My behind the scenes Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) Tour

Highclere_Castle_Tour

When I first saw the Eiffel Tower, I was, like, meh. But Highclere castle? Major goosebumps!

Ask me to describe my perfect day and it would likely involve shopping, chatting with royalty, dressing up in fancy clothes, swilling champagne and tucking into afternoon tea. You can imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to do all this and more when visiting Highclere Castle, the real-life home of Downton Abbey. Not only did I get to take an in-depth tour of Highclere Castle, I was lucky enough to interview Lady Carnarvon, the mistress of this stately home. Follow along on my whirlwind tour of Highclere Castle.

house tour highclere castle

When you’ve got a castle as your backdrop, how can you not pose?

Highclere Castle Tour

As a jaded travel writer, few experiences live up to my expectations. Reader, driving up to Highclere Castle exceeded them. If you’re lucky, your bus or taxi driver will begin playing the Downton Abbey theme song as you wind your way along the entry road framed by stately lime and beech trees.

When it comes into view, Highclere Castle is just as stunning as you see on screen. Perhaps more. Situated smack-dab in middle of 1000-acres of parkland, the castle emits an 18th century sense of grandeur. It doesn’t get more regal than this. Well, there is Buckingham and Balmoral come to think of it, but let’s get real. This is as close as you and I will likely ever get to swanning about a legit castle.

highclere castle tour

The Saloon is rich and opulent and where both the Crawleys and the Carnarvon’s (the real life owners) put up their Christmas tree.

Highclere Castle tours take you through the most opulent rooms in the house – many of which were used in the filming of Downton Abbey. You’ll likely begin your tour in the Saloon, a magnificent gothic-style hall lined with 17th century wall coverings made of leather, brought back from some grand tour of Spain no doubt. With its stone arches, crests and coats of arms, the Saloon takes one back to the age of chivalry and even the Crusades.

inside highclere castle tour

The Mercia room is used as Cora’s bedroom on Downton Abbey

From the Saloon, you’ll easily spot the magnificent, intricately carved oak staircase which leads you to the first floor bedrooms used in Downton Abbey. There’s the Mercia room, which is used as Cora’s bedroom. It’s kitted out with a fireplace and four poster canopied bed.

highclere castle bedroom tour

Who remembers what Mary got up to in this bedroom?

Next is the Stanhope bedroom which vibes like a sexy boudoir thanks to its rich red carpet and scarlet silk walls. This is the room where Mary’s love interest Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk stayed (and died!) in. Between the bedrooms (you’ll also see Lady Edith’s and Sybil’s) the hallways are filled with black and white photos of the Earl and Lady Carnavon’s ancestors on grand tours throughout the world. Oh, to live that life!

Downton Abbey House

Downstairs, the Downton Abbey House, AKA Highclere Castle is smothered in centuries of antiques and treasures from around the world. The North Library – probably the most recognizable room from Downton Abbey – is decked out in red and gold, apparently just like the Reform Club in London, should you be a private club aficionado. You can’t sit on those iconic scarlet sofa’s (larger than they look on TV), but you can admire the 5,000+ books in the library, many of which date back to 16th century. Be sure to take in the framed pictures of the Queen and other members of the royal family displayed in the library.

downton abbey house

Easily the most recognizable room from Downton Abbey, this is the spot for drinks and conservation.

Another room of note in the house errr castle is the dining room. You’ll probably never come this close to a Van Dyke original again, and his portrait of Charles I on horseback is nothing short of impressive.

highclere castle dining room

You’re not allowed to take photos inside Highclere Castle, but Lady Carnarvon graciously offered up a pic for our media group.

Do you remember on Downton Abbey when the ladies would retire to a pale green, silk-lined Drawing Room after dinner? It’s just as swish as you’d expect with a full size concert grand piano and massive chandelier imported from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic). These three rooms: The North Library, Dining Room and Drawing Room are used to today by the Carnavon family just as it’s depicted on Downton Abbey – albeit the sexes now mix in either the North Library or the Drawing Room after dinner.

ladies drawing room

That chandelier came from Bohemia in the early part of the last century.

Downton Abbey Movie

If you’re as much of a fan of Downton Abbey as I am, you’re surely counting down the days until the movie premiers on September 20, 2019. Her ladyship didn’t disclose which rooms in Highclere Castle were used in the filming of the Downton movie, but from the trailer, you can see that the usual suspects are back in play.

Highclere Castle

Because of the hype surrounding the movie, there are many more events besides guided tours happening at Highclere Castle over the upcoming months. You could tie your visit in with a summer show hosted by Mr. Carson! Or, attend a 1920s themed bash at Highclere Castle. Admission to Highclere Castle events and weekend tours often sell out, so you’ll want to secure tickets as fast as you can.

downton abbey souvenirs

With Lady Carnarvon in the gift shop.

Before you leave the castle, make sure you pick up some souvenirs from their well stocked gift shop. I nabbed a lovely cake knife, Downton Abbey fridge magnets and a some of His Lordship’s chutney. Too cute! Highclere Castle now sells their own line of gin, too!

highclere castle gin

Lady C looks lovingly at their new line of gin.

And super fans will want to follow Lady Carnarvon’s blog. It’s really good!

Highclere Castle Tour

Have you ever done a tour of Highclere Castle? If not, would you like to?

You may also be interested in:

Secrets of royal tea time

Inside the Castle in the Rockies

By |2019-06-12T17:26:18-06:00June 5th, 2019|Categories: Travel|Tags: , , , |12 Comments

About the Author:

I’m a freelance writer with bad hair, a loud mouth and a serious case of wanderlust. Whether it’s luggage, time or just life, I cram as much as possible into small compartments. Warning: Contents may shift during flight. My life is one bumpy ride! Follow me on Twitter or Pinterest.

12 Comments

  1. Cengiz 05.06.2019 at 12:27 - Reply

    What a wonderful day🏁🏁🏁

  2. Dianne Hammel 05.06.2019 at 12:50 - Reply

    Looks Amazing! Lucky you to get to tour it!

    • Jody 10.06.2019 at 06:55 - Reply

      I was lucky, but anyone who visits Highclere Castle (when it’s open) can take the same tour.

  3. Leigh 05.06.2019 at 15:57 - Reply

    Looks like a very regal tour – and your dress was the perfect complement to the castle. Happy for you that it exceeded expectations.

    • Jody 10.06.2019 at 06:55 - Reply

      Regal! That is exactly the right word to describe the Highclere Castle tour!

  4. Paige McEachren 05.06.2019 at 20:58 - Reply

    I am so jealous of this tour…. I think I will have to plan a visit!

    • Jody 10.06.2019 at 06:54 - Reply

      You should! The Highclere Castle tour was one of the best I’ve been on.

  5. Lauren 09.06.2019 at 09:52 - Reply

    I love Downton Abbey and would love to visit this castle one day!! Beautiful photos.

    • Jody 10.06.2019 at 06:54 - Reply

      I hope you get there! The Highclere Castle tour really is worth it.

  6. Corinne 10.06.2019 at 07:56 - Reply

    Ah, this is so great. Love these kind of trips!

  7. Lillie 10.06.2019 at 18:44 - Reply

    I need that azure green wallpaper!

  8. Claudia 11.06.2019 at 18:19 - Reply

    I cannot wait for the Downtown Abbey movie!

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