Take a Trip to Downton Abbey

The third season of Golden Globe® and Emmy® award-winning, hit TV series Downton Abbey premieres on January 6, 2013. Finally, fans of the series will find out whether the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Lady Mary and Matthew will end in happiness, not to mention the fate of Mr. Bates, as well as meet Lady Grantham’s mother, played by legendary actress Shirley MacLaine.

downton abbey season 3 on masterpiece

© PBS.org

If watching the show makes you wish you were having afternoon tea in the beautiful garden of a magnificent stately home, then wish no more. VisitBritain invites travelers to turn that desire into a reality by visiting the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, as well as the other stunning locations from the series.

Highclere Castle in Berkshire (South East England) is the real castle that plays the role of Downton Abbey, fictional home to the Earl of Grantham, his glamorous wife, daughters and a host of servants.

highclere castle

Highclere Castle

The Victorian castle is set amidst 1,000 acres of parkland that is as beautiful as it looks on screen. The actual residents are the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family have lived on the site since 1679. Downton Abbey author, Julian Fellowes is a longstanding friend of the family and had Highclere in mind as the home of the Granthams while writing the series.

Make a trip this Spring when the castle is open to visitors and truly step into Downton life: sip tea at the café, stroll the garden pensively just like Lady Mary, Edith or Sybil, and admire the sumptuous rooms, many of which are used during filming. Entrance tickets can be purchased in advance, which is recommended to avoid disappointment. Highclere is located about an hour and a half away from London by train.

stroll the gardens at highclere castle

Stroll the gardens at Highclere castle

For die-hard fans that want to sleep in the same room as their Downton heroes (albeit without them there), book a room at The Carnarvon Arms, a grade-II former coach house nearby Highclere Castle.

As it’s only a short distance from Highclere, during filming, The Carnarvon is occupied by the Downton cast, and has recently undergone restoration by British celebrity chef Marco Pierre White to become a luxury country inn hideaway. What could be better than guaranteed delicious pub grub, a traditional British inn experience and the possibility that you may catch a glimpse of Dan Stevens (Matthew) or Jim Carter (Carson) at the bar?

the carnarvon arms

The Carnarvon Arms © dailymail.co.uk

The Cotswolds, in South West England, have been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and are quintessential England at its loveliest. The area is north of Highclere, and can be reached in less than two hours from London.

In series two, it was the site of scandal when Lady Sybil eloped with the family chauffeur, Branson. The pair went to Swinbrook in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds, a pretty village where time seems to have stood still, and filmed at the Swan Inn. This beautiful boutique inn makes for an idyllic base from which to explore the area.

the swan inn swinbrook

The Swan Inn in Swinbrook © Rod Allday

Also in the Cotswolds, is the picturesque village of Bampton, where many of the exterior scenes in of Downton Village and Crawley House are filmed. Bampton Library and Church View were used for exterior shots of Downton Cottage Hospital.

Stop off at the shingle-roofed Bampton Coffee House for an English cream tea or lunch at the Vineyard at Stockcross, an elegant hotel with a great restaurant and an impressive wine cellar. Maggie Smith, Downton’s resident Dame, is rumored to have stayed here during filming.

bampton post office

Post Office in Bampton © Jonathan Billinger

Did he or didn’t he? Season Three sees character John Bates locked up in York prison for the murder of his former wife. On closer inspection, it is actually Lincoln Castle, situated a couple of hours south of York, that plays the prison.

In addition to its Downton fame, Lincoln Castle is also home to the Lincoln Magna Carta, which dates back to 1215, as well as the Charter of the Forest, a 1217 document that made sure England’s forests weren’t taken over by the aristocracy. History buffs will be pleased to learn that Lincoln Castle is the only place in the world where you can witness the two documents together.

lincoln castle

Lincoln Castle

Travellers can experience all of the Downton drama for themselves by booking a tour package to follow in the footsteps of the Crawleys. , In 2013, Brit Movie Tours will be offering a new 3-Day Downton Abbey Experience, allowing fans to experience life above and below stairs.

Small group tours will take in all of the main locations featured in the show and give visitors the chance to experience aspects of Edwardian life first hand. Guests will hear anecdotes about the cast, filming and the production before stepping back in time and living life as an Edwardian aristocrat. If you are crunched for time, but still want to experience the grounds, they also offer a 9-hour tour.

The previous was brought to you by Visit Britain.


  1. pAT Spangler says

    I would love to have a guest role on Downtown abbey. I can act! I am not just blowing smoke! I am British and I am very familiar with the series. Please give me a chance to be on it.

  2. Emily Dame says

    Visitors to Lincoln Castle should be aware that the Magna Carta is currently at St. Alban’s Cathedral while a new Visitors’ Centre is being built at Lincoln Castle to house The Magna Carta and The Charter of the Forest. Scheduled opening of new centre is in 2015. Found this out in August when I arrived at Lincoln Castle prepared to see their copy of The Magna Carta!

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