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.

Radio Highclere

Walking through the Castle in the morning, on my way to the office, I listen to a muted broadcast of familiar voices. I pass Robert and Les’s voices in the security office, turn along a short corridor and go into the kitchen. This is ostensibly to see how Paul and his team are doing.  However there just might be the off- chance of a croissant as I pass by.

If I am indeed lucky, then with a squawk of delight, I head towards Pat’s temporary office. He currently shares what was (and will be again once the Estate Offices are completed) [...]
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Ab ovo usque ad mala

We have now reached the end of the shooting season here at Highclere: in this case “game” shooting rather than “film” shooting, a difference which, in the recent past, caused many a “lost in translation” moments in our conversations with the Downton team.

This year the shooting season has been characterised above all by rain, and these last few days have seen biblical downpours. I think I have gained brownie points for increased skills with cross country driving and last weekend slid and bumped my way around the estate with passengers who were hugely grateful that they did not have to [...]
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Cars to Apps

Since the times of Highclere’s first written records somewhere around mid 700 AD, Highclere has been involved in a myriad variety of businesses reflecting the interests of the times. From the more traditional pursuits of agriculture,  forestry and sawmills and tile making we have moved on to planes, cars, TV, media, books and now even an App. Millions of people enjoy Downton Abbey so much, yet the stories and short episodes are just the tip of the “Real Downton’s” iceberg. It is a bigger and, to my eyes, even more beautiful Castle and landscape with quirky corners and perhaps it is [...]
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New Year at Highclere

New Years’ Eve found about 30 or 40 of us gathered together at Highclere to dance and dine our way through to 2016. My parents were not particularly bothered and did not always stay up to see the New Year in which, as children, we always found rather disappointing. As a result I try to gather a good selection of friends together amidst laughter and Scottish reeling to mark the advent of another year.

I love reeling and organised many such evenings with various friends whilst at St Andrews University. If you combine that with being the eldest of six sisters [...]
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Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas!!

I thought I would simply share a few photographs of some of the projects we have taken forward over the past year.

We have repaired the floorboards, electrics and re-carpeted a wonderful corridor on the second floor of the south side of the Castle. It was a rainy day job for Pat Withers and her team in between other projects. One staircase from here leads to a Robing Room (photographed) whilst another leads up the Great Tower (yet to be carpeted but two landings and four rooms are finished on the first floor).

The Estate office is both a joy [...]
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The week before Christmas

 

For some reason, like many others, I think I have time on my side and will be ready and relaxed in time for Christmas. Once again the reality is somewhat different. There is a mass of presents nearly wrapped which, like the 12 days of Christmas, go round in circles on the floor in the Annexe: 12 car parkers, 11 for the Castle office, 10 in the estate office, 9 nieces and nephews, 8 gardeners and mowers, 7 keepers, 6 joiners, 5 sisters, 4 plumbers, 3 decorators, 2 electricians, and then at the end a husband and son. Then I [...]
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Christmas at Highclere

It is December so we have begun to decorate the Castle, the driveway leading from the gates to the front door, and the tearooms. Despite all the careful thought that goes into this, there is always something that doesn’t happen quite as planned.  The main one for us this year was the height of the tree. We ordered a 20ft Christmas tree but the one that arrived was 30ft. Even with my maths that is quite an increase. Ever optimistic however, with men helping and even more men watching, it was hoisted aloft. Sadly it then had to come back down [...]
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From Paris to Billiards.

Everyone at Highclere has been touched and heartbroken by the terrible tragedies that unfolded in Paris. The destruction and grief that has been continuing around the world in the wake of these endless attacks is awful as people live afraid, “strangers … in a world they never made” to quote A E Houseman. It is the merciless and random nature of the violence. At the same time, there have been some amazing moments of unity and kindnesses which it would be wonderful to “bottle”.  Let us hope they continue.

In between everyday life here at Highclere, I still find moments to [...]
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Winchester Lodge

The old approach to the Castle used to be from the south leading towards the ancient city of Winchester. There is a narrow pass under Siddown hill, with a steep hillside falling away and, as the land flattens, the entrance is marked by a lodge and gate, unsurprisingly called Winchester Lodge.

As usual it was in dire need of repair so it has been one of our projects over the last six or seven months. It is the same team of delightful stone masons who worked on an earlier lodge, led by Eric from Heritage Building Conservation.

My husband, Geordie, and I are getting quite good at [...]
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Texan Travels

I have just returned from Texas, a world away from Highclere but where I was met with such warm greetings from those who love Highclere (and Downton) that I immediately felt at home. My first port of call was Houston; 95˚C and not a cloud in sight. I was very fortunate to be invited to meet President George H. Bush and Mrs Barbara Bush at their home. There were some similarities in that Mrs Bush was about to mend a leaky roof and was most concerned and sympathetic about the extent of our leaky roofs!  She also loves dogs but [...]
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