The end of the academic year is in sight, and by now you must be wondering what to do after it’s over. The interlude between the end of exams and returning home for the summer means that you have the time to explore York and the local area. Instead of spending the last few days asleep or in the local pub, head out into the country and learn more about York’s history outside of the city walls.
Castle Howard is a historical estate 15 miles north of York, set in the picturesque countryside in Ryedale. On the roads leading up to the estate you pass underneath an impressive stone archway, which sets the scene for what is about to come. The estate itself boasts statues of Roman Gods, temples, a fountain and lakes, and visitors can wander around the castle interior during the summer months. There is also the opportunity to go on a boat trip on the Great Lake, or explore the nearby Ray Wood.
Inside Castle Howard itself you can expect to find beautiful artwork, corridors lined with busts dating back as far as the 1st century, and an impressive collection of books. History and History of Art students will be in their element, but you don’t have to be a historian to appreciate it.
Members of Vanbrugh College can learn more about their college’s namesake, Sir John Vanbrugh. Castle Howard was designed by Vanbrugh in the 18th century and the Howard family have lived there for more than 300 years. Visitors can learn more about the castle and the Howards by reading the information cards in each room, or by speaking to one of the many guides posted in each room.
If you have seen the TV series Brideshead Revisited, based on the novel by Evelyn Waugh, then perhaps you will recognise parts of the estate. The rooms in which the series was filmed now host a timeline about Brideshead Revisited and visitors can learn more about how Castle Howard was used during filming.
As well as having access to the house and grounds, visitors can also look around the on-site garden centre, farm shop, gift shop and cafes. Although admittedly the food is expensive, the opportunity to have a snack while seated in the grounds of a historic estate is unmissable. Alternatively, you can take a picnic and sit in the shadow of the imposing castle, or relax in the grounds overlooking the Great Lake.
Of course, as students, travelling outside the city can be problematic if you don’t have access to a car. However buses are available to Castle Howard from York, details of which can be found on Castle Howard’s website, www.castlehoward.co.uk.