Revelling in the drama of Queen Victoria's TV castle: Carlton Towers is one of Yorkshire's finest country homes
- Carlton Towers doubles as Windsor Castle for the ITV drama series Victoria?
- ?You can now go there and enjoy an opulent?Queen Victoria Experience weekend
- Guest can wander the grounds, explore the slitherly 4x4 course and take part in the cookery school?
Passing through the gates of one of Yorkshire’s finest country homes, I spot a message to warm the heart of the most frazzled traveller.
‘Mieux Sera’, the motto of the Fitzalan-Howards, shouts out from the top of the clock tower, like a Victorian equivalent of the neon sign. It means ‘Better times are coming’.
But I don’t think this ancient, august, but quite unstuffy family would mind if I offer an alternative translation: ‘Cheer up. You’ve reached Carlton Towers.’
Carlton Towers near Selby, which is often referred to as one of Yorkshire's finest country homes?
Even if you don’t know the name, you might recognise the inside of this grand, rambling house. The Venetian Room, all moulded plasterwork with pomegranate motifs, double-height windows and crystal chandeliers, was a convincing stand-in for the inside of Windsor Castle in ITV’s series Victoria.
Buoyed up with their home’s success as a film set, Lord Gerald Fitzalan-Howard and his wife Lady Emma have launched a series of opulent Queen Victoria Experience weekends, and I am here to sample their hospitality.
The British countryside is littered with the ghosts of crumbling country houses demolished because their aristocratic owners couldn’t afford to maintain them.
And before 1992, when the couple took it over, this tumbledown property could have gone the same way.
Scenes for the ITV show Victoria starring Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes are filmed at Carlton Tower, which doubles as Windsor Castle?
Carlton Towers is officially the Yorkshire home of the 18th Duke of Norfolk, Lord Gerald’s elder brother. But the leading duke in England has other calls on his time, such as organising coronations and the State Opening of Parliament.
It fell to Lord Gerald and Lady Emma to restore the property, and make it a shining example of the new concept of ‘stately home as recreational destination’, available for corporate events, weddings, stag and hen weekends and themed stays such as this.
Guests are free to wander the grounds at will. Diversions include a slithery 4x4 course in the grounds (I’m sure Prince Albert would have loved that) and a cookery school, with cheese, chocolate and bread-making sessions. The Victoria Experience also includes visits to nearby Beverley Minster, which passed for Westminster Abbey in the Queen’s marriage scene in Victoria, and York.
What sets Carlton Towers apart are the details which even the swankiest hotel cannot rival, such as the guided tour by Lord Gerald himself. Casually dressed to put his guests at ease, he clutches a pint of beer from the Little Black Dog micro-brewery, recently started in one of the outbuildings.
It is not the stuff of the average country-house tour. ‘The family goes back to Edward I,’ he explains. ‘We were quite big in the Middle Ages. Part of the house is by the son of the man who did the Houses of Parliament.’
Then the grand finale – dinner with our hosts in the Venetian Room, a space fit for a TV Queen. All that is lacking is a celebratory glass of domestic bubbly, but they’re working on that. In the old walled garden stand rows of new vines. In a few years, Carlton Towers will start producing sparkling wine. In Yorkshire? Things really are getting better.
GETTING THERE... ?
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