“I SEE it, I see it!”

A young boy races up to his sister and together they run across the room. He points towards a swan hanging among other baubles on the lower branches of an enormous Christmas tree. “That’s it, that’s it!” they cry together.

The pair were among the many excited children enjoying Christmas at Castle Howard, taking in the captivating sights and sounds of the festive displays in the grand rooms of the stately home.

This year’s theme is The Twelve Days of Christmas, bringing alive the characters and creatures from the popular carol, which dates back to the 18th century.

Visitors can pick up a card picturing a series of ornamental birds which, when spotted, can be ticked off and handed in for a later prize draw.

We are all familiar with the carol - the partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, five gold rings, seven swans a swimming, nine ladies dancing, and many more characters.

But to see them like this, woven within such striking settings, is quite something. I took along my parents, who were bowled over by the spectacle - the craftsmanship, colour, thought and attention to detail that has gone into it.

The journey through the famous song begins on the grand staircase where the 12 characters stand proud of a rich seam of seasonal vegetation, cones, berries and fruits.

Then comes the pear tree, and resident partridge. He’s not easy to spot. The two turtle doves, looking lovely dovey, in a bedroom, represent George Howard, the 6th Earl of Carlisle (1773-1848) and his wife Georgiana, who, appropriately for this event, had 12 children, six boys and six girls.

In another room, a 12-sided table - specially made by a team from the estate - has been laid in sumptuous fashion, for a Twelfth Night dinner.

Overseen by creative producer Charlotte Lloyd Weber, with set designer Bretta Gerecke, working alongside a team of artists, this visual feast includes a special commission of lifelike ceramic birds by Durham wildlife sculptor Karen Fawcett.

What an awe-inspiring sight awaits in the stately home’s Great Hall, with a beautifully decorated tree towering upwards towards the central dome, beside which a waterfall of lights cascades down.

In one room, a model of the house depicts The Twelve Day Castle Howard Parade, set one day during the Napoleonic era, with tiny painted figures from a variety of armies - Britain, France, Russia and America.

Two of the tiny figures - created by miniature painter Mark Bond - carry the Howard family standard. Among the activity, sit the 12 Days of Christmas, which eagle-eyed members of the public were busy spotting.

Close historical connection the Howard family has had with the army, specifically the 19th Regiment of Foot, known as the Green Howards. They were named after their colonel Sir Charles Howard, the second son of the 3rd Earl of Carlisle.

The colourful ‘nine drummers drumming’ room contains instruments kindly loaned by the Green Howards Museum in Richmond.

Information boards in each room get a thumbs up - not over-long and interesting to all ages, combining snippets about the house with those about the Twelve Days of Christmas.

In days gone by Twelfth Night was celebrated in much the same was as New Year’s Eve with a celebration including a special cake baked containing a dried bean and pea, the finders of which would be crowned king and queen.

I loved the simply-dressed room, with trees bearing candles in glass globes, the roaring log fires, and the model cow and wooden milking stools ready for the six maids.

But the piece de resistance has to be the Long Gallery, where, along its entire length, nine ladies dance across the floor and ten lords leap through the air. Above, five immense gold rings gleam.

As we walked along, a baby in his dad’s arms, stared up at the rings, mesmerized.

Clearly a lot of people are involved in creating this festive treat. They have come together to create an unforgettable experience that is as captivating for the young as the old.

As part of the event Christmas Castle Howard’s Boar Garden Christmas indoor market is held, beside a large eating and drinking area where we enjoyed tea and scones.

Gift shops are brimming with present ideas, and there’s a great farm shop selling estate meat.

And if you fancy a walk after all that, the extensive grounds are waiting, with a fantastic children’s playground.

*The Twelve Days of Christmas at Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA, runs until December 31 (closed Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day).

*For more information and prices visit castlehoward.co.uk or ring 01653 648333.