Friday, December 09, 2011

'Downton Abbey' - 3,4 December 2011

After watching every episode of Downton Abbey, we couldn't miss the opportunity of visiting 'Downton Abbey' aka Highclere Castle, open especially for Christmas.

Even though it is only an hour from home, we decided to make a weekend of it, and booked a night at the nearby 'Bell at Boxford'.

A circular drive starting near Boxford, took us through lovely countryside and many beautiful villages. The best architecture had to be in the two big towns of the area – Hungerford and Marlborough. Both were prosperous market towns, it is said that 200 coaches a week passed through Hungerford in the 18th & 19th centuries, travelling from London to Bath. We had never properly explored this town before and it is really delightful, with a stylish Victorian town hall.

The road from here led through the Savernake Forest. This is a private road (although available to the public) and has deteriorated considerably since we last visited in 2007. The large and frequent pot-holes made driving with a small sports car very difficult.

Marlborough is larger than Hungerford , with wonderful 17th century buildings. It was delight to walk around the shops admiring the Christmas decorations.

Not far from here was Aldbourne, the best of the villages we visited. A large green, handsome church and cute houses, several pubs; it was a great spot to stop in. The church has two hand-operated fire-engines donated in 1778 after a disastrous fire in the previous year.

On Sunday we visited Highclere Castle, along with hundreds of keen Downton Abbey fans. The Christmas decorations were rather minimalist, but it was still interesting to see the castle again, as we now had the TV series to place in the various rooms.

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