Highclere castle (www.highclerecastle.co.uk) has become the most recognisable stately home in England.
It’s a spectacularly ornate building was designed by Sir Charles Barry in 1842, he also designed London’s Houses of Parliament. The similarity is very striking – the same ornate square tower with pinnacles on its turrets, the same tall narrow windows and the same honey-coloured Bath stone. But to TV fans it’s Downton Abbey.
Highclere is about 60 miles west of London, just south of Newbury. Its a family home and not a public monument so access is limited – visiting times are Sunday to Thursday from 1st July to 13th September plus selected days during April to June.
The mile-long drive winds its way across folds of parkland designed by Capability Brown, past huge 18th century cedars of Lebanon and fields of sheep before the house gradually comes into view.
The high studded front door leads into an entrance hall, its high vaulted ceiling supported by ornate columns rising from an impressive marble floor. It’s a grand entrance, but its quickly out done by the scale and grandeur of the central Gothic Hall where skylights 15 metres overhead illuminate the carved stonework of the upstairs gallery.
Because it's still a family home and not a museum it has an extra level of charm and really is a must for Downton fans.