It’s back! The fifth season of the wildly popular British period drama, Downton Abbey is once again showing on PBS. Of course the fifth season is now old hat to our British friends who get to view it a full season before we do here in the States.
A little confession: When Downton Abbey first started airing, I was a pretty faithful watcher, catching it as often as possible on PBS. Then all of a sudden in one measly season (I think it was season 3) characters started dropping like flies. It was the season where one of the main characters, Matthew Crawley, dies in car crash right after his wife, Lady Mary, gives birth. In that same season another main character died right after childbirth. Depressing!
That did me in, I couldn’t watch as much anymore. I know it’s “just a TV show” but it made me sad because I know this kind of stuff does sometimes happen in real life, so I had to stop watching. Yes, I’m a wimp! In any case, I still love reading and hearing about Downton Abbey and if I ever make it across the pond, I’d absolutely love to tour Highclere Castle in person. Have you been?
A little history about Highclere Castle before we go inside: Early records indicate Highclere was at one time a brick and freestone house. Later it was converted to a classical Georgian mansion then in 1838, the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon decided to transform Highclere into the castle we see today. Amazingly, the structural work on the interior wasn’t completely finished until 1878! Next time you feel bad about how long a renovation in your home is taking, think about Highclere and feel better that it’s not taking 40 years!
I knew Highclere was big but WOW, you don’t realize how big it is until you start reading some of the stats! Highclere has 11 bedrooms on the first floor alone and 40-50 additional bedrooms on the upper floors! This house was obviously built with the idea of entertaining and having many guests staying overnight. Oh, to have a been a fly on the wall back in the day!
The current Countess of Carnarvon, Lady Fiona, has been gradually restoring the bedrooms over the past five years. One of the wonderful things about Downton Abbey being filmed in Highclere Castle is it has brought in additional income so restorations are able to take place a little faster now.
In a video I found online at HGTV, Lady Fiona said the furniture in the castle is used by all the characters in the show and they are allowed to sit on the sofas and chairs, etc… She said it works out great for both the show and for them because they have been able to make some badly needed updates to the home and some of the furnishings from the money coming in from the series. As a result, with each passing season you may find the interiors of the Downton Abbey looking better and better!
Here’s a floor plan of Highclere Castle. It’s kind of difficult to read but hopefully it will give you a general idea of the layout of the main floor of the castle.
Here’s an even more detailed floor plan showing the location of the rooms as featured in the show, Downton Abbey.
The only “rooms” not filmed inside the home are the staff’s quarters. Those are filmed on a set.
One of the most dramatic and stunning rooms off the main hall of Highclere Castle is the Saloon. (It’s pronounced “salon” but spelled saloon.) Before we head into the saloon, I have to show you how they decorated the main staircase that’s just visible in the photo below.
Beautiful! I was amazed to read how hands-on Lady Fiona is with the decorating. On her blog, there’s a photo of her standing atop her car cutting mistletoe from a tree to use in her decorating of Highclere. I love that she’s so real and is willing to share a photo like that on her blog.
Back to the salon and it’s amazing gallery…isn’t this stunning?!
The gallery walls are decorated in ancient Belgian tapestries and the crest you see all around the gallery is that of the Carnarvon family.
Notice the upholstery on the chairs as we look down into the saloon. Okay, keeping that in mind…
…take a look at this picture. You can see the chairs have been recovered. I’m not sure which is the current look. Anyone remember from the show that just aired?
Here’s a close up of one of the chairs in the salon. Ummm, are they red now or green? Inquiring minds want to know!
The music room in Highclere is amazing! Just look at those walls and all the elaborate, carved molding!
The ceiling in the music room is so beautiful. I think I’d just lay down on the floor and stay there staring up for an hour or two. I wonder if the Earl and Countess ever pinch themselves and marvel they live in such beautiful and rare surroundings.
The Smoking Room in Highclere is where the gentlemen would have retired after dinner in the Victorian days.
I pulled this view of it from a video online. I love how it looks in the evening by lamplight. Look how the bright orange walls turn so warm and rich in the evening.
This is the Drawing Room at Highclere Castle and the green damask wallpaper is really pretty. Though beautiful in this photo, you don’t really appreciate it until you see this next photo.
Photos obviously do not do this home justice. This is a scene from the show, Downton Abbey where the Drawing Room has been turned into an infirmary during the first World War. It really shows the beauty of the green damask wallpaper. It looks as if it could actually be damask fabric on the walls.
I love this room, it feel so English Country with its rose-patterned, chintz slip-covers and ruffled skirts.
A lot of scenes are filmed in this room…the state dining room. If I counted correctly, it appears the table will seat 24 for dinner. Umm, wonder how they got electricity to the lamps in the center of the table. Can’t be candles with a fabric shade…unless they are inside some kind of votive.
The library is one of my favorite rooms in Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey).
I pulled some of these pictures from a video at HGTV. The camera was almost always moving, so excuse some of the blurriness.
Here’s a better photo of the library showing the current Earl of Carnarvon. Notice the beautiful rug. It’s new and replaces the previous rug (seen two photos up) that was very badly worn. I love the additional red it brings to this room and do like it better than the other rug. It’s another purchase/improvement they were able to make for Highclere due to the popularity of Downton Abbey. The upkeep on Highclere has to be staggering. I can’t even imagine! Hopefully Downton will be popular for many more seasons. I don’t see it stopping anytime soon, with over 10 million visitors tuning in for the first show of this 5th season.
This desk in the library is where you’ll often find the Earl of Grantham in the Downton Abbey show.
A few more views of the library from the video…
The ceiling is really beautiful in the library…so ornate! Let’s tour some of the bedrooms!
I’m not sure whose bedroom this is in the show, but it’s beautiful! Anyone recognize it?
In real life, this is the Mercia bedroom in Highclere Castle. It’s on the south side of the castle.
This is the Queen Caroline bedroom named after the Queen Consort to George IV, per the Highclere website.
Highclere is truly an amazing place. Have you been there! If so, what was your favorite room or experience while touring it?
I’ll leave you with this lovely picture of Highclere in the snow. You’ll find additional photos of Highclere Castle at their website where these pictures (except for those marked HGTV) were found: Highclere Castle ,
Have you taken the quiz to see which Downton character you are most like? You’ll find it in this previous post: Downton Abbey Personality Quiz: Which Character Are You?