Yorkshire possesses an astonishing wealth of country houses. The greatest already enjoy national celebrity, but John Goodall selects five smaller examples of outstanding interest.

Bolton Castle
Leyburn, North Yorkshire

This great castle still commands Wensleydale and spectacularly conveys the scale and magnificence of the most ambitious late-medieval architecture. Begun in 1378, the castle took vast resources and 16 years to complete. Its regular plan and com- pact design, conceived by the mason John Lewyn, was almost certainly inspired by Windsor Castle. The building today is part ruin and part gaunt interior. Some of the surviving rooms were those used by Mary, Queen of Scots during her enforced residence here. Open daily, 10am–5pm from February 13 to October 30 (in February, March and October, the castle closes at 4pm)
(01969 623981; www.boltoncastle.co.uk)

Burton Agnes Hall
Driffield, East Yorkshireburton agnes hall
The present hall was built between about 1601 and 1610 by Sir Henry Griffith. It preserves a series of exceptional Jacobean interiors, notably the great hall and the great stair. A series of unexpectedly sympathetic 18th-century adaptations to these rooms suggests that their fulsome and vigorous decoration remained appreciated by later generations of the family. A splendid gallery at the top of the house overlooks an estate that has never been sold, but has been passed by descent and marriage to the present day. Close by are the remains of the medieval manor house that preceded it. Open daily, 11am–5pm from March 25 to October 31 and between November 14 and December 23
(01262 490324; www.burtonagnes.com)

Newby Hall
Ripon, North Yorkshirenewby hall
With its symmetrical exterior, Newby answers the popular ideal of the English country house. The heart of the present building was designed after 1697 with the involvement of Sir Christoper Wren, but was extensively adapted afterwards. Of particular interest is the work of William Weddell, who inherited the property in 1762. Inspired by the Grand Tour, he commissioned Robert Adam to create a spectacular series of interiors, including a sculpture gallery. Weddell also collected a series of Gobelins tapestries that remains in the house. The Church of Christ the Consoler in the grounds by William Burges is a poignant Victorian masterpiece. Open Tuesday–Sunday from 11am to 5pm from March 25 to September 25. In July and August and on bank holidays, the hall is also open on Mondays
(01423 322583; www.newbyhall.com)

Duncombe Park
Helmsley, York, North Yorkshire
Duncombe Park was built from the fortune of Sir Charles Duncombe, a banker and Lord Mayor of London, who purchased the estate in 1689. Its original interiors were restored after a fire in 1879 and again after a period of use as a school in the 20th century. However, if the house is fine, the setting is unforgettable. The surrounding landscape was conceived on a breathtaking scale. Punctuated with temples, these brilliantly integrate not only the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey of Rievaulx, but also the remains of Helmsley Castle—the predecessor of the house—into a spectacular setting. For the modern visitor, a new attraction, the International Centre for Birds of Prey, has recently opened here.
The house is only open to the public occasionally, however, the gardens are open Sunday to Friday between March 29 and August 31
(01439 770213; www.duncombepark.com)

Temple Newsam
Leeds, West Yorkshire
This imposing brick-built house on the outskirts of Leeds is the creation of the Ingram family, but was acquired by the city council in 1922. It contains one of the greatest collections of fine and decorative arts in Britain. Their presentation has been greatly improved by the restoration of the interiors. Open February 13–October 30, from 10.30am to 5pm on Tuesday to Sunday (and bank holidays)
(www.leeds.gov.uk/templenewsam; 0113– 336 7461)

Where to stay

Swinton Park, Masham, Ripon, North Yorkshire
Most of the produce for the kitchen comes from the estate or the four-acre walled garden restored by Lord Masham’s mother, Susan Cunliffe-Lister, Country Life’s Gardener of the Year in 2001. Glamp in a yurt or bivouac (a cleverly designed hut, kept toasty warm by a log- burning stove) and there’s an excellent cafe nearby for those not wishing to forage. Rooms from £195 per night, bed and breakfast
(01765 680900; www.swintonpark.com)

The Devonshire Arms Hotel & Spa, Skipton, North Yorkshire
This former shooting lodge was completely refurbished under the supervision of the present Duke’s late mother and includes art from Chatsworth. Dogs are welcome. Rooms from £160 per night, including a full Yorkshire breakfast
(01756 718111; www.thedevonshirearms.co.uk)

Culloden Tower, Richmond, North Yorkshire
Richmond, with its shops, pubs, theatre and castle, is a five-minute walk in one direction and the lovely River Swale is a stone’s throw in the other. From £511 for four nights (www.landmarktrust.org/search-and-book/properties/culloden-tower-5579)