Over six million people have tuned into Masterpiece on PBS for a series so extraordinary, it’s made the Guinness Book of World Records for being the most critically acclaimed show…ever.
Downton Abbey™ follows the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them, whose lives were changed forever during the First World War. The series is set in a magnificent castle that YOU can really visit.
It’s an easy day trip from London, but it’s only open when the “lady” of the house opens her doors to the curious world.
Highclere Castle in Yorkshire: Downton Abbey™ Location
Longstanding friend of the Carnarvon family who owns the castle, show creator Julian Fellowes had Highclere in mind as he wrote Downton Abbey™. He wanted a house that testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period.
Highclere Castle is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian Castles set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland. The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years.
You can gain access via a reservation system to see the inside, including many bedrooms used during the filming of the show. Even without a ticket, you can grace the public pathways that surround the estate. Check here for a list of lovely trails.
The Lady who Set the Scene: How the Real Story Began
Lady Almina was the 5th Countess who converted Highclere Castle into a hospital in September 1914.
Just 19 when she married the 5th Earl, Almina was actually the illegitimate daughter of Alfred de Rothschild. Life changed when the First World War broke out and Almina rolled up her sleeves, turned Highclere Castle into a hospital and began to admit patients coming back from the trenches.
Today, it’s the 8th Countess who resides at Highclere. For Lady Carnarvon, opening up her beautiful 300-room home to so many visitors just goes with the territory of being part of an aristocratic family. “I think you have to look positively on it or you’ve married the wrong husband,” she said. “You have to want to share it, which we do.”
Want to Visit? Get a Ticket.
Before the show aired, 30,000 people visited each year. That has practically doubled. The demand to visit is so great, that the Carnarvon family is now asking visitors to buy admission in advance. There’s a timed ticket system to avoid having too many people inside the castle at once.
Group visits are already fully booked for 2012, but individuals will be able to pre-book their tickets online starting next month.
Travel To Downtown Abbey From London
Trains run from London’s Paddington Station to Newbury station. The journey onboard a Great Western Train takes about 52 minutes, with fares ranging from $38 to $83. This route runs every hour, starting at noon until midnight. From Newbury, it’s just a quick cab ride to Highclere Castle.
Great Western serves almost 80 million travelers each year. Trains have been recently refurbished with environmentally friendly engines, new seating, better lighting and onboard facilities.
You can purchase an e-ticket and print yourself at a station kiosk, thereby avoiding lines and waiting times. And Rail Europe offers advanced purchase fares on all British train tickets with a discount of up to 60%.
How to Travel to Bampton in Oxfordshire Where the Town Scenes Take Place: This is a little more than an hour away by driving
Take a Tour of the Downton Abbey™ Location
You too can become Lord or Lady Grantham for the day on a tour of filming locations. You’ll not only explore the castle, but other spots where the show takes place, including Oxfordshire village (AKA Downton Village.) Step back into the Edwardian Era, a time considered a romantic golden age filled with afternoon frolic, fabulous fashion and swank parties. Yet history points to another side, as does Downton Abbey™. When the crevasse between the superrich and the peasant poor ran wide and deep.
This is Downton Abbey™ PBS, front and center. Come to the Castle and see this opulent showplace for yourself.
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