CASTLE Howard has announced that its gardens and catering outlets will close from tomorrow (Thursday) due to the lockdown.

The stately home said the farm shop and garden centre will remain open with takeaway barista coffee and cakes available from the shop.

A statement on its website said: "This decision has not been taken lightly and our senior team have given much consideration to the current guidelines and advice from authorities.

"The Government guidance does allow heritage gardens to remain open for daily exercise, but not for recreation. However, the guidance instructs that people stay local, in their own village, town or area of their city.

"Because Castle Howard is in a rural area, most visitors need to travel to reach the site, therefore making it hard to abide by the current travel restrictions and therefore it feels against the spirit of this lockdown for us to stay open.

"We are confident that visitors who are in our immediate locality can access the miles of wider estate public footpaths for daily exercise, which remain open."

It said all Friends members of Castle Howard will be offered an extension to their annual membership for the duration of the closure period, and it will review reopening in line with schools and other sectors being allowed to open back up, "hopefully mid-February."

Castle Howard will be in touch with anyone who has pre-booked a ticket for the next few weeks to refund or move their booking.

"We feel we need to act responsibly, and we have a duty of care to ensure the safety of our staff, visitors and local community in Ryedale at this critical time in trying to control the virus," it said.

"Whilst we understand it is disappointing not to be able to visit us for a short period, we hope you will support and understand this decision.

"Thank you for your continued support at this challenging time."