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Highclere Castle Tour | Planning Your Visit To The Real Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle Tour | Planning Your Visit To The Real Downton Abbey

highclere castle tour real downton abbey

Last Updated on January 20, 2023 by Eve Dawes

Highclere Castle is one of those instantly recognizable English stately homes thanks to Downton Abbey where it was filmed. Being a Downton Abbey fan, I was lucky enough to go to the premiere, I’ve been wanting to go to the real Downton Abbey for years. Highclere Castle tours book up way in advance but there is a way to visit if you didn’t manage to snag a ticket, keep reading to find out how. It finally made sense do visit this Summer as it was en route back to London from the Goodwood Races. We also managed to time it with Battleproms which I highly recommend if you can time it to coincide. Here’s everything you need to know about visiting Highclere Castle as well lots of photos in case you don’t get to go.

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Highclere Castle driveway

Can you tour the Castle of Downton Abbey (AKA Highclere Castle)

Yes, you can easily book tours of Highclere Castle AKA Downton Abbey that take you both inside and around the grounds. Just go to their website to book directly. If they’re sold out, you can get there early to wait in line in case any tickets become available on the day. See more on how to book below.

How do you book Highclere Castle Tours

You can book various Highclere Castle tours directly on their website and they do strongly recommend that you pre book. They offer so many different options including:

  • Christmas at Highclere which includes a signed copy of Lady Carnarvon’s book and a festive scone and tea or coffee from the tearooms.
  • Picnic Afternoon Tea for Two.
  • Magic of the Movies which includes a glass of Pimms and you go dressed as your favorite Downton Abbey Character for the chance to win a prize.
  • Spring Opening Castle and Garden Tours.

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They also have lots of fun events throughout the year including Magic of the Movies Weekend in September and The Highclere Festival in October which explores the discovery of the tomb of  Tutankhamun by the 5th Earl and Howard Carter.

I really want to go back for Christmas at Highclere as I can imagine it’ll be so pretty with all of the festive decorations.

Book tickets for your Highclere Castle tours.

How much does it cost to tour Downton Abbey in England

Downton Abbey tour prices vary depending on the tour you book. A self-guided tour is the cheapest option whereas their Champagne Afternoon Tea with Castle Tour & Egyptian Exhibition is one of the more expensive tour options. There are no free options to just walk around the grounds or castle.

Highclere Castle tour gardens

Highclere Tour Highlights

I loved the chance to explore in my own time and some of the highlights for me were:

  • Walking the same grand entry we all fell in love with on Downton Abbey.
  • A chance to walk down the grand staircase and be in the same rooms I recognized from Downton Abbey.
  • Learning where was filmed on location and where was on set.

Although it’s self-guided, you do have a map and staff are in every room that are open to the public to answer all of your questions.

Highclere Castle AKA The Real Downton Abbey Tour Tips

  • If you’re visiting Highclere Castle without a ticket definitely get there 30-45 minuted early to try to be at the front of the line.
  • Parking is free and right in front of the castle.
  • Use the map they give you as it shows you the best places to take your Highclere Castle photos e.g. on the grand lawn.
  • Don’t miss the gift shop. I’m a huge fan of Highclere Gin so stocked up on Christmas presents for people. They also have cute Lord and Lady mugs and other fun gifts.
Highclere Castle real Downton Abbey tour self guided

Try to visit either on a warm sunny day to enjoy sitting outside their tea shop to have lunch with Highclere Castle as your backdrop or in Winter to enjoy their Christmas decorations.

Wear comfortable shoes you don’t mind getting dirty if you’re planning on exploring the grounds. They’re pretty vast and it does have a tendency to rain, even in July when we visited.

highclere castle gardens

Try to time your visit on the day before or after Battleproms in July as it’s so British and fun. The castle is closed for tours on the actual day of the Battleproms so we went the morning after.

Where do you get to go on the tour

You’ll get to see most of the gardens and grounds which are pretty extensive so wear comfortable shoes. You can take as many photos as you like outside and definitely do as no photos are permitted inside.

highclere castle exterior tour

Inside, you’ll get to see the real Downton Abbey up close and all of the locations used in the series and movie. Except for downstairs including the kitchen as that was shot in a studio, the staff’s living quarters or the village which isn’t close to Highclere.

However, you will get to see the grand entrance and foyer, main library, dining room, bedrooms and gallery where you can look down on the foyer before coming back down the grand staircase.

Interior of Highclere Castle

There’s no photography allowed inside but you do get to see quite a bit of the interior of Highclere Castle. Including the entrance, foyer, main library, dining room, bedrooms, gallery and the grand staircase. For the best Highclere Castle photos check the map as it highlights all of the best places to take your photos.

Can you just turn up at Highclere Castle?

Yes but they do ask you to pre book tickets rather than just turn up if possible. However they do offer limited walk up tickets at 9am only Sunday to Thursday until September 5th. The rest of the year it’s through pre-booked tickets only so book well in advance.

highclere castle tour visit sat gardens

If you’re going to do walk up tickets which we chanced as they were sold out, I recommend getting there 30-45 minutes before the ticket office opens. You also only have the 1 tour option with walk up tickets which is the self-guided tour. 

Can you stay at Highclere Castle

You can’t stay at Highclere Castle itself, unless invited by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon who own the estate. However you can stay on their property at either The London Lodge at the edge of Highclere park or Grotto Lodge.

They’re both available to rent via Highclere, email for more information.

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highclere castle night time

How much does it cost to stay at Highclere Castle

While you can’t stay at Highclere Castle itself (unless invited), you can stay at The London Lodge or Grotto Lodge but both have a 3 night minimum stay. The Grotto starts at £1,600 but prices for the London Lodge are by enquiry only.

Grotto Lodge is available for a 3 night stay (£1,600), with check-in on a Friday.

Highclere Castle

Where is Highclere Castle

It’s located in Newbury (RG20 9RN) about 2 hours 20 minutes from central London and 1 hour 20 minutes from Goodwood Racecourse by car.

By rail from London you need to get a train from Paddington to Newbury, then take a couple of buses and taxi or just a 12 minute taxi/uber from Newbury station.

Is it worth visiting Highclere Castle

If you like history, stately homes, the English countryside and Downton Abbey then I’d say Yes.

It was smaller in person than I’d expected. It’s still a vast estate but the dimensions just looked bigger on camera. I’m still really glad we went and checked it off of the bucket list. Especially as we timed it with the Goodwood Races and Battleproms.

How long does it take to tour Highclere Castle

You only need a 1-4 hours there depending on the tour you’re doing so definitely factor that into planning your day. 3-4 hours is more than enough time to tour the castle, grounds, exhibition and have afternoon tea.

highclere castle photos battleproms

Where to stay when visiting Highclere Castle

If the 2 lodges in Highclere Park are sold out, there are quite a few hotels, stately homes, Inns and Air B N B’s close by.

We stayed at Sandford Springs Hotel & Golf Club ( minute drive) which was convenient and quiet as it’s located on a gold course. Breakfast was also included in the price.

Highclere Castle Gin

If you like a good gin and tonic try Highclere Castles gin while you’re there. They have a bar in the gardens you can order cocktails from and also sell it in their gift shop.

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