Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle – 30th July 2019

Today was a big tick for the bucket list as we went to Highclere Castle which is only eight kilometres from Newbury and where Downton Abbey was/is filmed.

In the actual series, they portray the castle as being up in the Yorkshire region – not sure for this. They recently finished filming a Downton movie which will be released in early September.

We had organized for Toque to be minded for the day by a lady and her daughter that Di got through a dog sitting website. She came and picked Toque up from the boat at 9.30am which meant we could head out for our day of poshness.

We caught a taxi out there which was a great idea as the weather was truly atrocious. It was pelting down with sideways rain because of the strong winds. We had organised tickets that allowed us to see the Egyptian Exhibition, inside the house, gardens and high tea in the coach house.

We did the Egyptian Exhibition first and were aware of the connection between the 5th Earl of Carnarvon who was an English peer and aristocrat and best known as the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings. This where the curse of King Tut originated from.

Unfortunately, there are no photos from our tour of the castle as photography was strictly prohibited. We did enter through the front door and saw the main sitting room, dining room, grand entrance, smoking room, library, bedrooms of Lady Mary, Edith, Sybil and Lady Granthams. Our descent down the grand staircase was especially welcomed as we did find a lot of areas out of bounds.

The general remark we would make is that it is looking tired and bathrooms that had been updated in the 1960’s with green porcelain certainly appeared out of character. Money seems to have run out about this time and since then the ravages of time and weather have taken their toll on the grand house.

With all the income that is being generated now, they are able to do major roof and structural repairs to the grand olde dame and get her back to her former glory.

In amongst the down pours of rain and umbrella inverting wind we did get to see a bit of the garden. There was a substantial vegetable patch, secret garden and many magnificent old trees that would easily be over 200 years in age.

It was then time for our high tea in the coach house which was really nice and as we hadn’t had lunch we did rather wolf it down.

There were a number of scenes from the making of Downton Abbey scattered around the estate to show you what the various rooms were used for. We felt we could use this one to say that this was our welcoming party – not.

We were back on the boat by 3.00pm awaiting for Toques return so that we could set off for a few hours of cruising. We have been made aware that there is a set of locks up at Crofton, about 12 hours cruising from here, that are only open on Tuesday and Thursday. These restrictions are because of water shortages. This has very much put us under the gun as we have got just over a day to get up there.

Our luck finally changed as when we set off this afternoon, all the locks were in our favour and there was no traffic at all on the canal. Actually, we have been rather surprised regarding the lack of traffic on the Kennet and Avon canal so far. We are assuming this may be due to the lock hour restrictions. We are desperately hoping that when we hit out huge day going down the Caen Hill that we will have a partner to do it with.

We arrived at Kintsbury at 7.00pm spending the last half hour of cruising in the most vile of rain storms and amazingly our umbrellas did us well. We have moored up on the water point for the night which is a big no no but we don’t reckon anyone is going to need it before 9.00am tomorrow. We will be back cruising by 7.00am as we have a huge day to get up to the lock restriction area by the end of tomorrow.

Whilst filling up with water tonight, the youngish guy in the boat in front of us asked if he could borrow our hose to fill up his boat. He was three sheets to the wind but came out with this profound bit of hyperbole:
If you live in a house and have a glass of rum in the morning,
you are a drunk
If you live on a boat and have a glass of rum in the morning,
you are a pirate.

Certainly made us shake our heads. We went across the canal to The Dundas Arms Pub for a pint and chat with some locals before heading back for an early night 💤

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