One of the best things about my husband’s overseas assignment has been the opportunity it presents to travel. I’m not only referring to travel to other countries (I’ll post soon about our visit to France and Disneyland Paris), but also travel to the quaint and historic villages that England is so well known for.
While some might disagree with what I’m about to say next, England is such a “drivable” country.
Yes, it can feel like you’re on an amusement park ride of the most dangerous kind – with its lack of traffic signals, narrow carriageways (roads – but definitely built with only a horse and carriage in mind (hence the name)), exhausting roundabouts with dizzying traffic seemingly assaulting you from every direction (a lá merry-go-round), and its mostly polite, but sometimes erratic drivers who will pass you even if you’re going top speed.
If you’re willing and able to get past all of that, though, (try being volunTOLD to drive on Day 3) it’s amazing how many historical landmarks you can pack into a weekend, or even 24 hours, and still make it back in time for work the next day.
As an aside: I generally advise against “packing” multiple things into a short amount of time. View them at your leisure so you can really take them in. There’s no need to hurry. 🙂
We’ve been here now for about 3 months and have already forayed to Cambridge, Norwich, London, and tons of smaller, neighboring areas.
Today’s travel plans were special. They (our plans, that is) took us to Downton Abbey.
Yes, that Downton Abbey – also known as Highclere Castle.
(Because I’m feeling a mite lazy, here is the introductory paragraph from Wikipedia on Highclere Castle:
Highclere Castle /ˈhaɪklɪər/ is a country house in the Jacobethan style by the architect Charles Barry, with a park designed by Capability Brown. The 5,000-acre (2,000 ha) estate is in Hampshire, England, about 5 miles (8 km) south of Newbury, Berkshire. It is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, a branch of the Anglo-Welsh Herbert family.)
Let me preface this by saying that my husband cane to England and became totally OBSESSED with Downtown Abbey. He’s a few years late, but who’s counting? Certainly not I. He even worked a Downton Abbey reference into his sermon at the base chapel this past Sunday. Which is fine, because at least I wasn’t the subject (one of the dangers of being a preacher’s wife is becoming fodder for sermons). We’re now on Season III of the show and watch “new” episodes every evening at 5:30 pm when he makes it home from base.
All of that to say, my husband REALLY likes this show. So, of course, this trip was a must and we made it there with just enough time to spare.
The castle is only open to the public for self-guided tours during the summer months, so if you’d like to visit add it to next year’s “must see” list – the last day to view in 2019 is September 3.
Tickets may be purchased on-site, but since it’s a fairly long drive (3 hours for us from base to make the 10:30 self-guided tour) and the castle is extremely popular (especially on nice, sunny days), and closed on weekends, it’s best to purchase your tickets online, and in advance.
Like most things, the castle is a lot smaller than it appeared on television, but it’s still so very grand. It sits on a slight incline, set rather far back from the road, nestled amongst immense grassy fields, and complete with designated parking (hurrah!).
Arrive early and be sure to wear your wellies, as you’ll be walking across the grass to join the line outside of the entrance. You’ll then slowly snake your way through the manor, where rooms used for filming have assorted informational plaques erected. As you look, be mindful of the fact that others are waiting behind you to see as well. Totally worth the trip if you’re a fan!
If you purchase the premium ticket, you’ll be treated to the exhibit downstairs in what was once the wine cellar, and a view of the gardens. When we visited, the exhibit was an Egyptian one, complete with sarcophagus as the former Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle played a significant part in the archeological scene and the excavation of Tutankhamen’s resting place in the Valley of the Kings. It was pretty neat.
It rained, as it’s wont to do here, so excuse my hair and the hastily discarded umbrella. Ha!
The castle is also host to various special events for which tickets may be purchased, like “Castle Tours, Costumes, and Cocktails” which takes place in September, Christmas at Highclere and the Stay and Tour, which allows for a country getaway at the Grotto Lodge locates on the grounds.
There are tea rooms on site if you’re feeling a bit peakish post-tour, offering pasties, paninis, sausages, assorted baked items and, of course, tea. If that doesn’t peak your interest, try the Carnarvon Hotel and Pub down the road. We skipped both and stopped instead at the M3 Motorway, Jct 4a/5 Fleet South Services rest stop, where we chowed down on Kentucky Fried Chicken (don’t judge us) before making the drive back. This rest stop is also 5 miles from Legoland Windsor.
Here are additional photos from our visit (no photography is allowed inside).
Will you be making the trip to Highclere Castle? Have you seen Downton Abbey? What do you think of the show? Share your thoughts with us, below!