A two-hour train journey north from Grantham takes you to the city of York, and from there you can take a coach to probably the most beautiful house I've ever seen: Castle Howard. When I first visited in 1999, Christian, the elder daughter of Geoffrey Howard the Liberal MP, had just died, and there were family flowers for her in the chapel - a personal touch which made me feel like an intruder in somebody's private home. The house is on a much larger scale than the two previous ones, and is full of views and treasures that will take your breath away. The television and film adaptations of Evelyn Waugh's novel Brideshead Revisited were filmed at Castle Howard, although the book, Madresfield: the Real Brideshead, by Jane Mulvagh, makes the point that Waugh had a smaller, homelier house in mind when he wrote this novel. He was a friend of the Lygon family, who lived at Madresfield, and was a frequent visitor there. Jane Mulvagh's book is an engrossing account of one country house through the ages and the various generations who have inhabited it.
|Chatsworth House, www.peakdistrictinformation.com|
So these are my favourite country houses. I've left out Sissinghurst with its wonderful gardens created by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicholson, and Chartwell, Winston Churchill's beloved family home, and romantic Ightam Mote, and many hundreds more - not to mention Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed. Which house would you like to live in, if you could choose?