EXPLORING the great outdoors is something families are encouraged to do.

Playing out in the fresh air helps to expand children’s imagination; it keeps them healthy through exercise and also introduces them to the wildlife they may not see in their usual surroundings.

Here in Yorkshire we are fortunate enough to be surrounded by many places to explore, from local parks to stately homes and many are only a few miles from our doorsteps.

Situated on the outskirts of Leeds, Harewood House is the perfect place to spend a day out.

Renowned as ‘one of the Treasure Houses of England,’ this beautiful abode was built in the 18th century and boasts an extensive art collection as well as the finery and splendour you expect when strolling through the home’s great rooms.

Below stairs, visitors can get a glimpse of the practical workings of the house in the old kitchen. Restored in 1996, this presently quieter workplace would, at one time, have been thronging with activity as staff were meeting the daily demands of a much larger household.

The house is also the setting for a number of interesting exhibitions including Victoria; a costumed exhibition featuring outfits worn in ITV’s popular series, Victoria, and celebrating the important part Harewood played as one of the key filming locations.

Victorian Harewood also focuses on the personal objects owned by Queen Victoria and gives visitors an insight into the lives of other influential women, Lady Louisa, 3rd Countess of Harewood and Lady Charlotte Canning.

Very much a jewel in Yorkshire’s crown, the Harewood estate is owned by David and Diane Lascelles, the Earl and Countess of Yorkshire and has a nationally recognised conservation programme.

Touring the grounds you cannot begin to imagine the amount of commitment, dedication and time that goes into keeping this stunning sanctuary, embraced by beautiful scenery, ticking. Those involved are clearly maintaining a work of art both inside and outside.

With 100 acres of gardens to stroll round, Harewood is a place where you can take your time to savour the surroundings.

For me, The Terrace, captures the perfect vista of views - a never ending rolling landscape stretching out as far as the eye can see.

Expertly manicured plants and other species of flora can be found thriving here within the many more areas of interest.

The Bird Garden offers a rare opportunity to meet some of the exotic species occupying this wonderful oasis, the likes of owls, flamingos and parrots - feathered friends we don’t normally come across in our own outside spaces.

Interestingly, until October, visitors will be able to join in the daily feeding of the estate’s Humboldt penguins and meet the rest of Harewood’s animals; the pigs, alpacas and pygmy goats while learning about lives through informal talks.

Younger visitors in particular will be amazed by the sights to see - and can look forward to having fun in the three acre Adventure playground with its zip wires and aerial walks.

With their energy spent on sliding, swinging and climbing, they can sit and savour home-made sandwiches and light bites in the picnic areas or relax and refresh in the Courtyard cafe close by.

Whatever time of year you visit, there is always something to see and do at Harewood - which is also the venue for a packed programme of events including the Country Fair - a first for the venue. Running throughout this weekend (June 17 and 18), there will be country sports as well as countryside attractions and demonstrations.

In the coming months car enthusiasts can look forward to a range of events showcasing some of the well known marques and motors with The Yorkshire Classic Car Show coming to Harewood in July and the Rolls Royce North of England Car Rally and the VW Festival heading here in August.

The estate also offers plenty to do during the summer holidays. To find out more, or to plan your visit day out, visit harewood.org

The village of Harewood is located at the junction of the A61/A659 on the Leeds/Harrogate road. The postcode is LS17 9LG, although Sat Nav users can try LS17 9LQ to locate the main Archway entrance to Harewood off the A61. The venue offers plenty of free car parking. To find out more call 0113 218 1010; email info@harewood.org or visit harewood.org