The great 18th century palace of Castle Howard is one of the most glorious homes in England, being especially well known to television viewers for taking pride of place in 'Brideshead Revisited'. This palatial home, designed by Sir John Vanbrugh for the third Earl of Carlisle, is the largest house in Yorkshire. Perhaps as remarkable as the structure itself, is that its architect had never previously been commissioned to design anything!
Constructed in the early 1700's, the immense façade, topped by an 80ft painted and gilded dome, is visible for miles around. Inside the castle, there is an impressive long-gallery, some exquisite furniture, paintings by the likes of Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Reynolds, and an enormous collection of dressware ranging from the 17th century upto the present day. The parkland around Castle Howard is everybit as magnificent as the house itself. An enormous 70 acre lake provides the central point of interest, whilst a number of intriguingly shaped buildings are scattered about the estate.
These latter include a richly carved, circular mausoleum, designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor; the domed Temple of the Four Winds, created by Vanbrugh - the Great Pyramid, with its eight stone lanterns, a smaller Pyramid, and the Four Faces. Castle Howard Estate is indeed as fascinating for the visitor as is the stately home.
A short journey south from the castle permits the visitor to discover the benign remains of Kirkham Priory, where it lies secluded in a peaceful wooded valley. It was founded in 1125 by Judge Walter l'Espec, after his son's death in a riding accident, to serve as an Augustinian priory. Visitors enter the ruin by passing through a richly carved 13th century gatehouse, with its Norman doorway. In the former lavatorium of the ruined cloister, one can see where the monks would have performed their ablutions at two side bays. Here are lavishly moulded arches, supported on slender pillars, each bay adorned with intricate carvings.