Heading out toward the wild North York Moors, this private full-day tour with a driver-guide takes you to visit one of England’s greatest stately homes, Castle Howard, the pretty market town of Helmsley and the ruins of nearby Rievaulx Abbey, whose arches you can still walk among.
An hour’s drive from York, the Castle Howard grounds are marked by a 26 m (85 ft) 19th-century monument to George Howard. This marks the start of a perfectly straight, tree-lined avenue leading directly through two 18th-century gatehouses to Castle Howard.
Both enormous and attractive, this imposing building took nearly 100 years to complete, beginning in the late 17th century. Chief architect Sir John Vanbrugh died before the house was completed, resulting in an eccentric disjointed design, and compounded by remodelling following a disastrous fire in 1940.
The interior includes rooms with intricately detailed carved ceilings, which are filled with statues, heirlooms and paintings, and a private chapel decorated in the pre-Raphaelite style.
Exploring Castle Howard independently without your guide, you’ll find information boards in each room as well as the castle’s guides, who can tell you more about the history and significance of the rooms and their objects.
A short drive of just under half an hour from Castle Howard, Helmsley is a pretty market town, which was mentioned in the 11th-century Domesday Book. It’s a lovely place to wander on foot, where honey-hued stone shops line narrow streets and medieval castle ruins stand on a hill behind the westernmost buildings of the town.
From Helmsley, it’s a very short drive to Rievaulx Abbey, the first Cistercian monastery to be founded in the north of England — colonist monks from northern France established it in the 1100s. Like most abbeys across the British Isles, it was destroyed in Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century, but the ruins’ tiers of arches are particularly striking against the rural backdrop of rolling hills and woodland.
You return to York via small, pretty roads that take you through a number of attractive towns and villages.
During the day, you have time to stop for lunch (not included), for which we can suggest places to eat.