The castle made world-famous by a fictional TV show about British aristocrats is, to a point, unreachable for a lot of its fans. In our case it took a channel crossing by train, an 80-minute car ride, and £32 cost for entry, all in all a relatively significant investment for any decent-wage earner. It’s an investment because there’s a certain level of return expected from the experience, that is, a feeling of having been part of a global cultural event and having that memory stay with you forever. Memories, however, are purely subjective and the expression ‘take only photos, leave only footprints’ didn’t apply at all as, being one of the first customers for the day, we soon found out.
Sad to say, Highclere Castle turned out to be somewhat of a disappointment. Possibly due to financial considerations, a million signs inside reminded all of us that photography was not allowed, likely to make sure the gift shop revenue went higher than usual. It’s tactics like these that I don’t appreciate, more so given the fact there are thousands of people who pay a lot of money to see an estate that’s admittedly impressive but not all that unique. It surely isn’t a privacy issue as the fact it’s immortalized on TV and soon in film means there are countless images of it available, yet the good Earl and Lady Carnarvon thought it best that visitors taking personal photos are not good for the royal bottom line. Because of this we spent barely half an hour inside, where the more familiar rooms like the main living area, dining room, and grand foyer were great to see but not much to be said for the rest. We decided to have a quick breakfast on the grounds, a walk through the estate where we noticed the line to get in had grown considerably, and then onward to our next stop for the day.
We were extremely fortunate with the cloudless, temperate weather today though, and the photos of the exterior and castle grounds as a result are quite satisfying. With the Downton Abbey movie coming out in a few days it’s almost kismet that we were there today, the penultimate day before they closed shop for the year. I’m glad I got to tick off the real-life Downton Abbey from the check list – and who knows, when the Lord and Lady of the manor for any reason get strapped for cash, it’s only a question of time when they’ll begin charging photographers for the privilege. Toodeloo until then.