Featured image of Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle- The Real Downton Abbey

LocationHighclere, County of Hampshire, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byGeorge Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon
Official WebsiteHighclere Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Filming, Weddings, Events)

Best known as the ‘Downtown Abbey Castle,’ Highclere Castle is the family seat of the Earls of Carnarvon, located in Highclere Park. Visitors can visit the castle, the Egyptian Exhibition, and the surrounding Grounds and Gardens.

Highclere Castle History

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle, by Richard Munckton, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The first written records of the Highclere Castle estate date back to AD749, when an Anglo-Saxon King granted the property to the Bishops of Winchester. Bishop William of Wykeham later built a beautiful medieval manor and gardens in the park. Later in 1679, the manor was rebuilt as Highclere Place House when it was purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer, ancestor of the current Earl of Carnarvon. In 1842, Sir Charles Barry, who had also designed the Houses of Parliament, transformed the Highclere House into the present-day Highclere Castle.

Many things add to the historical significance of the castle. It is believed that modern-day Canada was born at the castle, as the 4th Earl of Carnarvon, alongside Canada’s first Prime Minister, drafted the British North America Act of 1867. He presented the act to the Parliament, and mere months later, present-day Canada was founded.

The castle was employed as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Great War when the 5th Countess of Carnarvon ran it. Four years post the war, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt with Howard Carter, adding to the castle’s prestige. Highclere Castle now houses an exhibition in celebration of the Earl’s iconic discovery in the former staff quarters, which opened in 2003. The castle stepped up yet again in the Second World War to serve as a place of refuge for children who had evacuated London to avoid air raids. The castle also became a site for several allied aircraft crashes during this time.

Highclere Castle Architecture

Highclere Castle Main Entrance
Highclere Castle Main Entrance, by Funck77, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Highclere Castle is set amidst 1,000 acres of picturesque parkland, designed for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon by the renowned 18th-century landscape gardener “Capability” Brown. The original design of this castle cannot be seen today as in the 19th century as the Carnarvon family remodelled the house in the Jacobethan style that reflected the current Victorian fashion of romanticized view of 16th-century architecture. The remodelling and rebuilding of the castle were completed by the famous English architect, Sir Charles Barry, best known for his work on the reconstruction of the Palace of Westminster. He filled the castle with Italianate motifs, the Saloon with 17th and 18th-century Spanish leather wallcoverings, and added Italian embroideries in the music room.

There are between 250 and 300 rooms inside the castle Saloon, and during your tour, you can explore the main state rooms, which are so familiar from “Downton Abbey.” Records show that the gardens were first developed at the castle during the 13th century. Today you can explore the original Monks’ Garden, the White Border, the Wood of Goodwill, the Rose Arbour, the Wild Flower Meadow, and the Healing Herb Garden.

Highclere Castle Tickets

Highclere Castle ticket prices vary on which areas of the estate you wish to visit. The ticket that includes entry into all three areas would cost you £27.50. Tickets to tour the castle and gardens would cost £20.50 for adults, £13 for children up to 16 years old, and £19 for senior citizens, students, and disabled visitors. Guided tour tickets are also available, generally ranging from £85 to £150, depending on the tour. The tours generally include a talk, a guided tour of the State Rooms of the Castle, and the Gardens. Depending on the tour, they may also include a visit to the Egyptian Museum, a free book, and light refreshments.

Highclere Castle Wedding

Highclere Castle is a perfect setting for your smaller and more intimate weddings with a gathering of up to 40 friends and family. In the summer, you may also choose a champagne reception followed by a traditional afternoon tea for up to 80 guests. The lovely brides are welcome to prepare for their special day in an elegant south-facing bedroom in the castle. You can make a grand entrance by walking around the first-floor Gallery above your guests before descending the sweeping Oak Staircase and into the Saloon, which sits at the heart of the castle. The Saloon is the room that is licensed for the civil marriage ceremony for all Highclere Castle Weddings.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where is Highclere Castle?

Highclere Castle is located 5 miles outside Newbury’s small town in Berkshire, in the County of Hampshire, along the southern coast of England. 

Who owns Highclere Castle?

Highclere Castle is owned by George Herbert, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
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