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Highclere Castle

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The Highclere Castle is not only a must-see for all fans of Downtown Abbey - after all, this is the country home used as the setting for the famous TV series. However, it’s also a family home for the Earls of Carnarvon and houses centuries of history, which makes it an equally impressive visit for anyone interested in the lives of real British aristocracy!

The castle is only open on selected days throughout the year, and tickets sell out well in advance, so book ahead to secure your place.
Klaus KainzBy Klaus Kainz
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Guided Tours

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Private Downton Abbey with Castle Taxi Tour
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Private Fairytale Castle Tour: Windsor and Highclere, Windsor and Arundel
 
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Specials

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Private Round Trip Transfer : Heathrow or London to Highclere Castle
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5 Tips for Visiting the Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle | Flickr: Richard Munckton CC BY 2.0
1
The castle is a private home and is only open on a limited number of days throughout the year. Double-check the dates of your visit to make sure the castle is definitely open and avoid disappointment.
Highclere Castle | Flickr: Andrew Stawarz CC BY-ND 2.0
2
The castle isn’t the easiest location to get to via public transport, but many providers offer day trips including transportation. If you’d rather not rent a car, then that might be the best option for you.
3
Tickets to seasonal events, especially those around Christmas, sell out well in advance, so book as early as you can!
4
Remember that the castle is the home of the Earl of Carnarvon and his family: follow the rules about photography and stick to the marked paths through the house and gardens.
5
Depending on the season, you can also book seats for the Afternoon Tea menu. However, only adults are allowed during the meal.
Highclere Castle | Richard Munckton CC BY 2.0

The real history behind Downtown Abbey’s Highclere Castle

Although Highclere Castle became famous through the hit TV show Downton Abbey - a fictional drama about English aristocrats - it also very much houses lots of factual history, some of which might surprise you.

What is Highclere Castle?

Highclere Castle is a country house currently owned by the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, who lives there with his wife, the Countess of Carnarvon. The property was originally the site of the palace of the Bishops of Winchester and was recorded in the Domesday Book. It was bought by Sir Robert Sawyer, Attorney General to Charles II and James II, in 1679, and his descendants still own the castle to this day.

The style of the castle

The current castle is built in the Jacobethan style by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament in London. Although the style was applied in the 19th century, the goal was to make the castle seem as though it had been built in the late 16th century. The interior of the castle features a range of furniture and artwork collected over the many generations who resided there, while several rooms are distinctive for their Victorian style.

What is Downtown Abbey about?

Certainly the castle received its biggest fame after it became the backdrop for Downton Abbey. The TV series was a hugely popular period drama, running between 2010 and 2015. It featured the story of a fictional aristocratic family, the Crawleys, who are heirs of the Earls of Grantham, and their servants. Six seasons covered the period from the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, through the First World War, until the final season in 1925. 2019 also saw the release of a movie adaptation that picks up the story in 1927. Highclere Castle featured as the exterior of Downton Abbey, and the great hall, library, music room, drawing room, saloon, and dining room, in addition to several of the bedrooms, were used as filming locations.

Other movie projects

The Downton Abbey TV and movie projects have now wrapped filming, but the castle has also been used for other projects over the years, including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Agatha Christie’s Marple, and Jeeves and Wooster. There’s no guarantee that a future film or TV project won’t disturb visiting times, but details should be available on the castle’s website well in advance.

Egyptian Exhibition

Surprisingly enough, Highclere Castle is also worth a visit for fans of Ancient Egypt. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was a keen amateur Egyptologist and in 1922 he sponsored a dig that led to the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. While most of King Tut’s finery is on display in Egypt, the Egyptian exhibition here showcases a number of interesting artworks and artifacts from Lord Carnarvon’s collection, including some pieces which had previously been on display in the British Museum. There are also replicas of items from Tutankhamun’s tomb.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I take photos inside?

Photography is not permitted inside Highclere Castle or the Egyptian Exhibition, but you can feel free to take photographs when exploring the gardens. Drones are not allowed anywhere on the property. Read more.

Is the Highclere Castle accessible for disabled visitors?

Yes. Tickets for carers are free, as long as you book tickets for disabled people specifically. For Afternoon Tea, there is a special table prepared for disabled people. Read more.

Can I buy food at the castle?

If you visit during a public season, you will likely also be able to book an Afternoon Tea session. Read more.

General Information

Opening Hours:

The castle is a private home and is only open to the public on certain dates and times throughout the year. There are special Christmas tours, winter tours, Valentine’s and Mother’s Day events, and themed tours in April, May and in September. There is also a longer opening period in Summer (Summer Public Opening). The castle at this time is open to the public on Sundays to Thursdays between July 9 and September 4, 2023. During the summer opening, you will need to choose between morning, midday or afternoon tickets. On these days, the castle closes at 5 pm and the estate at 5:30 pm.

Address:

Highclere Castle
Highclere Park
Highclere
Newbury
RG20 9RN

COVID-19 measures:

There’s no specific covid rules you must follow as of the British government. However, if you visit the Highclere Castle via public transport, be sure to follow the rules set by the travel provider.

Tickets:

Ticket and tour prices may vary depending on the date and event chosen. During both the summer public opening season and spring public opening, tickets for a combination of the exhibition, gardens and the castle and gardens cost £29 for adults, £26.50 for over-60s, students, and £25.50 disabled visitors, and £16 for children aged 4 to 16. Tickets for only the castle and gardens cost £22.50 for adults, £21 for over-60s, students, and £19 disabled visitors, and £14 for children aged 4 to 16. Disabled visitors can bring a companion free of charge, and children under the age of 4 can visit free of charge.

How to get there:

Highclere Castle isn’t easy to visit via public transport but it is possible with a bit of forward planning. Trains from London Paddington will take you to Newbury station, which is a 15-minute taxi ride away from the castle. Alternatively, trains from London Waterloo stop at Andover, which is a 20-minute taxi ride away from the castle. Car parking is available on-site if you’d prefer to drive.
Klaus Kainz
Written byKlaus KainzAs a studied historian, Klaus is not only interested in historical sights, but also in their fascinating backgrounds. For TicketLens, he gets to the heart of the most interesting information about attractions and travel destinations.
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