On the 21st of August 2014 Lady Katherine and her Mother, the Countess of Londonderry paid a visit to Downton abbey in Berkshire….
Walking down the long gravel driveway to Highclere castle was just like stepping into a dream, or more specifically, an episode of the hit BBC period drama Downton Abbey. I must admit that when I agreed to visit this wonderful house with my mum I felt like a bit of a fraud as I wasn’t as much of a die hard fan as she was, having only seen the odd Christmas special. Since visiting Highclere however I have been watching the boxsets on repeat and am already on series three!
Highclere castle is situated just an hour outside of London so we caught the train to Newbury and then a taxi took us the extra few miles to the house itself. The taxi driver was very well informed and told us that he had on occasion given a lift to Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) himself a few times.
There was plenty of time for pictures as we had to wait until the afternoon session began to enter the house. Once we got inside there was a very relaxed atmosphere and we were able to walk freely from room to room with very little being cordoned off and friendly guides were scattered about in case we had any questions. Naturally many people were asking about the filming of Downton and it was interesting to know that camera angles and the repositioning of furniture plays a huge part in altering the version of Highclere which we see on screen. Most of the series is filmed at Highclere but all of the downstairs scenes are set in Ealing studios. What I also found interesting is that Highclere castle is still a family home and is lived in by the current Lord and Lady Carnavon and their children, of whom photgraphs can be seen around the house.
Every room in Highclere is charming and has its own character but the most impressive part of the house is definitely the central hall which is overlooked by the stone balustrade on the first floor. I also loved walking down the main staircase and allowed myself to imagine for a moment that I really was Lady Katherine, and the year was 1920.
After we visited the house we took a look at the Egyptian exhibition. It is now the 100th anniversary of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb which was realised by the 5th Earl of Carnavon and his colleague Howard Carter and many of the genuine Egyptain artefacts which Lord Carnavon both discovered and purchased are on display. I found this part of our visit extremely fascinating and would recommend it to anyone who is thinking of visiting Highclere.
To conclude, Highclere is one of the most elegant, charming and grand stately homes I have ever visited, both inside and out and as the Dowager Grantham (Maggie Smith) said “The truth is neither here nor there. It’s the look of the thing that matters”