Fancy exploring an ancient, abandoned castle? No need to travel to Romania, Transylvania or any other vania for that matter, there is a fairytale castle right on our doorstep – on the Bucks/Oxfordshire border. Imagine a deserted Downton Abbey. However, don’t expect to be allowed into the grounds. The castle is visible only from a footpath which skirts its circumference.  Shirburn Castle lies hidden away from the public eye, and is the last privately owned castle in England. Abandoned by its owner Lord Macclesfield fifteen years ago and now subject to a bitter dispute between surviving family members, the majestic moated castle lies empty, crumbling and silent.


One day my family and I (armed with binoculars) decided to investigate one of England’s neglected treasures. Not completely neglected - by the film industry that is. If you look closely in the most recent Sherlock Holmes film (Sherlock Holmes: A game of shadows) Mycroft Holmes (played by Stephen Fry) is seen living there.  Anyway, we found the footpath that skirted the grounds and (with the help of the binoculars), were able to view the outstanding castle and even the picturesque pond in front of the drawbridge containing the whitest of swans, even though we were rather far away.


For many years, the castle had been the subject of a bitter disagreement over inheritance and the 9th Earl of Macclesfield was evicted from the family seat at the end of 2004. Since then, the mysterious castle has been left unoccupied. After the Lord had left the castle, and the content had been sold, a shocking discovery was made. Amongst its famous collection of antique books, letters from Isaac Newton were found in a cupboard. Who knows what other treasures can be found inside?