How to Visit Highclere Castle - Downton Abbey Movie Set for Free! (2023)

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Did you know that you can visit Highclere Castle in Hampshire for free, where Downton Abbey was actually filmed?

Although you have to pay an entrance fee to see the interior, there are a number of free Highclere Castle walks around the estate which are considered a public right of way!

This means that Downton fans can easily visit the mansion where they filmed Downton Abbey for free. This is perfect when the castle is closed to the public during the off season.

As well as the landscaping from the house, the grounds surrounding the property are stunningly beautiful, rich in flora and fauna, with stunning views across the Hampshire countryside.

Plus, there are many viewpoints, grottoes, lakes, temples, churches, and crazy things to do around this 5,000-acre estate!

So if you want to follow in the footsteps of the Crawleys and save a few pennies in the process, here's how you can visit Highclere Castle for free via Highclere Castle's public walkways and walkways!

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History of Highclere Castle

The castle was first mentioned in Anglo-Saxon times in 749. Highclere is located in King Offa's Kingdom of Mercia, bordering the ever-expanding Kingdom of Wessex.

At this time Offa ceded the land to William of Wykeman, Bishop of Winchester, who built a palace and planned the gardens here.

In the 17th century, the palace was rebuilt as Highclere Place House and purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer. He is a direct ancestor of the current 8th Earl of Caernarfon.

In 1771, Capability Brown planned to transform the grounds and symmetrical Georgian house.

Sir Charles Barry's home was converted into Highclere Castle in 1842. Sir Charles Barry also designed the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, and it's easy to see some architectural similarities between the two buildings.

I found an interesting thing, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922Valley of the KingsWith Howard Carter in Luxor, Egypt. Unfortunately, the count died a few weeks later, leading to the mystery and news of King Tut's curse.

During World War I, Highclere Castle was converted into a hospital for wounded soldiers, and during World War II it became a safe place for children evacuated from London.

Highclere Castle remains the ancestral home and residence of the 8th Earl and Countess of Caernarfon. However, there are guided tours every year and since they take place in Downton Abbey, they are very popular!

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Drehort Highclere Castle Downton Abbey

Today, Highclere Castle has become the real location of Downton Abbey!

The house played the ancestral home of Lord Grantham and the Crawley family in the world famous ITV historical drama series set in Yorkshire.

The interior and exterior of the mansion have been used to film all six TV series and the subsequent Downton Abbey film.

It is a"up and down"elegant demeanor. So inside you'll find the royal staterooms and the old staff quarters you see in Downton Abbey.

Highclere Castle is open to visits regularly throughout the year, allowing you to easily immerse yourself in the world of Downton Abbey in Hampshire.

In fact, Highclere Castle has between 250 and 300 rooms for you to explore. You can also visit the Egyptian exhibit celebrating the 5th Earl of Carnarfon who discovered Tutankhamun's tomb.

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How to visit Highclere Castle for free!

So of course you need a ticket to visit Highclere Castle, which is only open to visitors at certain times of the year.

It opens early in the summer, but you'll pay a fortune to visit during Christmas and winter. This is a very popular movie location for Downton Abbey, attracting over 1,500 visitors a day!

However, if you want to visit Highclere Castle for free, it's easy to do, as Highclere Estate has a number of free public paths for you to wander.

This walk is perfect for Downton Abbey fans visiting the UK during the off-season or when the castle is closed to the public.

All you have to do is park in the area and walk into Highclere Park along the public walkway and you can see the home and location for free!

Are walks in Highclere dog friendly?Yes, you can take your dog on the public walkways and Highclere Castle grounds, but please keep your dog on a leash at all times. There is sheep pasture and plant life.

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Parking for a Highclere Castle walk?

Please note that the hotel does not provide official parking on the public sidewalk. In summer, visitors to Highclere Castle can use the car park, but cannot park here unless you have a castle ticket.

Therefore, you must make sure to find safe and legal parking for your car to undertake this trek.

As you drive towards the estate you will quickly notice that there are no stop signs and yellow traffic cones on the roads around Highclere Castle.

The most convenient parking spot for this hike is at the foot of Beacon Hill. There is a large free parking lot there.

You can climb to the top of Beacon Hill first, and you can have a great view of Highclere Castle from the observation deck on the top of the mountain!

You can then walk comfortably down the A34 Whitway Road until you reach the entrance to the Highclere Castle estate. At the junction of this road you will see a sign for 'Highclere Castle'.

We tried to park at Beacon Hill in January, but the lot was completely flooded after the storm, so we decided to keep driving and look for a more suitable spot.

Alternatively, you can park your car in Highclere Village and from there access the Highclere Castle public walkway.

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Why not have lunch at the Carnarvon Arms?

If you're hungry during your visit, why not head to the Carnarvon Arms for lunch?

Just a short walk from the entrance to Highclere Castle Estate on Whitway Road, this pub is the perfect place to stop before or after your visit.

This is a charming pub with cozy interiors and a great selection for breakfast, brunch and dinner!

We stopped here for lunch and enjoyed a nice open sandwich and a glass of local cider before our walk.

We then asked the owner if we could leave our car while visiting Highclere Castle and they kindly said yes!

I always ask beforehand if they are busy, but this is a great option and a safe place to park. Better than parking illegally on the side of the road.

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Entrance to Highclere Castle

So once you follow the road to the entrance of Highclere Castle Estate, you cross a bridge and enter the park through a gate.

When the castle is closed to visitors, there are numerous no-entry signs, but these are for vehicles only.

Pedestrians can walk on Highclere Castle's public walkways and motorways all year round.

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You must always follow these paths. However, the right of way is well signposted so you don't have to worry about getting lost.

Of course, this permission was kindly offered by the Earl and Countess of Caernarfon, as they still live at the castle!

Tours can be suspended at any time without notice (for security reasons, events or special visits) but 99% of the time you can safely walk around Highclere Estate all year round.

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Drive along the walkways and right-of-way at Highclere Castle

Therefore, once inside the estate, you must stay on the estate along the paved pathHighclere Castle's public walkway.

The trail is easy to follow and there are signs to guide you through it. We also met some friendly security guards who are more than happy to guide you and make sure you are on the right track.

It's really a nice walk as you can see a lot of wildlife here. With many sheep grazing, this is a magnificent property to explore.

I was there in January but I think spring and summer are a good time to visit Highclere Castle. There is so much flora and fauna to see and the weather is much better!

Of course, besides the wildlife, there are plenty of opportunities to see actual Downton Abbey movie sets along the way.

If you want to explore beyond Highclere Castle's public walks, there are other walks available on the estate.

Click here to see a map of all Highclere Park walking routes

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How much Highclere Castle, also known as Downton Abbey, can you see on your walk?

It's not a breathtaking view to be honest! Most of the time, you can only see part of the house from this road.

Near the hotel entrance, you can see the top of the castle above the park hill. Then you can see the side of the house through the trees.

If you want to get a better view of Downton Abbey, you can bypass the public right of way to Highclere village near Necropolis Church.

Although the castle is far away, more houses can be seen from this vantage point. Coupled with the surrounding rolling hills and grazing sheep, the scenery is so beautiful.

Beacon Hill offers great views year round. Additionally, the Wayfarer's Walk with the Gate to Heaven offers stunning panoramic views of Highclere Castle, open in summer.

I saw some comments that people could approach the house through the parking lot when the house was open to visitors. However, I can't say whether this is technically "allowed".

If you really want to see more of Downton Abbey's film locations up close I always recommend bookingorganized travelwhen it opens to the public. This allows you to go straight to the grounds and see inside!

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What else can you see on the free Highclere Park Public Walk?

Highclere Estate has many acres to explore, most with public right-of-way.

There is a map at the entrance of the house, and I wanted to take pictures to highlight the points of interest on the walking route.

we put thatPublic walks in Highclere ParkThat's along Whitway Road. This will take you around Highclere Castle and on to the village of Highclere.

The route also takes us past the picturesque Necropolis Church at Highclere Castle. Although it is no longer open to the public, it is very well preserved.

according toCountess of CarnarvonEvery first Sunday in September, the pastor holds a short service here.

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More free walking tours of Highclere Castle

If you want to explore more of the park, there are eight free walking routes to Highclere Castle that you can follow to find more sights! Most of the public rights of way are linked through the castle for easy access.

Note that some of these trails are only open in summer. Nevertheless, even on these walks the dog must be kept on a leash at all times;

  • Beacon Hill Public Walkway –It has its own car park and can be reached on foot from a vantage point at 261 meters high. From here you can see Highclere Castle. We tried to walk but it was flooded.
  • Old Burghclere Public Walkway –This will take you out of the Highclere Estate ruins and into the village of Burghclere. It is a quaint old town with many famous historic buildings.
  • Milford Lake Sommerspaziergang –Take a long walk around the lake and also visit the Temple of Diana, the London Hotel and Dunsmere Lake.
  • Temple Summer Walk (no dogs allowed) –This will take you around Highclere Castle and on to the Temple of Diana.
  • Grotto Lodge Sommerspaziergang –It is located to the south of the hotel and can be reached via hiking trails. Designed by Thomas Allom 175 years ago, Highclere Grotto Lodge is now a unique place to stay and stay.
  • Heaven's Gate Sommerspaziergang –Heaven's Gate at Highclere Castle is a Grade I listed red brick arch, accessible via the hiker's walk. The folly was built by Robert Herbert in 1737 and renovated in 1997. This walk offers stunning bird's-eye views of Highclere Castle in the distance.
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Where to stay near Highclere Castle?

If you are looking for a place to stay, I would recommend the award winning Carnarvon Arms!

Nestled in the Hampshire countryside, just inches from Highclere Castle, the hotel offers 18 beautiful boutique rooms!

This is the base camp for a weekend getaway or to explore more of the area.

Those traveling with furry family members will be relieved to know that there are some dog-friendly accommodations, too.

Click here to book a room overnight

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Next, visit Bampton, Downton Abbey!

If you're a Downton Abbey fan, you might be interested to know that the village featured in the series is just an hour's drive from Highclere Castle!

It is not in Yorkshire, but in Bampton, a small village on the edge of the Cotswolds in Oxfordshire.

Here you can see the exterior of Isobel Crawley's home, the church where Mary and Matthew were married, the former site of The Grantham Arms, Downton Hospital Cottage Hospital) and so on.

Honestly, Bampton feels like a village trapped in time. If you are in the area you must visit it. You will be instantly transported to the royal world of the Crawley family!

Read my complete guide to all Downton Abbey filming locations in Bampton!

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Why not book a Downton Abbey tour?

If you're in the UK on holiday or don't drive, you might prefer to book a Downton Abbey tour, which includes Highclere Castle, Bampton village and more Downton Abbey filming locations.

There are many excursions from London that will take you to all these places in one day!

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