Tour Highclere Castle, the iconic film location of Downton Abbey for six series
Discover Highclere Castle an extraordinary great house with towers and pinnacles. Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, remodelled the exterior to resemble an Elizabethan stately home - this is the intricate and striking silhouette we now know so well from the Downton Abbey TV drama.
It was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon with Howard Carter who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. See the fascinating six-room exhibit detailing the story behind the discovery in 1922. A visit to Highclere includes the rooms used for filming Downton Abbey.
Downton Abbey saves Highclere Castle
A brief history of Highclere Castle
The house you see today was not the first and may not be the last. The Bishops of Winchester once owned the land where the current house stands. The talented and energetic Bishop William of Wykeham constructed a palace here in the 14th century. In 1679, Sir Robert Sawyer, lawyer, speaker of the house of commons and member of Parliament built Highclere Place. His grandson Robert Sawyer Herbert inherited the house, and further embellishments began. His heir and nephew, Henry Herbert takes ownership of Highclere. Henry was created Earl of Carnarvon during the reign of King George III (1760-1820).
Sir Charles Barry was a prolific architect, with a long list of prestigious projects including; remodelling Trafalgar Square, Dunrobin Castle in Scotland and Harewood House. His tours of Italy greatly influenced Barry. It seems appropriate that he should undertake the building of the famous Travelers Club in Pall Mall, a high-end gentlemen's club. Barry called his style Anglo-Italian.
During the 1840s' Highclere Castle was remodelled by Barry. Henry Herbert, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, employed Sir Charles Barry to do away with the austere Georgian and very plain exterior. Creating the silhouette of the house that Downton Abbey fans are so familiar with today.
The British Government commandeered many of Britain's great stately homes for other uses during the wars. During World War One, Highclere Castle became a hospital for injured soldiers, run by the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, reflecting the 'Downton' storyline of the second series.
Again in World War Two, the Government arranged the evacuation of children from large cities to safer rural regions. Highclere Castle became a home for evacuees. Over 1.5 million city children left their parents for the safer countryside. Their experiences were mixed; we can only imagine what a poor child from London thought of Highclere Castle.
Downton Abbey saves Highclere
The upkeep of such vast and old properties is never-ending - the upper story rooms of Highclere had become unusable due to water damage. The cost of repairing crumbling stone and plasterwork easily ran into the millions.
In 2010, the grounds and Castle became the film location of a new period drama, called Downton Abbey. The increased income from visitor numbers allowed Lord and Lady Carnarvon to start repairs. Hopefully, the interest in Highclere Castle will help keep the house in good condition for future generations of visitors and owners.
The free flow tour of Highclere Castle
Your visit to Highclere will include all the rooms used for filming Downton. There is a free flow system with guides in rooms. After getting your Downton fix, explore the Egyptian exhibition.
The Egyptian connection
The 5th Earl of Carnarvon funded the British archaeologist Howard Carter and his team to undertake research and digs in the valley of the kings, Egypt. Archaeologist thought they had exhausted all options in the hunt for ancient tombs. Carter had an idea that there was much more to find. In those days, only scholars muttered the name of the boy King Tutankhamun.
When Carter removed debris from the Royal tomb and noticed plaster seals had not been tampered with his heart raced. Howard Carter made a hole in the plaster and peeked inside, their candlelight reflected on the shiny golden surfaces inside. The group widened the gap, and Lady Evelyn (Lord Carnarvon's daughter) Lord Carnarvon and Howard Carter stepped inside. The discovery of Tutankhamun's tomb and its contents became a global story.
The six-room exhibition explores the story behind the discovery. Suppose you have an interest in ancient Egypt, in that case, we can arrange an expert archaeologist to tour the British Museum's Egyptian galleries with you.
Stunning Lancelot 'Capability' Brown landscaped grounds surround Highclere Castle. The most impressive species of trees are the cedar of Lebanon; the examples at Highclere are some of the first to be planted in the UK. The pine trees originate from the mountains of the eastern Mediterranean.
Touring and accommodation
Highclere Castle is 65 miles west of London. A tour of Highclere Castle can include Windsor Castle Or Stonehenge Or Bath, as an example. There are too many options to list here, therefore please contact us.
The Vineyard Hotel, Newbury is a luxury near Highclere Castle. Although if you prefer to be closer to London and Heathrow stay at Cliveden House Hotel, the Iconic Berkshire hotel set in 376 acres of National Trust Gardens. There is a wide choice of accommodation in the UK; Cottages, Manor House Hotels and traditional Guest Houses. Please contact us for further help.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands.
The Iconic Film Location
Go beyond Downton and discover the story of Tutankhamun's tomb
- Egyptian Exhibition: The Tutankhamun's Tomb
- See the Downton Abbey rooms
- Enjoy the stunning grounds
- VIP tours available
- Visit during special events
Dowton Abbey fans at Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle in the Afternoon Sunshine
Bampton Main Street
Filming in Bampton Village, Oxfordshire
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