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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, Luis our Butler and Maggie the Groom as well as all the other people who make the ‘Real Downton Abbey’ a welcoming place for visitors today.


At Home at Highclere Goes Beyond the Castle Doors

We are pleased to announce the completion of Lady Carnarvon’s new book ‘At Home at Highclere’ which is now available for you, our dearest readers, to buy and enjoy. Read more

 

 

Keepers’ Café

The first part of my morning bike ride is downhill all the way. I head off slowly as the dogs run round in excited circles and we avoid the early cars, all of which have to stop, as the dogs bounce up to say hello and are convinced that they should be patted. This is their walk as well as my exercise, so I watch as they happily disappear into an old piece of hedgerow, tails wagging, before bounding into an old dew pond area, emerging with muddy legs.

Carrying on another 100 yards, I turn in to the back of [...]
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Monopoly Cards

Like any multi-faceted business we have a number of different bank accounts, some of which are in a better state than others. The estate account is particularly prone to fluctuations. In the early days I used to ask my husband every so often how bad it was – never a good topic – but then I decided I would like to help. My husband is probably slightly ambivalent about this as, whilst I can think of ways to bring in money, I am also rather too good at finding ways of spending it.

The estate account is all about the [...]
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Combine Harvester

When I was growing up I can clearly remember a song which began “I’ve got brand new combine harvester and I’ll give you the key …” It was sung by the “Wurzels”, in thick West Country accents, but it did actually top the charts. It came straight back to mind when I climbed up into our combine harvester as part of my efforts to understand a little more about our farm and how it works.

Brian, who drives the combine through the weeks of harvest, put me in the driving seat and, with a sunny word of caution – “The edge [...]
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Pots and Gardens

When Geordie and I initially began to think about what visitors might enjoy at Highclere, one of the first things we considered were the gardens. I had read somewhere that 80% of National Trust visits were due to interest in gardens. This may or may not be an accurate figure and, unlike the National Trust, we remain, fundamentally a family home rather than a “museum”, but the gist of the statistics lived with me.

Creating gardens has a long history at Highclere. In the 18th century, one of Geordie’s ancestors, Robert Herbert, designed a more traditionally formal garden here with follies and [...]
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Costumes and Dress Codes

I grew up and went to school in London. During weekends my sisters and I explored (sometimes under duress) the various museums that London has to offer. The one that I never needed to be persuaded to go to was the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. I would head straight towards any exhibition of fashion and costumes – they have an extraordinary collection depicting what we wore that spans at least four centuries. You could stare for ages at the tiny waists, beautiful, delicate lace, the velvets, dresses with enormous hoops, the shoes and the wonderful hats. Admittedly [...]
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Journeys in Time

Journeys in Time

I have never been very keen on heights: I have to tell myself to breathe and climb steadily as I go up ladders or, indeed, on ski lifts. Much to my surprise therefore, I remained remarkably calm as I climbed a very long ladder to look at the restoration work currently being done on an ancient barn on the Estate.  So many visitors and guests admire the Castle, its setting, the landscape and gardens, yet that only represents a proportion of what Geordie and I are restoring and sustaining. This is not a “normal” investment with a chance [...]
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A Constitutional Walk for Canada Day

A Constitutional Walk for Canada Day

Reading the 4th Countess’s of Carnarvon’s diaries in her lovely clear script, I have begun to understand a little more about life here 130 years ago. Some things never change. The family liked going for walks or riding on their horses, perhaps up Beacon Hill as I did yesterday evening. They were keen to ensure they spent time outside and considered it was good for their health, for their “constitution”, so much so that if the weather was miserable, they walked in the dining room for 30 minutes!  The thought of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, arms [...]
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From Jeeves and Wooster to Downton Abbey

I hope, like all of us here at Highclere (aka Downton Abbey), that you are rather excited about NBC’s announcement that they are making a “Downton Abbey” film.  Michael Edelstein,  president at NBC Universal International Studio, said that the movie is in the works although it is a logistical challenge to assemble the cast of 18 or 20 much loved characters into one time frame. Of course the largest and oldest “actor” has always been delighted to collaborate and to my eyes, even in old age, has never looked better.

 

Casting back in time, before “Downton Abbey,” [...]
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MayDay

May Days

When I was a student at St Andrews University there were various optional ancient traditions one of which was swimming in the freezing North Sea on May 1st. Curiously enough, whilst it was not then a preferred pastime, I do now rather enjoy swimming in colder waters. It is very invigorating especially within sight of a warm bath afterwards.

May Day remains a bank holiday in many countries for any number of differing historical reasons. In England it has a long and varied justification from dancing around maypoles (banished by Thomas Cromwell and then reinstated by Charles II in about [...]
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Where words end, music begins

My mother-in- law began the Newbury Spring Festival 39 years ago. It is an international music festival with some 59 different events spread over two weeks around this area, using churches and houses, as well as theatres, to listen to outstanding orchestras, choirs, violinists or quartets.  One of our contributions is to host a concert here at the Castle. Mark Eynon, the festival director, had persuaded the Sacconi Quartet to come and play for us and, in turn, I had persuaded my great friend Karine Hagen, of Viking Cruises, to co-sponsor it with us. We were honoured that the Festival’s [...]
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