There is nothing like visiting Highclere Castle for a true Downton Abbey fan. Let’s be real, Highclere is impressive even if you’ve never seen Downton Abbey.
My visit to Highclere was in Mid – July. It was a spur of the moment side trip from Oxford. I had met a very nice couple who had tickets to enter the house and they agreed to let me tag along. I had high hopes I would get a walk up ticket since I had stupidly not purchased tickets in advance. (Although, not really stupidly, since I didn’t even know I was going to be able to get to Highclere!) I crammed myself into the back seat of their rental car, along with two other tag alongs and away we went. Upon arriving, I squealed in delight as the beatiful house came into view. I knew even if I couldn’t get a ticket into the house, just to see it from a distance and experience the grounds would be enough.
The fates were kind that day and I was able to secure a walk up ticket. The ticket booth attendant was very patient as I did a little dance celebrating my good fortune! I left the ticket booth to enter the estate and was greeted with the amazing scene from so many of the episodes of Downton – the path leading to the beautiful house. Yes, another squeal and dance was done by me as I slowly ambled up the path, taking in all that the view had to offer. How many episodes had shown this exact scene? I was in awe and just so excited to be able to experience the estate in person.
As I got closer, I couldn’t help but visualize Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes waiting at the entrance! It looks exactly like it does in the television show, which is a testament to the current occupants, the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. I envisioned Branson and his car, Lady Mary on her horse with the dashing Turkish gentleman and Anna and Barrow ready to take my coat. (It was July, I didn’t have a coat – but it was still something I thought about!)
You enter the house and it is spectacular. The rooms are beautifully kept and you can easily recognize sets from the show. You are able to walk through the main area on the main floor and through a number of the bedrooms on the second. Since the downstairs sets for the show are not on site, you do not see the kitchen or servant’s hall. Walking through, you feel transported to the early 20th century. You can spend as much time as you wish in the house, but you are not allowed to take photographs. There are also areas which are not accessible, which I found to be completely ok, since the house is someone’s home.
While the house is breathtaking, the grounds are equally such. There is a tea room, where you can get a bite and a sip to enjoy sitting outside under a tree. The scenery is gorgeous. My favorite was being able to hear the baa-ing of the sheep in the pasture across the grounds. Since you are able to walk pretty much anywhere while the castle is open, I enjoyed a walk throughout the grounds and enjoyed the views looking back to the house.
There is also gift shop on the grounds – always one of my favorite stops at any spot. There are all kinds of Highclere an Downton souvenirs. I bought a Christmas ornament which will bring me a smile every year when I pull it out as a remembrance of this beautiful, unplanned day.
I would highly recommend a trip to Highclere if it fits into your travel plans. The house is beautiful, the grounds are gorgeous, the treats are tasty and the shop offers a variety of fun souvenirs. Highclere is open in the summer to the public for a short time. You should check their website for hours and ticket information. They also offer some special events throughout the year as well. You never know, you might just find Mr. Carson ready to offer you a glass of champagne!
Take Z Challenge: Brew a cup of tea and binge watch a season or two of “Downton”. You’ll be glad you did!
“Downton Abbey” on PBS:
Leave a Reply