The Owner of the Real-life Downton Abbey Tells Us What It's Like to Live in a Castle During the Pandemic (Video)

This Friday, mix up your favorite gin drink and join Lord and Lady Carnarvon — virtually — for cocktails at Highclere Castle, the real-life Downton Abbey estate.

Highclere Castle, the beautiful estate in Hampshire, England, made famous by Downton Abbey, would usually be bustling with visitors at this time of year, welcoming thousands of guests throughout the summer season. Instead, the castle has been quiet for the past two months, shut off to travelers because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Even though the castle is currently closed, Lord and Lady Carnarvon of Highclere Castle have "never been busier." In an interview with Travel + Leisure, George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon, gave us an inside look at castle life during the pandemic.

Typically, the castle has a full staff to attend to the upkeep of the house, but many of the employees are currently furloughed because of the pandemic, so Lord and Lady Carnarvon have been busy working around the grounds, preparing for the future reopening and managing Highclere Castle's social media.

People enjoying gin martinis at Highclere Castle
Courtesy of Highclere Castle

Since April, Lord and Lady Carnarvon have welcomed guests into their beautiful home — virtually — for Cocktails at the Castle, a series of live cocktail hours featuring the Highclere Castle Gin. Thousands of people from across the globe have tuned in during each cocktail hour to learn more about Lord and Lady Carnarvon, Highclere Castle, and their gin. Each event features a new, beautiful room in the house, so viewers can get a peek at life in the castle.

This certainly isn't the first time Highclere Castle has hosted cocktail parties. Entertaining is a part of its history — Lord Carnarvon noted that his ancestors that built the castle in the later Victorian period (and those who followed) were "great entertainers," hosting "dashing house parties with dancing, music, and gin cocktails" in the castle. Now, Lord and Lady Carnarvon carry on that tradition with the Highclere Castle Gin and virtual Cocktails at the Castle events.

Highclere Castle Gin martini being poured
Courtesy of Highclere Castle

Lord Carnarvon and the CEO of Highclere Castle Gin, Adam von Gootkin, incorporated elements of Highclere Castle into every aspect of the gin, from its botanicals to its bottle. The castle gardens inspired the gin's flavors: "It was easy to walk out the back doors of the castle into the beautiful gardens that speak so well to botanicals and the flavors that you want to take to the gin," said von Gootkin. He added that the formulation of the gin wasn't necessarily easy because it took over a year to get right, but "it certainly was easier because we had such wonderful assets right on the estate."

By including flavors from around the property and designing a bottle that draws on Highclere Castle's religious history and architectural design, they were able to create a gin that speaks to the heritage of the estate. So whenever you mix up a gin and tonic, you can enjoy a piece of Highclere at home until you can visit this stunning castle in person.

The next Cocktails at the Castle event is taking place on May 29 at 4 p.m. EST on Facebook Live. Mix up a gin cocktail and tune in for a virtual escape to Highclere Castle. We recommend going for a classic martini with this recipe from Highclere Castle Gin.

Classic Martini Recipe


  • 50 ml. Highclere Castle Gin
  • 10 ml. dry vermouth
  • Dash of orange bitters (optional)

To Make:

Add the ingredients to a mixing glass with a half cup of ice, and give it a good stir. Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with a verdant green olive.

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