About a month ago I stood up from my rather messy desk and hurried out of the office into the Castle courtyard because I had heard the muffled noise of hammer against stone. I found Trevor, in shorts and no shirt, replacing some broken paving stones in the sunshine. It was a beautiful noise, somebody doing something after so many strange weeks of silence.
I went and found Sally in her cupboard (gift shop stock room) to suggest a cup of coffee to celebrate. Like other businesses, we thought it was time to begin to look forwards. From then on the lists of things that I keep writing in large notebooks became all about re-building towards a starting position. We needed temporary marquees for takeway food, a bar for Luis and an outside gift shop. We had long-standing relations with a marvellous marquee company ‘Covered Occasions‘ and hoped they were still there. They were.
We had already ordered hand sanitisers, posts on which to fix them, thousands of masks for banqueting and the kitchens, visors for guides, markers for one way systems, UV sanitisers, plexi-glass, and information boards to courteously remind visitors to allow space between each other. Then there were health and safety meetings and meetings with heads of our departments as they returned. It is planning, it is about process, it is about gathering supplies, doing what is required and then checking it. The lists are long but being ticked off.
Last Wednesday we met for a sandwich lunch under the awning of a marquee which is now up and nearly decorated, to go through lists. Sally from the gift shop leads the decoration plan with Paul the Gardener hoping to mow the lawns before the large terracottoa pots, separated out by half size hazel hurdles to mark areas for the takeaway food, are filled with plants and then so much harder to move.
Leaflets, pricelists, fun facts, garden trail leaflets for July 18thare all being printed. Hannah and Cat are liaising and ahead of their deadlines. Then Geordie and I realised that the posts to mark queueing systems had lasted well but had been made by Pat and her team for his parents in 1988 when the Castle first opened. They needed a bit of sanding and varnish and TLC and were then fine but in fact we simply did not have enough of them. The wonders of Google one evening led me to a company in Northampton and a hurried order to Richard at Brandline. It was all a bit late but luckily Richards’s wife Tracey likes Downton Abbey so amazingly two weeks later they all arrived, beautifully made in oak and very smart. Obviously I then got ideas and wished for a red carpet as well but it is probably a trip hazard so better not.
Paul, our head chef, has begun to find out where he can place food orders – not all our suppliers are back but he is sure the supply lines will begin to knit together again soon. Sally is in the same position and hopes the china factories will come alive as we have back orders for tea sets.
We have built a little gift shop marquee in the courtyard to offer outside space for visitors to browse and buy. At the moment it is just a platform which John our castle manager believes is perfect as a stage and thus encourages anyone to leap on and declaim some famous lines. John’s own efforts tend to run to no more than two lines before he begins to make them up to much laughter.
Josh the joiner has made a great set which will I think give much pleasure in the servery behind the Dining Room. This is part of our revised tour which I actually think it is a better one than before anyway: it is entirely one way and an improvement.
Like other businesses we are applying common sense to create a responsibly organised visitor experience. We are all going to have to learn to live in a more modest and careful way for the foreseeable future but we can do it. We hope we are producing a day out with moments of happiness and good memories to look back on alongside a little bit of confidence, laughter and courage. If you have not listened to Neil Diamond’s a beautiful noise – do look it up.
What a beautiful noise
Comin’ up from the street,
Got a beautiful sound
It’s got a beautiful beat…
It’s a beautiful noise
Made of joy and of strife
Like a symphony played
By a passing parade
It’s the music of life
Looking forward to visiting on July 12th, after such a long time indoors shielding due to Leukaemia. This will be my first trip out, and what an amazing first trip 🙂
I am very much looking forward to seeing you! You now have tow choices to play as you arrive – Downton Abbey and Neil Diamond!!!
I am so glad you are getting back with us all.
I hope you a blessed with a successful reopening.
Love, and rejoicing at your re-opening!
Sounds amazing, I look forward to arranging a visit soon.
Two weeks on Wednesday! Can’t wait, so looking forward to visit. I have my Christmas shopping list at the ready, Gin, Gin and Gin!
I am very glad – gin bottles to take away and gin to try…
Once again Lady Carnarvon, you have hit it out of the ball park! I look forward to Monday mornings, just so I can read your blog. I met you in January 2019 when we toured your beautiful home. Thank you for sharing your life every week!
I loved this bit, “Obviously I then got an idea”! So many wonderful things start with just an idea. It is the thought, “I wonder what would happen if…” from which spring so many things that please and delight. Wish I could be there for the reopening, alas, I am stuck at my essential job across the pond.
Imagination is a magical word
It’s a lot of work, but it sounds exciting, as so many of you accomplish tasks to make reopening a reality! Your team has a great spirit and it is fun to anticipate guests experiencing news ways to enjoy Highclere! So much forward progress is invigorating, after the peacefulness and grief of a long quarantine. Very happy for you all!
I’m glad that the castle is opening to the public again soon. I admire your attention to the details that will keep your guests safe and well. May they all enjoy! I still treasurer the memories of my visit in August 2016, and wish I could visit again soon, but Americans are quite rightly being told to stay away for now. May you all remain safe and well.
Love reading your posts each week. Here in the USA we heard beautiful noise too. I quarantined for nine weeks on a lake in mid Michigan where there was not much activity only alot of very cold weather. We celebrated the Fourth of July on the same lake with family, friends and fireworks. It was beautiful to see the lake come alive with families enjoying all the lake had to offer. Boating, skiing, swimming, tubing and in general just pleasure of watching it unfold feeling somewhat normal again. Beautiful noise indeed. Stay safe.
Yes it is wonderful to be back hearing the noise of progress. Makes me happy. Love reading your blogs. Wish I could be there for July 18. Can’t cross the pond yet!
Most enjoyable piece, as always. As someone who has spent a lifetime organizing concerts and events, I know that most members of the public just accept signs, displays, directional markers, and facilities, without giving a thought to who created them, or perhaps not even noticing them, which, of course is what we want. Just like Theatre, where we spend hours planning and rehearsing, in order to create something that appears totally spontaneous. It has been my pleasure to visit Highclere, where your staff are courteous, welcoming, and obviously have all of this down to a fine art.
How kind thank you!
What a lovely and inspiring post, Lady Carnarvon. The castle looks wonderful under those blue skies and I hope to visit one day. Meanwhile, we all join you in living a more modest and careful life as we move ahead….perhaps while listening to Neil Diamond (an old favorite of mine). Best to you, the family and staff on your reopening.
We have been singing it out loud whilst driving through the park – windows down!
I so look forward to your blog every Monday Morning here in NC, USA.
This is another ‘sweet’ treat to be able to share in the progress of all things ‘normal’ at the beloved Highclere Castle.
Here is to more beautiful noise!
So happy for you and all your efforts to get back to opening your wonderful home for guests to enjoy. It is lovely to hear all that you are doing to keep everyone safe during these trying times. Keep up the good work and continue to enjoy the summer weather.
Looking forward to visiting in a couple of week’s time…Birthday treat. Definitely purchasing some gin as part of the celebrations. I saw Neil Diamond at The Ageas Bowl few years ago and what a performance. Thank you you and your team for the opportunity to once again.
I love everything Highclear Castle and Downton Abbey! I visited your beautiful home in 2018. I am looking forward to visiting again in the near future (when Americans are allowed back into Europe!) Any plans to host overnight guests in the castle? That would be the ultimate Destination!! I love your Monday morning blog posts. I read in bed before I rise and I can just picture myself on a beautiful castle grounds.
We do have two great Lodges in the park in which to stay..
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Well, I will give you that. “Organized” seems the key word in this all well orchestrated plan for the reimagined opening. How wonderful! I have been to Highclere a few times before, but I would love to visit again to experience the new laid out tour. … But being from Canada, I would have to quarantine. … Perhaps you could put me up for a fortnight Lol!
Having celebrated Canada Day à few days ago, I am reminded of the nice maple tree that was planted on the east lawn for the 150th anniversary three years past. How it must have grown. How I would love to see it again!
I posted Canada Day on our Instagram – do have a look
Thank you so very much. I just had a look at the Instagram post in regards of Canada Day. I am so proud of the connection between Highclere Castle and the birth of Canada. … All of whom I mention the story to are amazed.
I still find it amazing!
Hello Lady Carnarvon,
Certainly so true of The challenges this COVID 19 has presented to businesses and to many people. It looks so well organised there, you certainly couldn’t feel nervous visiting. I wish you all the best luck and I hope soon to visit again.
Kind regards Sheila
Good luck as you start off on the journey to the “new norm”. I am sure everyone who reads, and loves your blog have our fingers crossed for you.
May I thank you for such lovely positive posts each time. You write so beautifully and my spirits are raised every time I read your posts. A real lifeline during this strange time.
Thank you and good luck to you and your loyal team.
Thank you so much
What could possibly be better than Highclere Castle and Neil Diamond! Praying that a Viking post excursion becomes available next summer as we end the British Isles Cruise. If not we will just put together our own. There is no way that I will be that close and miss visiting your amazing home, grounds, and Louis’s bar.
We are working with Viking already!
What a cheerful, breezy post this morning! I hear The Bee Gees singing ‘staying alive, staying alive!’ as new sounds are in the air at Highclere.
Before I retired I helped farms that gave tours to put important signage in place, re: washing hand after touching animals – health and safety always.
May we all continue to stay healthy and alive. Congratulations on the beautiful
‘new normal’ at Highclere, and no more blankets on the floor, either!
That is a fun song too!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It’s always a treat to open my e-mail on Monday mornings and to see a new post from you. This morning brought a smile to my face when you mentioned visors for the guides.
My husband had a friend who lived in Washington D.C. and we made many visits there. As we toured the monuments and museums it was amusing to see tour guides using colorful umbrellas as a way of distinguishing one group from another.
My next trip to the UK will include Highclere.
It seems that although everyone works very hard, that it still possible to make it fun, which is wonderful.
Regards to all.
The fact that Highclere will reopen is a shining beacon of light for all of us. How I wish I could visit your iconic home! My love of the fictional Downton Abbey is inextricably woven into the reality of Highclere. Great good luck in all the complexities of reopening!
Great to see you moving forward and dealing with the struggles of the world at the moment we loved seeing the castle last October and hopefully we can get back over from Australia soon you and your house do such a wonderful job so thank you
I hope you will return soon!
Well it’s at least a beautiful special place to be during this horrible crisis. Some are struggling so much it hurts.
I hope it is a horizon – something to create different thoughts in challenging times…
Wonderful to hear things at Highclere are starting to open again. The sounds of busy hands are always joyous. So happy to read your blog each week as it always is so uplifting and thoughtful. We will all need patience and understanding to adapt to the new “normal”. Thank you for the smile I get each Monday morning when I open your blog.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It all sounds better than ever! If anyone can make the new normal work, it is you and your team. It looks perfect. I only wish visitors from the USA could be there, but I wait patiently, Highclere Gin in the cupboard.
I look forward to beautiful photos as the summer unfolds and welcomes us all to her warmth and beauty. I wish you such good luck as you welcome visitors back to your spectacular home and gardens. Stay healthy!!
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Have a great season. You have done well to accomplish so much.
Kathleen from Barrie Ontario Canada
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
It does sound like “a joyful noise” is coming from Highclere! My group and I have rescheduled our May 2020 visit to May 2021. So looking forward to it – but you have made it sound like a delightful place to visit now as well! Well done!
I wondered about whether or not one could tour Highclere but it sounds like you all worked hard to open up. Little by little we are getting back to a new kind of normal. Best wishes for a successful tourist season ahead.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, having worked through the lockdown (I work in a supermarket) I fully understand how much hard work goes into organizing everything. I wish you all the very best for your opening. I love Neil Diamond, he was my late dad’s favourite, we went to see Neil a couple of years ago, he was fantastic. I have his cd in the car at the moment, so was listening to beautiful noise only yesterday.
All the very best.
Thank you Lorraine!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
How wonderful to be on the move again making plans to open your doors in just a few short weeks.
From all you shared today it seems Highclere is on its way to a new and successful season. All the best to you in this great adventure!
Mike and I look forward to our visit there next May.
Your excitement is felt all the way to Texas!!!!
Carol how lovely to hear from you! I would still like to ride in your pageant!Amazing amazing rodeo event, so inspiring
Hope you will be successful by opening up! We will not visit The UK this year sadly enough, but hope to come again next year! Hoping this pandemic will be over than, and that there will be a vaccin for us all!
Oh how wonderful! Highclere open once again. I am looking forward to my visit next year,
God willing and we hope the end of Covid, at least as we know things today. Sounds as though everyone there has already adjusted to the new normal, Congratulations and much success in these coming months.
Best Regards from Texas
Thank you and our thoughts are with you – not easy times…
Lady Carnarvon, yourself, your husband and staff are working so very hard for the reopening of Highclere Castle. What a joy it will be to see the visitors come through the doors! I send you my heartfelt best wishes and success, you all deserve it. Cheryl
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I enjoyed reading your blog today and wonder where you have placed Luis’ bar. Is it in the courtyard? Love the design. We here in Montana are still unable to order Highclere Castle Gin, much to my regret! I’m still hoping, though I’ve been told that the post-extensions for Viking cruises are booked completely – even through 2021, to be able to join the Great Homes, Gardens and Gin tour. Waiting for a cancellation!! I, like Sharon above, are finishing up the Viking British Isles Explorer cruise Summer, 2021. I’m sure we’ll find a way to visit Highclere. Looking forward to July 13, 2021!!
How you find the time to oversee the work on the estate and write this blog, video the Viking TV Fridays and I guess there is instagram posting, too! Thoroughly amazing.
Wishing you and Lord Carnarvon health and joy…..Margaret
I am sure you must be able to see Highclere with Viking – I will chase them!! Or you have to come separately before hand and I can line up some hotel/pub suggestions to help.
Oh a big congratulations Lady Carnarvon! Happy to see things moving forward at the Castle! A lot of thinking it all through, making and implementing plans and such. We all appreciate the hard work of your staff and you.
We came from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA in July 2020. We were a group of 6 friends who are die hard Downton Abbey fans. What an awesome visit we had. It was so wonderful to see the castle and and all the beautiful grounds. Unfortunately we missed meeting you which would have been the icing on the cake. With the situation in the world as it is, we are all so thankful our trip was last year before the craziness started. We hope to return one day. Thank you for sharing your beautiful home. And so glad you will be able to start sharing it again soon. I really enjoy your blog and also the series of videos you did with Viking.
Congratulations!!! on the reopening!!! All looks wonderful. Have a great week!
It all sounds so exciting. The food, the fun, the laughter. I wish I could be there. One day maybe. Have a great opening day. Thank you Lord and Lady Carnarvon for sharing your lovely Castle with us.
I hope you will visit..
Lady Carnarvon, thank you for continually posting your blog which so many of us thoroughly enjoy. Even though the pandemic we can still vicariously travel to Highclere and have tea and scones we the friendly and lovely bees. So much to thoroughly enjoy.
I love reading your blogs! Thank you for sharing with us!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am so happy for you and your team. It is such a lot of work reorganizing everything to meet all the safety standards but think of the joy when people start arriving at Highclere. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about your happiness! Some day I will get there.
It is a task and a half!!
We are elated that you are well into the reopening process and wish you and your guests the joy of Highclere Castle you all deserve so much. I had not heard the Neil Diamond song before, but love it. It is so uplifting that I added it to my daily walking/treadmill routine playlist. The instrumentation, the percussion, Neil’s amazing voice and lyrics, and the arrangement blend together to serve both as personal inspiration and as a warm reminder of your tireless work to extend Highclere Castle to the world once again.
Steve and Robin Schroffel
Thank you Steven and Robin – it is an uplifting song!!! Glad you have found it.
I hope you have a very successful opening at your beautiful home. I would like very much to visit sometime.
Thank you – I think we have space and light and air
Hello Lady Carnarvon
Monday morning magic for me is reading your blog which I thoroughly enjoy. It is wonderful to “feel” the energy going on at the castle and to know that you are all well and looking forward very much to the opening. I hope it meets all your expectations and that the ever lengthening list of yours has lots of things crossed off.
I love Neil Diamond and play his music often. Thank you for imprinting that song in my mind which I have no doubt I will hum all day 🙂 I lived not far from the Bee Gees in Brisbane when as teenagers they appeared on a local TV station and their career took off from that. This is an interesting site about the beginning of their fabulous career and how they were named the Bee Gees:-
Enjoy the excitement of the season opening and it is great to see everyone is so upbeat after Covid19. It must be so satisfying to have come through that dreadful virus and now life is getting back to some kind of normal.
Best wishes to everyone
I am so happy to “hear,” along with you, the sounds of work beginning again. Our visit to Highclere last July was wonderful. My husband and I just finished the Downton Abbey series (again!). Seeing the family in your lovely home and walking around the grounds brings back sweet memories. I keep turning to him and saying, “I can’t believe we walked that same path up to Highclere last year!” Let the hammers and chisels ring!
So pleased to here you are swinging back into action again. I wish everyone involved all the best. I look forward to visiting from Australia in perhaps…..2022? I would also like to add how much I am enjoying your podcast. It is just delightful with such interesting guests. A happy time in my busy week.
How lovely! Your guests will enjoy the castle that much more with all of your thoughtful preparations. It’s always best to be safe than sorry. I do agree that the red carpet may have been a Hazzard.
Wishing you and your staff all luck towards the reopening! Looking forward to seeing photos of all of the fun being had!
So scrumptious, isn’t planning and anticipation part of the enjoyment. God bless the whole crew! Here up in the mountains in Marysville the weather is chilly but the sun is shining and all is well, thank Lady Carnarvon for sharing the excitement
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I have just discovered your blog. I’m an avid fan of Downton, and want to thank you immensely for opening up your house for others to enjoy the beauty and grandeur that is Highclere Castle. I’m what you call a “country girl” from Texas, but have always loved the U.K. and the people who make up your country. I hope to make the journey to your wonderful castle sometime next year,(fingers crossed that Covid 19 will be a thing of the past,) and take my 81 year old mum as well. She loves Downton Abbey and is the one thing she wishes to see before she dies! I look forward to reading your blog every week.
See you in 2021! Stay well.
So glad to hear life is becoming active again- In Texas it’s bad. Still at home staying safe.
I’ll stay busy with my house and listening to videos of life going on. My #2021BingoCard will have fun activities on all the squares. My optimism of a better life continues; I have my 2021 calendar in my planning bag.
So glad to follow these postings and know better times are ahead. Thanks for the news.
Hello Monday Family and Lady Carnarvon,
Once again the day took on a life of its own and I could not turn on my computer until very late.
What good news today! Highclere can welcome it’s admirers again. I’m sure your Highclere Family is as thrilled as you and Lord Carnarvon. I know y’all had to miss each other. I know I have missed my friends. But, we have so much to be thankful for. Having a roof over our heads is more than some people have. Many here have lost everything.
I was not aware of a current travel ban from the US to the UK. Reading the posts was informative. Maybe we need to watch the local news now and then.
Do you think you will do Heros at Highclere again? My husband still talks about how welcomed he felt. It was quite healing for him.
Thank you and God Bless,
Sue – thank you – i am going to organise small history festival this October and look at VE day – if belatedly – on the Saturday October 10th. Again to say thank you, to remember and welcome some people for real and many others virtually. That is my plan and thereafter continue as an annual festival each year…
Should I dare ask if the flag pole has received a bit of TLC?
Good idea about the shop marquee. When I was there for the Heroes event, a young lady was wearing a tiara and did look rather stunning and they were available in the main shop. Had already spent a small fortune in the shop to keep Highclere going, just had to think about the tiaras.
At the Christmas event, spent a lot of time with one assistant, selecting two tiaras for my young cousins. Choose well, as many tiaras shout wedding, but my choice was ideal. Think they must be close copies of those worn by Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Bought some rather nice velvet bags from Amazon to add to the wow factor. Mentioned the bags to Grace as it is something worth considering. Cousins were absolutely delighted with the tiaras. They sent a photo but they were wearing school uniforms for the photo, so not really appropriate.
Changing times and re-opening but sure everyone at Highclere will do all that is necessary to keep the visitors safe.
Carry on AGAIN Highclere.
Thank you – have not made it up the flagpole yet -the wind is lessening,however and the weather set more fair for this weekend so by Sunday up we will go!
Lady Carnarvon, Kindness and love is contagious. Spread it around! Cheryl
Hello, Lady Carnarvon, first, I want to say I appreciate yours and the Earl’s ‘caretaker/preserver’ mentality and dedication for the history and property of Highclere. Second, as a former Labrador retriever owner, after seeing you too seem to love them, watching them in your videos, and hearing what I thought you said that you breed them, I was wondering how it would be possible to get/purchase a pup? God bless you in your continuing ‘mission’, Susan
Thank you – I have enough dogs at the moment (8) so will not have another litter just yet – in a two or three years which will zip by and you will hear about it here!
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Even though it is tardy, I hope this quick comment finds its way to you.
Thank you for your informative Monday blog and for the quick photographic tour of the changes made at Highclere Castle.
Appreciated reading your Facebook greeting to everyone here in the United States as we celebrated the Fourth of July this past weekend. Due to the COVID-19, we were unable to have joint (Canada Day July 1, 2020) celebrations with our Canadian friends and neighbors in Windsor, Ontario.
Again, I hope that all your forward modification and planning efforts reward you, your staff, and Highclere Castle when it re-opens this coming weekend.
Until next week.
You are kind – thank you
Planning an event takes a lot of time. It is all in the details. If everyone works together. Your event sounds wonderful! Just to see the beautiful smiles on your guests faces is the reward.
Blessings to you.
Lady Carnarvon, In your Instagram, the video of Highclere Castle and the grounds are stunning. It is something to behold. The music is so peaceful and would put any one in a relaxed state. Outstanding. All the very best, Cheryl
Thank you so much!
Lady Carnarvon, You must be so very excited to see your visitors walk the path to Highclere Castle. Great Joy! Finally it has happened. I wish you all the very best. By any chance did a new memo book fly over the pond? Kind Regards, Cheryl