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A Guide to Visiting Highclere Castle – The Home of Downton Abbey

Visiting Highclere Castle is a joy – it’s beautiful castle and grounds delight thousands of visitors each year, children and adults alike being fascinated by this look into the world depicted first by ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and more recently of course Downton Abbey. Located in Newbury, Hampshire, not far from the M4, Highclere Castle can easily be accessed by car, train or coach from London and other major cities in the south of England.

Visit the Home of Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle has been brought to worldwide fame thanks to the popular television drama series ‘Downton Abbey’, which was supposedly written with the castle in mind. The British period drama series follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants at the start of the 20th century, and it’s astounding success means that Highclere Castle has become a British phenomenon. It is where you can truly get into the spirit of your favourite TV show and visit Downton Abbey, though an appearance from Carson cannot, sadly , be guaranteed!

Where to Stay Near Highclere Castle?

Of the selection of hotels and b&b’s near to Highclere Castle, our own country pub, the George and Dragon in Hurstbourne-Tarrant, Hampshire, is an excellent choice. It’s located about a half-hour drive away, so a visit to the home of Downton Abbey from the George and Dragon can be planned easily, leaving you plenty of time to explore the site. The George and Dragon is a warm and friendly country-style pub offering luxury double rooms and quality food lovingly prepared in our kitchen. No matter where you choose to spend the night, the George and Dragon is well worth a visit thanks to its freshly made seasonal food, local ales brewed just 100 metres from the bar and a list of carefully chosen wines.

A great place for a holiday or short break

In addition to its proximity to the real Downton Abbey, the George and Dragon offers a range of other activities right on its doorstep. Hurstbourne-Tarrant is a stunning village which lies in the north of Hampshire in the Test Valley. It has an interesting history, set in beautiful surroundings, which visitors can enjoy while sightseeing and discovering the home of the famous American Victorian artist Anna Lea Merritt. Her works, alongside pieces by local artists, are proudly displayed in the George and Dragon with opportunities to purchase.

A Brief History of Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle can be traced back to 749 AD, with records of buildings still existing on the site. Later records show that a palace-turned Tudor house was erected in a traditional red brick. The 3rd Earl of Carnarvon is said to have converted this much-loved bright brick into a classical Georgian mansion, before ordering an even more impressive transformation in 1838, around the time Queen Victoria had taken the throne. The new structure made way for a dramatic castle that dominated the landscape for years to come.

The discoverer of antiquities

Following decades of varying uses, the castle once again became a private home, in 1922, and rose to fame after the 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun. Other than a brief occupancy by evacuees during the Second World War, the castle has continued to be the home of the Carnarvon family. The 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon currently spend part of their time in the castle and remain very closely involved in the daily running of the now famous historical landmark.

What Is There to Do at Highclere Castle?

Aside from the obvious thrill of visiting the set of one of the UK’s most successful drama series, and finding the very room where those scenes that you remember were shot, visiting the famous castle also has many additional attractions and benefits. Visitors can enjoy a public or private tour of the building and grounds, enjoy a hot drink or lunch at the fabulous Tea Rooms, take a walk around the breath-taking gardens and buy lasting memories from the wonderful Castle Gift Shop. The castle and its surroundings are beautiful all throughout the year.


The castle prohibits animals to be taken into its grounds, with the exception of guide dogs. Disabled access is available across the majority of the estate, with wheelchair users welcome. However, families with pushchairs are asked to store these in the front hall upon arrival.

Opening Times

Both the gardens and Tea Rooms are open to guests from 10.00am during public opening times. The castle doors open at 10.30am and last admission is at 4.00pm, with the estate as a whole closing at 6.00pm. The Castle Gift Shop is open between 10.30am and 5.00pm. For further details on public opening dates and ticket prices, please consult the official Highclere Castle website: www.highclerecastle.co.uk.

Private Tours

Special private tours can be pre-arranged outside of the castle’s usual public opening times to allow groups and small parties to explore it in a more intimate way. As part of the fascinating tour, guests will discover the stunning State Rooms, Castle Bedrooms and the Egyptian Exhibition. All guides have a thorough knowledge of the castle and grounds and can answer any of your queries during or after the tour.

Corporate accommodation available at the George and Dragon

For those looking to arrange a corporate visit, the castle offers the opportunity to hire the reception areas and have exclusive access to the historic rooms. Once again, tour guides will accompany you and your group, and will tailor the visit to your group size and interests. Please note that the George and Dragon has eight rooms offering double occupancy and can therefore cater for small groups as well as individual bookings.

Events at Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle provides a list of entertaining activities and events throughout the calendar year. These have in the past included Mothering Sunday Tea Parties, Garden Parties, Christmas Fairs, Charity Balls and numerous private or ticketed events. Event dates and further information can be found by visiting the Highclere Castle website.

The George and Dragon, a great place to rest for the weary traveller

We hope you can see, a visit to Highclere Castle is a wonderful day out in this beautiful county and will no doubt prove to be an unforgettable experience . So, if you wish to extend your stay and enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep, with some delicious food and drink in our excellent restaurant, please contact our staff at the George and Dragon to make arrangements.

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