Castle and Gardens
The first written records of the estate date back to 749 when an Anglo-Saxon King granted the estate to the Bishops of Winchester. Bishop William of Wykeham built a beautiful medieval palace and gardens in the park. Later on, in 1679, the palace was rebuilt as Highclere Place House when it was purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer, the direct ancestor of the current Earl of Carnarvon. In 1842, Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Houses of Parliament, transformed Highclere House into the present day Highclere Castle.
During the First World War, Highclere Castle was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers run by the 5th Countess of Carnarvon. Then, in the Second World War, Highclere Castle was home to children evacuated from London.
There are between 250 and 300 rooms in the Castle Saloon and during your tour you will explore the main state rooms so familiar from "Downton Abbey". You will see some of the bedrooms after which you will follow the stairs down to the cellars and old staff quarters where you will find the Egyptian Exhibition, celebrating the 5th Earl of Carnarvon's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.
Records show the gardens were first developed here during the 13th century. Today you are welcome to explore the original Monks' Garden, the White Border, the Wood of Goodwill, the Rose Arbour, the Wild Flower Meadow and, nearer the house, the Healing Herb Garden.
Highclere Castle is set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland, designed for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon by the famous 18th century landscape gardener "Capability" Brown.
There are six 18th century follies framing views from which to admire the landscape. For example, Jackdaw’s Castle on the East lawns provides a charming view to the Castle, the Etruscan Temple is a place in which to sit and admire the trees on Siddown Hill, whilst the Temple of Diana looks over the lake.
The parkland and gardens are framed by a collection of magnificent cedar trees, first imported into this country in the 18th century.
Recent archaeological and landscape investigations have shown that there is an Iron Age fort and a number of tumuli, ancient trackways, lynchets and field systems within the estate.
Please note that these Gardens and woods can be explored only when Highclere Castle is open to the general public. For public footpaths and other seasonal walks please see the section Walks near Highclere Castle.