Every region of Britain is peppered with stately homes, living testament to the destination’s rich heritage. Their doors and gardens are open to visitors for a large portion of the year and, with the summer season in full swing, there’s even more to see and do during these months. The north England county of Yorkshire has a fabulous assortment of these grand estates; here are just six you should explore this year.
Harewood House stands majestically in the heart of the county, just 20 minutes’ drive from the city of Leeds. This year it’s celebrating the 300th anniversary of Thomas Chippendale, arguably the most famous English furniture maker of the 18th century, who was commissioned back in 1767 to furnish Harewood House. It’s here that you will see one of the greatest collections of Chippendale in the country and 2018 is packed with exhibitions and displays of Chippendale’s work, as well as a programme of contemporary artistic responses to his work. And that’s in addition to Harewood’s vast art collection by masters of the Italian Renaissance, JMW Turner watercolours, family portraits by Reynolds and modern art collected by the Earl and Countess of Harewood. Find a different kind of beauty in its Bird Garden; colourful parrots, Humboldt penguins and the endangered Bali starling are among the 40 species of birds from around the world you can see here.
You’ll recognise this grand family home, half an hour’s drive from York, from its starring role on the big screen; it appeared in both versions of Brideshead Revisited (1981 and 2008) as well as in numerous other TV and movie productions. More than 300 years old, it boasts 1,000 acres of grounds – with woodland walks, fountains, lakes and temples – meaning Castle Howard has plenty of space to offer a diverse programme of events through the summer months. August will host the Castle Howard Proms, a magical classical concert with guest soloists include soprano superstar Lesley Garrett, and a programme of favourites from the world-famous Proms, further enhanced with a fantastic firework finale.
This year also sees Castle Howard host an exhibition by one of the UK's leading contemporary artists, Mat Collishaw, as well as its award-winning exhibitions such as Duty Calls, exploring the stories from the castle in times of war, and Brideshead Restored, about how it was transformed into film sets for both the 1981 and 2008 versions of Brideshead Revisited.
Come to Ripley Castle to for enthralling tales of plague and persecution, renaissance and enlightenment and the castle’s role in the industrial revolution. It’s been in the Ingilby family for more than 700 years and its huge parkland means it’s also perfect for outdoor activities. The Castle has teamed up with Live For Today Adventures, who have brought bushcraft skills, archery, body zorbing, kayaking and orienteering to the castle’s grounds.
Ripley Castle and Gardens is situated just three miles from Harrogate in North Yorkshire, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, but it also has its very own deer park to explore; wander among 1,000-year old oak trees and be captivated by wildlife from deer to geese, herons to kingfishers.
Brodsworth Hall & Gardens
For an in-depth insight into how country houses operated during the Victorian era, Brodsworth Hall & Gardens is the place to visit. Its ‘conserved as found’ when it was built in the 1860s and has witnessed few changes, aside from the garden restoration and general conservation. Now looked after by English Heritage, this stately home – located 45 minutes’ drive from Leeds – still has many of its original furnishings, a huge Victorian kitchen and scullery. Don’t expect the rooms to be all on a grand scale; the library's original wallpaper and carpets are faded, and the woodworking room is full of clutter, but that just adds to its charm. This August you can relive what life was like at Brodsworth during wartime; climb inside a biplane replica, try your hand at soldier school and hear about the work of medics during World War One.
Newby Hall and Gardens
Home to a contemporary sculpture park, 25 acres of land and glorious interiors, Newby Hall in Ripon (a 50-minute drive from both Leeds and York) is bringing a special exhibition to its home this summer. As part of its own dolls house exhibition, which is now the permanent home to one of the finest collections of dollhouses and miniatures in the world thanks to collectors Caroline Hamilton and Jane Fiddick, this July will welcome an evening with Charlie & Lola creator Lauren Child, as she introduces her dolls houses to the collection, on loan for the summer.
Visitors will also love exploring garden views from its Miniature Railway, which runs along the River Ure, as well as its charming Teddy Bear Collection, housed in a newly built home within the gardens of Newby Hall, collected by British TV personality Gyles Brandreth; look out for some very famous bears among the collection. And, this summer, the stately home also welcomes its annual Historic Vehicle Rally to its grounds as well as alfresco Shakespeare performances.
Sewerby Hall and Gardens
For a stately home with stunning coastal views, head to Sewerby Hall and Gardens; this impressive country house and estate is perched on a cliff-top with views over Bridlington Bay on East Yorkshire’s coast, just over an hour’s drive from Leeds. Set in early 19th-century parkland, a restoration programme a few years ago recreated how the house would have been in the early 1900s, with furniture loaned from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, as well as a collection of memorabilia that was once owned by the famous local aviator, Amy Johnson. Visitors can get fully immersed in the experience, with the chance to dress up as Edwardian servants or as members of the residing Graeme family, play with Edwardian toys in the nursery and view an interactive display portraying life as a servant during that era.
Summer is also a perfect time to enjoy its landscaped gardens and woodland walks as well as its on-site zoo, which is home to penguins, lemurs, pygmy goats, llamas and macaws. You can also stay on the estate in one of the holiday cottages.
Getting to Yorkshire: York is just under two hours by train from London, 1.5 hours from Manchester and 2.5 hours from Edinburgh. Reach Leeds from London by train in under 2.5 hours, in one hour from Manchester and in 3 hours from Edinburgh.
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VisitBritain Media Teampressandpr@visitbritain.com