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England's Highclere Castle: Experience the Real Downton Abbey

Peer Inside the Life of the Crawleys at the Real Downton Abbey

February 24, 2023

Fans of Downton Abbey may visit the palace used as the principal filming location for the English historical drama series chronicling the lives of the Crawleys and their servants.

Located in the North Wessex Downs Area of Natural Beauty (AONB), Hampshire, the majestic country estate of Highclere Castle is only 65 miles west of Central London.

A history of Highclere Castle, England

The foundations of Highclere Castle date back to Anglo-Saxon times when Bishop William of Wykeham oversaw the construction of a medieval residence and formal gardens in 749. This original property was reconstructed in 1679 upon passing ownership to Sir Robert Sawyer. The palace that stands today was built in 1842 by Sir Charles Barry – the same architect behind the Palace of Westminster in London.

Highclere Castle was used as a hospital during the First World War and as a refuge for evacuated children in the Second World War.

Today, the castle is the private residence of George and Fiona Herbert, the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Lord and Lady Carnarvon employ a full staff including chefs, gardeners, housekeepers, and those responsible for welcoming tourists to the mansion.

Exploring Highclere Castle – “Downton Abbey”

Highclere Castle is open to the public for tours at select times during the year and tickets must be purchased in advance. Throughout the season, the estate hosts special talks, themed tours, concerts, afternoon teas, and other exclusive events.

Just shy of 300 rooms in the Castle Saloon, tours focus on the staterooms that appear in Downton Abbey. As well as roaming the bedrooms, cellars, and old staff quarters will see the Egyptian Exhibition. This celebrates the 5th Earl of Carnarvon's discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Set upon 1,000 acres of wooded parkland, you are welcome to explore the grounds and pay a visit to the Etruscan Temple and the Temple of Diana. Castle tickets permit admission to such gardens as the Monks' Garden, the Healing Herb Garden, the Wood of Goodwill, the Rose Arbour, and the Wild Flower Meadow.

Live like a Crawley: Staying at Highclere Castle

In addition to the main palace, there are two lodges on the grounds that are available for overnight, self-catered stays. Originally used as the entrance to the complex, London Lodge has since been refurbished as a two-wing guest house. Meanwhile, Grotto Lodge resembles a small fort and contains two bedrooms.

Getting to Highclere Castle

Visiting Highclere Castle is possible as a day trip from London, Oxford, or Reading. The closest train station is Newbury from where you would need to take a taxi for the final 15 minutes into the countryside.

With a rumored 4,000 castles dotted around the United Kingdom, you may want to visit Highclere Castle in tandem with another historical site. Major properties include Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and Windsor Castle, the oldest occupied castle in the world. Further north, the Northumberland coast is the setting for ruined castles and picturesque English villages.

In addition, you can extend your trip to Great Britain and check into further castle accommodations in one of these five private retreats in Ireland. Contact me to discuss your bespoke itinerary of the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Ready to embark on your own journey to the extraordinary?