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Highclere Castle

Thursday 18th July 2013


As a fan of Downton Abbey I was delighted to be able to visit Highclere Castle which is now owned by the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.  On a beautiful hot day, after a very pleasant short journey past rolling countryside, we swept up the main drive of majestic Highclere Castle and were deposited at the main entrance.  Unfortunately we were not greeted by a row of servants!

The inside of Highclere is as splendid as the outside.  The wonderful rich décor and furnishings were a sight to behold.  The opulent library, with its rich red curtains, housed over 5,000 books in gilded bookcases.  I particularly liked the silk embroidered panels reaching from floor to ceiling in the music room which also contained Napoleon’s desk!  From room to room there was such a lot to take in – paintings, some by Joshua Reynolds and Van Dyck, wonderful ceilings and ornate furniture.  Apart from seeing Lady Grantham’s, Lady Sybil’s and Lady Edith’s bedrooms from Downton Abbey, I think my favourite part of the house was the magnificent saloon with its high vaulted ceiling and balustrade around.  The beautiful dining room, draped with warm yellow silk curtains held an enormous dining table which contains a mechanism to include twelve extending leaves!

From all the windows of the house one glimpsed the wide sweeping grounds laid to lawn with huge cedar trees.  The secret garden was quite delightful with colourful flowers laid out in wavy beds beside a slim lawn.  A gateway at the end led onto a path through a wild flower meadow that was bursting with insects and butterflies visiting the yarrow, knapweed and scabious flowers.



Across the Wild Flower Meadow
White flower border in the Secret Garden

After a tasty lunch, near the stable block, I visited the Egyptian exhibition.  The 5th Earl of Carnarvon financed Howard Carter which resulted in the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.  There were authentic exhibits over 5000 years old, brought back by the 5th Earl and at the end of the exhibition were the most realistic looking artefacts of what was found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.  Having seen the original in Cairo I was amazed how real they looked.

The visit would not have been complete without a visit to the shop to buy souvenirs.  My friend bought the book about Almina, the 5th Earl's wife, who turned Highclere into a hospital for wounded servicemen in the 1st World War.

This was one of the best outings I have been on in spite of the coach breaking down on the way home!

Text by Christine Kelsey

Photos by Hilary Baker



Related Link (opens in new window):

Highclere Castle website




Leaving Highclere Castle at the end of the day



Members thankfully preparing to board the replacement coach