The official website of the Countess of Carnarvon


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.

Remembrance Sunday

Two global stories have been consistently in the press over the last few weeks; the first being the extraordinarily vivid poppy commemoration of the First World War around the Tower of London, capturing our imagination and hearts; the second being the current tragedy for millions of people in Syria.

Like many other people, we have helped raise money to support soldiers, and their families today both to remember those who have died, and to support those who live.  Like many others we have raised money as well for those charities working to give any aid they can to the desperate, to [...]
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Halloween at Highclere Castle

I have been writing about recipes at Highclere from our old books and letters and was thinking about this time of year, about all the pumpkins and of course Halloween. In actual fact, October 31st, “All Hallows Eve” or “Holy Day”, really began as an evening to give comfort, to reflect on those who have died and to remember them. In my imagination, however, Halloween is about ghosts, shrouded figures and disturbed souls rather than those at peace. Working alone at the top of the Castle in the archive room and remembering all the ghostly tales I abandoned trying to [...]
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No Mercy

I have recently decorated Mercia bedroom here at Highclere Castle. It is a lovely bedroom looking south, so when you open the shutters in the morning, the views are glorious across the lawns, to the russet coloured woodlands of Sidown Hill,  with the arch of  the folly Heaven’s Gate at the top.

It has an 18th century four-poster bed with beautiful silk embroideries. The room used to be a bit of a shiny cold blue, which worked better on TV rather than in real life. Downton choose it for Lord and Lady Grantham’s bedroom.

The curtains in Mercia were, however, disintegrating; they [...]
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Harvest Festival

Last Sunday we celebrated the Harvest Festival at Highclere Church. It is traditionally held on the Sunday nearest the full moon following the Autumn Equinox (the latter being towards the end of September). So it was a pagan festival acquired by the church……it is however a beautiful time of year, one of  “mists and mellow fruitfulness” and one in which to take stock of what we have successfully stored in the barns  for the coming months.

We operate an in-hand farm here at Highclere growing wheat, barley, oats, linseed, oil seed rape, haylage and of course sheep (and about 3000 lambs) [...]
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Inter-connecting Doors

Downton seemed to be full of action last Sunday. Different threads of the story and characters were exploring potential relationships whether old or young. The 1920’s seemed in retrospect an era of glamour and daring, un-chaperoned parties, treasure hunts in cars, exciting meetings in smoky nightclubs, and of course opportunities for flirtations and liaisons at weekend house parties.

The visitors’ bedrooms around the gallery at Highclere have a series of inter-connecting doors. Whilst the Downton actors come in and out of our rooms onto the gallery landing in “Downton” there would in fact have really been no such need in real [...]
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Autumn at Highclere

We have just closed to general visitors for the summer.  So for once Highclere is quiet ,and everyone has the weekend off before we prepare for an Autumn of tours, lunches, shoots, charity runs, a car rally, a conference or wedding and so forth. Luis, one of our banqueting managers, is in France playing golf and tasting champagne (on my behalf). It sounds good. Jorge has returned to Portugal, Jo is looking for a horse for me, Sid is not on his digger, but instead he is fishing and so on.

Our guides gathered for tea on their last day, about [...]
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Sunday Cricket

We have just played the last cricket match of this year on a lovely warm day and Highclere won which was exciting and fun. To be honest it was slightly unusual as we had lost most of the matches this season, sometimes when we thought we had nearly won too. I am trying to concisely explain cricket in a few paragraphs for my next book.

As children, my sisters and I always found the fielding names [...]
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I am sure you will have read in the newspapers over the last week, of the great fire that is set to blaze through “Downton Abbey” in the opening episode.

We had obviously been aware of this story line when they were filming it here, and careful with what we could achieve here and what could be achieved in Ealing Studios, as Highclere Castle has suffered enough of its own fires.

The first one was 150 years ago in the North Library, if you look closely at the gilded ceiling when you are watching the TV series you will see that  it is far [...]
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Thank You To Everyone

Thank you to everyone who came to Highclere on Sunday 3rd August. We have had such lovely e-mails, letters and reports from the charities of generosity from the guests who came.

It was the following day, August 4th, 100 years ago that we declared we were at war with Germany. The peacemakers of Europe had lost their battle and somehow thousands of similar men who might have played in concerts, travelled together and of course played football together were stuck in opposing trenches.  The football match here was a draw and the footballers were excellent sports to play on an imperfect [...]
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Marvellous Men In These Flying Machines







Julian Fellowes set the first episode of Downton just over 100 years ago.  The early 20th Century began  to lay the technological foundations for  all the modes of travel, the shopping, the civil rights and above all the gadgets on which we rely on (without thinking) today.

Horses for riding or carriages were being replaced with the horsepower of early cars.  Women’s clothes became less restrictive and in the 1920’s somewhat shorter than fashion had permitted in any preceding years. Aviation was beginning. In fact, the first flight in England was made by Geoffrey de Havilland from Highclere in September 1910.  [...]
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