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Beacon Hill, Hampshire

Home > United Kingdom > Free | Outdoor | Picnic Spots | School Holiday Activities | Walks
Published July 30th 2021
See Downton Abbey and Watership Down on the same walk
There are probably dozens of places called Beacon Hill in Britain. This one is near Burghclere in North Hampshire, and is known for its views of Watership Down and 'Downton Abbey'.

Red Kite hunting
A beautiful Red Kite

Beacon Hill is located right next to the A34 and is easy to find. It's a tough climb to reach the 261 metre peak, but the view is worth the effort.

There are several interesting things to see. When you reach the top, look back the way you've come, across the main road. In the distance, you can see Watership Down, the real place that inspired the novel by Richard Adams. Adams lived nearby in Whitchurch for most of his life, and all of the locations in the book are real places in the area.

Watership Down
Watership Down is the hill in front of the TV mast

Turn back towards the hilltop and you'll see a deep ditch in front of you. There was an Iron Age hillfort here around 3000 years ago, and you can still see the defences that were dug around the camp. Apparently, there were at least 2000 people living up here.

Beacon Hill iron age hillfort
Ditch and ramparts surrounding the fort

From the right-hand side of the hill, you'll see a large country house down below. This is Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey was filmed. It's possible to take a tour of many of the rooms that were seen in the TV show, although you normally have to book well in advance.

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) seen from Beacon Hill

On the far side of the hill, you'll find a grave surrounded by a fence. This is the resting place of Highclere's most famous resident, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon. Lord Carnarvon sponsored the expedition that found Tutankhamen's tomb, and he was with Howard Carter in 1922 when the treasure chamber was opened for the first time.

Grave of Lord Carnarvon
Lord Carnarvon's grave with Highclere Castle in the distance.

Highclere Castle has a famous Egyptology exhibition, which tells the story of the discovery.

While you're up here, look out for kestrels and red kites hunting in the fields below.

Kestrel hunting below the hill

When I last visited in July, there were also a lot of different butterflies checking out the wildflowers.

Marbled White butterfly
Marbled White butterfly

Overall, this is a great place to visit and I definitely recommend it.
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Why? To enjoy the view over the North Wessex Downs
When: Any time
Where: Signposted from the A34 northbound. Also signposted from Burghclere.
Cost: Free
Your Comment
It looks lovely Alan. I doubt that I will ever make it to Britain but its nice to see what is there outside of the highly publicised tourist spots.
by Gayle Beveridge (score: 3|9626) 176 days ago
Great article Alan. Most interesting and the area reeks history. I like the bird photos.
by nfoll (score: 1|68) 177 days ago
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