Castle Howard Farm Shop
Majestic Castle Howard, built in the 18th century by Sir John Vanbrugh and set in 8,000 acres of parkland and farmland deep in the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is indisputably one of Yorkshire and England’s finest historic homes.
The house and grounds make for a grand day out but food lovers will be sorely tempted to forgo the sculptures and the old masters, the lakes, temples and fountains and make for the courtyard where the Farm Shop (no entry charge), is a showcase for some of Yorkshire’s finest produce.
Shop manager Liam Spivey aims to source everything within a 30 mile radius of the estate so there’s cold pressed rapeseed oil produced in Thixendale in East Yorkshire; jams and jellies are sourced from the admirable Rosebud Preserves near Masham; Mason’s highly distinctive Yorkshire gin is distilled in Bedale. The shelves are fit to burst with coffee and biscuits, plum breads and teas. Handmade chocolates are made by York Cocoa House while the sloes for Sloemotion’s sloe gin are picked from blackthorn bushes in the Howardian Hills.
There is a richly stocked deli counter of Yorkshire cheeses, cooked meats, pies and pasties from the Yorkshire Baker. A cart outside is stocked with fruit and vegetables: beans and peas from Castle Howard’s potager, apples from the orchard and in spring, local Sand Hutton asparagus but it’s the meat counter that really sets Castle Howard apart.
The sleek, black, grass-fed cattle you can spot grazing near the Temple of the Four Winds are Aberdeen Angus, reared by tenant farmers Mike and Sarah Fargher. It’s a whole family enterprise: Mike works with his son Ben and alongside his father Don who at 80 years of age is still hard at it.
The closed suckler herd (meaning calves stay with their mother until weaned), lives outside, undisturbed, feeding on grass, or in winter on homegrown silage, fodder beet and barley. It’s what Mike Fargher calls ‘proper farming’ providing the cattle with a happy life and good quality meat for the table.
The Fargher’s provide the Farm Shop with all their beef, supplying the whole carcass so that the butchers can hang and joint it themselves. Besides the prime cuts like filet and sirloin or well marbled ribeye, you will also find the less popular cuts like oxtail and shin, liver and kidney.
Lamb comes from the estate, too, supplied by another long-standing tenant farmer, Richard Clifford at Slingsby, while free-range pork comes from Trotters in Potter Brompton, near Scarborough.
Some of the most exclusive grouse shooting takes place on the Castle Howard Estate and from August onwards, when the grouse season starts, wild red grouse arrive at the farm shop followed by pheasant and partridge. The head gamekeeper Clive Harrison also makes sure rabbit and venison are available for the shop.
‘The Howard family take a keen interest in the shop,’ says manager Liam. Nick Howard is an enthusiastic cook and when he and his wife Victoria are out and about Liam says they often bring back something to try out in the shop. ‘We’re always on the lookout for good local produce,’ he says, ‘but we don’t take it just because it’s made in Yorkshire. It’s got to be good and distinctive.’ To this end he is currently trialling Elizabeth Snowden’s cheese made in her tiny dairy at Whitby.
For the 300,000 customers who come here every year from across the world, the farm shop is an impressive shop window for Yorkshire produce.
Castle Howard Farm Shop
T: 01653 648333
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 10am-5pm;
Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA