‘If you’re tired of style, you are tired of life’
Last May I visited Highclere Castle, Downton Abbey’s main filming location. Given that it was recently announced that the movie is to be released next September, I thought that writing this post would be a great way to lower anxieties.
how to visit Highclere castle
6 months prior to my trip I made a reservation through Highclere Castle’s webpage for a special visit. It included a tour of the castle and gardens, a luncheon and a talk by screenwriter Andrew Davis (House of Cards, Pride and Prejudice).
The castle offers a wide variety of events throughout the year, so I highly recommend checking the web page for more information.
Located in Hampshire, 5 miles south of Newbury and one hour and 20 minutes by train from Paddington Station (London), this impressive Victorian mansion in the Jacobethan style immediately reminds us of another architectonical jewel: the Houses of Parliament. And that is because both buildings were designed by Sir Charles Barry between 1839 and 1842.
GETTING TO HIGHCLERE
I arrived at the Newbury station at 12.15 where a taxi from Broadway Cars that I had previously hired by e-mail, was waiting for me. The only way to get to Highclere is by car and with a reservation to visit the castle, so have that into account when planning this visit. There is absolutely no way to see the castle if you don’t have a reservation because the building is far from the entrance, so don’t waste your time!
Visit: http://www.broadway-cars.com I highly recommend their service, they are very punctual and the drivers are very nice and know a lot about the area.
It takes a 15-minute drive to get to the castle. Once I got there it was like I stumbled and fell inside my TV and entered the world of Downton Abbey. I mean, the first glimpse of the castle is from the same angle in which the series usually depicts it. It’s amazing!
Before luncheon (I love saying that word!) I had the opportunity of walking freely through the grounds and the gardens.
Having seen many English gardens, I must say that Highclere has one of the most impressive examples. It is so vast that it would take many hours to see it on its whole.
Souvenirs from the Grand Tour: there are many follies surrounding the castle. This one appears frequently in the show and it is named Jackdaw’s Castle. It was built by Robert Herbert in 1743.
‘Come war and peace, Downton still stands and the Crawleys are still in it’
THE GIFT SHOP
There is a very nice gift shop where I bought a beautiful tea towel and a mug for my mom that said “her ladyship”. She absolutely loved it! There were also slippers based on the ones that Lady Mary wore in the series, but they didn’t have them in my size. I was truly disappointed…
At 1.15 pm luncheon was on and it was given outside. The Earl and the Countess of Carnarvon (Highclere owners) were there and they were very nice talking to the visitors about the history of the castle.
While eating I had the chance to talk with the butler and he told me about his experience during the filming of the series. He also shared with me where the bench in which Lady Mary sat in many important scenes was… and of course, I ran and had my picture taken.
INSIDE THE CASTLE
Highclere Castle is a place with a very vast history and that is reflected in every corner of the majestic building. The history of Highclere is strongly related to the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb (1922) as it was the 5th Earl the one who accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter during the discovery.
The Castle hosts an exhibit of Egyptian objects but unfortunately, it wasn’t open the day of my visit. However, during the tour of the upper floor, we were able to see some tiny Egyptian souvenirs hidden inside the walls of one of the rooms.
We weren’t allowed to take any photographs inside the Castle. Most of the rooms downstairs were used in the series. That is the case of the Great Hall, the library and the dining room. Most of the bedroom scenes were filmed in the studio.
details of the exterior
This relief that decorates the upper part of every window reads in old French: “Ung Je Serviray”. It translates as “One will I serve”. I wonder who that would be.
Goodbye Downton Abbey, I hope I’ll see you soon…