Highclere Castle

HIGHCLERE CASTLE, United Kingdom — You don’t have to be a fan of Downton Abbey to appreciate the beauty of Highclere Castle sitting on a stately hill in the English countryside of Hampshire about two hours west of London.

Highclere Castle, UK 156-09370965x
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Highclere Castle is certainly distinctive, with neo-Gothic towers, a Georgian interior, and neo-Elizabethan tributes. It’s a whimsical mishmash of architectural styles that somehow adds up to the very picture of English aristocratic heritage. The castle sits on a thousand acres of rolling Hampshire countryside just a couple of hours west of London, and Earls of Carnarvon have called it home since 1679.

You don’t have to be a fan of the TV show Downton Abbey to appreciate the stately beauty of Highclere Castle. But if you are a fan–like so many visitors who now flock to it when it’s open to visitors in the summer–you’re in for a real treat.

The grounds look just like they do in the series–lush, rolling, and stately. Fancy a walk up the pathway to the castle that’s featured in the opening credits? It’s exactly as you’ve seen it. Want to sit on the bench where Lady Mary and Cousin Matthew have a chat after his return from the war? Go ahead. Feel like pulling up to the entrance where Mr. Carson and Mr. Bates wait to greet Downton’s many guests? After you. (In fact, if you want to gain entry to the house, you must go through this entrance.)

Once inside, it can be hard to remember that the characters of Downton Abbey are just that–characters–for so much of the castle looks familiar. (At least the above stairs sections, that is. The below stairs parts are filmed at a film studio.) Wandering about the first floor, there’s the impressively stocked library, a music room, a smoking room, and, of course, the great hall. The floor above has 11 main bedrooms, each with a beautiful view of the grounds. And there are another 40 or 50 unused bedrooms elsewhere in the building.1

But while it’s hard to be in the house without thinking of Downton, Highclere Castle also has an identity all its own. It’s a functioning home, as is evident by the shoes and personal effects strewn about by its owners. And though it’s big, it’s also small in a way; the home doesn’t seem nearly as sprawling once you’re in it as it does from the outside. But, frankly, as impressive as it is, and as enjoyable as it is to visit, I’m not sure I’d like to live there.

Photos of Highclere Castle

Downton Abbey's Highclere Castle 156-08343717x
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Downton Abbey's Highclere Castle Panorama 156-09342742x
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Downton Abbey's Highclere Castle with Walking Path 156-09371166x
This view will be familiar to anyone who watches the show. Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel
Highclere Castle in Hampshire, UK 156-09341541x
Photo by David Coleman / Have Camera Will Travel

What to Know Before You Go

It’s not open all the time, so be sure to check their website for hours.

In general, they’re open to the public in July and August, but there are sometimes closures during that time for special events. They also have special openings at other times such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, and Christmas. You can find information about buying tickets online here.

Map

About Highclere Castle

  • Highclere Castle is located in Hampshire, England, approximately 70 miles (112 km) west of London.
  • The castle is a country house primarily built in the 19th century, although its history dates back to the 8th century.
  • Highclere Castle was designed by Sir Charles Barry, the same architect responsible for the Houses of Parliament in London.
  • The castle is a prime example of the Jacobethan architectural style, which combines elements of the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.
  • The estate covers approximately 5,000 acres (2,023 hectares) and includes vast gardens, parklands, and woodlands.
  • Highclere Castle is the ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon, and the current resident is the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his family.
  • The castle houses a significant collection of art, furniture, and antiques, including works by Sir Joshua Reynolds and Sir Anthony van Dyck.
  • Highclere Castle gained widespread recognition as the primary filming location for the popular television series “Downton Abbey” and the subsequent movie.
  • The castle is open to the public for tours and events during specific periods throughout the year, with tickets often sold in advance due to high demand.
  • Highclere Castle has also been used as a filming location for other productions, such as the 1987 film “The Secret Garden” and the British television series “Jeeves and Wooster.”
  1. Jessica Fellowes, The World of Downton Abbey (London: St. Martin’s Press, 2011) p.185. []

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David Coleman / Photographer

David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »