Category: Entertaining

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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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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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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What a weekend!

Any weekend arrangements in England begin with a discussion about the vagaries of the British weather and at Highclere it is no different. This past weekend it was a particularly important consideration as we had planned a classic English Garden Party with picnics, cocktails, period costumes and music.  We asked everyone to come dressed in Edwardian costume as if we were going back in time to the first season of “Downton Abbey”.

Sadly, perhaps predictably, on the first day of this two-day event, the weather was truly British. It rained all day, occasionally with almost monsoon-like intensity and at other [...]
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Fragility and Fundraising

 

Last week we held a wonderful evening reception at the Castle to aid a spinal injury charity.It provides practical support to those who have suffered such an immediate and life-changing challenge.

It all happened because I had gone to the Wells Literary Festival to give a talk. I was hopeless at threading my way through the town to the cathedral where I was to park so I stopped to ask a traffic warden for help. Wells has a stunning cathedral and cloisters and Bishop Peter and his wife Jane are good friends from their time as Bishop here at Basingstoke near [...]
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Dress Code

Weekend invitations to Highclere are followed by a flurry of emails confirming dress codes and what excitements the weekend will hold. Is it shooting, tennis, riding, a concert or some good country walks? Is it short or long for the ladies and how smart or not for the men? Warm wraps are always a good idea in case I have had a brainwave and decided we are having cocktails by a temple.

Occasionally, I lack precision; happily explaining to local friends it is not really smart: just laughter and fun. One girlfriend relayed those words to her husband. He therefore correctly [...]
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Musical Flowers

I spent the first hour this morning with Paul the Gardener walking round the Castle to see whether we have enough flowers in the various rooms and galleries. Many friends and visitors probably only register them in the background, yet if they are absent, I do think the house looks very bare.

We have a theoretical annual plan so that there is a series of hyacinths, narcissi, azaleas, orchids, cinerarias, geraniums, jasmines, streptocarpus, begonias, hydgrangeas, cyclamen and ferns filling bowls and planters throughout the seasons around the Castle rooms.

Whilst waiting for Paul, I realised we were minus a plant in the [...]
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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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