After spending some time pre-packing and praying that our luggage didn’t weigh more than 50 pounds we had a great night’s sleep and awoke with the hope that we would be able to see Highclere Castle. We were surprised that we got on a major highway to get there and even more surprised when we pulled onto the estate and could see the house even before we came to the ticket gate. We didn’t know if we would get inside or not so we pulled over to get a few photos. In her excitement Heather caught her shirt on the gear shift and tore it! She was too excited to give it a second thought really. There were only about 50 cars there when we arrived and nobody at the walk up ticket counter. I asked them if there were two tickets available for today and they said, “sure, what would you like to see Castle, gardens , Egypt exhibit?” So the teaching moment of this story is this: if you are near Highclere on a day that they are open then go ahead and try to get in. They are only open a few months out of the year,since it is the home of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, so check the calendar on the website to be certain.
After several selfies on the walkway up to the house and lots of giggling we took our place in line to enter the castle. The staff does not let in everyone at one time, which is nice. This allows you to really experience each room without feeling like you are in a herd of cattle passing through. Photos are not allowed inside the castle at all. Oops! We didn’t know this until after we had taken a few shots of the foray. Through much restraint we did obey the rules for the rest of our visit 🙂 Bedrooms used for filming are open as well as the famous library and sitting rooms. It was fun for us to see the different places through the eye of a filmmaker. All in all we were pretty much geeking out the whole time! The Downton Abbey connection is rather downplayed with an occasional mention while photos of the Carnarvon family abound. Also, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, George, was partners with Howard Carter during the discovery and excavation of Kind Tut’s tomb. He was the man who asked Carter if he saw anything when he entered the tomb. Which Carter then answered, ” Yes, wonderful things!” There is an exhibit in the cellars that recreates what they would have seen which is worth walking through.
We were slightly disappointed that the “downstairs” is not filmed at Highclere but we consoled ourselves with the gift shop and a wonderful al fresco lunch with the castle in view. You may notice that our picture of lunch is not crooked but the picture of the two of us is. Heather took the picture of lunch but a very nice gentleman who told us he was a professional photographer took the other one. We are not sure if he was trying to be creative and artsy with the shot but I don’t think the result was what he was looking for… it certainly wasn’t what we were looking for ! On our drive out we decided to take a different road than the one we drove in on. As we drove down a lane lined with sheep pastures we noticed a super cool antique car ( picture the car Mathew Crawley drove) coming down the road. In hindsight we should have had the camera ready, but only as the car passed by did we realize it was Lady Carnarvon herself driving home from the village!
We bid Lady Carnarvon and High Clere Castle a fond farewell and made our way to our hotel near Heathrow airport. I had booked a room online based on reviews and the fact that they had a restaurant and supposedly, a shuttle to the airport. Unfortunately, this hotel was outside of the Heathrow loop and did not have a shuttle. The area surrounding the hotel felt very unsafe, so even though it was already paid for we chose to go find another place nearer the terminals. Heathrow is MASSIVE!! It takes 30 minutes just to drive around the loop! The Hilton is actually attached to terminal 4 then it is just a short airport train ride to whichever terminal you need. The lesson we learned here was to only stay at hotels within the loop around the terminals at Heathrow.
We had a fantastic dinner at the Asian restaurant inside the Hilton and are ready to rest a few hours before our very early flight back home.
Enjoying the journey in a comfy, safe hotel!
Courtney and Heather