Thursday, 24 August 2017

We planned to wake up at 6:00 a.m. ensure we have any early start for our visit to Highclere Castle. I didn’t wake until 6:15, but this gave Paula and Sue time to get themselves organized without me getting in the way. (I overslept.) We manged to get showed, dressed and fed then out of the door by 8:00 as planned.

The drive to Highclere from Newbury is about a 15 to 20 minute drive by car. Sue drove to Newbury last night so she drove us there, with me serving as navigator using Sue’s iPad. Really very easy to navigate around the roundabouts (thanks to Sue) and didn’t make any wrong turns. As we got closer to Highclere, there were specific signs that directed us to the entrance and parking.

As we drove into the estate, we were excited to see Highclere from a distance. We agreed it probably looked a bit smaller from this initial perspective. We were the first ones, other than those who worked there, to arrive and the parking attendant showed Sue where to park and where to get tickets. We took several pictures as we got out of the car and while walking to the ticket booth. Being early, we were assured that we would have tickets for today’s visit.

Philip, Paula, and Sue

We could hardly wait to start the tour of Highclere. We were first in the queue and visited with some of the others waiting with us. We weren’t exactly sure when the doors would be opened, but just after 9:00 we were let us. Being “Downton” regular watchers, we were on high alert to find familiar items from the series. We went from the entryway to the library.

As we waited outside, I took pictures of the front entrance area, the doors, and the door knockers.

Knocker (Wolf with Leg of Deer)

The library looks just about like it did in the series. Red furniture and many books lining the walls – floor to ceiling. Some of the furniture was moved around for the series, but it was essentially how it looked on TV. The guide noted that all of the electrical plugins were masked as well as any room sensors that would give away that the room was not part of the early 20th century.

Another room of great interest was the large dinning room. The room looks exactly like it did on TV. Notable exception is that a tablecloth was used for the Downton dinners to protect the table, whereas the family does not use a tablecloth. The extremely large portrait of Charles I dominates the room.

We passed through a couple of other rooms before we went upstairs. We didn’t take the grand staircase, but an alternate staircase the family and guests use. The bedrooms that were open to the tour were good-sized and furnished as they were 100 years ago. Most of the bedrooms from the series were shown. We learned that the house bedrooms were used for filming for the first couple of seasons but eventually were duplicated in a studio for the later years. Sue and I commented on the smell of the rooms – not a dank smell – perhaps just that they were old. Some had full bathrooms and others just a sink. Our favorite was Pamuk’s red bedroom.

We could look over the gallery balcony, from the bedroom floor, to the open lobby room, then we walked down the main staircase to the first floor saloon that is open to the skylight above. We stayed here to take it all in. It must have been very impressive to anyone who entered the home, and a unique feature as well.

The home tour was complete. We now went downstairs to visit the Egyptian portion of the tour. George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon was an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist who participated and also funded the King Tut discovery. On display were some of the original items that remained in the family after a majority were sold to pay for the death taxes of the 5th Earl. Another room contained replicas of several items from the King Tut expedition.

After some tea we explored the parklands and gardens that surround the house. We walked through several hidden gardens and down tree-lines paths. Everything was in perfect condition. We walked up to the “folly” that was used several times during the series – the Jackdaw’s Castle. Fun to take pictures from there. This folly can be seen by the house and from the folly the house is framed beautifully.

Jackdaw’s Castle

View to Highclere

Sue and Paula

We continued to walk around the house and we all agreed that it had been a long day. I wanted to take one more picture. The view of the castle from the opening of the show, with Lord Grantham and his dog, Isis.

Downton Abby Opening

When we got back to Newbury, we had to say good-bye to Sue who need to get back. It was a pleasure to meet her and thankful that Paula asked her to join us. We made a great travel team. Perhaps we can do this again!

Later, Paula and I went out for dinner then took an evening walk. We both agree that aside from visiting Highclere Castle, Newburg would be a great place to visit, shop, and relax. I took a picture of the canal.

We will be returning to London tomorrow. Perhaps we will get in another walk in the morning.


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