Castle Howard, that modest country cottage, sits on a hill up in Yorkshire. Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, the house rests on the site of an old military castle from which is derives the first part of its name – it is not a castle itself. It is one of only a handful of truly Baroque buildings built in England (compare with Vanbrugh’s Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, for instance). It has served as the fictional Brideshead in both the admirable television adaption and the appalling film version of Evelyn Waugh’s ‘Brideshead Revisited’, and is a house well worth dedicating a novel to.
In spite of its outrageous scale and Baroque splendour, it is a remarkably comfortable estate. One almost feels at home wandering its gardens and rooms, or resting by the edge of its fountain. That said, I visited on a comfortable day in early Fall, and I imagine the ambience becomes less cosy when the winter winds sweep through its cavernous rooms. Castle Howard deserves a day of your time. It begs more than a cursory glance, and comes alive only when your initial awe subsides and you linger a little longer in its magnificent presence.