Christmas is a big money raiser for all Stately homes at this time of year and the car park at Castle Howard was busy when we arrived. There was a steady stream of people into the house making it difficult at times to enjoy the decorations, especially as many of the rooms are roped off and visitors are restricted to a set routeway.
Overall I was disappointed. Yes there were Christmas trees decorated with big shiny baubles as well as bare twigs again covered with baubles. Those in the Garden Hall were particularly impressive. There was even a Christmas tree made out of books. There were winter garlands along mantle pieces and on bed heads. There were log fires in some rooms. That in the Great Hall was particularly impressive apart from everyone standing next to it warming there nether regions… The Music Room, Crimson Dining Room and Turquoise Living Room were however disappointing and I felt more effort could have been put into decorating them. The chapel had a large nativity scene and two small Christmas trees.
The shops were filled with Christmas baubles and gifts to buy and the tills were woking overtime. The Indoor craft market in the marquee attached to the house was very disappointing.
There was a roasted chestnut seller in the courtyard, but he wasn’t doing much trade.
There were long queues for food and service was excruciatingly slow in both the Boathouse Cafe, Stable Courtyard cafe and the Stable coffee shop. Be prepared to wait a long time to be served… Interestingly the Christmas lunch was slightly more expensive in the Stable Courtyard Cafe than the Fitzroy room in the house.
The Boathouse cafe is only open weekend but by 1.30 had run out of soup and toasted paninis… There were a few sandwiches on offer, some sausage rolls and a very uninspiring selection of cakes. The selection of cakes in the Stable Coffee shop was very good first thing in the morning but by 2pm was again very limited in choice. Overall I was not impressed by the catering and the Christmas Market in the marquee wasn’t worth visiting.
The ticket isn’t cheap either. It must be ten years since I last visited Castle Howard. The exterior is stunning but the inside doesn’t live up to the promise. It is described as one of the Great Treasure Houses of England, but isn’t a patch on places like Blenheim, Chatsworth, Leeds Castle…
There is level access to the house via the shop and a stair lift for the Grand Staircase. All the rooms on the ground floor are accessible, although crowds may make it difficult for anyone in a wheelchair. There is no access to teh three room of the High South. although you don’t miss much. The chapel is not accessible with a wheelchair which is a shame as it is a stunning building.
There is a tourist train running a frequent service between the ticket office in the stable courtyard, the house and the boating lake cafe. This has ramps for wheelchair users.
There are more pictures “here”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/stately_homes_castles/england/north/castle_howard/index.html .