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Highclere Castle, in Hampshire, England, is the real Downton Abbey.nThe Jacobethan palace, built in 1679 and home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon is the Downton Abbey of the series and newly released film.
You will no doubt spot the red sofas in the drawing room where Dame Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham), held court, as well as the valuable Van Dyck painting of Charles I on the wall.
You can descend those dramatic staircases as if you were also attending a ball and peer into the scandalous bedrooms.
Special events come and go through the year, with Lady Carnarvon giving talks on subjects including the art and architecture of Highclere, plus evening cocktail events and galas. Lady Carnarvon has penned biographies of some of the real-life aristocratic residents of Highclere that inspired some of the Downton characters
At other times, you can also see the Carnarvons' curated Egyptian exhibition. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922 alongside Howard Carter.
Can I buy afternoon tea or a meal at Highclere Castle?
There's a fine tea room open from 9:30am during public opening times for morning coffees, teas and croissants made in the Castle kitchens.
Hot light lunches are available from 12noon until 2pm and a choice of light bites such and sandwiches and cream teas are available throughout the day.
You are welcome to enjoy a picnic in the gardens. Highclere Castle is the private family home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon and there is no access to the Estate, nor opportunity to see the Castle, outside of the events.
Is there a souvenir shop at Highclere Castle?
The Castle Gift Shop is open from 9.30am and offers a wide selection of gifts including stationery, bath products, chocolates, tea and biscuits, china mugs, books and souvenirs. You can buy a bottle of their premium dry London gin that has an image of Highclere Castle on the label.
For Downton souvenirs, you would need to go further afield to Bampton in Oxfordshire, which is used as Downton village in the series. There you will find an exhibit of photos, location maps and gifts. Profits go to local causes.
Highclere Castle is only open on selected dates.
Entrance tickets are available in the morning and afternoon.
There are also shuttle buses, with entrance ticket and return minibus transport included from Central London. Click here.
Here are the forthcoming dates.
Real Lives & Film Sets Guided Tours, Oct/Nov 2019
Behind the Scenes, Castle Tours & Afternoon Tea. 22/23/24 November
Lady Carnarvon's Christmas at Highclere Book Talk & Tours. 7/13 December
Christmas at Highclere: Various Dates in November and December 2019- Events include Christmas afternoon teas, and dining in the State Dining Room. Charles Dickens' great-great-grandson, Gerald Dickens, will read excerpts from A Christmas Carol. Book now.
Evening Tours, Champagne & Carols. 11/17 December
11, 12, 15 & 21 January, 2020 – special winter tours
23, 24 & 29 February, 2020 – special winter tours
14 February 2020 – special Valentine's evening reception
15 & 16 February, 2020 – special Valentine's Day celebration at Highclere
11-26 April, 2020
3-5 May, 2020
10-16 May, 2020 – "Living in a Castle", a special event at Highclere
24-26 May, 2020
12-31 July, 2020, except on Fridays and Saturdays
August 2020 – open every day except on Fridays and Saturdays
1-3 & 6-8 September, 2020
Not usually inside the castle except that on Oct 1 it is first in best dressed as Airbnb is opening up a one night stay there for Nov 25th. For $159 some lucky person/couple gets an overnight stay and cocktails with the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Click here.
There are also a couple of lodges on the property where guests can stay. Click here.