Everything you need to know about visiting Highclere Castle

highclere castle in highclere, hampshire, which is the set of downton abbey
A look inside Highclere CastleNIKLAS HALLE'N

For fans of Downton Abbey, majestic Highclere Castle will be instantly recognisable as the home of the aristocratic Crawley family. But for anyone who didn't watch the hugely popular television series, the Grade I listed house is still a must-visit, especially if you love historic architecture, wandering ornate gardens or a brisk stroll through the countryside.

Originally built in 1679, Highclere Castle underwent architectural renovations in the 1840s that resulted in its striking Jacobethan and Italianate style, which draws thousands of visitors each year.

The property, which you can visit on an exclusive tour with Good Housekeeping, sits on an estate that stretches 5,000 acres and comprises farmland, woodland, a park designed by renowned gardener Capability Brown in the 18th century and numerous landscaped gardens.

Where is Highclere Castle?

Highclere Castle is located in the village of Highclere in Hampshire, nestled in the rolling North Wessex Downs, a certified Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village is a great starting point for numerous scenic walks despite its proximity to the busy towns of Andover (approximately ten miles south) and Newbury (approximately five miles north, across the border in Berkshire).

Who owns Highclere Castle?

Highclere Castle is owned by Lord Carnarvon – George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon – and Lady Fiona Carnarvon (pictured below), who are also full-time residents.

hampshire, united kingdom april 07 aerial photograph of highclere castle, the offical residence of the earl of carnarvon on april 07, 2015 this jacobean style stately home was designed by sir charles barry, it is located 6 miles south of newbury highclere was also the location for the television programme downton abbey
David Goddard - Getty Images

The first written records of the Highclere estate date back to 749 AD, when the Bishops of Winchester were gifted it by an Anglo-Saxon king. It was Bishop William of Wykeham who first built a medieval palace and gardens on the site, before the property was rebuilt as Highclere Place House in 1679, after being purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer, the ancestor of Lord Carnarvon.

In 1842, architect Sir Charles Barry, who designed the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (better known as Big Ben), remodelled the house into Highclere Castle as it stands today.


Lord Carnarvon is heavily involved in the estate's farming business, while Lady Carnarvon is author to several books about Highclere and its former residents. Lady Carnarvon also has a podcast and blog based on her magnificent home, its involvement with Downtown Abbey and its behind-the-scenes workings.

lady fiona carnarvon, owner of highclere castle, poses for a photograph during a 1920's themed event at highclere castle, near newbury, west of london, on september 7, 2019, ahead of the world premiere of the downton abbey film highclere castle is the main set location of the british television series downton abbey, which has been turned into a film, and will premiere on september 9 in london photo by isabel infantes afp photo credit should read isabel infantesafp via getty images

What is there to see and do at Highclere Castle?

Visitors can enjoy both guided and self-guided tours inside the castle, taking in some of the main state rooms, bedrooms, the cellars and the old staff quarters, much of which will be recognisable to Downton fans.

The castle is also home to the Egyptian Exhibition, which tells the story of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon (Lord Carnarvon’s great grandfather) discovering King Tutankhamun’s tomb with archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922. The exhibition showcases real artefacts dug from the tomb along with some recreations, as well as items excavated by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon elsewhere around the world.

Outside, you can roam the sprawling parkland or explore the picturesque gardens, including a secret garden, wildflower meadow, the Wood of Goodwill, the Rose Arbour, and the aromatic Healing Herb garden.

How to visit Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle and its grounds are accessible mainly in spring and summer months (check their website for exact dates). During these times, it’s advised that entry and tours are pre-booked, however the estate does allow some walk-up visitors daily. They suggest calling ahead to check availability.

Throughout the rest of the year Highclere hosts a selection of ticketed events, from a history festival in autumn to carol evenings at Christmas. Visit Highclere Castle website for details of all upcoming events.

You can also visit Highclere on an exclusive visit with Good Housekeeping this year. You'll enjoy an unforgettable journey aboard the British Pullman, including a three-course brunch and dinner, to Highclere Castle for a talk with Lady Carnarvon and our Editor-in-Chief, Gaby Huddart.


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