One of England's most remarkable stately homes, and the filming location for the renowned series Downton Abbey, is Highclere Castle, standing tall and prestigious in the Hampshire countryside, near the town of Newbury, southeast of the country.
The land of this magnificent Victorian-era manor stretches across a staggering 6,000 acres, with the castle covering 30,000 square feet - larger even than New York's Central Park. It was designed by Sir Charles Barry (one of the architects of Britain's Houses of Parliament), and constructed between 1839 to 1842, making it around 175 years old. During the tragic First World War it served as a convalescence hospital for soldiers.
This majestic house has an unbelievable 200 rooms. The door to one of these rooms was found to be covered in green baize, a wool material that resembles the surface of a pool table. Its purpose is assumed to be soundproofing, perhaps due to the loud soda-crystal scrubbing which had been present in the kitchens of Downton in the past.
This castle has been visited by very honorable guests, including the actor Omar Sharif, film director Stanley Kubrick, and several members of England's royal family. It is even popular with visitors and tourists 60 to 70 days per year, with adult tickets costing £20. Many people also rent parts of the castle for weddings and corporate events.
Before taking a peek inside, one cannot miss the ornate carved stone façade that includes 170 windows. The castle has been in the family of its current owner, the Earl of Carnarvon, for 370 years. This goes back before the castle was even built, since it had taken other forms before that - originally a house, which was a medium-sized mansion for the standards of that time. The first official inhabitant of the castle was the current owner's great-great-great grandfather.
It is now worth around £137 million, and you can see why, as soon as you step inside this historical beauty.
The front entrance opens onto a central room called the Saloon. The style of this room is Gothic and features a 50-foot vaulted ceiling and beautiful stone arches. These arches overlook the Saloon both from the same floor and the one above it, where the main bedrooms are, with the room extending upwards through the full height of the house. The ceiling has skylights in it to make way for more light, giving this magnificent room more prominence.
In the series Downton Abbey, the library is used as a study and refuge by Lord Grantham, and it was also the favorite room of the current Earl's great-great grandfather, who used it for entertainment and as a personal retreat. This prestigious room was doubled, with the middle opening featuring columns, and it provides comfortable seating throughout. It also has a characteristic coiffured ceiling, under which 5,600 books are stored, some of which are more than 500 years old.
The Dining Room
The Present Butler, Colin Edwards
The dining room is richly decorated with ornaments, a large fireplace and marvelous paintings on its walls. This used to be the setting of many episodes of Downton Abbey, where actors often took days to film a scene. The staff in this house used to be around 150 in the series. The present butler, Mr. Edwards, claims that he prefers this plentiful number to the 50 staff members working there at present. They are required to take care of the spacious interiors, as well as to cater for visiting tourists or for special events that take place in Highclere castle.
The Music Room
The music room is another esthetically-rich room that was certainly a source of inspiration to its previous owners. The windows overlook a spectacular view of 1,000 acres of beautifully landscaped land and gardens. Something special about this room is its glorious ceiling, which was painted by an English painter in the 1730s and one of the founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts, Francis Hayman. One can even see impressive Italian 16th-Century tapestries hung on the walls of this room. Furthermore, a desk and chair found inside this room were once owned by Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Cream Bedroom
Highclere Castle is home to a surprising amount of between 50 and 80 bedrooms. There are so many that its owners aren't even certain themselves. Some of them were originally used as servant's headquarters and are no longer used, or need renovation. The bedroom above is a guest bedroom, which is still used at present. Another guest bedroom, which was decorated in 1895 in anticipation of the Prince of Wales' visit (later Edward VII), is the bedroom of Lady Mary in Downtown Abbey, where once the unexpected death of Turkish diplomat Mr. Pamuk took place in the series.
Egyptian Exhibition Room
The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was keen on Egyptian antiques and he cultivated an extraordinary collection of them. In 1922, he even discovered the 3,200-year-old tomb of Tutankhamun, together with the archaeologist Howard Carter. Today, you can still see some of his collection in the cellars of the castle that are specifically dedicated to Egyptian Exhibits. This renders Highclere Castle even more famous and historically significant.
Gardens And Walking Trails Surrounding the Castle
In the thousands of acres surrounding the castle are mesmerizing green spaces with magical scenery of colorful flowers, trees of various shapes, and endless farmland, gardens and lawns in which you can take peaceful strolls, as though in a fairytale world. These gardens are often open to the public for tours and special occasions throughout the year.