We check in to the Best Western Plus Cedar Court Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Tuesday: Castle Howard
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. During our special visit, we enjoy a festive lunch and guided tour.
Castle Howard’s dramatic interiors are transformed each Christmas when the Hon. Nicholas Howard and Mrs Victoria Howard decorate each room for the festive season. In rooms lit by fire and candlelight, we can marvel at the giant Christmas trees, spectacular displays of traditional festive decorations, winter garlands, wreaths and floral arrangements. In addition, there’s live music performed to put us in the festive spirit. Shopping at Castle Howard is also a treat, with a festive covered market and a range of shops offering a wonderful selection of gift and food ideas.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Wednesday: Fairfax House & York Christmas Market
We head to York where we visit Fairfax House, a stunning Georgian town house that has been returned to its former glory, providing a perfect time capsule of life in Georgian times. We experience the house in all its splendour as it celebrates Christmas with a magnificent festive installation inspired by the traditions of the 18th century. We also learn about the house’s fascinating history and fine collections on our Christmas themed talk, followed by morning coffee.
Afterwards, we have time at leisure to explore the city. York’s story spans the centuries and there is plenty of evidence of this fascinating past, from the narrow medieval lanes known as the Shambles to the ancient city walls. There’s also an opportunity to do some Christmas shopping with York’s festive St Nicholas Market selling everything from local produce to traditional gifts and crafts.
This evening, we enjoy a three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Thursday: Sion Hill Hall & Harrogate
We travel to Sion Hill Hall where we are welcomed by the owner, Michael Mallaby, who gives us an exclusive private introduction to his wonderful Arts and Crafts home, opened just for us. Surrounded by charming gardens and parkland, this Edwardian house is of outstanding architectural merit, having been designed in 1913 by the renowned York architect Walter H. Brierley, known as the ‘Lutyens of the North’. It also houses the Mawer collection of furniture, porcelain, paintings and clocks plus more recent acquisitions made by the present owner. After our tour, we enjoy tea, coffee and homemade biscuits served in the original Edwardian kitchens.
The afternoon is spent in the elegant spa town of Harrogate, where notable sights include the Royal Pump Room and the Grade II listed Royal Hall. Don’t miss the attractive Montpellier Quarter with its pedestrianised streets lined with 19th-century buildings.
We return to our hotel for a three-course dinner.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.