If taking trips to see spectacular English country houses and their gardens is something you enjoy, you have plenty to choose from in Yorkshire. Whether you fancy visiting Harewood House, Castle Howard, Bolton Castle, Bolton Abbey, or Beningborough Hall, the great news is that all of these historic stately homes are easily accessible for a day trip from Leeds, Harrogate, or York.
Harewood House, located halfway between Leeds and Harrogate, is an absolute gem, with a Royal connection, incredible works of art, fabulous “below stairs” kitchens, and vast gardens to explore too! There’s also Harewood Deer Park and the ruins of 14th century Harewood Castle to discover.
Related posts – more cultural things you can do if you’re spending time in Yorkshire.
- Explore UNESCO World Heritage Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens
- Discover the Best Things to do in Ripon – England’s Oldest City
- Explore Ripley Castle and Gardens
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Do You Love English Country Houses?
I moved to Harrogate almost five years ago but didn’t get around to visiting Harewood House until quite recently. (I hang my head in shame). Sometimes it’s too easy to forget about the beautiful places on our doorsteps, isn’t it!
I’ve now visited many times and there’s always something new to see, especially as the changing seasons alter the colour palette in the gardens.
So, if you are curious about this classic English Country House and want to find out about its most famous resident, -The Yorkshire Princess – read on. In this post, I’ll share exactly what to see when visiting Harewood House, Leeds
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Harewood House History
Grade I listed Harewood House is one of England’s most beautiful 18th-century country houses. Harewood House is seriously drool-worthy for culture vultures – designed by renowned architect John Carr, with interiors by Robert Adam, exquisite Chippendale furniture, and extensive gardens designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown.
The house which has museum status and a nationally designated art collection is the family seat of the Earl and Countess of Harewood. The current Earl, David Lascelles, is the 8th Earl of Harewood.
Accessibility when Visiting Harewood House
Harewood House is idyllically located on a sloping site in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales; however, the steep slopes in some places can be challenging for some visitors.
While visiting Harewood House recently, my 83-year-old stepmother (a walking stick user) was well looked after by the caring Harewood staff. They were only too willing to run her around the gardens on a little shuttle bus and could not have been more helpful. She had a wonderful time!
Harewood House History – the Slave Trade Connection
Like many other historic 18th century buildings, Harewood House was built on the back of the West Indian sugar trade. While this trade made Henry Lascelles one of the richest men in England at the time, it didn’t bring him lasting happiness, as he took his own life in 1753 (more than 50 years before the abolition of slavery in 1807). Today, Henry is the only member of the Lascelles family not to have a portrait at Harewood.
Henry bought the estates of Harewood and Gawthorpe in 1738; however, it was Henry’s son, Edwin Lascelles (also a wealthy slave trader), who built Harewood House after Henry’s death.
There’s no visible reference to this grim part of Harewood House history in the house, although it is now acknowledged on the Harewood website.
- There are over 400 light bulbs on the state floor at Harewood House, taking approx 120 hours a year to change!
- The Harewood House estate covers 100 acres. That’s 60 acres bigger than the grounds and gardens at Buckingham Place in London and more than five times bigger than the White House in Washington DC (18 acres).
- ITV soap opera Emmerdale is filmed on the Harewood Estate
- You will be able to spot Harewood in the Downton Abbey movie!
- This elegant English country house boasts a lake with a chain-link ferry, penguins, a bird garden and a Himalayan garden with its waterfall, steppingstones, and a supremely Instagrammable bridge.
If you love visiting historical sites, the village that inspired the Bronte sisters is fascinating!
How to Book Tickets for Visiting Harewood House
Harewood is very
Need to Know
- Tours are self-guided, with Harewood House staff in every room to answer any questions
- Allow a minimum of 90 minutes to see the house and longer to see the Harewood House grounds and gardens
- Photography is allowed inside the State Rooms, but flash photography is not
Harewood House opening times (2022)
- Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 14 Jan to 25 Mar, although the house itself will be closed throughout March 22, in preparation for a large exhibition.
- From 26th March onwards: open 7 days a week 10am–6pm
How To Get to Harewood House
The 36 bus runs to Harewood Village from central Leeds or Harrogate stations (bus and train connections). The smart black and red buses have comfortable leather seats and free Wi-Fi. Buses run every 15 minutes during the day from Monday to Saturday, and every 30 minutes during the day on Sundays. Find out more, check timetables and buy tickets here.
When travelling from Harewood back to Harrogate, get a seat upstairs on the
left-handside for the best view of the countryside, Harewood’s deer park, and the ruined remains of Harewood Castle..
Related Post: The 11 Best Things to do in Harrogate
The 923 bus runs Monday to Saturday from Otley to Tadcaster via Wetherby. Get tickets and find out more here.
On arrival at Harewood Village, it’s a short walk past pretty Harewood cottages and through the central archway, to the free shuttle bus to the house and gardens. Call to arrange collection, on +44 (0) 113 218 1010; else you’ll have a very long walk down the driveway to the house!
Leeds and Harrogate are the nearest stations with onward connections by bus or taxi to Harewood. Find information on train travel here.
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Pro Tip: The best thing about visiting Harewood House on public transport is that you get half-price entry to the house and gardens (except on event days). With entry tickets costing £16.50 per person, it’s a healthy discount and an excellent contribution towards afternoon tea!
Visiting Harewood House by car is easy, as it’s located right on the junction of the A61/A659 (Leeds/Harrogate road). Set your SatNav for LS17 9LQ, which will bring you directly to the archway at the entrance to the estate.
Watch out for grim traffic during the rush hour; however, at other times, you should have no problems.
Things to See & Do When Visiting Harewood House
In the House
Feeling like Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett visiting Pemberley for the first time, you’ll ascend sweeping stone steps at the front of the house and enter the grand entrance hall.
The State Rooms
You won’t get to see the private apartments where the Earl and his family live, but you will get to enjoy opulent State Rooms that have entertained royalty, including Prince William and Kate Middleton. I’m not sure I’ll be dining there any time soon, but a girl can dream…. Yes, Madam would care for a glass of champagne….
Harewood House has three separate libraries (absolute heaven for this bibliophile) and two drawing rooms, plus a magnificent gallery and an opulent state bedroom (and bathroom) to explore.
Pro Tip: Don’t forget to look up as you walk around, as the decorations on the ceilings shouldn’t miss your admiration!
And there’s more…
There are secret bookcases and a secret door, priceless Chippendale furniture and exquisite Sѐvres porcelain to ogle, plus the most enormous, glorious art, and magnificent chandeliers! Oh, those incredible chandeliers!
Add in the vast music room, the Earl’s sitting room, and Princess Mary’s drawing-room, and Harewood House will soon seduce you with its charm.
Mary, The Yorkshire Princess
Princess Mary, the daughter of King George V, was the sixth Countess of Harewood and aunt of Queen Elizabeth II. There’s fascinating information in the State Rooms about how Princess Mary helped provide Christmas gifts for serving soldiers during the First World War.
Every tall, elegant window offers a fresh perspective of the vast estate parkland, with views ranging from ancient trees to manicured lawns, rolling hills, and a pristine parterre and terrace.
But wait, you’ve saved the best part of visiting Harewood House for last.
After your tour of the State Rooms, it’s time to head ‘below stairs’ to find out what it took to keep this great English country house running.
Enter the domain of the Steward and the Housekeeper.
On your way to the cavernous old kitchen, you’ll walk through the servants’ hall and corridor, where the bells the gentry ‘upstairs’ would use to summon assistance from staff ‘below stairs’ are located.
For any history buff or anyone who loves cooking, the kitchen is a joy to behold. From the gleaming copper pans and jelly moulds to the knife sharpening wheel and the massive kitchen table, this kitchen feels like it has many stories to tell. If you get as excited as I do by the sight of properly lined up pans and a well-worn kitchen table, this will be heaven for you too!
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I could almost smell the bread baking in the giant ovens as I was
Don’t forget to look down at the old stone steps, worn low in the middle by generations of feet scurrying back and forth, at the bidding of their masters.
After the kitchen, you’ll see the vegetable preparation room, the scullery, the pastry room, the still room, plus the housekeeper’s room and the steward’s room. It’s a bit like finding yourself thrust into a live episode of Downton Abbey.
Pro Tip: When visiting Harewood House, take time to chat with the staff in the kitchens. You’ll find them incredibly knowledgeable, with lots of tidbits of information to share!
Take Tea on the Terrace
After touring the house, exit through a little shop packed with local goodies (including rather good craft gin!), into the Terrace Tearoom and out onto the terrace. It’s the ideal place to rest awhile, have a light lunch or afternoon tea (hello homemade cakes). Enjoy the outstanding view across the terrace gardens, and beyond, before exploring the extensive gardens.
Don’t forget to take a moment to admire THAT statue!
In the Gardens
With the estate covering 100 acres of land, you won’t be able to explore the gardens in one visit, so here are the highlights to pick and choose from:
The Formal Parterres and Terraces
The Bird Garden
More than 40 species of birds fill the bird garden
The path down to the bird garden is steep in places and may not be suitable for all visitors.
The Ferry to the Walled Garden
Follow the path through the bird garden to the landing stage for the little chainlink ferry which putters to and fro across the lake (known as the fishpond) to the vast and captivating walled garden.
In Harewood’s heyday, this was where all the fruit and vegetables the house needed to function were grown. It’s a joy to find this garden still immaculate today and I could have spent hours here alone.
Pro Tip: The last ferry back to the house goes at 4.45 pm. If you miss it, it’s a 15/20-minute walk back around the lake.
The Himalayan Garden
Lush and densely planted with paths that weave through the vegetation luring you towards the sound of a waterfall, you’ll be entranced by this garden. Try crossing the ancient stepping stones if you’re brave enough, or saunter across the perfectly beautiful little arched bridge.
If you’ve time and energy left, explore the farm and the stables, before heading back to your car or to catch the shuttle to the bus stop.
I hope you enjoyed my guide to visiting Harewood House!
In Mansfield Park, Jane Austen briefly refers to the vile West Indian sugar trade her uncle is involved with, in a conversation between heroine Fanny Price and Edward.
Where to Stay When Visiting Harewood House
If you’d rather be closer to Leeds, Dakota Leeds is highly rated and centrally located. It has rather gorgeous rooms too.
Find all the Grey Globetrotters posts about Yorkshire here.
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Are you planning on visiting Harewood House? Maybe you’ve already been? What did you like best? As ever, I’d love to know what you think and if I’ve missed anything important here too x