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.

Puppy Love

In some outhouses behind the Castle are three little shiny snub nosed spaniel puppies.  The first few months of life are just entrancing and the office team who work with us here at Highclere sit on chairs carefully brought in around the whelping box, happily continuing with phone calls whilst holding puppies.

The first one, a little girl, was born on a sofa in the Castle, 4 or 5 of us sitting quietly around Clemmie, the mother, trying to be supportive. Isabella, whose father Luis works with us, was there watching, an unforgettable story for her friends at school.  It was [...]
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My Herb Garden

Highclere’s gardens lie to the south-east of the Castle. To reach them you walk along a curving gravel path past an old spreading cedar tree with a metal seat under it. Round the corner you see the charming flint and brick arches of the west wall of the Monk’s Garden. For the last 12 years the gardens have been a much-loved preoccupation for Geordie and myself. We have extended them considerably: developing the White Border begun by my parents-in-law; creating our Wood of Goodwill, the Six Sisters’ Walk and the Rose Arbor in memory of my mother; planting thousands of [...]
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Skep to Hive

Driving back through the Park to the Castle from a yoga class one morning, I had my car window down just to enjoy all the scents of the summer trees, the limes, faint azaleas, even just the fresh leaves and strong young growth of shrubs.

To my surprise I found Mike Withers standing still underneath an oak tree by the road.  Mike and his wife Pat are our decorating team. In fact Pat has been decorating here for over 55 years, and her father before her. However they also keep bee hives and we then sell the honey they produce on [...]
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It was the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon who, in 1838, commissioned architect Charles Barry to transform the Georgian House he had inherited at Highclere into a spectacular Italianate Castle. Agreement was reached and the ceremony to inaugurate the beginning of the work with the laying of the first stone at the base of great tower took place in 1842.

In pursuit of various researches, I have been gathering together Barry’s letters and drawings. The ones of Highclere are beautiful and the building is an extraordinary achievement from the pre-eminent architect of the day.

Highclere has a very similar intricate silhouette to the [...]
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It’s all Cricket

During the summer we host about twelve cricket matches on one of the prettiest grounds in the country here at Highclere. (A little bit of bias perhaps on my part!) Downton Abbey used it as the setting for the finale of the third series which was fun for us but rather stressful for Thomas the footman at that point in the story.

My father-in-law thoroughly enjoyed the cricket, playing first of all and then, later in life, captaining the team vigorously from the side lines.  Now my husband plays and also gets terribly annoyed if we lose. Thank goodness we won [...]
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Winnie Wins a Certificate

Early this year the magazine “Country Life” ran a competition to find the naughtiest dog. I thought we should enter. The only problem was which of our dogs we should choose! Since Winnie (named for Winston Churchill, his sister is called Clemmie) had just taken himself off on yet another unscheduled saunter through the woods, I opted for him.

He is a working cocker spaniel convinced we all adore him, wrapping himself around my legs, crawling up into anyone’s lap who will have him and with a glorious enthusiasm for life. He is irrepressible, incorrigible and tireless.

I realised, however, that I [...]
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The Viking Star

We have just been to Bergen in Norway for the first time. There are many links between the UK and Norway. For example, the sharply defined wooded landscape and deep fjords are similar to the Scottish highlands and many Scots (I am one) share common ancestry. The traditions and passions of the UK and Norway are often derived from the long sea coasts and journeys of far flung exploration. The Vikings settled – eventually- in England and again were the Normans (the North men) who invaded in 1066.

The trip to Bergen was to follow a Viking boat (ship). It was [...]
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One name and one story.

Highclere has so many stories to find and, as ever, it is a question of looking in the right place.

During my research into the Second World War at Highclere, I discovered that quite a few planes had come down over the Estate. The pilots, navigators and airmen who died in the crashes were all somebody’s son: part of someone’s family with friends and a life not lived; most of them young Americans aged in their early twenties. My goal is to create a sculpture and memorial to them here in the gardens. But first I have to find who they [...]
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Keys to the Castle

Robert Taylor arrived as a footman at Highclere in 1937. One of the first entries in his diaries described following Smith the Butler, keys jangling, along the long length of the bottom corridor of the Castle to be shown the china cupboards: this set was for breakfast; the Bretby set for tea; the Chesterfield silver for dinner and so on. He was then given the keys. But that was just one cupboard and one set of (quite important) keys.

This propensity for keys continues today. Diana our housekeeper has keys and key cupboards which are mostly for the top two floors. [...]
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Spring Playtime

The park at Highclere is now full of hundreds of lambs. They look adorable as they leap around fallen trees, jump into ditches, play tag and collect together in their own crèche systems. It doesn’t take long for them to start experimenting with “who is the bravest lamb”, finding the cracks in fences and learning how to slip under gates. As a result, whenever I go for a ride at this time of year, I end up having to practice my shepherdess skills.  My old Arab mare has learnt to be fast on her feet as we try to aim [...]
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