We had a relatively early start, with a lovely of breakfast (D got to eat black pudding again) at the B&B, before setting off for the York Rail Station. It looked like the weather would be cooperating, with blue sky and sunshine out in full force. I picked up our pre-booked rail tickets with ease, and we were soon on the train and off to Malton, a town about 25 minutes away from York. From there, after an initial bit of confusion as to the location of the bus stop, we hopped on a somewhat rickety old bus and were the only passengers on board. It was a nice ride through the country roads for another half hour, stopping only once in the village of Bulmor (at which point the bus actually had to do a 3-point turn in order to turn around and continue on its way). After a long narrow road and passing under two rather impressive gates, we arrived at a handsome looking building, which we discovered was actually the stables and carriage house for Castle Howard.
Upon entering the grounds, we were immediately met by a trio of peacocks, roaming somewhat aimlessly near the entrance. One of them followed us as we made our way down the dirt road towards the castle. It was very cold and quite blustery, despite being relatively sunny, so we bundled up as best we could and went about admiring the house. It was stately and impressive, and apparently one of the few castles in England to have a domed roof. We entered the house and noticed there were guides posted sporadically throughout the castle, providing background information about their respective rooms. We discovered that it was a working residence for the Howard family, and that in the off-season and whenever they have occasion, the red velvet ropes enclosing each room are removed and the richly-furnished rooms are actually used by guests. It was a bit odd to see modern photographs of the family strewn about in many of the rooms…just your usual family portraits on vacation or at Christmas time. As we moved from room to room, I was in awe at the beautiful décor and ornate finery, much the same way I was at Versailles, but perhaps a little more in awe at the prospect that people currently live here. There was also an abundance of vintage books, epic yards of leatherbounds. We eventually wandered our way down to the little cafe and had a lunch of cheesecake and scones. Despite the blustering wind, we braved the elements to check-out the rest of the grounds. The woods were relatively unkempt, which was a nice change from the manicured grounds one usually finds. D and I strolled through the trees to the Temple of the Four Winds (aptly named for the gales converging on the spot). We walked down to the lake with the sun beaming down on the castle, which was then promptly swallowed up by clouds. It started spitting rain, so we quickly went back to the carriage house (though English weather being mercurial as it is, it cleared up by the time we got there). We waited, in the sunshine, for the bus and headed back to Malton to catch our train to York.
After relaxing a bit at the B&B, we set off again to meet my friend Rob, whom I knew from my days in English literature at SFU and who is now doing his MA at the University of York. We checked out a few pubs and upon the recommendation of a bouncer, tried the Punch Bowl for a pint and some dinner. We jovially caught up and exchanged entertaining tales before parting ways for the evening.