Castle Howard is one of those places that I'd wanted to visit for a long time. Like so many others, I fell down the Brideshead Revisited rabbit hole a couple of years ago. I was enthralled with the aesthetic of the novel, and I wanted to see what the story's adopted house (as Brideshead didn't take place at Castle Howard, but as the house was used for both the miniseries and the film based on the novel) looked like for myself. When A said we could go last autumn, I got very excited. We planned to go on my trips to York in November, but the house was closed for filming the new Victoria miniseries on one visit and for the Christmas installations on the other. When we then planned to go back to York in June, we decided it would be the perfect time to see it. I mean "Always Summer" is something closely related to Brideshead so when better to go than when the flowers are in bloom and the house looks most like it would have in the early chapters of the novel? Even better, going in June meant that Amy – one of our very, very good friends who you can find at Foxes in Pink Boxes – with us.
Amy and I met through our old blogs almost four years ago now, and to my luck, she started her MA in Medieval Studies at York when A was there – in the same department – last autumn. They became friends too, and my favorite thing about going back to York is all of us spending time together. Amy's one of the friends I wish we could have around all of the time, so our time at Castle Howard was a gift.
It threatened to rain the entire time we were in Yorkshire, and the day we left for Castle Howard was no different. Amy spotted cows laying down on our bus ride to the estate, and we constantly expected it to start storming. Somehow though, we were lucky and it didn't rain a drop. The clouds cast a wonderfully gloomy air over the estate though, so I was quite happy (up until it got so cold that I had to start wearing A's coat). There's something about overcast skies juxtaposed with lush, green gardens that makes all the flowers pop in even more vibrant colors.
Everything about Castle Howard is dramatic, from the way it pops out from behind the hills in the gardens to the breathtaking architectural features. The house's cupola even burned down at one point and had to be rebuilt.
Two things the house had in abundance (beyond the drama) were books and old, tarnished mirrors. I love both things a ridiculous amount, so I took a few too many pictures.
After part of the house burned down, the wing most affected was never restored and was later used as a blank film set for Brideshead. The above picture is a room that was covered in murals to depict the Catholic attitudes prevalent in the story. (A likes to joke that Brideshead acts like a horror film in re: Catholicism by building so much drama around it, and I think the picture speaks for itself.)
Castle Howard doesn't have a room that's designated as a library, but books line the walls of the Long Gallery, so it was naturally my favorite room in the house... and obviously the room we three literature graduates spent the most time in.
Though not filled with books, the house's chapel came in at a close second to the Long Gallery. It's decorated from floor to ceiling in incredible Pre-Raphaelite detail. William Morris was involved in its making, and his designs fill the room. All three of us adore the Pre-Raphs, so we were all blown away by the details. I particularly fell for the screen covered in figures from Chaucer's Legend of Good Women and want a copy of it made for my future dream home.
We spent quite some time exploring the grounds after we toured the house and lunched. I resisted walking along the edge of the Atlas Fountain, but it was still an impressive structure to behold.
My favorite though was the Temple of the Four Winds, located at the far edge of the grounds' woods. It's a deeply aesthetic structure that you sadly can't go into. We walked around it, and then headed into the woods to make our way out of the grounds... where Amy stealthily snapped this picture of A and me.
All in all, it was a wonderful visit and stands out as one of my favorite days of the year so far. Thank you to A and Amy for going with me and for sharing (and letting me use) some of their lovely photos.
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I'm Olivia, a twenty-six year old grad student studying in Switzerland. This is where I share my thoughts on the academic journey, culture, travels, baking, and my daily life abroad. Read More.