Every time I thought about booking my visit to the UK, I would check the Highclere Castle site for tours. Those of you that don’t know, Highclere is the filming location of the TV series, Downton Abbey. Every time I looked or was notified of a release of new dates, tickets were sold out. In fact, tickets for all of 2017 are gone. I pretty much resigned myself to not being able to go inside no matter when I booked my vacation.
Instead, I settled for going for a walk on one of the many foot paths that surround the property and possibly getting close enough to see Highclere and to get a picture.
Luckily, the night before, I happened to check the site and noticed that because of the bank holiday weekend, there would be a country show on the property and that possibly, POSSIBLY, there may be walk up tickets available at the gate. Well, this news just brought me one step closer. At the very least, going to the market on the grounds would get me in view of Highclere.
The next morning my sister and I got up early, planning to arrive at Highclere between 9:30 and 10 a.m. Within a few miles of Highclere, cars seemed to be driving towards the property from every direction. My heart sank. I thought there was no way we were going to gain access.
As we passed through the main gates, the road forked. The signs indicated, left for the market, right for the castle. Everyone was veering left. Say what? We stopped at the fork and asked the attendant which way to go to the castle and he waved us to the right. Three cars followed us. We giggled at how ridiculous it was that there wasn’t a line shifting to the right.
After a few turns, there it was! We parked on the grass almost at the front door where you have seen the family and servants line up to receive guests at Downton Abbey. We walked up to the booth and asked if there were any walk up tickets and there was! He said we were very lucky and that they had cancellations that day.
We were in!
My sister says it looks like I’m peeing my pants in this picture. Maybe…but I’ll never tell.
Let me just say, Highclere Castle is amazeballs!
If you are a fan, you need to go. The rooms and the furniture are all as depicted in the series. Sprinkled with family pictures of the current Earl and family. Unlike most of the castles I have visited, Highclere is both magnificent and homey. I could totally see living there and feeling comfortable. It is warm and inviting.
As a bonus, you can see an Egyptian exhibit included in your admission. I don’t know why I never realized that this was the house of Lord Carnarvon that had discovered King Tut’s tomb. His private collection is housed in the basement. As my sister said, his wife probably banished his little souvenirs there when he first brought them home. Lucky for you, you get to see it for free.
After touring the house, you can visit the cafe and gift shop and wander the beautiful grounds. The secret garden was between booms but I could just imagine the sights and smells of this tranquil slice of paradise.
INFORMATION FOR YOUR DOWNTON ABBEY, HIGHCLERE CASTLE VISIT
- Main website: Highclere Castle
- Lady Carnarvon’s Blog
- Online Tickets
- Upcoming Events
- Overnight Stays
- Admission: 22 pounds for adults
- Summer of 2017 open Sunday 9th July, 2017 – Wednesday 6th September, 2017 (closed on Fridays and Saturdays)
- You must choose morning admission or afternoon admission tickets. Morning tickets allow entry to the Castle and Exhibition between 10:30am and 1pm. Afternoon tickets allow entry to the Castle and Exhibition between 1pm and 4pm. Last entry time is 4pm. The Castle closes at 5pm and the Estate closes at 6pm.
- The Estate opens at 9:30am. Visitors are welcome to visit the Gardens and Grounds all day. The Castle Tearooms are open from 9:30am. The Gift Shop is open from 9:30am until 5pm.
TIPS FOR YOUR DOWNTON ABBEY, HIGHCLERE CASTLE VISIT
- Book tickets ahead or show up early for cancelled tickets.
- Check the site often for more dates and special events.
- Photography is not allowed in the castle. I suggest purchasing the guide book at the entrance.
- Watch the whole series before you go…again!
If you are a fan of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle is a must see on your bucket list.