D complained that we spent most of 2016 driving to East Yorkshire.
It’s true that we visited East Yorkshire three times (first in January; secondly we had two days there during August, staying in Beverley; finally in December we visited Castle Howard’s Christmas opening – it was fortunate as it will be the last time that we visit at Christmas as CH has now banned Historic Houses Association (HHA) members from using their cards to enter during Christmas opening, and they can only once use their cards for entry during the actual annual season: with so many other places to go, it’s unlikely we’ll pay for entry to Castle Howard. Fortune therefore was on our side when we decided to spend so much time in East Yorkshire during 2016.
The only other place where we’ve encountered a restriction on HHA card usage was at Bowood House, but their limit is five visits per year for HHA members, which is perfectly generous. There I can imagine that the issue is locals visiting for the adventure playground, which is indeed impressive.
What HHA membership offers me, as a very frequent country house and garden visitor, is the option to drop in somewhere for tea & cake as I’m going past the door. I might only look around the garden for 15 minutes. If I’ve visited the house before, I probably won’t venture inside again.
Unfortunately, Castle Howard is no longer on my list, and we probably won’t bother making the visit to the Farm Shop or garden centre, which we also used to like to call into. Instead, we can go to Scampston Hall walled garden for our tea & cake, even if there is a courtyard cafe at Castle Howard that anyone can visit without paying for entry.
That said, I do know the back way into Castle Howard’s gardens, so I’m sure the locals and “dog walkers” that they’re trying to put off abusing the HHA membership free-entry will also know how to get in via the fields and will walk in via public footpaths, just as the locals from Woodstock enter the gardens of Blenheim Palace or even locals to Burton Agnes Hall can walk in through a gap in the perimeter wall, in order to admire the bluebells.
From the HHA website
“As an HHA Friend, how often can I visit Castle Howard for free?
With effect from 1 May 2017, HHA Friends and Members will be able to visit Castle Howard free of charge once during the current calendar year. Please note that this does not include the Flower Festival or the ‘pre-Christmas’ season which begins in mid-November. However, a great many will be available for free entry – please check http://www.castlehoward.co.uk before visiting to determine whether a specific event is excluded.
What if I want to visit Castle Howard free more often?
A special discount of 9%-13% on Castle Howard’s new Friends Scheme is available from 1 May (discount depends on choice of membership category). This includes unlimited admission to the House and Grounds during standard opening hours, and events and exhibitions included in the normal admission price. Please contact Castle Howard on 01653 648333 or www.castlehoward.co.uk.
Why is the arrangement changing for my HHA Friends free access to Castle Howard?
The growth of Friends membership in recent years has led to an exponential rise in the level of Friends’ visits to Castle Howard – with some Friends visiting dozens of times per year. While Friends have been within their rights to do so, the spirit of HHA Friends membership has always been that it is a way to visit a wide range of properties, not a means to gaining regular free access to any single property. Castle Howard’s management feel that the rising numbers of Friends’ visits have led to significant loss of income for them and that Castle Howard’s own Annual Pass has been undermined. Castle Howard receives many more Friends visits each year than any other HHA Member property.
Why should I be penalised for wanting to visit Castle Howard frequently?
The new arrangements don’t penalise HHA Friends. The overall benefit of HHA Friends membership is to be able to visit a wide range of historic houses, castles and gardens (in addition to receiving Historic House, the chance to join Friends Tours and various offers and discounts). You can visit well over 300 properties, including 23 in Yorkshire. If you want to visit Castle Howard regularly, your HHA Friends membership entitles you to a 9%-13% discount on Castle Howard’s own Scheme. We’d be delighted for you to be Friends not only of the HHA, but also of Castle Howard.
Why can’t Castle Howard simply continue to welcome HHA Friends free on an unlimited basis?
Unfortunately, due to the uniquely high number of Friends visits to Castle Howard, this is not a practical option for the property. The HHA and Castle Howard have examined a range of options together, to determine how to balance Friends’ free access with the need for the property to remain financially sustainable. We believe that the new arrangements enable HHA Friends to continue to enjoy visiting the property and for those Friends who visit regularly to gain excellent value for money within Castle Howard’s new Friends scheme.”
When visited: August 2016