Countess of Carnarvon shares look at Downton Abbey's Highclere Castle

Countess of Carnarvon shares a glimpse at Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle in its festive splendour – with 25-foot Christmas tree ‘higher than Windsor Castle’s famous fir’

  • Lady Fiona Carnarvon has shared a glimpse at the spectacular Christmas decorations at Highclere Castle – the film set for hit Downton Abbey
  • The 8th Countess of Carnarvon has racked up 270,000 followers on Instagram as she shares her life in the castle with regular updates
  • Extravagant decorations include two herds of wicker raindeer, a staircase garland, a grand 25-foot Christmas trees and a real life Santa

Lady Fiona Carnarvon has shared a glimpse at the spectacular Christmas decorations at Highclere Castle in Hampshire – the film set for hit Downton Abbey.

The 8th Countess of Carnarvon has racked up 270,000 followers on Instagram as she shares her life in the castle with regular updates.

And this month Downton fans were offered a special treat, as she shared the extravagant decorations being put up on the estate – including two herds of wicker raindeer, a staircase garland, a grand 25-foot Christmas tree and a real life Santa.

Spectacular Christmas decorations at Highclere Castle: Lady Fiona revealed she believed her Christmas tree was even taller than Windsor Castle’s famous 20-foot tree

One room boasts a festive carpet, roaring fireplace and even a Santa for an extra festive feel

Appearing on This Morning yesterday, Lady Fiona revealed she believed her Christmas tree was even taller than Windsor Castle’s famous 20-foot tree. 

The impressive fir can be seen standing in the castle’s spectactular hallway, decked with white snowflakes, baubles and bow decorations.

Meanwhile the Countess revealed that there is even a special team member assigned to the decorations, particularly the bows.

Sharing a picture of the imposing starcase covered in decorated pine, she wrote: ‘The staircase is at the heart of the Castle so Sally, the chief Christmas Elf, has dressed it in beautiful frosty garlands. I’m sure you’ll agree she has done a wonderful job.’

Sharing a picture of the imposing starcase covered in decorated pine, she wrote: ‘The staircase is at the heart of the Castle so Sally, the chief Christmas Elf, has dressed it in beautiful frosty garlands. I’m sure you’ll agree she has done a wonderful job.’

The grounds of the estate boast two herds of wicker reindeer, admired by the Count and Countess’ surprised Labradors

While every room boasts various sized trees, wreaths, garlands and lights, even the outside of the Castle isn’t forgotten.

The grounds of the estate boast two herds of wicker reindeer, admired by the Count and Countess’ surprised Labradors. 

And even the entrance to the Castle is lit up with a whole procession of trees at night, with Lady Fiona sharing a video of the ‘post-cocktail’ hour view from outside. 

Highclere does Christmas so spectacularly that all the estate’s decorations are kept, colour-coded, in specially converted outhouses. One barn contains the estate’s two herds of wicker reindeer.

There is even a Chief Elf, aka Sally, a member of the housekeeping team who’s responsible for the bows and ribbons. 

The Castle is even open to the public who can buy tickets to Christmas dinners hosted by the Count and Countess, and guests are even able to stay on the grounds. 

Meanwhile inside the family, every second year the Carnarvon clan hosts Christmas in the castle, with guests moving in for the duration. Lady C has six sisters, and copious nieces and nephews.

Highclere does Christmas so spectacularly that all the estate’s decorations are kept, colour-coded, in specially converted outhouses. One barn contains the estate’s two herds of wicker reindeer – seen outside

There is even a Chief Elf, aka Sally, a member of the housekeeping team who’s responsible for the bows and ribbon – seen in the drawing room

The magnificent 25-foot Christmas tree in the hallway is pictured above

She is also fond of inviting friends who ‘have had a tough year’. The dining table at Highclere can seat 30-ish and since there are ‘around 61’ bedrooms, space is not an issue.

These festivities were detailed in last year’s sumptuous Christmas At Highclere book, however COVID has since affected festivities.

In the first lockdown Highclere – like every stately home around the country – was closed. In the summer things reopened, but with restrictions meaning that visitor numbers were halved.

Former accountant Fiona is the second wife to the Earl of Carnarvon, and met her ‘Geordie’ in 1996 ,two years after his first marriage broke down. The couple have a 20-year-old son Edward together.

Prior to this the Countess revealed how she was thrilled to have been the filming location for hit Downtown Abbey.

The current Lord and Lady Carnarvon reside full time at the stunning Highclere Castle where the six series of the hit ITV show Downton Abbey were filmed.  

Although some scenes are filmed in studios and at different locations, the cast and crew spend much of their time at Highclere – which is the home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnavaron, whose family have lived there since 1679.

And even the entrance to the Castle is lit up with a whole procession of trees at night, with Lady Fiona sharing a video of the ‘post-cocktail’ hour view from outside.

Appearing on This Morning yesterday, Lady Fiona revealed she believed her Christmas tree was even taller than Windsor Castle’s famous 20-foot tree.

The Countess of Carnarvon has welcomed the decision to film the sequel at Highclere, explaining that even though it provides her with plenty of extra work, the hustle and bustle bring the castle ‘alive’.

She told The Daily Mail that when filming was taking place — from February to June for each of the six series of Downton and an additional one-off two months for the film — she was flat out.

Constantly in the wings, showing crew how to move furniture — ‘you take a girl in your arms and a chair by its bottom’ — and reminding people to wipe their feet and respect the carpets.

Yet, despite all the palaver, Lady Carnarvon is thrilled. ‘We all got very used to each other. We had a good routine. It was like a new term at school — “here they come!”

‘After all, a house like this is used to being busy, to being full of life. ‘It comes alive with people and without them things go wrong.’ 

The history of Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle, which became colloquially known as Downton Abbey thanks to the ITV hit series

The current Lord and Lady Carnarvon reside full time at the stunning Highclere Castle where the six series of the hit ITV show Downton Abbey were filmed.

The first written records of the estate date back to 749 when an Anglo-Saxon King granted the estate to the Bishops of Winchester. Bishop William of Wykeham built a beautiful medieval palace and gardens on the park.

Later on, the palace was rebuilt as Highclere Place House in 1679 when it was purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer, Attorney General to Charles II and James II and direct grandfather of the current Earl.

In 1771, ‘Capability’ Brown made plans for the alteration of the grounds, water and symmetrical Georgian house at Highclere for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon.

In 1842, Sir Charles Barry – who was also working on the Houses of Parliament at the time – finished his final designs for the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon, transforming Highclere Place House into Highclere Castle.

The Countess’ research has revealed that, in 1867, the Constitution of Canada was drawn up in the British North America Act by 4th Earl of Carnarvon and John A. Macdonald, later the first Prime Minister of Canada.

Highclere was used as a hospital for two years until 1916 but as the war gained momentum, the medical equipment was moved to London to cope with rising casualties. 

In 1922, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered Tutankhamen’s Tomb with trusted colleague and friend Howard Carter.

Throughout WWII, Highclere Castle was home to evacuees, whose names you can see etched into the roof lead. During the conflict, military planes from four nations crashed on the Highclere Estate whilst on active service.

The current Earl’s father was the Queen’s racing manager from 1969 until his death in 2001.

Today, the Castle is home to the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. 

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