We check in to the Best Western Plus Cedar Court Hotel Harrogate in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Harewood House & Fairfax House
We start our morning at Harewood House where we enjoy a guided tour. Built in the 18th century for Edwin Lascelles to designs by architect John Carr, it is one of the greatest Treasure Houses in England with interiors designed by Robert Adam, superb Thomas Chippendale furniture and an outstanding art collection ranging from Renaissance masterpieces to 20th century art including paintings by JMW Turner, Reynolds, Titian, El Greco, and Picasso. Set in a magnificent landscape created by ‘Capability’ Brown, Harewood is still home to the Lascelles family with the 7th Earl, cousin to the Queen, and Countess living here, and reflects the changing tastes and styles of the past 250 years. We enjoy lunch here after our tour.
We continue on to York where we visit Fairfax House, created as a winter home in 1762 by Viscount Fairfax. This stunning Georgian town house has been returned to its former glory and provides a perfect time capsule of life in Georgian times with a richly decorated interior designed by renowned architect, John Carr, including a magnificent Grand Staircase and exquisite Venetian Window. The superb Noel Terry collection of furniture, clocks, paintings and decorative arts has been described by Christie’s as one of the finest private collections of the 20th century. We learn about the house’s fascinating history and collections in more detail on our guided tour, followed by refreshments.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Tuesday: Burton Agnes Hall & Sledmere House
Described as ‘the perfect English house’ by Simon Jenkins, author of England’s Thousand Best Houses, Burton Agnes Hall is a magnificent Elizabethan stately home built between 1598 and 1610 by Sir Henry Griffith to designs by Robert Smythson. The house has stayed within the same family for more than four centuries and their passion for collecting and commissioning art has created an impressive and unusual collection including many French Impressionist paintings, magnificent furniture, carvings and tapestries which we discover on our exclusive private guided tour. Outside, the award-winning gardens contain over four thousand different plants, a potager, herbaceous borders and a maze.
We then travel to Sledmere House, a pale stone Georgian mansion designed in a Neo-Classical style, where we enjoy lunch followed by a guided tour. Originally built in 1751, the house was extended in the 1790s by Sir Christopher Sykes but was gutted by a fire in 1911. Through careful restoration, Sledmere has been nurtured by successive generations of the Sykes family and is still maintained as a family home. The interiors feature sumptuous plasterwork by Jonathan Rose and fine examples of furniture by Chippendale, Hepplewhite and Sheraton.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Wednesday: Scampston Walled Garden & Castle Howard
We visit the award-winning Scampston Walled Garden, set within the 18th-century walls of the original kitchen garden for Scampston Hall. Designed by the renowned Dutch plantsman, Piet Oudolf and opened to the public in 2005, this strikingly beautiful, contemporary garden features modern, perennial meadow planting alongside more traditional areas, with each garden ‘room’ having a very distinctive character. After our visit we enjoy morning tea and coffee in the garden café.
Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, Castle Howard has twice appeared as Brideshead in film and television adaptations of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel. Home to the Howard family for over 300 years, this magnificent 18th-century residence offers world-renowned collections and stunning architecture, all set within 1,000 acres of breathtaking scenery with idyllic gardens, woodland and lakeside walks. As we make our way through the lavish state rooms, great halls and sumptuous bedrooms at our own pace, knowledgeable guides share the history and stories of the house.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.