Legions of fans around the world are devastated as their beloved Crawley residence Downton Abbey is exiting primetime this year. Given the ephemeral nature of a TV series, the closest Downtonians come to the real thing is when they visit the setting: the just as regal and posh as viewed-on-telly Highclere Castle, open to visitors in July and August (highclerecastle.co.uk).

The site of the castle dates back over a millennium, though the building is about 200-odd years old. The exterior is principally bath stone-clad and Jacobethan in style, though a Renaissance influence is visible in tapering towers and the interiors. Once the castle owned over 8,000 acres of land, and dozens of staff—a lamplighter lit 150 lamps daily, a maid just concocted preserves—and even now the staff numbers around 80. The library has a chair where Napoleon signed his abdication from the French throne —check out the scratch marks he made! Many iconic artworks acquired over centuries adorn the rooms, and determined upkeep by successive owners has meant the massive structure—over 200 rooms, including about 70 bedrooms—remains in great shape.

The grounds are arguably the most beautiful part of the estate, with 300-year-old Lebanon cedars among rolling hills, masses of flowers and ornamental plants.

Most surprisingly, there is an Egyptian museum in the basement, with one of the best collection of Egyptian antiquities in the world. Lord Porchester, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, was a keen Egyptologist, and sponsored the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922.

Even if you are a not a diehard Downtonian, the castle, especially its spectacular gardens, bring alive a past era of grandeur. Book a visit in advance though.

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