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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

 

 

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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Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas!!

I thought I would simply share a few photographs of some of the projects we have taken forward over the past year.

We have repaired the floorboards, electrics and re-carpeted a wonderful corridor on the second floor of the south side of the Castle. It was a rainy day job for Pat Withers and her team in between other projects. One staircase from here leads to a Robing Room (photographed) whilst another leads up the Great Tower (yet to be carpeted but two landings and four rooms are finished on the first floor).

The Estate office is both a joy [...]
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The week before Christmas

 

For some reason, like many others, I think I have time on my side and will be ready and relaxed in time for Christmas. Once again the reality is somewhat different. There is a mass of presents nearly wrapped which, like the 12 days of Christmas, go round in circles on the floor in the Annexe: 12 car parkers, 11 for the Castle office, 10 in the estate office, 9 nieces and nephews, 8 gardeners and mowers, 7 keepers, 6 joiners, 5 sisters, 4 plumbers, 3 decorators, 2 electricians, and then at the end a husband and son. Then I [...]
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Christmas at Highclere

It is December so we have begun to decorate the Castle, the driveway leading from the gates to the front door, and the tearooms. Despite all the careful thought that goes into this, there is always something that doesn’t happen quite as planned.  The main one for us this year was the height of the tree. We ordered a 20ft Christmas tree but the one that arrived was 30ft. Even with my maths that is quite an increase. Ever optimistic however, with men helping and even more men watching, it was hoisted aloft. Sadly it then had to come back down [...]
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From Paris to Billiards.

Everyone at Highclere has been touched and heartbroken by the terrible tragedies that unfolded in Paris. The destruction and grief that has been continuing around the world in the wake of these endless attacks is awful as people live afraid, “strangers … in a world they never made” to quote A E Houseman. It is the merciless and random nature of the violence. At the same time, there have been some amazing moments of unity and kindnesses which it would be wonderful to “bottle”.  Let us hope they continue.

In between everyday life here at Highclere, I still find moments to [...]
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Winchester Lodge

The old approach to the Castle used to be from the south leading towards the ancient city of Winchester. There is a narrow pass under Siddown hill, with a steep hillside falling away and, as the land flattens, the entrance is marked by a lodge and gate, unsurprisingly called Winchester Lodge.

As usual it was in dire need of repair so it has been one of our projects over the last six or seven months. It is the same team of delightful stone masons who worked on an earlier lodge, led by Eric from Heritage Building Conservation.

My husband, Geordie, and I are getting quite good at [...]
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Texan Travels

I have just returned from Texas, a world away from Highclere but where I was met with such warm greetings from those who love Highclere (and Downton) that I immediately felt at home. My first port of call was Houston; 95˚C and not a cloud in sight. I was very fortunate to be invited to meet President George H. Bush and Mrs Barbara Bush at their home. There were some similarities in that Mrs Bush was about to mend a leaky roof and was most concerned and sympathetic about the extent of our leaky roofs!  She also loves dogs but [...]
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Fish & Chip Wednesday

At some point each day I look in on our biggest building project – the renovation of the Castle Estate Offices. There are always a few building works trundling along at any given time but this particular one is marked both by its longevity and its remarkable ability to absorb money at a great rate.

One of my roles at Highclere is to act as a sort of cross between an agent and project manager.   It is not the easiest job as one of the main tasks is to try to keep teamwork going amongst the craftsmen by continual “critical path [...]
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What is a weekend then?

Far removed from the decorous characters elegantly reclining on the sofas of Downton Abbey, weekends at the Castle tend to be a whirlwind of activity, rushing around madly in several directions all at once.  Saturday was its usual busy self but Sunday was particularly special.  It began at 7:30am with the set up for the 10km Highclere run in aid of Multiple Sclerosis.

We have hosted this for perhaps 12 years and it is a great community event. As well as firing the starting gun, my husband usually runs in it as well, although in recent years this decision tends to [...]
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Michaelmas

It definitely feels autumnal here at Highclere. The trees are beginning to be edged with ochres and reds and the horses are already rugged for colder nights in the park fields. We still have some figs to collect, and a lot of cooking apples to pick, use and freeze. I am not sure the quince tree looks very happy: I think it may have quince leaf blight which can partly be managed by raking and collecting all the dead leaves and thinning the tree out. Sadly I can see no quinces!

In the diary we have a few private weekends coming [...]
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