LOG fires will be lit and rooms illuminated by candlelight this weekend as The New York Brass Band play at two special evenings as part of Castle Howard's longest ever Twelve Days Of Christmas event.

On Saturday and Sunday, the festively decorated country house near York will remain open until last entry at 7pm, with twilight entertainment to "fill visitors with even more festive cheer", as head of marketing Abbigail Ollive explains.

"From the moment you arrive at the main driveway, with illuminated Christmas trees along its length, you know you are in for a magical experience, but as night falls, the house itself becomes even more atmospheric, as the thousands of fairy lights cast myriad shadows and the flickering candle flames bring each of the rooms to life,” she says.

"Father Christmas and his magical helper, WonderPhil [alias Easingwold magician Phil Grainger], will be making appearances each evening, while the New York Brass Band performing festive carols and songs will be the icing on the Christmas cake. They promise to be two amazing evenings."

York musicians The New York Brass Band will play in the Boar Garden Marquee; Father Christmas will join the band for a musical lantern procession around the Christmas tree that takes pride of place on Castle Howard’s North Front. Demonstrations by Willowpool Designs will include how to make fish, stars and willow wreaths with the opportunity to join the experts to create home-crafted Christmas decorations.

"The band will be playing in the heated marquee from 6pm to 8pm on Saturday and 5pm to 7pm on Sunday, so those finishing their festive visit can relax with seasonal snacks and warm drinks, or those just starting their twilight visit can pop in before touring the house," advises Abbigail. "Full Christmas dinner – locally-reared turkey and all the trimmings – will be available in the Fitzroy Restaurant until 8pm, and our gift shops and market stalls will be packed with inspirational and unusual Christmas present ideas for all the family."

Designed by Charlotte Lloyd Webber and Bretta Gereke, this season's decorative display of The Twelve Days Of Christmas will run until December 31 (closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day). Look out, in particular, for David Henthorne's Five Gold Rings as the spectacularly suspended centrepiece of the Twelfth Night Ball in the Long Gallery, where the movement of visitors and the air causes the five enormous, gold leaf-covered rings to rotate slowly.

Castle Howard's house and grounds open at 10am daily with last entry at 3pm during the week, 4pm on weekends and 7pm on this weekend's Twilight Evenings. Tickets are on sale at castlehoward.co.uk or on the door; visitor information is on 01653 648333. The farm shop will be open on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day.

Charles Hutchinson