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Season three of Downton Abbey got off to a flying start on September 16 and fans are once again being treated to some fantastic views of the home that is the backdrop for all the major action in the series.

Highclere Castle, which serves as the Abbey, is built on a 1,000 acre estate in Hampshire and has been the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon since 1679. The Castle was first built in 1692 as a classical mansion and then rebuilt between 1839 and 1842 in the Jacobethan style and faced in bath stone by the famed architect Sir Charles Barry (who also rebuilt the Houses of Parliament after the building was destroyed in a fire).

The Castle has at least 50 bedrooms; among them is the Stanhope bedroom, decorated entirely in red, and the Arundel bedroom which was used as an operating theatre during World War I. There are two main staircases: the oak staircase which took nearly a year to carve and install, and the red staircase which leads to the second floor.

On the ground floor, in the dining room, hangs arguably the Castle’s most famous work of art: the equestrian portrait of Charles I by Anthony van Dyck. The saloon which features regularly in Downton has leather wall hangings brought from Spain in the 17th century. The library has over 5,000 books with the earliest dating back to the 16th century.

And if there isn’t enough to inspire on the inside, the Castle’s gardens are just as fascinating. Designed by “England’s greatest gardener”, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, there are acres of smooth grass scattered with trees. The lawn also has three ‘follies’ typical of the 18th century: a pillared temple, an Etruscan temple and the Temple of Diana.

Most of us will not be able to travel to Highclere, but this weekend, why not enjoy the Castle’s gorgeous views on screen as the drama unfolds in Downtonia.

– Marylou Andrew

First published in the Adbuzzzz Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on September 30, 2012.

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