We had one full day and night left before we took our train back
to London to return to the States. We had hired a private driver
to take us to the countryside around Northern Yorkshire. So on
a very early morning our driver picked us up and we were off to
spend the day touring a castle, a town, and the famous Moors.
You might recognize this stately home from television and film as the
fictional home in “Brideshead” in 1981, and in 2008, a remake of a two
hour movie, “Brideshead Revisited”. Today it is part of the Treasure
Houses of England, a group of Heritage Houses.
We arrived thirty minutes before the house was opened, but we were
able to walk the amazing grounds. I had seen the movie “Brideshead
Revisited” and knew it would be beautiful, but this goes beyond.
The grounds were stunning. I remembered the scene in the movie
around the Atlas Fountain, by John Thomas (sculptor), it was absolutely
stunning. It’s huge presence dominates the south side of the estate
and is visible from much of the entire house and grounds.
The Temple of the Four Winds lies at the eastern end of Temple
Terrace, with stunning views across the hills. The Temple was started
in 1726 and completed in 1738. It was used as a place of refreshment
The Howard Family is an English aristocratic family founded by John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, in 1483. After the English Reformation, many
Howards remained steadfast in the catholic faith. Catherine Howard,
granddaughter of Thomas Howard, became Henry VIII’s fifth wife, as
Anne Boleyn, became his second wife. If you are a fan of the history
of King Henry VIII, as I am, this would be an interesting point.
The building of Castle Howard began in 1699 and took over a hundred
years to complete, spanning the lifetimes of three Earls and numerous
architects and craftsmen. Castle Howard is considered a home or
manor, not a castle, even though it’s 145 rooms are absolutely spectacular
and gives you the feel of a castle like setting.
Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini decorated much of its interior, accented
with the paintings of Rubens, Van Dyke, Canaletto, Reynolds and
Tintoretto. The house has a vast collection of rare porcelain and many
The dome is 70 ft in height, and looking up at it you realize the sense
of spaciousness and light it brings to the Great Hall below. The four
large painted figures that support the Dome represents the four elements;
Earth, Fire, Air and Water. The lavishly painted Dome tells the tale of
Phaeton, son of Apollo, who falls to earth from his father’s chariot.
There are two bedrooms open to the public, one is a feminine and the
other a more muscular feel. It is said that Queen Victoria slept in
one of the rooms in 1850. There is also a scene from Brideshead
Revisited in one of the bedrooms.
The Crimson Dining Room leads into the Turquoise Drawing Room,
filled with portraits by famous artists such as Gainsborough and Joshua
Reynolds. The settee and chairs are by John Lindell, who also made
much of the furniture in the Castle Howard Bedroom.
The house also has a Chapel that is quite lovely, with richly colored
stained glass windows by Edward Burne-Jones. This also was portrayed
in the movie.
I must say, this was one of many highlights of this trip, to be able
to walk these beautiful grounds and tour this amazing house was a
thrill, especially that I loved the movie.
After leaving Castle Howard, our driver took drove us through the North
York Moors heading to the town of Whitby. The moors is one of the
largest expanses of Heather Moorland in the United Kingdom. The area
was actually quite interesting, a little different than I had imagined, but
still lovely. For the outdoor enthusiast, this is a great area for cycling,
hiking, mountain bikers, and other outdoor activities to be enjoyed in
this vast landscape. Driving through the area, stopping the car occasionally
for the perfect photo opt, or just admiring the scenery, reminded me of
the classic books by the Bronte sisters. I could almost see Catherine,
in Wuthering Heights, running through the moors with Hindley in their
young years or perhaps Jane Eyre walking through the moors trying to
determine what her future held. Letting my imagination portray these
stories in my mind, made this truly, a pinch me moment.
Arriving in Whitby was a pure delight. A friend had suggested we go
there and I immediately knew we had made the right choice. I loved
this seaside town in North Yorkshire, on the east coast, facing the North
Sea. The town has a 75 ft swing bridge that links the upper and lower
harbors. The houses are built of stone or brick, often with red pantile
roofs, in narrow steep streets, on both sides of the River.
The town is surrounded on its landward sides by the moorlands of the
North York Moors National Park, and the North Sea, on its seaward side.
Whitby has a literary past with the setting of the town in many novels,
and part of the novel,” Dracula”, was also set in Whitby. Charles Dickens
visited frequently, as did James Russell Lowell, the American writer.
On His last visit in 1889, he wrote:
“This is my ninth year of coming to Whitby, it’s
a place I never tire of”.
By the time we arrived in Whitby, we were famished, so we headed to
Hadley’s Fish Restaurant, which someone recommended. The best
fish and chips in England. The meal was outstanding.
We walked the town, including the crooked little back streets, going
in and out of the shops. This town is a delight.
The Whitby Abbey overlooks the town. After a long, but pleasant
climb up the hill, we toured the Abbey. A monastery founded in
AD 657, became a nunnery of the kingdom. The Vikings destroyed
the monastery in 867 through 870 through a series of raids. Being
rebuilt and utilized as an Abbey till Henry the VIII, in 1539, dissolved
Our day was nearly over and sitting in the back seat of the car, I was
able to reflect what a great day it turned out to be. Renting a driver
for the day is not cheap but it is certainly worth the money. We were
in total control of where we wanted to go and for how long.
Seeing Castle Howard and Whitby was the cherry on top of the cake,
making this almost two week trip, London and York, one of the nicest
trips we have taken. But I guess I say that about all my trips.