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Highclere Castle(Downton Abbey) tours, UK

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Oct 26th, 2013, 11:06 AM
  #1
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Highclere Castle(Downton Abbey) tours, UK

We want to visit Highclere Castle next June. We will be going from London and need a tour as we will not have a car.

There are so many different choices for a tour.
I'm wondering if any of the Fodorites have done this tour and, if so, which company did you use.
I think a private driver at about $700 for 3 of us(1 teen 2 grandparents) is too pricy. A huge bus load at the bottom or the price scale is too many people.

Any suggestions? We are all huge fans of the show and want to see the house. TA has many reviews but they seem to be from people who have driven themselves to Highclere.
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Oct 26th, 2013, 12:53 PM
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The trip out via train from Lonndon's Paddington Station to Newbury then a taxi to Highclere certainly wouldn't approach $700!

http://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/vis...our-visit.html

If that doesn't appeal, I would try to choose a medium-sized tour but more importantly one that gives you full access to the house (by joining the regular tours or by a tour for your group) and grounds. Read the tours' descriptions carefully.

Honestly, DIY per the advice on the website.
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Oct 26th, 2013, 12:53 PM
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It would certainly be cheaper to get a train to Newbury Station (about 60 minutes from London Paddington) and take a local taxi each way. Highclere Castle is about five miles from Newbury. You can book/pay for your train tickets on line (do it several weeks before to get a better price on the tickets, the same day is very expensive!) and print out the tickets at one of the ticketing machines at Paddington. The train company that does this route is www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk, alternatively www.thetrainline.com - the latter does tickets for all British railway routes, but usually is a pound or two more expensive. Tickets are only sold 3 months before date of departure and current best prices for London-Newbury are around £22-23 for a day-return ticket on specific trains.

For taxis I'd google the following 3 words: taxis Newbury Berkshire. Quite a few companies come up and you should be able to get a taxi to meet you, then you can call them when you are ready to leave Highclere to arrange for them to pick you up. I don't know the current prices but you would probably have to reckon on around £20-30 each way. If they quote a lower figure you're doing well!
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Oct 26th, 2013, 12:55 PM
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And one thing I forgot to say - check the Highclere website before booking any tickets - they seem to have quite varied opening hours/days!
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Oct 26th, 2013, 12:57 PM
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Why not just buy entry tickets when they go on sale for June and take the train to Newbury, taxi to Highclere. I don't think you need a tour at all as it's easy enough to get there from London, Paddington Station. http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/
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Oct 26th, 2013, 01:09 PM
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Three more or less simultaneous posts saying basically the same thing - I guess you know what to do!

Buying your train tickets after you get to London is not expensive, from about £22 RT bought as late as the day before travel, off peak, meaning weekends or not commute hours and keeping the time in mind when you buy your tickets for the castle entry.
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Oct 26th, 2013, 01:34 PM
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We visited Highclere in early September and I don't remember it being expensive. Bought tickets right there at the tic booth and there was no problem buying them as a walk up. We were coming from Kent and kept the car(before heading to LHR to drop it) to enable us to visit-as fans of Downtown Abbey, we loved it. It did not disappoint. We did arrive on a Saturday and it was not open because of a wedding there-but the guard assured us that it would be open on Sunday. So luckily we had booked a B&B in Stockcross near Newbury so we could stay over. On the same trip we toured Buckingham Palace and did not book ahead-they were not turning anyone down. Those tics were pricey--but definitely worth it.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 12:27 AM
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I cannot stress too strongly the importance of prebooking Highclere.

Apart from some pleasant (but unsigned) walks, and the nearbyish outstanding Sandham chapel (the finest wall paintings in Britain for 500 years, only it's got erratic opening hours too), there's absolutely nothing to do at Highclere if you turn up and find it's booked except get the taxi back to Newbury, where there's even less to do.

One visitor's discovery that it's not booked 100% of the time will be of no use to you then. Sooner or later, audiences are going to stop watching this junk, and demand for Highclere visits will tail off: there's not a shred of evidence that's going to happen in summer 2014.

Turn up at Buck House, find you can't get in and there's the rest of London to saunter off to. Try that at Highclere and you're stranded.
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Oct 27th, 2013, 08:16 AM
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Thanks for all the comments. It seems the 2014 tickets will go on sale in Nov. Buying the entry tickets ahead of time and then taking the train looks like a good way to go. I am still going to do a little searching for a small tour though.

flanneruk-----this is exactly why I've asked the question.

We travel to Europe often and mostly go on own and wing it.
This time we are taking our grandaughter(who is a big fan of the show) and it would be a big deal for her to go to Highclere so we want to make sure we have it right.

In all of our travels we have never been to England so the planning begins. We will have one particular day (a Tuesday)when we would like to go to Highclere.
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Oct 28th, 2013, 09:28 PM
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TPAYT: I'm so glad you posted this question, as I, too, am trying to find a way to get to Highclere in June or July. Good information here.
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Oct 29th, 2013, 12:41 AM
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Does anyone visit Highclere for the Egyptian exhibition, or is it all about Downton now?

My last visit was pre-Downton - it was not busy at all
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Oct 29th, 2013, 07:03 AM
  #12
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https://highclerecastleshop.co.uk/admission-tickets

On this Highclere site it says toward the bottom that summer tickets won't go on sale until Easter. Since Easter is late in 2014(April 20th) it seems that plans will have to wait.
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Oct 29th, 2013, 07:34 AM
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TPAYT: I just looked into booking a hotel in the area (rather than taking a train from London, which I don't plan to visit this trip). The hotel is 10 min drive from station, and HC is 20 minutes from the hotel. They said expect to pay 16 GBP for the taxi one way to Highclere. This is turning out to be an expensive venture.

Tours with the following company have received positive reviews, but they are only offered on specific days.

http://britmovietours.com/bookings/downton-abbey-tour/
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Oct 30th, 2013, 08:13 AM
  #14
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susan001----I definitely will check out the tours. We are limited to just one certain day to do this. We were looking for a shorter time than 9 hrs. because we hope to go to a show that night and that's really packing it in. Maybe we have to decide between Downton or a show.

I think your idea of a hotel nearby is good but we just don't have the time.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 08:48 AM
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TPAYT: I agree that may be too much for one day. What I've worked out is taking a shuttle service from Heathrow to a b & b within walking distance of Highclere (3 miles walk).
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Oct 30th, 2013, 09:06 AM
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IMO any out of town excursion (except Windsor or Hampton court palace) makes it difficult to fit in the theatre too. Most commercial tours arrive back in central London around 6:30 or 7PM give or take.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 10:08 AM
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With the best will in the world, it's a film set for crying out loud. Only without any of the bells & whistles you get at Harry Potter or Universal Studios. And it's only a film set for bits of the soap opera (the nicest stuff's the exterior sets at Bampton in Oxfordshire).

If you want to see an early 20th century toff's gaff, there are loads that don't require the endless faffing about necessary to get into Highclere. Many within 15 minutes' walk of most decent London theatres.

If it's the Egyptology you're interested in, it's far better displayed and recounted (for free) at Oxford's Ashmolean Museum.

Me: I'm a Newsroom fan. I certainly wouldn't invest energy trying to see the stage where the series was shot, when the world's awash with TV newsrooms.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 10:47 AM
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Flanner -

although I seem to disagree with you about practically everything I must admit I do not GET running around to places to see where movies or TV shows were shot.

I get wanting to go where real things happened (Hampton Court Palace in the Tudors)- but not the stages they shot internal scenes on.
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Oct 30th, 2013, 12:27 PM
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flanneruk: The tone of your posts here have been quite condescending. I agree that Downton Abbey is a soap opera, but a first rate one (not 5th) with multiple Emmy winner, Oscar winner Maggie Smith, not to mention one of the best writers in the industry, Julian Fellows. My siblings and I (in California) are all educators with advanced degrees, and we're all hooked on the show. It teaches much about the class system of that era, manners, and attitudes. We all have differing tastes when it comes to entertainment, and I wish you would stop being so critical of our interest in the show. All that said, Highclere would be of interest to most who watch the show regularly, being almost a like character in itself.
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Nov 2nd, 2013, 07:52 AM
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Flanner & nyt----I started this thread saying that we are all fans of the show. MH and I probably would skip Highclere and go to something "real" instead, but we will have a 13 yr. girl with us and she will be seeing enough "real" things during our tour. We thought it might be fun for her to see something she can relate to easier. Sometimes too many 500 year old history lessons can get boring for a kid.

Actually I'm happy for her interest in the show for the reasons susan001 lists in the above post.

Let's lighten up here!
To each his own I say. For us, we'd rather go to Highclere than a wax museum for example---and that must be popular with so many tourists going there.
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