Since we moved to Newbury, Highclere has been our nearest stately home. Today we finally got round to visiting with our friends Merv and Pud. We arrived fairly early and got some nice views of the castle before the queues started.
The building dates from 1616, but was much altered in 1774-7 by Henry Herbert, who became the 1st Earl of Carnarvon in 1793. The arhcitet may have been Capability Brown, who was working on the park at about the same time. However, the building we see today was virtually rebuilt by Sir Charles Barry between 1838-48, taking his inspiration from the Elizabethan Wollaton Hall near Nottingham. There is nice photo of it in the snow on Wikipedia. Highclere is much more restrained though.
The main entrance is in the North front and we headed round to the East front for another perspective.
We also enjoyed the carved motifs below the windows.
We decided to explore the gardens before the house - probably a mistake as we had to queue to get in when we had finished. Looking back towards the car park there was a wonderful view of this magnificent Cedar of Lebanon, one of Capability Brown's signature features.
As we headed further away, the house was delightfully bracket by two lovely trees.
We arrived in the mid-18th century Monks' Garden, a spacious walled garden.
Beyond it lay the delightful Secret Garden.
We felt we didn't have time to explore the grounds beyond this so we returned to the main entrance to await our entry. The house is quite interesting inside: the library and the Saloon were the highlights for me. Photographs were not allowed unfortunately. Fans of Downton Abbey were in heaven, seeing the very rooms where the series was filmed.
Afterwards, we gave the Egyptian exhibition a miss. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon famously funded Howard Carter's discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, but all the real finds are in the British Museum.
We had a look at the South front, noting the redbrick private wing and finding a welcoming coffee shop and some nice plants for sale.
We thought that was it, but the route out took us past the lovely Rotonda.
It was built by Capability Brown in 1790 and altered by Barry fifty years later.
Conditions: a lovely sunny day.
Map: Explorer 144 (Basingstoke, Alton and Whitchurch)
Rating: four stars.