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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

 

 

Easter at Highclere

My husband’s parents first opened Highclere Castle to the public in the summer of 1989 and thereafter each July and August.  When it came to our turn to take over, Geordie and I decided to open during Easter and the surrounding school holidays as well, hoping for reasonably good weather so that visitors would be able to park on the fields around the Castle. Of course, as some of you may remember, that hope went horribly wrong with the rainfall last Easter but that is another story.

Having decided to open earlier in the year, we then had to focus on [...]
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Stones and Homes

Not far from Highclere lies Stonehenge, an extraordinary outline of the remains of architecture from c. 5,000 to 3,000 BC around which people lived, farmed and planned their lives. Highclere also has remains of tumuli and forts from the same period. Every time I walk there, it seems a place of timelessness with just the outline of our ancestors’ building works.

Christopher Wren, an outstanding British architect who rebuilt perhaps 52 churches in London after the Great Fire in 1666 including, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral, wrote that “Architecture aims at Eternity” and sometimes, in places like Stonehenge, you really begin [...]
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Highclere Castle and the Ritz Hotel

Highclere Castle and the Ritz Hotel

The 6th Earl of Carnarvon, my husband’s grandfather, never had a house in   London: he simply stayed at The Ritz. Built during the reign of Edward VII on the  corner of Piccadilly, it emulated the classical French architecture, including the front arcades which echo those on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

 

 

  Both high society  and the press enjoyed the  opening party and it became hugely  successful.This  was in part due to a simple dearth  of hotel  space in London at the time – visitors    were even  using converted offices – but mostly [...]
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Looking and Seeing

Looking and Seeing

Turning the pages of Highclere Castle’s leather bound and engraved visitors’ books is always riveting. They tell their own stories about who was staying here and, as I sit by the fire in the Saloon where the guests must have gathered, I wonder what their conversations were, who told the jokes and anecdotes or what amused them during a weekend visit. Of course their weekends were somewhat more extended than ours are today: most guests left on a Monday not a Sunday and clearly some stayed for a week.

I have been looking through these books for years, long [...]
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Love and all that

February can be quite a damp wintery month in England and we often get a scattering of snow or a sharp frost. However, there are two highlights: the first is Valentine’s day and the second is that February has only 28 days which should help Spring approach a little more quickly. For Valentine’s Day we have started asking guests to join us in the Castle for a tour and afternoon tea, or a reception with music  and drinks in the evening. Given most people work during the week,  we cannot always offer the 14th itself but choose the nearest weekend instead.

These [...]
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Highclere’s “American Garden”

Biking up the hill of the main drive to the Castle at the end of a morning circuit of the park with the dogs, I am always glad finally to see the banks of dark green rhododendrons. With more energy than I possess at this point, the dogs run off towards them and disappear into the tangle. They are quite deaf to my calls as I carry on through the black gates and then turn back to pedal through the longer grass towards “Jackdaws Castle”.

This is a classical, pillared Temple built about 1743 on raised ground to the east of the Castle. The [...]
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Tree planting

Tree planting

The photograph above hangs as one of a pair either side of a charming 18th century mirror in Stanhope Dressing room on the first floor of the Castle. The other photo is in a similar theme. Most houses like Highclere have archives, often housed in specially designed rooms and dating back centuries.  They are a unique window back into the past and at Highclere, the archivist and I try to share them with visitors, framing them for corridors as they come round, or use them to help people with their research into their family history as it might relate to Highclere.

 

Photographs are [...]
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New Year 2017

 

New Year 2017

After Christmas, we left Highclere to spend New Year with my sister, Sarah and her husband in North Cornwall. It is a much beloved part of the world where my family always spent the Christmas and Easter holidays when we were growing up. At this time of year, the dramatic grey seas batter the cliffs which are studded with occasional chapels of rest. Faint ridges in the grass headlands still signpost where Iron Age communities built shelters and homes, with ramparts across headlands within which they could defend themselves. It always seems an old part of the world, [...]
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December 25th at Highclere

Christmas at Highclere

We have just passed the winter solstice, December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Crowds gathered at Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument 25 miles west of Highclere, to welcome the re-birth of the sun as days slowly lengthen again. 5,000 years ago, when Stonehenge was begun, they would perhaps also have gathered to celebrate at the foot of Beacon Hill in the middle of our estate. We certainly have prehistoric barrows built around it. December 25th was later “acquired” by the Romans from earlier communities to worship their God then the Christian Church adopted the date as a [...]
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Christmas Tree

Dressing the Castle for Christmas is no ordinary project: every year we plan and prepare and every year it is always something of a test. The main ingredient required therefore is always a good sense of humour and a lot of laughter.

Lauren, in the office here, is in charge of organising the assorted Christmas trees: the huge one for the Saloon, 20 smaller ones for the drive and about 10 quite large ones by various doors and courtyards. John, our unique and detailed Castle Manager becomes most exercised about “size”. Lauren spends a lot of time asking, and confirming, the [...]
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