Castle Howard was designed in 1699 by John Vanbrugh for Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle. One early visitor, Horace Walpole, wrote “I have seen gigantic palaces before, but never a sublime one.”
As well as the house itself, there are numerous fine buildings in the grounds. This walk lets you see many of them, before or after you visit the house, with its impressive interior and gardens. There is also an adventure playground for the kids to let off steam in.
The north front
Park in the car park beside the straight avenue, near the crossroads north of the house. Across the Great Lake is the hugely dramatic north front of the house, with its giant columns, curving wings and crowning dome (above). Walk to the crossroads and turn right towards Coneysthorpe.
Walk through the village; just beyond the last cottages, go right through a tall, white gate in a wall. Go half left, signed ‘Bog Hall’, crossing the track. Pass the cemetery on your left; after a gateway, go right to follow the field edge, and at the double gate, right again along the wood edge. Follow the track to a junction of tracks near a bridge.
Do not cross the bridge. Instead, turn left and follow the track as it bends right (signed ‘Gaterley’) then left through the farm buildings.
To the right, there are views of the pretty, domed Temple of the Four Winds, designed by Vanbrugh. Further along the track, the great Mausoleum, the masterwork of architect Nicholas Hawksmoor, comes into view; Walpole called it “a mausoleum that would tempt one to be buried alive”. The domed interior has giant Corinthian columns and superb carving.
The track now passes through a wood and winds right, over a bridge, to the next farm. Turn right here, signed towards ‘Centenary Way’.
At the T-junction, turn right along the metalled lane. The Pyramid, surrounded by four stone lanterns, is ahead. Inside (not accessible) is a huge bust of the 3rd earl’s great-great-grandfather.
The Pyramid Gate, another of Castle Howard’s four pyramids, is just visible to the right. As you near the Pyramid, you will reach a staggered crossing of tracks. Turn right here, signed ‘Coneysthorpe’, and descend to the bridge, with the Mausoleum on the right and Castle Howard itself on the left.
An early haha
Cross the bridge, and continue through the gate and uphill, with the Temple of the Four Winds on your left. The path heads over the ridge, then follows the solid, rustic wall with a ditch in front of it. This is an early haha, which was designed to allow uninterrupted views of the countryside, while at the same time keeping sheep out of the drawing room.
Follow the wall as it bends left; go through a kissing gate beside a white gate and continue along the track. At a T-junction, turn left and follow the track, which bends right near some metal gates. Follow the track back to the tall white gate in Coneysthorpe. Turn left and retrace your route back to the car park.
HOW TO GET THERE
Castle Howard is north of the A64 and 14 miles north-east of York. Stephensons of Easingwold runs bus service 180/181/182/183 from York, Mon-Sat only, not public holidays.
FIND OUT MORE
Castle Howard Estate Office
York YO60 7DA
High season: 23 Mar-3 Nov, 23 Nov-22 Dec. Open daily. House and grounds: adults £14, concessions £12; grounds only: adults £9.50, concessions £9.
Castle Howard has several places to eat, including the Courtyard Café, the Fitzroy Room and the Lakeside Café.
Lime Kiln House
The Green, Coneysthorpe,
Malton YO60 7DD
OS Explorer 300
Grid reference: SE 707 713