This September, Royal Oak Board members visited Yorkshire on a tour of National Trust properties. After glowing reviews of the trip, we decided to post our itinerary here – use it to plan your own visit to “God’s Own Country.”
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Our own trip was coordinated by Alex Youel, Tour Director and Managing Director of Your Membership Matters. Alex was invaluable in our planning and wrote this reflection. Learn more about Your Membership Matters here.
By Alex Youel
Each September Royal Oak’s Board Directors visit heritage places in the UK, starting in London and then moving on to a different nation or region. This year we visited the county of Yorkshire, which we were told by the locals is known as ‘God’s Own County’.
Before leaving London however, members of our Membership Committee first took trips to two National Trust places close to London and which both receive American visitors – Claremont Landscape Garden, SW of London, and Ham House and Garden on the River Thames close to Richmond. At Claremont we learnt from Head Gardener Adam Carveth of ambitious plans to recreate a bridge to the lake island. At Ham, where ROF grants have previously supported the conservation of silk wall-hangings, we not only met the recruiting team and enjoyed a tour of the house but also sampled some 17th-century-style ale in the cellars!
Short trips to Carlyle’s House and 575 Wandsworth Road, both still in London, on the Monday afternoon whetted our appetite for the journey to Yorkshire the following morning – by train from King’s Cross to Wakefield, then on to Nostell Priory for lunch and a house tour. Nostell is famous for its wonderful collection of Chippendale furniture, which we were able to study in some detail courtesy of our expert guides. This matched our 2015 theme of supporting the National Trust’s furniture collections.
We stayed at the very comfortable Middlethorpe Hotel and Spa which is one of three hotels given in recent years as a magnificent gift to the Trust by Historic House Hotels. On Wednesday we enjoyed tours of York Minster and nearby Treasurer’s House, where final preparations were underway for an exhibition in partnership with the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) on the life of actress Vivien Leigh, star of Gone with the Wind. After a relaxing tour of Middlethorpe’s gardens we prepared for the National Trust-hosted tour and dinner at Beningbrough Hall, just outside of York. We were fortunate indeed to be able to enjoy dinner in the Great Hall, which hasn’t been used in this way for over 30 years.
On Thursday we visited Nunnington Hall, where besides touring the house we enjoyed some excellent tea and cakes, Castle Howard (courtesy of the Hon Nicholas and Victoria Howard, who joined us for lunch and led us on the afternoon’s private tour of the family Mausoleum), and lastly Bishopthorpe Palace, courtesy of the Archbishop of York and Palace Warden David Atkinson.
At Harewood House on our final day we were greeted by Lord Harewood and given a specially devised close-up tour of the splendid Chippendale furniture there, rivaling Nostell’s. After lunch we set off for a lightning visit to England’s longest-fronted country house, Wentworth Woodhouse. Our guide Robert gave an unforgettable tour of this enormous but troubled house (currently up for sale), which concluded our memorable visit to ‘God’s Own County’.