Highclere Castle is the home of the Earl of Carnarvon, a Grade I listed building, and Grade I listed garden, in Hampshire between Newbury and Andover. It is a beautiful, historic building in its own right and has added renown because of its use in many films and TV series, probably most famously Downton Abbey. If you know these films or watch the TV series, you will recognize the building as you drive up the long sweeping drive to the car parks.
The walk up to the house from the car park is also recognizable and there was a constant queue of people having photos taken at the famous front door.
When you book, you need to be aware that there is no photography allowed inside the house, however the interior decoration is both sumptuous and recognizable. You certainly do have the feeling that you are walking around a film set rather than a family home. The views of the gardens from the windows of the house are equally attractive, which is a testament to the talent of Capability Brown, the famous 18th Century landscape gardener, who designed the ground in the 1870s.
The house is full of historic interest too. It was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers in the first world war, a storyline used the TV series, if I remember correctly. Before that, it was here that the discussions were held, that led to Canada becoming an independent country. There is a Canadian Maple tree in the front garden, donated by the Canadian embassy, to commemorate this. The building also holds a notable Egyptology Museum, as the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, funded the dig that exhumed the tomb of Tutankhamun. His interest also led him to purchase many other ancient treasures from that part of the world.
The day I went to Highclere was a more expensive tour than the basic entry day and although this did not appear to give a great deal more (a couple of extra rooms, a personal guide and a talk) in terms of access, it did limit the number of people in the grounds and castle to under 200 through the whole day. On a normal open day, they can get over 1100 people, so I’d imagine that queue for photos at the front door becomes very long.
There is a café and bar, and you can order afternoon tea on the lawns. It is about an hour from London by car and roughly the same by train (a £20 taxi ride from the station). I spent about 4 hours there wandering the house and gardens and the time passed very quickly, so with the travelling times, it was a full day out – and a day well spent.