The official website of the Countess of Carnarvon

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Welcome

Welcome to my blog, inviting you behind the scenes of my life and home and sharing anecdotes from my everyday life at Highclere Castle. The world of Highclere still exists with its own community of Chefs, Gardeners and Housekeepers, Colin the Butler and Jo the Groom as well as all the other people who make the ‘Real Downton Abbey’ a welcoming place for visitors today.

Public Opening at Highclere Castle

Downton finished filming a big scene last week and cleared out much of their kit of cables, lights and props so that we could prepare the Castle for the Easter public opening. It was still early when Charlie from the Downton props team scrunched in his white van, on the gravel underneath my window.  He came to remove the last of the various small outdoor props so we could replace with bins and signage.

Downstairs I could hear Diana, our Head Housekeeper, busy hovering away, I know that Ana and Chloe will arrive in the next hour and after their [...]
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Percy

 

Last week ended in misery because our beloved old yellow Labrador Percy died. I had bought him 12 years ago from a dear friend who lives across the fields from us. My sister Lucy decided he was the fattest and boldest in the litter so he would be the one for us. Christened Percy by my husband, this little bundle of fluff arrived and could almost fit in our hands.

I wanted our son Edward to grow up with a dog, to love him and be loved, someone to play with, sleep with and run with.  Percy was always there for [...]
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My Arab Mare

My Arab mare was lame (a stone had worked its way into her foot and caused an infection), so, she was confined to her stable for several days to rest it.  I have, nevertheless, taken her out for short walks around the gardens with the dogs. I always lead her with the rope head collar and long rope to which our wonderful local “horse whisperer” Gary Witheford has converted us.

I have learnt so much from watching Gary work with horses and ponies, from breaking them in to ride, or affirming different behaviour patterns in tricky horses.  I quite often explain [...]
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Game, Set and Coffee

Each day I try to take some sort of exercise, and Monday has become a favorite day of the week, because I start off at 9am playing tennis with three girlfriends. Despite the English climate we are usually lucky and continue in a little drizzle of rain, any more than that and we do have to retire for coffee because Sally, who runs the gift shop wears glasses which unfortunately do not have windscreen wipers. If the wind is blowing from the wrong direction and therefore across the court it is a very sporting game.

All the dogs watch us play. [...]
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Mud and Bricks

This morning the courtyard behind the Castle was unusually full of vans and cars as well as intermittent rain. There was a lot of activity with Steve the roofer and his team re-doing tiles and leaky roofs, as well as drippy gutters all while trying to fight the elements. The electricians were busy testing their works using space age style equipment with wires and lights flashing various colours. The plumbers are endlessly trying to solve a problem and following a labyrinth of pipes around the Castle and grounds.

I do my morning rounds to say hello to everyone and see how [...]
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My American Travels Continued….

 My book tour took me through Washington, a talk for St Andrew’s University, a tea for PBS and then to New York, just ahead of the snow each time. I swopped airflights for car journeys and have turned to walking on foot through New York. We have been staying at the Four Seasons with spectacular views over a snow dusted central park and Hudson river in the distance. The Four Seasons also have a hotel in Hampshire near Highclere and we try to accommodate tours for their guests when we can. It has been lovely to reverse it and be [...]
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My travels in America…

My travels in America began in Nashville, giving a talk in their amazing new convention centre to some 2,000 people. With new hotels and the feeling of energy and business, Nashville has other sides apart from the wonderful Honky Tonk street. Southern hospitality proved more than true and a whirlwind trip from old houses, such as Cheekwood to private  homes, much laughter in the evening preceded a too early start to travel towards Williamsburg.

Williamsburg was a revelation. I dined with Thomas Jefferson, rode in a carriage, walked through cold clear streets, through where the dreams and challenges of America began. [...]
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Downton Abbey in the USA

A question I am most often asked is why is Downton Abbey so successful?  If I knew the magic formula I would bottle it and keep it going for Highclere!

Downton is about a family, Highclere / Downton is where they both live and work. It is romantic, nostalgic, there are some great lines, engaging characters, and it clearly illustrates there are mean and kind people in all parts of life.  It has happy moments, the potential for love and yet the family has to grieve as well. There is little violence. Perhaps the ups and downs and bonds of a [...]
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Christmas

We alternate Christmas and New Year in the Castle, so this Christmas we are in Cornwall leaving Highclere for a few days safely in the hands of the home team. They may well patrol the corridors and galleries rather like the footman, Barrow, in Downton Abbey.  Around the Castle grounds they have found a number of tree limbs down and ducks swimming in ponds in the middle of the fields in the Park. Some shutters have forced open the windows due to the strength of the December winds, but we have been lucky, unlike so many people living in some parts of [...]
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Syrian Reflections

The cedars of Lebanon look magnificent and statuesque in winter: evergreen branches stretching against the stark brown trunks and branches, dusted with frost or snow. They are fascinating to photograph. They do not grow as tall in their original land of Lebanon where there is less water. There are also pockets of the cedars in Syria. It is easy to forget the higher cold plateaus of land in Syria, the snows cloaking the land and trees as they are doing now.

The catastrophe in Syria can be masked by the big political debates, but it is essentially a crisis for its [...]
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