Monthly Archives: March 2015




The recent announcement that next season will be the last time viewers can catch up with Lord Grantham and the Crawley family caused consternation among Downton Abbey’s loyal fans.

Downton Abbey has viewers in countries colored blue. Map by EliOrni. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.



Downton Abbey is the most successful program in the history of PBS broadcasting. In 2013, NBC Universal, owner of Carnival Films, estimated that worldwide, over 120 million viewers tuned in from over two hundred countries and regions. Season 1 came to the United States in 2011. The premier episode of Season 5 drew fifteen million viewers.

It’s not the first time Americans have been mesmerized by Edwardian households. Upstairs-Downstairs, one of the first PBS Masterpiece Theater series, ran from 1971-1975. It was black and white, and featured a townhouse rather than a grand estate, but the essential elements were all there. What was life like in the drawing room and servants’ hall?


Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle. Photo by Martin John Bishop. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.
Highclere Castle “Secret Garden.” Photo by JB + UK_Planet. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons.

Downton Abbey brought an added ingredient to the mix – Highclere Castle. I suspect few people fantasized about living at 165 Eaton Place with the Bellamys, but to live life on a 6,000 acre property forty-five miles outside London has a sort of universal appeal. Anyone with an extra $113 million can buy a similar home. But, you know what they say. If you have to ask the price, you probably can’t afford it. Buying a stately home is nothing compared to the cost of running it – a minimum of $808,178, annually.

Highclere Castle, for example, occupies 30,000 square feet with three hundred rooms, and is currently maintained by a fluctuating staff of sixty to one hundred fifty persons. These include gardeners, household staff, electricians, carpenters, tour guides, and staff for the tearoom and souvenir shop.

Perhaps you could live more modestly with a staff of seventy, including the butler, cook, gardeners, and cleaners. The smaller staff would still run about $594,880, annually.

But wait, there’s more. Highclere Castle has one hundred seventy single-glazed windows. Lacking insulation, these windows are not fuel-efficient. The National Trust estimated the cost of heating a generic stately home would be about $74,360 for heating oil and $52,052 for electricity.

Highclere Castle has thirty bathrooms (which seems sufficient for sixty bedrooms). The water bill would be at least $14,872 per year.

Maintenance for a structure built in 1842 is constant and expensive. In 2010, or thereabouts, Julian Fellowes, a friend of the family, selected Highclere Castle as the site for the Grantham family estate. Before filming could begin, over $17 million in essential repairs had to be made.

In fact, the house had reached such a state of disrepair the current Earl of Carnarvon was living in a cottage on the estate. But those days are over. Thanks to the success of Downton Abbey, the number of visitors to the property paying £20 (US$30) per ticket has increased to the point that reserved tickets are a “must.” The present Earl and his countess are very entrepreneurial in terms of offering their property to as many clients as possible. The castle is available for weddings, corporate events, and private dining. You can even rent a cottage on the grounds.

Seeing the real sets of Downton Abbey is only one of the reasons to visit Highclere Castle. More on the colorful Earls of Carnarvon in next week’s blog.


Featured Image: Highclere Castle by JB + UK_Planet. Creative Commons Attribution. Wikimedia Commons

Downton Abbey Official Site. Here.

Highclere Castle. Here. 

Lianna Brinded. “Downton Abbey: Astounding Cost of Crawley Family’s Lavish Lifestyle at Highclere Castle.” International Business Times. Dec. 18, 2014. Here.

Jeremy Egner. “A Bit of Britain Where the Sun Still Never Sets.” The New York Times. Jan. 3, 2013. Here.

Dave Itzkoff. “’Downton Abbey’ Will End After Next Season.” The New York Times. March 26, 2015.  Here. 

Loren King. “For ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ fans, ‘Downton’ brings on déjà vu.” The Boston Globe. Jan. 2, 2014. Here.

John Rabon. “The Real Downton: 10 Interesting Facts and Figures.” Jan. 13, 2015. Here.

Penguins, Sea Turtles, and Mangroves

Penguins, Sea Turtles, and Mangroves

  Unlike their cousins, the Emperor Penguins of Antarctica, Galapagos Penguins are petite creatures weighing five pounds or less. What they lack in impressive stature, they make up for in what I call the “cuddly factor.” I first saw them traveling along the coastline of Bartolome Island in a zodiac. Oblivious to gawking tourists, two… Continue Reading

A Day in Puerto Ayora

A Day in Puerto Ayora

There’s more to do on Santa Cruz Island than visit Giant Tortoises. Strolling down Avenida Charles Darwin, the main street, there’s lots to see. There are nightclubs, one of which is Andy’s Bongo Bar. I heard it’s a place where tourists and locals mingle to the sound of music videos. I was more intrigued by… Continue Reading



  The description read: “Manzanillo Ecological Reserve,” native ground of the Galapagos’ Giant Tortoises. What to bring: closed shoes, long pants, sun protection, water, hat, sun glasses, insect repellant, and money.”   Money?   We landed on the island of Santa Cruz, boarded a bus and left the dry shore area behind as we climbed… Continue Reading

Exploring Genovesa Island, Galapagos

Exploring Genovesa Island, Galapagos

Galapagos Factoids The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles west of Ecuador’s Pacific coastline. Ecuador annexed Galapagos Islands in 1832, three years before Charles Darwin encountered the islands during his service as a naturalist aboard the HMS Beagle. To this day, Darwin’s name is the one most closely associated with the Galapagos, due to the islands’… Continue Reading

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