A car-free Historic Houses itinerary in Yorkshire

  • 14 Oct 2019
  • Article

Ride the bus from Leeds to Harewood House or from York to Castle Howard; roll past the wooded wolds to Scampston Gardens. You can travel more sustainably, enjoy top floor views from a double decker, a pint or two in a country pub, and save money on entry. Going car-free doesn’t just reduce your carbon emissions. Visitors who arrive at some of these Historic Houses by bus get discounted entry as well as helping the environment…

1. Harewood House

Harewood House


Kick off in Leeds, catching bus 36 to Harewood House, a Downton Abbey location and classic country home, open until November 3rd 2019 and from March 2020. It has Chippendale furniture, portraits by Gainsborough, more than a hundred acres of landscaped grounds, a choice of cafés and half price entry when you arrive by bus.

    • How to get to Harewood House: Follow the Good Journey directions.
    • On the way: comfortable bus 36 speeds through the green fields north of Leeds and stops outside the Harewood Arms, an early 19th-century coaching inn with views over the Wharfe Valley. The buses are every 20 minutes so there’s not much of an excuse for a drink while you’re waiting, but you can always catch the next one…
    • Moving on: why not continue on bus 36 into elegant Harrogate (tea at Bettys perhaps?) and hop on a train to York.

2. Fairfax House

Fairfax House


While in York, don’t miss a visit to this elegant Georgian townhouse recreates the grandeur of the 18th-century city and its merchants. With rich decoration and elaborate stucco ceilings, Fairfax House has furniture from the family home of pioneering chocolatiers, the Terry family.

    • How to get to Fairfax House: it’s a 15-minute walk from York’s iconic railway station, strolling through the picturesque city centre. Or bus 66 runs from the station to nearby Merchantgate.
    • On the way: You can also walk there round the old city walls, climbing up on the far side of the big arch near the station and heading anti-clockwise until eventually steps lead down onto Skedlergate. Turn left on Tower Street and right, just past Clifford’s Tower - the remains of York Castle, to find Fairfax House in Castlegate. If you’re a chocolate lover, don’t miss the new York Cocoa House a few steps further along Castlegate.
    • Moving on: The CastleLine bus leaves from Mickelgate, just across the River Ouse.

3. Castle Howard

Castle Howard gatehouse


Catch the CastleLine bus through the rolling Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Many-roomed stately Castle Howard has grand interiors and landscaped formal grounds, where you can ride a mini train through the gardens or a boat around the lake. The house became Brideshead Castle, home of the fictional Flyte family, for both the 1981 TV serial and the 2008 film of Brideshead Revisited. Visitors arriving by bus get 20% off entry.

    • How to get to Castle Howard: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • On the way: Once it leaves the main road, the bus rolls down a stately avenue, squeezes through the neoclassical gatehouse and drops passengers right outside the stable block, with the shop, café and visitors’ centre.
    • Moving on: Continue ten minutes on the CastleLine bus into Malton, self-styled foodie capital of Yorkshire.

4. Scampston Gardens

Scampston Gardens


Open until late October, the gardens at Scampston are a seasonal delight. The surrounding grounds, with their scattered trees and grazing sheep, were originally landscaped by Capability Brown’s and are full of classic eighteenth-century parkland features: cascading lakes and reflected summerhouses. Inside tranquil, tree-lined brick walls, Piet Oudolf’s contemporary garden rooms are more unusual: geometric hedges, artfully naturalised perennials, and shady seats among rust-tinted, waving grasses. Car-free visitors get 30% off entry with valid train or bus ticket, or bike.

    • How to get to Scampston gardens: Follow the Good Journey directions. Smart blue double decker 843 Coastliner buses leave hourly from Malton’s bus station.
    • Have lunch in the Garden Café, where the “gardener’s lunch” includes a generous salad with local ham, cheddar and pork pie. Some of the ingredients come from the gardens themselves and plenty more are locally produced.
    • On the way: the bus has views of the Yorkshire Wolds and stops outside the unpretentious, half-timbered Ham and Cheese pub, site of one of the UK's first farm shops. Its cheerful log fire is a tonic in wintry weather and car-free travel means you don’t need to worry about having a fireside pint.
    • Moving on: the 843 bus heads hourly back to York or onwards to the seaside at Scarborough.

This post was made in partnership with Good Journey. Good Journey is an independent not-for-profit organisation working to transform car-free travel to visitor attractions and venues in the UK. We work with attractions to improve and promote access by train, bus, bike and foot.

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