That’s right, people! Season six is coming up, and everyone that follows the show has probably heard that it’s going to be the final season. Sadly, we won’t be here when it airs. But it’s been fun being a few months ahead of the folks in the States for spoilers. 😉 But while we were here, we couldn’t miss the chance to see the location in person. So we threw an extra day onto our holiday weekend and went to Highclere Castle last Thursday.

Since it’s still a family residence and also an active filming location, it’s only open at certain times throughout the year…two weeks at the end of March (and beginning of April), six days in May, and then for two months between July and September (closed Friday and Saturdays). They usually have two sessions that you can sign up for: a morning and an afternoon.

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Approach from the main gate.

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Me in front of Downton Abbey!

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Catering tents perhaps?

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A lovely view with daffodils.

We were able to get tickets directly from the castle website to visit during their spring opening, which were about £20 each for access to the house, the gardens and the Egyptian exhibit. The site currently says they’re sold out for the rest of 2015 (glad we got in when we did!!). But you can also book through various tour operators like Viator that include transportation from London and trips to other Downton Abbey filming locations nearby. So they might have a certain amount set aside for them.

The house itself was absolutely gorgeous, of course, although slightly smaller than it seems on screen. But the things you can’t see on TV are the amazing amount of detail in the rooms (the gothic main hall is phenomenal) and all the family photos and memorabilia scattered throughout the house. They even had specific rooms labeled if they were used in the show, which was a lot of fun to see.

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The library (internet photo).

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The state dining room (internet photo).

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The amazing Gothic main hall (internet photo).

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The drawing room (internet photo).

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Cora’s bedroom (internet photo).

And the grounds are stunning. If I had to do it again, I’d probably go during the summer so we could see the gardens in full bloom. But we did get to see some sweet lambs in the pastures along the roads. They also had some fun architectural elements throughout the 1,100-acre park that is their back yard, like a bust of Charlemagne, the Temple of Diana, and the Jackdaw’s Castle, which is an 18th century folly built purely to look pretty from the castle.

I would not, however, recommend the Egyptian exhibit to anyone who’s claustrophobic. The collection is interesting as it was all brought back by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Kind of major. 😉 But where the house has nice high ceilings in all the rooms, the exhibit is in a little rabbit warren of basement rooms with unnaturally low ceilings. These were also quite crowded with other people. So I spent about 20 seconds looking at the first few items and then promptly shoved my way back outside before I freaked out.

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Picnic lunch.

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The Jackdaw’s Castle.

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Spring lambs!

Once recovered from that, they have a nice little gift shop to distract you and a couple cafes. We picked up some sandwiches and a tiny split of champagne and enjoyed our “picnic” on one of the plastic tables scattered around near the stables, complete with horses in them.

We’d left our son at nursery school that day. So it was a blissfully relaxed self-guided tour with my hubby, with lovely long walks throughout the grounds, and the return traffic wasn’t even too stressful. It’s only about an hour and a half west of central London. So if you get the chance, I would highly recommend it!!!

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