• Select your home Region:
  • AUSAustralia
  • Google Plus
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
A- A A+
  • Printer Friendly
  • Golden Compass email address is info@goldencompasstours.com.au
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Golden Compass New Zealand Freephone number 0800-132-385
  • 1800-132-385

Find a Tour

Highclere Castle and the Monks' Garden. Yew Topiary.

Highclere Castle in Hampshire is used for exterior shots of the Downton Abbey television series which is set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate. The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the mediaeval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years.


Yew Topiary.

The Castle, one of the England's most beautiful Victorian castles, was built in 1842 by Sir Charles Barry who also built the Houses of Parliament. It is set amidst 1,000 acres of sweeping parkland designed for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon by the famous 18th century landscape gardener Lancelot 'Capability' Brown who excelled in creating natural beauty in country estates. The parkland was then further developed by the 2nd Earl who, like his father, was passionate about the landscape.

The abundant rhododendrons, azaleas, and acers seem very commonplace today however, in the early 1900s, these plants—imported from the Americas, India, and the Far East—would have signified wealth and horticultural awareness.

Photograph taken of the tomb of Tutankhamun during the 1922 excavations

The White Border.

Today, the parkland and gardens provide acres of peace, tranquillity and discovery with breathtaking views across the rolling downlands of North Hampshire and the Kennet Valley. They also provide a magnificent backdrop to the drama and romance of the television series and a lush authenticity to its Edwardian era ambience.
To the south east of the Castle lies the Monks' Garden, whose name is derived from the Bishops of Winchester who owned the Estate before the Carnarvon family. Extraordinarily, records still exist dating back to 1218 which list sixty one fruit trees replanted in 1364, when 44 apple and 27 pear trees were planted.
Today the Monks' Garden has been changed into a more decorative garden, where climbing roses make a fine show in June above a border with penstemons, agapanthus and geraniums. Lavender grows under the walls whilst a glasshouse is filled with Tea Roses for cutting as well as peaches and nectarines. There are espaliered medlar and pear trees amongst yew topiary that leads into a splendid White Border Garden.
Behind a high yew hedge in the Monks' Garden lies the White Border, with ornamental pears, crambe, agapanthus, hydrangeas, roses and other plants providing wonderful foliage throughout much of the year.

The Secret Garden.

A hidden gate in the Georgian brick wall of the White Border garden leads into the enchanting Secret Garden. A superb walled garden with its own micro-climate that is full of curving herbaceous borders, serpentine paths and glorious displays of colour in July and August.

Behind the Secret Garden lies the Wood of Goodwill. A new area to explore where there are thirty eight native British trees as well as unusual recently planted beech and oak.

The Wood of Goodwill.

In the spring the grassy areas are full of daffodils whilst a newly planted walnut walk leads to a newly created Rose Arbour and Wild Garden. A walk up the hill from the Wild Garden takes you past a folly, an Etruscan temple, on one side and a wild flower meadow on the other which is a delight in summer months.
Follies, or architectural ornamentations, were popular in 18th century British gardens and had the intention of beautifying the landscape and not necessarily providing any other function. There are various follies strewn about the estate in locations that are meant to feel as if they have always been there. They create a quiet, contemplative space in which you can connect both with the garden but also with the past.
Apart from the Etruscan Temple, and nearer to Highclere Castle on the East Lawns, is a pillared Temple called Jackdaw's Castle, a folly built by Robert Herbert in 1743 to provide a charming view from the Castle and back to it.

This pillard folly called Jackdaw's Castle was built in 1743 as a vantage point from which to view the castle.

The cedar trees provide splendour and stature throughout the year. Some of them are now 250 years old and were grown from seedlings given to the 1st Earl of Carnarvon by his cousin the Earl of Pembroke at Wilton House.

The Temple of Diana and Heaven's Gate can be viewed from the summer walks off the Wayfarers' walk and from London Lodge. The 18th century Temple of Diana is more than a folly it is actually an historical monument to the era and its passion for the Picturesque.

The 18th century Etruscan folly

Heaven's Gate was built in 1749.

During mediaeval times a deer park was created for the Bishops of Winchester. William of Wykeham then created at least 2 further deer parks as well as enclosing rabbit and hare warrens. Records from his tenure (1370) show five fish ponds at Milford, 0n the northern boundary of the estate.

Recent archaeological and landscape investigations have shown that there are two hill forts and quite a number of tumuli, ancient trackways, lynchets and field systems within the estate. They date from the Iron Age and Bronze Age.

The 18 century "Temple of Diana" Garden Folly.

As an archaeologist, and former horticulturist, I just HAD to include, and finish with, that last paragraph!

Archaeologist and Program Leader Dianne Harlow will be leading our Iberian Discovery tour this September, which you can read about here.

Click here to visit our YouTube channel to view several short films, including a tour of the gardens of Highclere by the Countess of Carnarvon, a visit to Waddesdon Manor which appears in Season 2 of Downton Abbey (and is part of Britain's Downton Era tour), and a lovely short film on the history of gardens.

One highlight of the program is a guided tour of Highclere including stunning gardens.

Visit Get Up & Go magazine for your chance to win two places on this unique tour !

Join our mailing list to receive updates on special offers and events*

*Indicates required field. We don't pass your details to third parties and you can choose to unsubscribe at any time. See our privacy policy for full details.

Completely New Tours for 2022

Completely New Tours for 2022

Take a look at our completely new tours for 2022!

Read More..

Meet Our Program Leaders

Meet Our Program Leaders

Our Program Leaders are based in Australia and New Zealand, so have an understanding of the needs of our Australian and New Zealand participants. They are all well-travelled with a…

Read More..

Early Booking Discount

Early Booking Discount

Early Booking discounts are available for all our 2022 tours but please make sure you don’t miss out! Registering before the Early Booking deadline secures a saving of up to…

Read More..

Refer a Friend Rewards

Refer a Friend Rewards

Receive a $250 discount off any Golden Compass tour when your friends or family book with us! Your friends will also save $250 off their own booking and there is…

Read More..

The Hapsburg Cities with Oberammergau:

25 August - 13 September 2022

The great cities of the Hapsburgs were the golden trio of Vienna, Prague and Budapest, which influenced not only the body politic but also the awesome outpouring of creativity from composers such as Mozart, Haydn, Liszt and Dvorak to Smetena, Bartok and Janacek.


Inclusive of field trips, local guides, gratuities and many meals.