Highclere Castle in Berkshire, home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, was largely built by Sir Charles Barry while he worked on the Houses of Parliament. With grounds laid out by Capability Brown (of course), the house and family also have links with the history of planes through Sir Geoffrey de Havilland and with Tutankhamun’s Tomb, which was discovered by the 5th Earl. The name is also familiar to those who are fans of horseracing, with the current Earl’s father, the 7th Earl, the Queen’s racing manager until his death in 2001.
This particular angle of the house is instantly recognisable from Downton Abbey, the well-loved TV series and film made here. While the fictional Downton Abbey is in Yorkshire, the blue skies and sunshine make it obvious that we are in fact in Berkshire [less of that, thank you].
The gardens around the house are extensive, with some pretty wonderful tulip varieties in bloom in the spring.
These are, we think, known as Queen of the Night tulips.
With a café, shop, house and garden to explore, as well as a number of special events like concerts, Highclere is a great place to spend the day. Still privately owned by the family, it’s a little expensive, at around £24 an adult with a family ticket at £66. It’s also only open from July to September, and tickets sell out fast as people from all around the world want to visit “Downton Abbey”, so takes some advance planning.
Therefore, a trip to Highclere takes some investment and organisation compared to a typical National Trust property, particularly if you’re a member. However, we would say that it’s definitely worth going once for the experience – or, alternatively, buying tickets to a special event to mark an occasion. More information on the house and to buy tickets can be found at https://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/.
We’re sure that Downton fans can just picture that golden retriever bottom walking away from you in that photo…