For those of you who are – just like me (and really, that’s just me, not speaking for the both of us this time ;)) head over heels with the British drama television series Downton Abbey, should book a trip to England right now. Only a 2 hour drive away from London you’ll find the castle that sets the background for all the personal stories of the Crawley family: Highclere Castle. And luckily for us, the family that’s currently in residence opens up their impressive home and gardens to visitors during the summer months. Say hi to the Dowager Duchess for me!
I’m a sucker for costume drama and Downton Abbey is definitely my all-time favourite. When I discovered the castle exists for real and you can visit it, I went ahead and booked my trip to Highclere Castle. And while you’re going there, why not combine it with some of the other highlights South England has to offer? Destinations such as Stonehenge, Oxford or Brighton are not that far away and make for a perfect roadtrip. Ready for a ride?
It’s the series come alive!
Driving up the domain already makes for an unforgettable experience: after a short ride through the lush green landscape where white sheep are grazing (how English can it get, right?), the castle looms up in front of you. When you walk up the path leading towards the entrance, you can really see the characters of Downton Abbey come alive.
Highclere Castle is still (partly) home to the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his family, who open up a big part of the castle for the public during the summer months and other short periods during the year. You can marvel at the beautiful parlours, dining room, library and sleeping rooms, everything decorated like we know it from the series. Don’t miss out on the gardens surrounding the castle. They are perfectly taken care of, and offer a view on the majestic castle from almost every corner of the domain. The image of the building with its Gothic turrets will without any doubt make an impression.
Practical information about Highclere Castle
When to visit
Highclere Castle opens its doors during the months of July and August, and on some specific days during spring. You can check availability through the website of Highclere Castle. Don’t wait too long to book your tickets just to make sure you’ll get in on the date of your choice. On the day itself, you might be able to score some tickets at the counter, but you don’t want to take the risk of not getting in after driving all the way up there, I reckon. You’ll have access to the castle itself only at the time listed on your ticket, but there’s unlimited access to the surrounding gardens.
How to get there
Highclere Castle is set in the county of Hampshire, south of Newbury. From Ghent, it’ll take you up to 2 hours to get to Calais, from where you and your car can mount the train. Crossing the channel only takes up 35 minutes of your time, dropping you off at Folkestone. From there, it’s another 205 kilometers or a 2,5 hours drive to get to Highclere Castle. Once you’re reaching the castle region, signs will easily get you to the entrance of the domain. And driving on the wrong side of the road isn’t too bad by the way 😉
Where to sleep near Highclere Castle
I’d definitely recommend staying at The Yew Tree Inn, a cosy inn in Highclere, located only 5 minutes away from the castle. The rooms are cosy and nicely decorated, just what you’d expect from a night at the chique English countryside. Downstairs, you’ll find the pub and restaurant where they serve delicious food and good drinks at the bar.