Saturday, September 10, 2016

Vintage Garden Party at Highclere Castle

Day 6: Salisbury

So we're Downton Abbey fans. Yes, both of us.  We watched all of the episodes and were appropriately sad that this beautifully done show ended.  I'm still searching for a replacement...

When I was planning the trip, I hoped to get tickets to tour Highclere Castle which we hadn't been able to fit it in, much less get tickets for one of its few open days, on previous trips.  BUT! One more internet search revealed that there would be a Vintage Garden Party at Highclere Castle on the weekend of the Goodwood Revival!!!  Happy dance!

I thankfully hadn't yet bought Goodwood tickets and, because our air tickets were frequent flyer, I was able to change our departure date so we could go to Goodwood on Friday and Highclere on Saturday.  (I later changed it again to include our three nights in London).  I had already made hotel reservations for Havant and Bath (where we would go after Goodwood) and set about changing these details.  Our B&B in Bath was already full (it was the Jane Austen Festival in Bath.  Jackpot!!!) so the good folks on the Fodors Forum suggested Salisbury for our "free" night.  I booked the Wyndham Park Lodge B&B and we were set.

The tickets to the Vintage Garden Party were pricy but still sold out.  The Countess of Carnarvon strongly encouraged everyone to come in costumes from the first season of Downton Abbey because there'd be a costume contest for best Lord Granthan, Lady Grantham, Dowager Countess, maid, footman, Carson, etc.  The day would start at 10am and end at 5pm with carnival rides, (included) lunch, music, dancing, and general revelry, vintage style.

We found costumes that we could fit in our luggage and didn't feel out of place at all.  The only problem was the famous English Weather.  It was a drizzly, chilly, dreary day.

The exterior of the Castle was gorgeous, even on this dreary day.  When we walked in to tour the house, we were greeted by Lord and Lady Carnarvon commenting on the weather--how perfectly English!  Each room had displays of how it was used in Downton Abbey which brought back memories of the show. No photos inside.  We asked questions of the friendly and knowledgeable room guides. We toured all the public rooms and had a nice photo op on the grand staircase.  It was just beautiful.

Morris dancers in the drizzly rain

After our tour, it was nearing lunchtime so we headed out to one of the tents, found a spot, and enjoyed our boxed lunch which came in the prettiest boxes (I brought both of them back home!).  We wandered about, taking it all in.  Most people were dressed up and the costumes were spectacular!  I'm always impressed by how committed some people are to getting the smallest details right, down to the button covers on shoes.  Lord and Lady Carnarvon mingled relatively freely with the guests and I took the opportunity to get a photo with them.  She had the photographer come over to take a picture with husband, me, and them--very nice.

Husband and I then visited the Egyptian Exhibit.  We were fortunate to see King Tut's tomb in Egypt in 2011 ( and it was wonderful to hear the story of how its discovery was funded by the Earl of Carnarvon.  The exhibit is very well done.  I kind of ran through it, while husband lingered, so I could visit the rooms in the Castle again.  I was the last guest inside the castle; they turned off the lights after I left each room!  I loved my "private" time in the castle.

Afterwards, I went into the shop and picked up a few souvenirs.  By now it was almost 4 and the weather was still awful so we decided to take a few last photos (and met lovely Paul and Sandy who we hope visit us in New Orleans next  year) before heading out.  The one thing the weather prevented us from doing was walking on the beautiful grounds.

We got turned around trying to find the motorway and pulled into a parking lot to reassess our location.  I noticed that it was for the Sandham Memorial Chapel and we decided to visit--it was included in our National Trust Pass.  We didn't really know what to expect but were very impressed with the friendly staff, the instructive displays, and the paintings themselves.  A very worthwhile and interesting, if sad, stop.

With better directions to the motorway, we made it to the Wyndham Lodge B&B in Salisbury with no problems.  We were able to park on the street, right in front.  This is a nice B&B but it was a little further away from the Cathedral than we'd ideally like.  Suzanne greeted us, got us settled, and gave  us suggestions on where to go for dinner.

We changed out of our costumes and walked to the Guildhall square.  Unlike every town we've visited in Italy and France, I can't recall seeing a true "square" in England before (obviously we've been to VERY few places in England!).  It was a nice space.  A few people milling about but most of the shops were closed.  We decided to have drinks at The Market Inn.  The staff were generally unfriendly which was a bit unusual.  But the place was pretty and I took one of my favorite pictures of husband there!

We were getting hungry so wandered about trying to decide where to eat.  We ended up at Koh Thai Tapas.  The dining room was full so we were sat in the tables by the bar which we actually liked better.  The service was great and the food was very good.  It was kind of like a tapas version of PF Chang's.

The weather was gorgeous as we made our way back to the B&B for the night.  It had been a lovely, if wet, day.

1.  You will get unlucky with weather--that's just a fact of travelling.  Don't let it ruin your day.
2.  Highclere Castle was a major highlight of the trip!
3.  The National Trust Touring Pass was a good investment. Sandham Memorial Chapel is not someplace we'd just go to but it was very worth our time.
4.  We prefer our lodging to be a little more central than the Wyndham Park Lodge, which was a very nice B&B nonetheless.

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