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Stately Barrett Manor

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Swallowcliffe - Highclere - London


After a really good breakfast at the Royal Oak and the acquisition of a bottle of James Gin we hit the road to Highclere castle.

By the way, skip the celebrity associations. If you’re looking for a warm welcome, a comfortable bed, and good food, this is the place.

Highclere is best known these days as the location for “Downton Abbey,” but it holds a spot in my heart as “Totleigh Towers” in the Fry & Laurie “Jeeves and Wooster” series. We had hoped to take a tour, but the grounds were closed for a private event. However, it’s possible to take a public hiking trail up Beacon Hill for a view of the castle and grounds. And so we gave it a shot.

The trail is steep. We knew that going in. What we didn’t expect was that it would be terribly slick from recent rains. My city sneakers weren’t up to the task. Paul’s sneakers are made by a tire company and have some serious tread. I did have a trail stick, but I still fell. And fell. And fell. I’d have never made it up there without Paul’s help. As it was, we didn’t make it all the way to the top, but we did get to the stunning view of the castle and grounds. On the way down I discovered a pointed end hiding under the cane tip of the stick, and it made the downward trip much easier.

Thanks to the brown clay mud, the backside of my jeans looked as though I’d had another type of mishap, so we opened the car doors and Paul provided a further shield as I changed into a clean pair of jeans.

Lunch was at the Carnarvon Arms, a nearby pub that used to belong to the estate.

Our next stop was Heathrow to turn in the rental car. There was a cheer as we took the final roundabout.

We finally made it back to London, and to another hotel with “Grand” in the name. This one was more of an aspiration than a fact. It was okay. It was clean. It had a lift, though there were still stairs to climb. But what I said in the previous entry about rooms that were smaller than the bathroom at The Royal Oak? Yeah. There was less than a foot of clearance on two sides of the bed, which made getting in and out of bed an adventure. Our room did overlook a converted mews, which again beat a row of HVAC units.

Dinner was at a place called A Taste of India, which had really good food.

Then it was time to go back to the room and assess the bruises. Both knees and an ankle, plus a seriously bruised thigh. It could have been worse. But oh, that view!


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