Visiting Brideshead

Exploring England #33

In the 1981 television adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, Brideshead Castle is home to the fictional and fabulously wealthy Flyte family. In reality, the magnificent building which stars in the series is Yorkshire’s Castle Howard, one of the largest country houses in England. Belonging to the Howard family since the 18th century, Castle Howard is not really a castle, but a stately home built where a military castle once stood. Filled with statuary, paintings and a wealth of precious objects, the house is one of the ten Treasure Houses of England.

Ticketed entry to the house allows us to wander at our own pace from one elegant room to the next, where friendly household staff tell us stories about this beautiful home. In the Antique Passage, we see treasures collected by generations of the Howard family while on their grand tours of Europe. We marvel at the workmanship in the Chapel, the collection of family portraits in the Turquoise Drawing Room and the dome of the Great Hall, restored after a devastating fire in 1940.

Castle Howard is surrounded by 1, 000 acres of lush parkland, ornamental lakes and fountains, gardens and woodlands. Gilded gates lead into the 18th century walled garden where roses, fuchsias and an abundance of annuals grow alongside beds filled with edible plants destined for the family kitchen.

Beyond the garden we stroll along the shaded Lime Walk to the Atlas Fountain, where gods of the sea serenade Atlas as he holds up the sky.

At South Lake, the Prince of Wales Fountain plays elegantly over the water while the Shepherd Boy keeps watch.

At the end of Temple Terrace stands the elegant Temple of the Four Winds, while in the distance New River Bridge leads to the private family mausoleum.

In Ray Wood, sunlight shining through the trees dapples the wide path. Birds sing but remain unseen as they stay hidden in the leaves.

At the Boathouse CafΓ©, we enjoy a delicious lunch on the shores of Great Lake.

All the time we’ve been at Castle Howard I’ve almost expected to meet the family; not the Howards but the Flytes – Julia, elegantly lounging by the fountain, Cordelia sitting quietly in a window seat or Sebastian, with his teddy bear, Aloysius. They’re nowhere to be seen, but I’m sure I feel their presence.

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31 thoughts on “Visiting Brideshead

  1. Growing up in France I always had a fantasy of one day acquiring one of those large former castles and returning it to it’s former grandeur. Both England and France and no doubt, Italy and perhaps Germany have a plethora of grand mansions/castles but the unfortunate reality is that the cost of upkeep of these architectural beauties is so exorbitant as to make it nearly impossible to continue maintaining these historic buildings.

    The four wings pavilion at the end of the stroll looks particularly attractive as do the gorgeous gardens. Beautiful photos, thanks for sharing!

    Ben

    • Maintenance costs must be incredible and I didn’t mind paying to enter. We certainly got our money’s worth and spent a whole day here. I also felt it was great to see how many local people are employed in the grounds and house. The Temple of the Four Winds was quite beautiful but we weren’t able to go inside as it is very fragile. We were told it was used in the past as a place for rest and reading! How genteel.

    • Yes, the family does live there. It would be very expensive to maintain. I was very impressed by how much employment this house provides for the surrounding area – gardeners and staff for the parts visitors see. It must be a big boost to the local economy.

  2. I also visited Castle Howard with memories of Brideshead accompanying me. It was used in the recent film too, but I didn’t think that was anything like as good. The TV series was mesmerising and I still can’t hear Jeremy Irons’ voice without a shiver.

  3. What an amazing tour you had. I must admit I might not have gotten inside with such beautiful grounds to explore. Once explored, I might have wanted a bench to sit on and contemplate the meaning of life. Thank you for taking us along on these explorations. πŸ™‚

    • Judy, we did actually do the grounds and garden first because rain was forecast. It didn’t end up raining so we had plenty of time to enjoy the garden. Then we did the house in the afternoon. It was a really enjoyable day.

  4. It’s fabulous, isn’t it, Carol? You did it justice here. I enjoyed looking over your shoulder and remembering. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ Must be nearing the end of your UK tour. Where next, I wonder?

  5. Pingback: Beyond the Window | The Eternal Traveller

  6. I’ve never seen Brideshead Revisited. Is it good? The house and gardens and fountains are amazing. I especially love those fancy columns in the house. I love visiting places where you can imagine the residents living there, even if they’re fictional. πŸ™‚

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