Once you visit one stately home you seem to have a drive to go and see more and more. They do seem addictive. Having recently been to Osborne house and Hardwich House, I lept at the suggestion to visit Harewood House when up staying near Leeds. And I was very pleased to have done so. Harewood House has won a number of tourist awards, including the “visitor attraction of the year” based on the volume of visitors it gets.
The Harewood family still own and live there. It seems they made their money through activities like the slave trade and commerce, and in more recent years were associated with royalty when one of Queen Victoria’s relatives (Princess Royal Mary) married into the family. In the house is an exhibition of some of her effects including her wedding dress
There is so much that is amazing about the Harewood House. The house itself is huge and very impressive. It is even more impressive as both the outside and inside are in amazing condition and as the owners are still resident (though mostly on upper floors not accessed by the public) the place is full of personal touches and feels very much alive. One of the reasons the whole place is in good condition is through a combination of well thought out facilities and events to attract a lot of visitors, and Lottery Fund and other grants to help restore historically significant fixtures, furniture and buildings.
The grounds are sprawling and well landscaped. You drive up a long 1 mile driveway to the house and parking area. The house is grand and imposing with a huge lawn that people play games on. The other side of the house is even more grand, with a large veranda and then incredible sculpted gardens. You can have light meals and tea looking over the gardens across open space and to the hills beyond. Also in the grounds is a large lake full of birds, that people walk and picnic around. There is also a large bird sanctuary with large collection of birds from around the world including an ostrich and then a penguin house and pool (where you can watch them being fed at 2pm). You can also visit a Planetarium, play in a large children’s adventure ground (if you are a child!) And of course visit the house.
The house tour is in 2 parts. The “under stairs” where you can visit the kitchens, and some other exhibitions is included in the ticket to the grounds. The main house visit means paying slightly more than a grounds only ticket. It is well worth it. There is an audio tour or a guide book (for about 5 pounds). You can visit all the ground floor rooms which are breathtakingly intricate and full of furniture, artwork and stunning furniture. Even if you do not buy the guidebook in each room there is usually someone to explain or there are laminated cards telling you about the room and contents. The rooms are quite something, especially the libraries, state bedroom and the grand hall. The old stables have been turned into a restaurant and gift shop, with fudge as their big thing. A great day out. Highly recommended.
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