Extra: Downton Abbey up close and personal

I could not let a headache get in the way of a slice of investigative reporting, could I?

And so this morning we trailed off to Highclere Castle, to inspect Downton Abbey- or its location –  at close quarters.

I shall skim graciously over the fact that Highclere, unlike The National Trust, English Heritage, The British Museum and countless other institutions, do not allow photographers to snap to their hearts delight inside the castle.

So I shall have to use words to describe the interior, in a post tomorrow morning: screens are still a little challenging today.

But I can bring the exterior – and its stunning gardens –  to you this very moment.

Highclere, Downton, what you will – is a Hampshire palace, noted in the Domesday book, initially a site of another of those Winchester Bishop’s palaces which pepper the south of England, owned by the Carnarvon family since 1679.

If it looks like a little bit of Westminster, that will be because Sir Charles Barry remodelled Highclere after he had finished the new Houses of Parliament.

It is extravagant, and flamboyant, with four hundred years of lavish artefacts and stunning portraits, and a stash of Egyptian wonders plundered from the Fifth Earl’s partnership with Howard Carter. The pair, you will remember, discovered Tutankhamun’s tomb.

But most of all, you will recognise the exterior well. As a beloved, if fictional friend.

For this – even on a cloudy British Summer day with a few spots of rain – is Downton Abbey.

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43 thoughts on “Extra: Downton Abbey up close and personal

    1. Hi Possum 🙂 Glad it hit the spot. I was not able to try out any of the tea shops or restaurants – we had bought a picnic – but they all looked a little subterranean to me.

      My fingers were itching as I walked around with a loaded Nikon, I can tell you….

      1. Pity you weren’t in blissful ignorance as I was in one of the Scottish castles. I filled my boots with snapshots, and only noticed the stern notices prohibiting such practice on my way out. ‘Oh dear,’ I said to myself. ‘How do you unclick this thing?’ 🙂

  1. Wonderful! The place seems stunning. How many follies are there?

    I am really sorry to hear that you couldn’t go snap-happy inside, but I’m sure your words will do a great job. Meanwhile I hope headaches and any other such annoyances go away fast!

    1. There are quite a few follies, Col, as you would expect: couldn’t let Stourhead get ahead, now, could we? Capability designed the gardens.I think there are four, though I will stand corrected: Jackdaw’s castle, built by Robert Herbert in 1743, and Etruscan temple edging on woodland to the south west of the castle, the temple of Diana (1750, but Barry altered it) and a thing called Heaven’s Gate – have a look here for pix: http://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/about-us/the-park-and-the-follies.html

  2. Love the shot through the red brick arch into the garden and house beyond. Very emotive – Secret Garden and all that.

  3. The fact that you’re doing anything at all with a migraine is a miracle. I’m down for the count when one of those things hits me.

    Theses photos are stunning. It’s so cool to see it aside from the tv show.

  4. Aww . . . I had hoped that the headache would have vacated the premises before you went on your Abbey jaunt.

    A question . . . the round outbuilding, with the wrap around portico . . . what’s the purpose of it? It’s like a gazebo with a solid center, so I’m guessing it’s not to catch windward breezes while resting in the shade.

    And it’s far to big to be an outhouse . . . but that solid center looks to be sheltering something.

    1. That is the Temple of Diana, on the hills a way off from the castle, Nancy. We discovered it on the way out. It was built in 1750 but altered in the mid 19th century by Barry. You can find the National Monuments Record here: http://www.pastscape.org/hob.aspx?hob_id=233360

      English landowners saw follies scattered round gardens as a sign of taste and affluence. They were artfully placed to give the impression – as Capability Brown’s landscapes did – of a living, pastoral scene, full of beauty and grace.

  5. Lovely photos. Your colors are always terrific.

    About that throbbing noggin of yours, if WordPress gave Purple Hearts to bloggers, you’d get one today. All I’d want is silence and a dark room if my head was pounding.

    1. Go ahead, Charlie: but watch out for the ticket prices and the fact that under no circumstances are they transferrable! I lost £30 when I double booked my visit with the Olympics…worth a look, though….

    1. These days most places are quite amenable provided we don’t use flash, IE…it tends to be the way I remember stuff I see and love. I’ll write about it later, but the pic is an aide-memoir. So it was quite difficult – I had to potter round taking copious notes!!

      1. I’m sure the NT never used to because that’s why I can’t remember any of the places I once visited! I need those aide-memoirs too. Notes, hm. I’ll bear that in mind. 🙂

  6. I get frustrated with the “no photo” rules all the time! But even seeing the exterior is so much fun! As you must know, there are thousands of us expectantly waiting for the third season and growing more and more eager to see what happens next! I love the setting, and this is a wonderful treat! Thank you for thinking of us. 🙂 You never disappoint! Debra

  7. Magnificent! It must have felt kind of strange walking round the grounds after seeing so much of the place in the TV series – like you’d been there already!

    1. My husband is the main Downton fanbase in the house, Barb: me, I just enjoy the yarn. I did not get to see any of the servants rooms, which I would have loved. So much of the storyline goes on up there…

  8. Oh, Kate, head pounding all all, there you are, off on an adventure and posting as well. Thank you. Your photos of Highclere are fabulous – as will be your description of Downton Abbey. A tale of two castles. tee hee

    1. I am so visual, Tandy, it throws me completely. I don’t take notes, but use photos as my aide-memoirs, snapping labels and all sorts. Howsomever, I went back to taking old-fashioned notes, just this once…

    1. It’s a stiff drive up the M4, Carrie, and I’m £20 quid lighter….but there it stands. When you have been part of the aristocracy for centuries I guess you can make a very nice place to live in indeed.

  9. Fabulous, fabulous photos, Kate. I’m intrigued by the significance of the leg in the mouth of the wolf/boar (? can’t work out which) Do you know why it is modeled that way?

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