WALKING up the grand staircase in Castle Howard, it is clear that Christmas at the stately home will be something special.

Adorned with cherubs playing pipes above blousy twists of fabric and foliage, the colourful banister stands out against the stone steps.

This year, Christmas at Castle Howard has been masterminded by a team led by creative producer Charlotte Lloyd Webber and Canadian theatrical designer Bretta Gerecke, whose creative brilliance has brought a heady mix of theatre and festive finery to the historic house.

Angles on High ranges from intimate room sets to grand baroque flourishes inspired by the theatrical roots of Sir John Vanbrugh’s extraordinary designs for the stately home.

“It is a new exploration of Castle Howard as a piece of theatre, allowing visitors to see it in a dramatic theatrical light,” explains Charlotte, who worked closely with the Howard family and team at the North Yorkshire country estate.

Looking closely at the house and its 300-year history brought plenty of inspiration for the team, whose designs were influenced by its architecture, works of art, stained glass, and other aspects of the house and grounds.

The resulting makeover is a treat for all ages.

There are angels aplenty .“We sourced the angles from all over the world – some are vintage, some antique, some we decorated ourselves,” says Charlotte, who co-heads London-based Lamplighter Drama and Oxford Shakespeare Company.

As well as staff from Castle Howard, students from the University of York have been involved. “Some of the staff have backgrounds in art and craft,” says Charlotte.

Trees are very much a part of the decorations, bringing the outside in. The elegant Antique Passage is lined with bare twigs subtly dotted with lights, while one upstairs room leaves visitors speechless with a semi-mature tree filling every corner, the shadows of its branches spreading like tentacles across the ceiling.

Lighting is as much a part of this spectacle as the décor.

Awe-inspiring at any time of year, the Long Gallery comes alive with angels piping in mid-air, within a grid of trailing ribbon.

“We have looked at angels through the ages and have been especially inspired by Baroque and Rococo,” says Charlotte.

Of course the scene would not be set without Christmas trees - in one room surrounded by gaily-wrapped parcels, in another a copse twinkle in the semi-darkness, and, splendid in its magnificent setting, a 25ft tall tree stands in the Great Hall, beneath the painted and gilded 80ft dome.

Children will be in seventh heaven, with pint-size winter wonderland elf huts they can play inside - one has a ball pool (if only I were six again!).

“We have not done so much in the house for children before,” says Charlotte. “Some trees will be growing candy cones.”

There’s a cherub trail, for youngsters to hunt cherubs on the house tour. “The cherubs were cast from real ones - one has red hair,” adds Charlotte, pointing out a figure on the China Landing, where a red dragon dinner service reflects the seasonal décor.

“We wanted to get the feel of how the characters living here would have decorated the house,” says Charlotte.

A praying angel leans over the bed that once belonged to Lady Georgiana Howard, Countess of Carlisle. Born after nine years of childless marriage between her parents William Cavendish, the 5th Duke of Devonshire and his wife Lady Georgiana Spencer, she was to bear 12 children, all who - unusually in the early 19th century - survived to adulthood.

In case you missed it last year, the gingerbread model of Castle Howard, created by London-based culinary wizards Bompas & Parr, is here again, only now it is night time, with the house looking cosy and welcoming in the snow-covered landscape.

Large wreaths hang from carriage lights, sculpted busts are uplit, moss, fern and conifer form backdrops to a riot of colour. Around 7,000 baubles have been placed, 3,500 of them on the Great Hall tree.

Dancing and tumbling, Bacchanalian cherubs are at play in the dining room alongside hand-painted fruit and flowers, while the turquoise room - my favourite - is sumptuously stunning.

Refreshments are available at a number of locations, offering lunches, light snacks and teas . You can book yourself in for afternoon tea in the adjacent Grecian Hall. For gifts, the on-site shops are accompanied by an indoor Christmas market.

*Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA. W: castlehoward.co.uk T: 01653 648333

Angels on High runs until December 23.