One of my favorite shows is Downton Abbey (PBS). Sadly, this week will be the finale for Season Three. Those of you who have watched this show know its many charms, but did you know that there is a ‘real’ Downton Abbey? It’s Highclere Castle and you can tour it. Ten things To Know Before You Go:
1. Highclere Castle, valued at $240 million, is home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. It has been in the Carnarvon family since 1679.
2. The estate is located 90 minutes outside of London, England.
3. It employs a staff of 80.
4. An adult admission ticket is pricey: $28 (includes home, gardens, Egyptian exhibit). Or you can get one that allows admission to the gardens only, the castle and gardens only, etc.
5. It encompasses 6,000 acres, including 1,000 acres of gardens so wear good walking shoes!
6. Plan well in advance. An average of 1,2000 visitors descend on the castle on tour days. Many dates for 2013 are already sold out and there are many dates that the castle is not open to the public.
7. Always wanted to get married in a castle? Anyone can get married on the grounds as long as they can afford the rental fee (approximately $24,000).
8. Forget trying to see everything. There are so many rooms that no one can get an exact count. The official count is listed as between 200 -300.
9. An exciting discovery was made in 1988. About 300 Egyptian artifacts were found in a secret passageway in the castle. The Earl’s great-grandfather was a famous Egyptologist who was part of the expedition that discovered King Tut’s tomb. They are on display in a special area of the castle and can only be seen if you buy a ticket that includes admission to this exhibit.
10. Don’t expect to find Matthew or Mary or any of the Downton Abbey cast as they don’t really live there! But you can find all kinds of souvenirs in the castle’s gift shop.
For more information or to pre-book tickets (highly recommended), visit www.highclerecastle.co.uk. The site has all kinds of helpful information regarding planning a visit, the history of the castle, etc.