Some of you might be aware that I am an addict to BBC’s show Downton Abbey so spending an afternoon at Highclere Castle was something I have been looking forward to for months since I booked the tickets. So, after leaving Bath and heading to Stonehenge, we spent the evening before our visit in the small village of Newbury at a pub and lodge slightly more than a mile from the castle.
As our appointment for tea was not until the afternoon, we decided to do something that I know my grandson will enjoy for the day as Highclere is not his cup of tea (pun intended). So off to Bucklebury Farm & Deer Safari Park. As the area had rain for the past several days, everywhere we walked was muddy and we did not have the benefit of a staple in the English wardrobe, Wellies. When buying tickets, we were told that the tractors were not running up to the fields with the deer because of the mud, so seeing the deer safari was off the agenda for today but we can still see the farm animals, so off to the barn and pastures close. The farm has the standard array of animals such as chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, donkeys, and even a few alpacas. Having bought small bags of food to feed the hoofed animals, we started our muddy journey for my grandson to pet as many animals as possible. After a quick lunch there and animal petting handled, it is time to leave for Highclere Castle. As we had ‘dressed up’ for the visit to the castle, and my grandson’ shoes and pants now covered in mud, there is a quick change for my grandson before head to tea.
We arrived, like I try to arrive everywhere, early which gave us time to walk around the castle and me to have a cappuccino to warm up for a cold and winding day. What beautiful grounds surround a magnificent building! Sitting on approximately 1000 acres, the estate is the setting of BBC show that aired for six seasons in the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and Canada. I am one of those viewers having seen every episode and every movie to date only wishing for more, so I was really looking forward to our visit. When it was time to line up for entrance and to start of tour, we were greeted by the current Countess of the castle, Lady Fiona Carnarvon. The Countess spoke to us about the family’s working of the land, not only the 1000+ acres they own, but an additional 4000 acres, and the importance of working to save the environment for future generations. It was nice to see that even the fortunate care about the future.
Our tour was lead through approximately two dozen of the 300 rooms with the history of the family and the house being told to us as we walked through. As the castle is a private home, no photography was not allowed so any pictures of the interior will have to be seen on the internet or by watching Downton Abbey. One of the things that struck me and was nice to see was in the same room with portraits hundreds of years old on the walls were pictures of the current Count and Countess and their family on the furniture. I have to say that the rooms we toured that I recognized from the TV show looked smaller than on the show. I guess television puts 10 pounds on a person and 200 sq. ft. on a room. After a quick gluten free tea plate, my grandson ate none of his plate, we went back to the gift shop to pick up our complimentary autographed books by the Countess and back to London for the next couple of days. See you in London!