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Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey

Highclere castle ( 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.

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I’ve been writing about travel for the past 14 years and have travelled extensively from [A]ustralia to [Z]imbabwe. I’ve been around the world a few of times and have written widely for the international press in America, Australia and the UK, for newspapers, magazines and websites.I am also the author of a definitive guide to Wildlife Conservation Volunteering (Bradt, 2012) and have worked on volunteer projects in South America, Africa, India and Europe. Working from a riverboat on the Amazon has to be my favourite conservation project – a bit of comfort and luxury at the end of the day after getting filthy ploughing through the muddy jungle.I think the best way of getting around is travelling by train, not just because it’s eco-friendly but because I enjoy the journey as much as the destination. I’ve written a lot about train travel and am a contributing author to Great Railway Journeys of the World (Time Out 2009). My enthusiasm for travelling on trains culminated in 2011 – 2012 when I travelled around the world by train - from London to Sydney. This was the most amazing trip I’ve ever done and I spent three months because I couldn’t stop myself getting off to explore what couldn’t be seen from the window.Naturally it’s now a book!

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