Sunday, January 31, 2021 10:31 AM by Jens
British upper class, an Egyptian pharaoh and a curse, fantastic English series, afternoon tea and a little nap in the shade of the trees. A visit to Highclere Castle in Hampshire, United Kingdom holds many surprises.
Along the small English roads In Hampshire, Highclere Castle suddenly and majestically appears behind the trees. I sit with the same feeling in my stomach as Charles Ryder in Evelyn Waugh's time picture Brideshead Revisited. Like Charles, one feels an enormous fascination with the English upper class, but that one does not quite belong.
And yet not, for Highclere Castle is best known as the location of Julian Fellowes Downton Abbey.
And where the atmosphere is gloomy at Brideshead, yes, there is probably upstairs and downstairs at Downton Abbey, but also an underlying sense of togetherness and "feel good" atmosphere.
And it is with those eyes that I meet Highclere.
It is a pleasure to walk the last stretch up towards the castle itself. With its 4 corner towers and central main tower, it stands majestically on a small elevation. With idyllic views of fields with grazing sheep and the castle's own forests lies the castle. I am always amazed at how the landscape planners of the time managed to make the castle blend harmoniously into its surroundings.
And if you think sandstone, gothic ornamentation - where have I seen it before - well then it's good enough.
The English architect Charles Barry designed both Highclere Castle and the Parliament Building in London.
The castle is the residence of the Earl of Carnarvon and has been since 1679. Right now it is the 8th Earl of Carvarnon and his wife who inhabits the castle. It is i.a. their merit that the castle is now a world famous tourist attraction.
If you, like me, have followed Downton Abbey, it is a special experience to come inside the castle. It is fun, first to walk through the front door into the great hall, to walk through the large living rooms and visit some of the rooms upstairs. The talk goes fast, it was not here that this or that happened in the series. One almost expects to bump into Carson, Lord Grantham or one of the many other characters from the series on the way around the castle.
The interior of the castle is easily recognizable from the series, but there are also small signs that the castle is home to the current Jarl. Here are recent paperbacks on the side tables of the beds and photographs of the current Jarl and his family on the walls.
If you, like me, love Egyptology, Highclere is a little gem. The story of George Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (1866-1923), is fascinating. After a serious car accident, he went to Egypt on recreation. Here he fell in love with Egyptology and financed part of Howard Carter's excavations in the Thebes area near Luxor, among others. in the Valley of the Kings. So when Tuthankhamon's tomb was discovered by Howard Carter, yes, the 5th Earl was standing with his daughter on the first floor when the tomb was opened.
The whole story of the 5th Jarls fascination with Egyptology can be found as an exciting exhibition in the castle's basement. Here is a replica of many of the known finds from Tutankhamun's tomb and the Earl's own Egyptian collection - which was found in cupboards between 2 double doors on the ground floor back in 1987.
The 5th Earl died in Egypt In 1923 - just a few months after the opening of Tuthankhamon's tomb and it spawned the stories of the eternal curse from the Valley of the Kings.
At Higclere you can get a completely traditional English afternoon tea - after noon tea. I would have loved to have it at the castle itself, but here you have to settle for the so-called "coach house" behind the castle. In return, it is good. Small delicious finger sandwiches with cucumber, salmon, eggs, coriander chicken and delicious dressings. Scones with butter and strawberry jam, mini shortbread with vanilla cream, chocolate and passion pie and carrot cake with ginger. In addition, tea of a good quality and of course a small glass of Highcleres champagne (which is a Perrier Cuvee Royal I disguise).
After Afternoon tea, you need to beat your stomach. The park around Highclere is fortunately quite large and it is easy to find a tree where you doze off a bit. Choose a tree with pleasant shade and views of the forests and the old golf course or the grazing sheep - it gives peace.
In the park itself there is also an actual garden with flowers and beautiful trees. On a late afternoon In the English summer it is a nice walk to end the visit to Highclere. Close your eyes and you can almost feel the vest, tweed jacket and sixpence on your head.
Highclere is located approx. an hour west of London by car at the town of Newbury in Hampshire. Heathrow Airport is 80 km away.
Highclere Castle is ideally located for a round trip west of London, where you, among other things can visit Windsor Castle, Churchills Blenheim and Oxford.
By 2021, it will cost £ 24 for adults and £ 14 for children to visit Highclere. The ticket gives access to the castle, garden and the Egyptian exhibition. Tickets with only access to the castle and garden or Egyptian exhibition cost £ 17 for adults and £ 11 for children.
Afternoon tea in "the Coach House" costs £ 35 per person.
Highclere has a great website with lots of inspiration. Here you can find all opening hours and more information about the castle itself, accommodation at the castle's own Lodges, the Carnarvon family, events and tickets.
I would definitely recommend a visit during the summer months, when the park and garden are most beautiful. If possible, visit the castle on a weekday - there are fewer visitors.
You can stay at the Highclere Estates Lodge which belongs to the castle. You can read more about these accommodation options on the castle's own website.
In the area around Newbury, Hampshire there are plenty of accommodation options. Here you can stay cheap at Motels like Days Inn and Travelodge or choose one of the many inns in the area. I have stayed at Hare and Hounds which is a really nice country inn with a good and very traditional pub and restaurant.
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