Uncover the real story behind the hit TV show Downton Abbey with a visit to Highclere Castle, in Hampshire, by train.
Many recognise Highclere Castle’s impressive facade as Downton Abbey, the on-screen home of the Crawley family in the popular TV show and film of the same name. Visitors can step back in time with a visit to the magnificent Victorian mansion to learn about the Carnarvon family who have lived there since the 17th century.
Highclere Castle has 300 rooms and includes around 430 hectares of land. Tours around Highclere Castle in Hampshire invite visitors to explore the State Rooms where Downton Abbey was shot, although you don’t need to be an avid fan of the period drama to appreciate the beauty of this imposing home. Highclere Castle boasts world-class art collections, parklands dappled with poppies and roses as well as a secret garden.
Though the ancestry of Highclere on this Newbury site can be traced back to the 8th century, the opulent Jacobean style castle that stands today was designed by Charles Barry in 1842, whose architectural work also includes the iconic Houses of Parliament in London. While the stately home exudes the peace and splendour of an aristocratic household, Highclere Castle has seen its fair share of history and hardship, especially during the First World War. In the second season of Downton Abbey, the house acted as a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers. This was a case of art imitating life, as in 1914, Countess of Carnarvon, Almina, opened the castle's doors to soldiers in need, even assisting as a nurse herself. Years later, during WWII, Highclere sheltered evacuated children from the Blitz.
Highclere's gardens were designed by renowned 18th century landscaper Lancelot "Capability" Brown, often referred to as "England's greatest gardener." For the castle's grounds, Brown crafted more than 400 hectares of hills, lakes and lush lawns featuring myriad tree species, including non-natives ones like Lebanon cedars, famously seen in Downton Abbey's opening credits.
Highclere castle is still owned and managed by the Carnarvon family today, with Lord and Lady Carnarvon welcoming more than 1,000 visitors each day to their impressive family castle.
How to get to Highclere Castle by train
The closest train station to Highclere Castle is Newbury, easily reached by Great Western Railway trains from London Paddington station. The journey from London Paddington to Newbury takes just 40 mins. From Newbury train station, Highclere Castle is a 15 mins taxi ride away.
Walks around Highclere Castle
Although admission tickets to Highclere Castle must be bought and booked in advance, visitors just interested in seeing the outside of the Castle and enjoying a walk around it can do so throughout the year for free. There are a number of public walking trails leading around the castle’s surrounding countryside, including Highclere Park public walk, Beacon Hill public footpath and Old Burgclere public footpath.
Images provided by Highclere Castle.
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