Famous all over the world as “Downton Abbey,” Highclere Castle is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian Castles. Set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland, there is plenty to see and do. From grandiose entrance halls to luxury sitting rooms, take a peek inside Britain’s best known stately home and see how the aristocracy live.
The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years.
In 1848, the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon commissioned Sir Charles Barry, who built the Palace of Westminster, to transform the house. It was a project that would last 30 years and, once built, the manor became the centre of 19th century political life. Benjamin Disraeli exclaimed ‘How scenical! How scenical!’ on first seeing the re-named and re-modelled ‘Highclere Castle’.
In 1922, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon famously discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, with his archaeological colleague Harold Carter. His premature death six weeks later at the age of 56 shook the nation. Lord Carnarvon both discovered and purchased Egyptian artefacts. He created one of the most extraordinary Egyptian collections in the world, with unique and exquisite works of art. Some of his collection is on display in the Egyptian Exhibition at the castle.
In 2009, the future of the castle looked bleak, as Lord Carnarvon faced a £12 million repair bill to keep the castle from falling into ruin. Fortunately, Julian Fellowes chose Highclere for his Downton Abbey in 2010, and the castle’s future is looking brighter.
From the death of Mr Pamuk in the first series, to the royal visit in the forthcoming film, Highclere Castle plays a significant role as the home of the Crawley family. Follow in the footsteps of Lord and Lady Grantham, Lady Mary, and the Dowager Countess, and learn about what life at the real Downton Abbey was actually like.
£50 including entry