If you can draw yourself away from London’s orbit and drive about four hours north, you will come to Yorkshire, bordered on the east by the frigid, roiling North Sea and on the west by the high fells and crags of the Pennine Hills. The western lands were wandered by the Brontë sisters; and in the wild winds of a tempestuous night you might well imagine yourself hearing Catherine’s pleading for her lover Heathcliff, as described in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. In the nearer dales, you might bury your hand in the soft, fluffy wool of a lamb whose grandsire was, in fact, treated by the genial veterinarian and writer, James Herriot (Alf Wight).
But north and east of the fortified city of York with its medieval cathedral and cobbled streets you will come upon Castle Howard, ancestral home of the Earls of Carlisle. The estate is a jaw-dropping 9,000 acres in size, so you will find yourself riding over vast expanses and gentle hills before finally arriving at the stately house itself. For those of you too young to know, in 1981, the sight of this elegant home in an adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited stunned the eyes of thousands of Americans. Most of us had never before seen a stately home, and this poignant love letter to the innocence of pre-war England absolutely tied our heartstrings to this particular house.
You really should tour the house to see the treasures suspended in this magnificent time capsule designed by John Vanbrugh. But I want you to take a walk, for that is the only way you will see the buildings placed about the estate just for the pleasure of someone like you who enjoys a saunter.
As you leave the house, you will find Atlas groaning under the weight of the world in the central fountain of the garden.
Wandering further, you will see the Temple of the Four Winds, a place designed simply for one to read and perhaps sip a glass of sherry as one looks down from this high prospect.
You might bridle at being told to see Hawksmoor’s Mausoleum, but you’ll be well rewarded to view it at a distance above the nearby bridge.
Many more obelisks, stone gates, pyramids, and statues can be discovered around the estate; but at the end of your wandering, you will always return to face the castle itself, stretching itself across the hilltop in the fading sunlight. You can imagine young men and women talking and laughing along the length of the terrace, unaware that a war was on the way that would end their way of life—and, indeed, end many of their lives.
It is this poignant beauty that makes Castle Howard a place that tugs at your spirit: a Brideshead to be revisited.
Next time: The Fortified City of York
Remember that my book The Downton Era is now available at Amazon.com
Atlas Fountain: Open source
Temple of the Four Winds: By Pwojdacz at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=13403596
All others: Nancy Parrish