinning table is decked for a Christmas feast and embellished with berry red and golden crockery. The opulent display along with a crackling fire begs for a feast to commence with a succulent roasted turkey with all the trimmings and lashings of gravy and a festive tipple.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
The Turquoise Drawing Room features vibrant hues and is enhanced with navy, aqua and bright plum coloured baubles along with a matching fireplace garland.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
The ornate 17th-century Delft tulip vase forms the centerpiece of the Museum Room with a beautiful tree adorned with Delft pieces.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Traditionally the Long Gallery was a space used for promenading and admiring works of art. At 160 feet long, the Long Gallery is accentuated by an avenue of Christmas trees with a surprising inverted tree suspended from above featuring golden roots and a choir beautifully singing Christmas carols.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
A nativity scene at the heart with offerings of fruit and foliage collected by a head of gardeners adds to the impressive pre-Raphaelite interior. A wishing tree at the entrance to the chapel from a local primary school is hung with sentiments, thoughts and well wishes.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
The House Shop offers an array of brightly coloured baubles, glittery Christmas decorations and tableware accessories from crackers to napkins including gifts for loved ones. I bought a few of the baubles which now take pride of place on my tree, an Emma Bridgewater mug from the Joy Robin range and some beef from the butchery counter in the farm shop.
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Christmas at Castle Howard - Elizabeth Anne
Brimming with chatter and laughter, the Boar Garden Christmas market features stalls from independent businesses from beautiful dried fruit wreaths to indulgent homemade fudge in a variety of tempting flavours to homeware decorations and pet accessories. Serving a sumptuous afternoon tea within the huge marquee, it's clear to see that Castle Howard has outdone themselves in true magical and festive style. A wonderful day out for the whole family and an experience I shall never forget.

Happy Holidays!


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