Castle Howard is one of our favourite places for a family day out, but you’ll usually find us walking through the woods, running around the fountain or climbing on something in the adventure playground. It’s rare for us to head to the house with the children in tow, but at Christmas it’s the first place we go. That’s because we know that Castle Howard does Christmas really, really well. Every year, this beautiful stately home is decked out with decorations that are the stuff of dreams (and Instagram/Pinterest interiors inspiration). We were invited along to the preview of this year’s festive experience, Angels on High, to see what families can look forward to. For the full Little Vikings verdict, we even took our three year-old along to get the all-important tiny thumbs-up.
For our family, last year’s Christmas at Castle Howard was our best festive day out, and I wondered whether this year’s experience could possibly live up to last year’s memories. Happily, based on what we saw of the preparations – we were tiptoeing through baubles and skirting around scaffolding in some rooms as they were finished off – it’s going to be just as awe-inspiring.
This year’s theme is Angels on High, and it really is as though the angels have descended and worked their heavenly magic. There’s a real sense of drama, especially in the Long Gallery, with its host of golden flying angels – no wonder, when top theatre designers have individually designed each room. The 20ft Christmas tree in the Great Hall is a once-a-year photo opportunity like no other, and the novelty of the huge gingerbread replica of Castle Howard, complete with running train, hasn’t worn off.
There’s more for children than ever before, with the Father Christmas’s Magical Garden rooms giving little ones the chance to explore and play. The Cherub Trail is a great way to engage them too: pick up a leaflet and see if you can spot the beautiful hand-painted faces. Find them all and you might even win a family ticket to Castle Howard, which is a prize that’s certainly worth having. The sparkling packing room (below), with the house’s only coloured lights and gifts galore, is guaranteed to capture the attention of anyone of Santa letter-writing age.
So, we grown-ups loved what we saw. And as for our little one? Well, we needn’t have worried about whether she – the only child in our group of media types – would behave herself. She was so mesmerised by the baubles, open fires, incredible floral displays, candles and colours that she fell into a cheerful festive trance. Once again Castle Howard has delivered a magical family Christmas experience like no other.
Good to know
- Christmas at Castle Howard runs until Saturday 23rd December 2017
- The house is open from 10am to 3pm (last admission) Monday to Friday, and until 4pm on weekends
- There are twilight visits on the weekend of 16th and 17th December. See the website for details
- New for 2017, Santa will be taking up residence in the Boathouse Grotto during December weekends. Book a timed slot when you arrive, hop on the Christmas Express down to the Boathouse and see the big man! It’s £5 per child in addition to admission, and there’s no online pre-booking available
- If you think you’ll visit a few times during the year, it’s worth considering the Friends membership to save on admission