Posted 24th Feb 2016
We ventured to North Yorkshire to explore the stunning grounds of Castle Howard with our personal tour guide Gareth Williams, founder of outdoor activity group Large Outdoors
Perched on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, Castle Howard sits within 1,000 acres of stunning vistas, boasting breathtaking colour from the woodlands and countryside of the Howardian Hills, to parkland and formal gardens as far as the eye can see. Walking up Lime Avenue, named so for the 800 lime trees that border it, you begin to sense the magnitude of your surroundings as you make your way up the gradual ascent to the top, before veering to the left to stroll through the expansive grounds, the sun peeking out from behind the grey clouds and the fresh Yorkshire air encompassing you as you take your first steps.
Gareth Williams, who started Large Outdoors in 2008, is a fountain of knowledge as he guides you round the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, making you feel at ease from the moment you meet. Dressed in hardy walking boots and relaxed attire for the brisk afternoon walk – a warm jumper and waterproofs are necessary in case a sudden downpour catches you off guard – Gareth guides us through the winding lanes which are flanked by fields on either side. With the impressive castle in the distance, the dramatic lines of the architecture start to come into focus and you are soon standing on a steep bridge, to your left the Temple of the Four Winds and to your right the mausoleum which houses the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, the man who enlisted the help of John Vanbrugh and Nicholas Hawksmoor to design and bring to life Castle Howard.
Standing at 90ft tall, the mausoleum, designed by Hawksmoor, consists of 20 impressive pillars which were originally constructed in 1729. Located less than one mile from the castle, it is the burial place of generations of the Howard family and reflects much of the architecture of the house and the temple, however the 3rd Earl did not live to see it completed and neither did Hawksmoor, as the English architect died in 1736. Heading over the bridge you'll begin to approach the Temple of the Four Winds, passing through a wooden gate and up a grassy hill that leads to the temple itself, with stunning views of the rolling hills of Yorkshire rich with wildlife awaiting at the top. Originally designed in 1726 as a place for the family to retreat to and enjoy afternoon tea or reading, take time to admire the statues that guard the front of the temple and ascend the stairs onto the terrace of the house.
The castle itself was built in 1699 by Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, who sadly did not live to see his idea come to life as his ambitious design took over 100 years to erect, but was well worth the wait.
Strolling through the grounds of Castle Howard today, visitors walking their dogs give a cheery 'hello' as you carry on through a muddy track that leads back to the bottom of Lime Avenue. Invigorated by your achievement, head to the café and coffee shop to indulge in a well earned cup of tea and large slice of homemade cake.
Walks such as these: bracing, energising and historic, are just some of the guided walking weekends offered by Large Outdoors. Gareth, who once owned a publishing company, found his passion for walking and his enjoyment of being outdoors spurred him to move from behind his desk and out into the British countryside. Having personally scouted out the walks that they offer, Gareth and his team take you on adventures through history, embracing nature, wildlife and the great outdoors in some of Britain's most beautiful locations as you do so. From the Isle of Skye to Pembrokeshire, the Lake District and more, Large Outdoors invites you to join their community by a log fire with a glass of red in hand at the end of a busy day walking, or tucking into a flavoursome meal after a day of walking in the summer sun. Regulars, knowledgable local tour guides and an easy-going atmosphere promise a welcome escape as you discover the hidden gems of Britain at your own relaxed pace.
To find out more about Large Outdoors and how you can join one of their walking weekends or breaks visit www.largeoutdoors.com.
By Lauren Morton
Images Lauren Morton