Grand, Stately, Elegant
Although best known today as the location for the BBC’s 1981 adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Castle Howard has been respected for centuries as one of the most colossal privately owned palaces in the British Isles. This early 18th-century residence (not really a castle, though sitting on the former site of one) holds court amid its own grandiose 1,000-acre parkland and gardens.
It’s still lived in by the Howard family, whose ancestors saw in the then inexperienced architect Sir John Vanbrugh the talent that would later secure him the commission to create the lavish Blenheim Palace near Oxford. The main body of Castle Howard was completed in 1715, including its signature gilt Great Hall that rises 70 feet from floor to dome. The 160-foot aptly named Long Gallery is the castle’s other highlight, lined with a large number of portraits of the Howard line by Holbein and others. Unless you’re a relation, you won’t be spending the night here.
But you can happily unpack your bags at the handsome, nearby Middlethorpe Hall. Commissioned in 1699, the same year as Castle Howard, it has recently been converted into what most hold to be the grandest country hotel in northern England. Surrounded by 26 impeccable acres that border York’s famous racecourse, the elegant William Ill-style hotel with its top-ranked restaurant is the perfect jumping-off point for a tour of Yorkshire’s dales and moors. Explore the area’s wealth of national parks and the countryside that inspired Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte and her sisters hailed from nearby Haworth, now a revered literary site of pilgrimage).