While Highclere Castle is best-known as the real life location of the TV show Downton Abbey, it is also home to the Carnarvon family, and has been for centuries.
Fiona Aitken is the Eighth Countess of Carnarvon and Lady of Highclere Castle, and is kept very busy overseeing the running of the property.
“I act more as CEO,” she said in an interview with Architectural Digest. “There’s the estate, there’s the castle, there’s the properties and people renting cottages, and then there’s the horse-feed business and the books I’m writing.”
The 1200-year-old home has 300 bedrooms and sits on 6000 acres, which means there’s a huge amount of upkeep.
The fees from Downton Abbey’s TV series and upcoming movie – which premieres in Australia on September 12 – have helped pay for the cost of running and maintaining the castle, and the popularity of the show has garnered plenty of interest, with around 1500 visitors per day.
The Countess has plenty of plans in the pipeline which include a tour of the maids rooms, Highclere Castle Gin, which is currently on sale in the US, and a healing herb garden.
“I have a whiteboard in my room, which probably has about 40 projects I need to do in the next few months,” she says.
She also has regular weekly meetings with tradesman to ensure the Castle “stays standing.”
Events are also held at the Castle, including the annual Queen Charlotte’s Debutante Ball.
in 2013, an Egyptian Exhibition was held in the cellars of Highclere Castle, to mark the 90th anniversary when the Fifth Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter broke down the gold wall into the Shrine Room in the tomb of Tutankhamun.
“As I look around, I see everyone who is here at Highclere with me and who has been here in the past, I see a community who love the Castle and love the busy way of life that surrounds it,” she says.
“Highclere is not just a building, it is a family, a friendship, it is our community and how we reach out to welcome many other people from many other communities.”