York boasts the highest concentration of stately homes, castles and gardens in England. So when you visit Yorkshire, make sure you take some time out to visit these stately park homes – you’ll certainly be in awe of their grandeur and decadence.
From fortresses to castles, there are plenty of stately homes in Yorkshire to visit.
Castle Howard is the private residence and one of the most loved stately homes in Yorkshire. Fans will recognise the 17th century mansion from both the Brideshead Revisited TV show and film remake. It has been the home of the Howard family for over 300 years, but is open for visitors all year round. Book a guided tour and visit Lady Georgiana’s bedroom, the Castle Howard dressing room, the Great Hall, the Music Room and the Crimson Dining Room. Visitors can also see the original chapel in the west wing and explore the 1,000 acres of gardens and grounds filled with woodland walks, temples, lakes and fountains. Castle Howard also puts on different exhibitions throughout the year. Past exhibitions have treated the public to a wartime exhibition detailing the Castle’s history and a display dedicated to the aforementioned TV show.
The Bowes Museum
Located in the market town of Barnard Castle, The Bowes Museum is a 19th French-style chateau and one of the most impressive castles in Yorkshire. Built in the 19th century by businessman John Bowes and his French wife Joséphine, the Bowes Museum holds one of the UK’s most important collections of European fine and decorative arts with paintings by Canaletto, Goya and El Greco. There are entire galleries dedicated to fashion, silver and metals, plus ceramics, as well as the on-site restaurant Café Bowes, which is known for its delicious homemade cakes and quality, locally-sourced meals.
An imposing fortress in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Bolton Castle has been inhabited since the Middle Ages. Despite being completed in 1399, the castle has been magnificently preserved and gives you a real glimpse into what medieval life was like. Today, it’s owned by Lord Bolton, a descendent from the original owner Sir Richard le Scrope. It boasts over 600 years of history and was famously the place of imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots for six months. Visitors are invited to watch a daily birds of prey display, wild boar feeding and even have a go at archery. Stop for afternoon tea in the stunning Bolton Castle Tea Room, now run by renowned chef Guy Fairhurst. Also within the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the nearby Bolton Abbey, where you can see the ruins of the Priory, wander in the woodlands and look around the village shops.
Located in the heart of York, just a few steps from York Minster, is Barley Hall, a gorgeous medieval townhouse that was once home to the Priors of Nostell and the Mayor of York. Previously hidden behind an office block, the historic house was uncovered in the 1980s and has been restored to its original splendour. Inside, it’s decorated in the 15th century style and visitors are invited to touch the furniture – you can sit down in the chairs, handle the objects and pretend that you’re back in the Middle Ages.
Harewood House and Gardens
This opulent royal estate is about 20 miles west of York and has often been called the British equivalent of France’s Palace of Versailles. One of the Treasure Houses of England, the historic Georgian house was designed by local architect John Carr and interior designer Robert Adam. England’s greatest gardener, Capability Brown, designed the famous 1,000 acre gardens. While the home itself is a masterpiece, it’s the gardens that draw all the visitors. The Harewood Bird Garden boasts over 30 species of exotic birds, from penguins and cockatoos to flamingos and parrots.