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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.

Assistant Vicar needed at Highclere

Highclere Church hopes to persuade an assistant parson to help our Vicar. We need your help on Sundays and two days/week in return for which there is 4 bedroom house in Highclere village. Read more

My American Travels Continued….

 My book tour took me through Washington, a talk for St Andrew’s University, a tea for PBS and then to New York, just ahead of the snow each time. I swopped airflights for car journeys and have turned to walking on foot through New York. We have been staying at the Four Seasons with spectacular views over a snow dusted central park and Hudson river in the distance. The Four Seasons also have a hotel in Hampshire near Highclere and we try to accommodate tours for their guests when we can. It has been lovely to reverse it and be [...]
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My travels in America…

My travels in America began in Nashville, giving a talk in their amazing new convention centre to some 2,000 people. With new hotels and the feeling of energy and business, Nashville has other sides apart from the wonderful Honky Tonk street. Southern hospitality proved more than true and a whirlwind trip from old houses, such as Cheekwood to private  homes, much laughter in the evening preceded a too early start to travel towards Williamsburg.

Williamsburg was a revelation. I dined with Thomas Jefferson, rode in a carriage, walked through cold clear streets, through where the dreams and challenges of America began. [...]
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Downton Abbey in the USA

A question I am most often asked is why is Downton Abbey so successful?  If I knew the magic formula I would bottle it and keep it going for Highclere!

Downton is about a family, Highclere / Downton is where they both live and work. It is romantic, nostalgic, there are some great lines, engaging characters, and it clearly illustrates there are mean and kind people in all parts of life.  It has happy moments, the potential for love and yet the family has to grieve as well. There is little violence. Perhaps the ups and downs and bonds of a [...]
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Christmas

We alternate Christmas and New Year in the Castle, so this Christmas we are in Cornwall leaving Highclere for a few days safely in the hands of the home team. They may well patrol the corridors and galleries rather like the footman, Barrow, in Downton Abbey.  Around the Castle grounds they have found a number of tree limbs down and ducks swimming in ponds in the middle of the fields in the Park. Some shutters have forced open the windows due to the strength of the December winds, but we have been lucky, unlike so many people living in some parts of [...]
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Syrian Reflections

The cedars of Lebanon look magnificent and statuesque in winter: evergreen branches stretching against the stark brown trunks and branches, dusted with frost or snow. They are fascinating to photograph. They do not grow as tall in their original land of Lebanon where there is less water. There are also pockets of the cedars in Syria. It is easy to forget the higher cold plateaus of land in Syria, the snows cloaking the land and trees as they are doing now.

The catastrophe in Syria can be masked by the big political debates, but it is essentially a crisis for its [...]
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Last week the Castle Christmas tree arrived much to everyone’s excitement as we decide this year we would bravely increase the size from 14ft to 20ft, when it arrived on our bright red tractor (looking very much like Santa’s sleigh) I thought I may have made a mistake, this was confirmed by the look on Diana, our housekeeper’s face – she clearly thought I was mad and it was far too big!

With the promise of fresh mince pies, lots of volunteers (over 15) came to help get the tree in (easy bit) and then up (tricky bit). I began to [...]
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Lest we forget….

Today’s minutes of silence and reflection are not merely for the Great War but for those who have suffered since then and who suffer today : soldiers and civilians; the doctors, nurses, charity volunteers and journalists who try to save lives and to broadcast the news to make us all aware of what is happening, thereby perhaps entreating all sides to sit down and talk.

Looking forwards eight months to next August, Highclere is going to be again transformed into a hospital. Almina Carnarvon one of my predecessors, rolled up her sleeves, designated herself head matron here and set about nursing [...]
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Stormy Nights….

Sleeping in the Castle during the night of the storm, I felt both very snug and cosy, the shutters firmly closed and lots of blankets on the bed. Highclere Castle sits on a high chalk plateau so the wind really does howl around the walls and turrets, sometimes blowing down the chimneys into the Saloon. We slept fitfully, hoping we wouldn’t lose telephone lines and electricity, but found to our relief that they were both working when my husband went down to make a pot of tea very early at 5am. By morning the worst of the storm had passed [...]
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Puppy Party

Bella our beautiful yellow Labrador had a litter of ten puppies back in September 2012 and we have just celebrated their first birthday. After a really busy week and in a bit of light hearted fun, some of our friends and neighbours who each adopted a puppy, gathered together on the south lawns outside the Castle. One of the puppies now lives with a wonderful friend Karine Hagen whose family created and own ‘Viking River Cruises’ and are also the sponsors for Downton Abbey in America. Karine’s puppy, Finse, named for a beautiful place in her homeland Norway, has also got [...]
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LangaLanga

Last week on a beautiful autumn evening we welcomed 200 guests to a cocktail reception in aid of a Kenyan Education Charity, which we support, called LangaLanga. www.langalanga.org.uk

It was started by an amazing English man who helped rebuild 14 primary schools and pay for secondary education of outstanding children each year and support them all the way through to university. It was very uplifting to hear that there were now Doctors, Engineers, Teachers and Nurses who could return to educate and look after their community, adding tremendous value to it, as well as an extraordinary sense of achievement for themselves.

Our [...]
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