5 Best Tips For Visiting Highclere Castle
One of my all-time favorite shows is Downton Abbey! As soon as the opening credits roll, I get goosebumps. And when I found out that you can visit Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey), I promptly started planning a trip! Now having visited, it has lead me to create the 5 best tips for visiting Highclere Castle!
Before I get into my 5 best tips for visiting Downton Abbey, I will give you some background on when I visited. It was Christmas time at Highclere Castle!
The castle hosts events and has openings to the public every month. You will need to have purchased tickets in advance to visit the property.
These tickets seem to sell out a couple of months ahead of the event and castle opening.
Visiting Downton Abbey at Christmas Time
With a castle as beautiful as Highclere Castle, any time of year is an excellent time to visit. If you are visiting during Christmas, you can expect that extra festive feel and holiday cheer. However, the beautiful gardens are less impressive as everything is leafless and bare. I just love Christmas! So I was pleased to have chosen Christmas time to visit the castle even with the cold, damp weather.
I planned my trip for about four months in advance of visiting. Tickets to the castle are very inexpensive, and that surprised me. You can purchase tickets on the Highclere Castle website. Be advised that not every event has admission to the inside of the castle, so you want to read the details carefully. To purchase a ticket, you will need to register as a user on the website.
Visiting Highclere Castle at Christmas was made special by all the holiday decorations and Gluhwein. The huge Christmas tree in the main foyer looked just as it did in the holiday episode of Downton Abbey!
The tickets are available for purchase several months ahead of the event. My advice to find Christmas tickets is to start looking at the website in June or July.
#1. Accommodations | Hotels Near Highclere Castle
My biggest regret on my trip to Highclere Castle was the accommodation I chose. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my bed and breakfast, because it was charming and lovely. The downfall for me was its location. Transportation in the area was an issue that I hadn’t considered.
If you are renting a car, then you have a lot of choices on where to stay. But, if you are going to rely on taxis or public transport, then read carefully. There is no Uber’s in this part of England. I wasn’t expecting that when I arrived at the Newbury central train station on a rainy day.
Depending on where you are traveling from, you might be challenging the strength of your internet connection. Take it from me, someone who stood in the rain, for 10 minutes without an internet connection. Save the contact of Cabco Newbury Taxi on your phone ahead of time.
My suggestion for travelers not renting a car is to book accommodations in the center of Newbury. If you choose a quaint countryside bed and breakfast, you will be spending a lot of money on taxis. This is why accommodations are the number one on my list of 5 best tips for visiting Highclere Castle.
Newbury Hotels City Center
- The Dolphin – This hotel is right in the center of town, and located 5 miles from Highclere Castle. Transportation to Highclere Castle is approximately 25-30 British Pounds.
I realize I am only giving you one suggestion for in-town hotels. Newbury is a small place, and although there are more places to stay, this one is the nicest.
At the time of my visit, I did not find a lot of choices with Airbnb, but new accommodations are listed every day on the website. Here is a coupon of $38 off Airbnb.
Bed & Breakfast’s Outside Newbury City Center
If you are renting a car, then I would choose to stay in one of these lovely bed and breakfasts. However, if you are traveling solo, you could feel a little isolated. It was my experience that these B & B’s are filled with couples. I am comfortable enough being the only single person at breakfast, and if you are too, then go for it!
- The Furze Bush Inn I stayed at this charming bed & breakfast. I would highly recommend it if you have a car. There are not many or reliable public transportation options in this area. The Furze Bush Inn is located 3 miles from Highclere Castle and 4 miles from Newbury City Center. Enjoy the on-site restaurant and bar in the coziest of atmospheres.
- The Carnarvon Arms Located 4.7 miles from the city center of Newbury and only 0.8 miles from Highclere Castle. This is an excellent choice in Bed & Breakfast if you have a vehicle.
- Bel & The Dragon Kingsclere This superb bed & breakfast is located in Kingsclere, which is 4.8 miles from Highclere Castle and 6.3 miles to Newbury.
#2. Transportation | Where to Fly Into
My recommendation on how to get to Highclere Castle is based on flying in special for this trip. A good number of nights for this visit is 3!
Flying into London Stansted will give you the best transit option for going to Newbury. Directly from the airport, it will be two trains. You will take the train to the central station in Reading, and then from there a train to Newbury.
The journey in total from the airport to Newbury is approximately 2 hours. With such reasonable transit times and minimal connections, I decided against renting a car. The choice is yours, renting a car will give you more freedom to explore the incredible English countryside.
The London Airports
#3. Food Options At & Around Highclere Castle
Tip number 3 of 5 of the best tips for visiting Highclere Castle is all about the food! I rank finding good food as my number one concern when traveling. The experience I have on my travels is always enhanced by having a great meal.
If you are vegan/vegetarian, you will need to pay attention and do some research. The United Kingdom has not been known to have the most vegan or vegetarian options. I can happily report that it is starting to change, and you will find more selections for vegan/vegetarians.
At the castle, they do have a cafeteria both in the basement and outside behind the building. I found that there were no options for vegan, but a couple of options for vegetarians. Things like soy milk for tea was not something offered at the time of my visit. My advice is to come prepared with your own vegan snacks in case you get hungry.
If you are planning on high tea at the castle, the website noted that there are no vegan options. I hope this changes in the future. Vegan options have become more popular around the United Kingdom, so I will be crossing my fingers.
Restaurant in Newbury
For meals outside the Highclere Castle, I was happy to find some vegan/vegetarian options in the city center of Newbury. I can highly recommend Bill’s Bar & Restaurant.
#4. Tips On What To Expect In Highclere Castle
When your special day has finally arrived and it’s time to go to the castle, there are a few things to know!
The visiting hours for the castle tour are within the hours you can visit the property. Predicting what the best time to go into the castle is is tricky. When I arrived there was no line at all, then 1 hour later there was a line of at least 30 people.
It might come as no surprise, but be disappointing to hear that there are no pictures allowed inside the castle. It’s sad but true; you will have to take mental pictures when inside this magnificent place.
The tour itself through the first two levels of this castle is speedy. I would say it’s around 15 minutes. It is truly a special moment when you get to walk through the study, drawing room, and through some of the bedrooms of your most beloved Downton Abbey characters.
After touring the film location rooms, you are allowed to go into the basement for the Egyptian Exhibit (if you purchased an exhibit ticket). This Exhibit is a collection of the finding of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. In 1922 he famously discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun.
The collection of artifacts is quite impressive. This underground tour of the exhibit is self-guided. The tour ends by walking out to the back of the property, passing by the indoor cafeteria.
The gift shop, as well as the restrooms, are located in the back courtyard. I enjoyed a lovely cup of tea and strolled around the property before leaving for the day.
I called my taxi just as I was finishing my tea, and it arrived within 15 minutes. And just like that, my special trip to Highclere Castle was over. With one full day left on my trip, I had to do something, and it’s my tip #5 of 5 best tips for visiting Highclere Castle!
#5. A Day Trip to Bath
Taking a day trip to Bath was a highlight on my mini-break holiday to the UK. The journey to Bath from Newbury city center was 2 hours by train.
If you visit during Christmas time, you will arrive to a festive and fully decorated city center. The Christmas markets will be in full swing serving up Gluhwein and roasted chestnuts!
Bath has approximately 83,000 inhabitants and is 29km in size. As soon as I arrived in Bath, I went for a walk around to take pictures.
Bath is one of the most idyllic British towns that I have ever visited. Every corner I turned was a picture worth opportunity.
Some of the Main Attractions in Bath Are:
- The Roman Baths– A Roman bathhouse, museum, restaurant, and temple.
- Bath Abbey – 7th-century church of England, former monastery Benedictine.
- Thermae Bath Spa – A day spa for bathing in a variety of pools containing mineral enriched waters.
- The Jane Austen Centre – Museum of Jane Austen’s life & tearooms.
I spent 4 hours walking around and taking pictures, thinking about how much I want to return someday and spend more time.
An alternative to taking a day trip on your final day could be walking about Newbury. The village of Newbury is tiny but perfect for strolling around, maybe having lunch.
Newbury is very quiet and not filled with tourists. You can get a taste of real village life here in Newbury. Without a car, you can walk the small streets and enjoy the quaint feel of this adorable town. I would recommend bringing a book or a camera to fill your time reading or taking pictures. It takes approximately 40 mins to walk all of the city center.
St. Nicolas Church is located in the center of Newbury. This 16th-century church is an example of Gothic style architecture. It’s situated by the main bridge over the River Kennet.
If you do have a car, you can take a 10-minute drive and visit Donnington Castle. Walking to the castle takes only 35 minutes, and it would be lovely in good weather.
Another idea would be to spend time strolling around Victoria Park. The park is located just across the River Kennet. The park has lovely gardens and gazebos, a perfect spot to read a book.
Just A Day Trip to Highclere Castle
If you are staying in London, and just want to make a day trip to Highclere Castle, there are options. Below are some highly-rated and fully organized day trip tours.
(Disclaimer: Some links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning if you click on the link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission. This is at no extra cost to you and you may even receive a small discount. See disclosure for more information.)
Final Thoughts on Traveling Solo to Highclere Castle
It took me a long time to get used to going on adventures alone. I had always been looking at traveling solo as something sad. But I was wrong! After a few trips, going by myself, I’d start to prefer it over going with someone else.
Going solo means you can go at your own pace. I learned that I have a somewhat short attention span. When visiting museums, I prefer to move fast and don’t enjoy reading every plaque I come across. However, my travel companion could be the opposite. When you travel solo, you don’t have to make any compromises!
Visiting Highclere Castle solo was something I really enjoyed. I do wish I had come a little more prepared with a tripod and remote for pictures. However, I had a very satisfying solo trip.
Related Post: Finding Your Path In Life
Perhaps you are reading this post because you dream of visiting Downton Abbey and are somewhat unsure about traveling alone. Then I urge you to check out my post on 5 Benefits of Traveling.
Planning to Stay in England?
Do you have the time to see more of England? Here are some great day trips from London!
Maybe you are looking to visit the 15 Most Beautiful Cotswolds Villages?
Or perhaps you want to visit the north of England? For ideas on how to spend a perfect weekend in Manchester, check out the post. Manchester is located just north of Newbury and is easily reachable by train.
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