Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Castle Howard Reel Enchantment from a Real Home ,England

 By nick garrod
Although you have never been to the place, Castle Howard sports an all-familiar charm. Likened to the Garden of Eden, the picturesque spot lies just 15 miles to the north of York and is a favorite location for the British reel. You have probably caught glimpses of Castle Howard in films such as "Shakespeare's Twelfth Night", "Brideshead Revisited" and "The Buccaneers".
The structures that greet you as you approach this 18th century castle are impressive. There stands a gatehouse called the Carrmire Gate which is set against mock fortifications. Despite its noble name, Castle Howard was intended to function as the private residence of the wealthy third Earl of Carlisle, who was also then a member of an elite club called the Kit-Cat Club.
The building has a central dome, which at that time was an unheard-of feature in even the most luxurious of family dwellings. The design of John Vanbrugh began to take shape when construction of the castle began in the early 1700. Castle Howard took 90 years to finish, and its elaborate splendor comes as no surprise. In 1850, the castle received Queen Victoria as a guest. She was housed in the dressing room embellished by Marco Ricci paintings.
The castle was severely damaged by a fire sometime in 1940. Today however, no trace of the tragedy remains. Castle Howard looms as glorious as ever and opens its gates to an average of 200,000 visitors annually. It belongs to a heritage group called the "Treasure Houses of England" and has been listed as a Grade I home.
Almost everywhere you look, you can catch sight of the best fine arts pieces and antiques that survived the large fire. The works of great masters such as George Stubbs, Gainsborough and Canaletto still adorn the insides of Castle Howard. Up to this very day, select areas of the castle serve as the private quarters of Hon. Simon Howard, a successor of the noble Earls of Carlisle.
If you love baroque-inspired architecture, you will get just that at Castle Howard. Doric pilasters decorate the north end, while Corinthian columns grace the south. There are ciphers, coronets and cherubs to enthrall you and inside the halls, you will be just as enchanted by the crystal chandeliers, the expensive porcelain pieces and the masterful paintings a many of Antonio Pellegrini. The daintiness of the collection is wonderfully off set by heavy tables, and sturdy marble columns, pedestals and sculptures. A marble fireplace in every room gives you the feeling of a warm, elegant welcome to luxurious living.
What is nice about visiting Castle Howard is that you can explore every inch of the place at your own leisure. Of course, when you have a question or two, guides can readily come to your assistance and provide you with the information you need. An area not to be missed is the castle's chapel which showcases a marble altar originating from the Temple of Oracle in Delphi.
Not far from the chapel is the grand staircase. If you are into European treasures, the antique passage should delight you. The passage is actually an area of the castle lined with mid-18th century Italian memorabilia of the fourth and fifth Earls of Carlisle. The passage leads you directly to a colossal hall wherefrom the famed 70-foot-high dome rises. Each of the four columns supporting the high-rise dome reportedly cost 84 pounds then, a figure that was worth a lot in 1705.
Outside the castle, the view is just as breathtaking. Two lakes surround the sides of the castle grounds, creating perfect symmetry. One of the two most prominent outdoor structures around is the Hawksmoor-designed mausoleum of the third Earl of Carlisle. You will have to travel about a mile away from the castle to reach this mausoleum. The other prominent structure is the "Quatre Faces" ornamental pillar that was fashioned by John Vanbrugh. The four-faced pillar is located in a vicinity of the castle grounds called Pretty Wood.
In the heart of the castle's well-manicured and beautifully landscaped gardens lies the Atlas Fountain. You can stroll around the gardens for fresh air. A fantastic alternative is to spend some time in Ray Wood, a portion of the estate grounds designated as an arboretum. Castle Howard has recently ventured with Kew Gardens to open to the visiting public a new 127-acre arboretum equipped with a visitor centre.
Over 6,000 acres of the estate has been designated for farming, and the castle has stayed at the forefront of preserving wildlife. Castle Howard houses a caf?a gift shop, a farm store and a garden centre to delight guests.



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