A neo-Gothic masterpiece, Highclere Castle is best known for doubling as Downton Abbey in the much-loved TV series of the same name. The turreted, sandstone mansion was created by Sir Charles Barry, the architect behind England’s Houses of Parliament. The site upon which it stands has been in the hands of the Carnarvon family since the 17th century, and the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon now welcome the public to explore the lavishly decorated interior, the Egyptian Exhibition, and the 1,000-acre (405-hectare) Capability Brown–designed grounds.
Highclere is a popular day trip from London. You can go as part of a group tour by bus, in a small-group tour by minivan, or on a private tour by luxury vehicle or even black cab. Afternoon tea is offered in the castle’s tea rooms in the coach house, though you must book in advance. Some full-day tours from London incorporate stops at other Downton filming locations, such as the charming Cotswolds village of Bampton, which is used to portray Downton in the show. Other tours include non-Downton destinations such as Oxford, home to the esteemed university.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Day trips from London typically last between eight and 11 hours.
- Wear comfortable shoes and weather-appropriate clothes.
- Most organized tours include guided visits around the house.
- Most areas of the castle—namely the ground floor and the Egyptian Exhibition—are accessible to wheelchair users.
How to Get There
Trains from London Paddington station depart approximately every hour and bring passengers to Newbury station, situated about 5 miles (8 kilometers) north of the castle. From Newbury, it’s a 15-minute taxi ride to Highclere Castle. Newbury-bound National Express buses depart from London Victoria.
When to Get There
Highclere Castle is open to the public for about 65 days a year: for two weeks around Easter, during the two May bank holiday weekends, and from early July to early September. Entry is ticketed, with morning and afternoon time slots available. Tickets sell out quickly so be sure to book well in advance. Walk-up tickets are also sold at Highclere; arrive early to ensure you get one.
Special Events at Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle hosts various seasonal events throughout the year including special castle tours, concerts, and parties. During the holiday season, the estate is the setting for festive fairs and carol services. In summer, the castle’s events program includes garden parties, during which guests don period dress and enjoy picnics and Pimm’s on the grounds.