CASTLE Howard is celebrating a successful Christmas period, with more than 51,500 visitors, marking its busiest ever festive opening.

The figures have been released as the house closes for the winter, with teams busy removing dozens of Christmas trees, including the 26ft tree which dominated the Great Hall, and tens of thousands of decorations and baubles that graced every room as part of Charlotte Lloyd Webber’s Twelve Days of Christmas theme.

Visitor numbers for the 2018 season show a 40 per cent growth since last year.

“It has been a superb year, and a real credit to those involved in making Castle Howard the most festive place to visit throughout November and December,” said chief executive John Hoy, adding that the high visitor numbers indicated an “experiential trend”, which sees consumers replacing traditional high street shopping with online purchases, freeing up time for Christmassy experiences.

The house is closed until the end of March, but the grounds, woodlands and adventure playground are open throughout the winter, with new events planned for 2019, including twilight events for the Dark Skies Festival in February.