Photos courtesy VisitBritain
The third season of the television series Downton Abbey premieres on January 6. 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. You’ll also meet Lady Grantham’s mother, played by legendary actress Shirley MacLaine.
Watching the show makes you wish you were having afternoon tea in the beautiful garden of a magnificent stately home. Thousands of fans are visiting the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, as well as the other stunning locations from the series.
Highclere Castle in Berkshire (southeast 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. 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 cafe, stroll the garden pensively just like Lady Mary, Edith or Sybil and admire the sumptuous rooms, many of which are used during filming. Highclere is located about 1 1/2 hours away from London by train.
For diehard fans who 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 coachhouse 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 Cotswolds, in southwest 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.
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 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.
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, is used as the prison. In addition to its Downton fame, Lincoln Castle is also home to the Lincoln Magna Carta, which dates 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.
For more info, go to www.visitbritain.com