As seen on TV
Of course there can be no mention of Downton destinations without a nod to Highclere Castle near Newbury. The iconic building (seen at the beginning of each episode from behind a Labrador’s bottom!) is owned by the Carnarvon family and is open for various days throughout the year, including two weeks at Easter, both May Bank Holidays, two months in the summer and a handful of days in December. Call or visit the website for dates. You can enjoy exploring the rooms and cellars, where guides will tell you more about the location. Next year sees the launch of a Capability Brown-themed tour of the castle and grounds.
- 01635 253210, www.highclerecastle.co.uk
Pop down the road to Reading and you can also make a stop at Basildon Park, a Georgian mansion that featured twice in the series. Now run by the National Trust, there’s a daily tour from 11.30am where you can learn all about the filming process.
- 01491 672382, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/basildon-park
While the village of Downton is, of course, fictional, it was filmed in Bampton, Oxfordshire. This pretty market town is home to the hospital in the show (which is actually the old grammar school building), St Michael and All Angels church (really
St Mary’s) and Isobel Crawley’s home (Churchgate House).
- For more information, or to find a tour, visit www.oxfordshire cotswolds.org/plan-your-visit/towns-and-villages/downton-abbey-film-locations
For a taste of homelife at the turn of the century (or a glimpse of history from 1630 until 1998) visit the Geffrye Museum, on Kingsland Road, London. The house is set up to demonstrate different eras in different rooms; Downton fans will enjoy the period drawing room (right). There are also award-winning gardens and frequent exhibitions and events. Admission is free.
- 0207 739 9893, www.geffrye-museum.org.uk
Another Oxfordshire spot to visit is Cogges farm, the fictional home of Mr Drewe and his family, who took in Lady Edith’s baby Marigold. This pretty stone building is a hive of activity, with animals to meet, a well-stocked farm shop and traditional cookery in the manor house on weekends. Day tickets cost £6 adults, £4.50 children.
- 01993 772602, www.cogges.org.uk
Visit ‘Brancaster Castle’
(actually Alnwick Castle, Northumberland), featured in a festive episode. There’s a special exhibition about the filming, too. Tickets cost £14.75 adults, £7.20 children 5-16, but discounts are available from the website.
- 01665 511100, www.alnwickcastle.com
If you’re planning a big family get-together, consider hiring the stunning Scudamore manor house, Wiltshire. This impressive Grade II-listed pile can accommodate up to 12 guests, with four double and two twin rooms. Wander beneath the garden’s rose-covered archways to the pond and summerhouse, or play in the games room and read in the conservatory if the weather lets you down. If you really want to blow the budget you can add all sorts of extras, from fresh picnics to in-house catering. Prices start from £2,405 for a three-night break based on 12 people sharing.
- 01637 881183, www.uniquehomestays.com
Live like a lady
Learn how to forage for wild ingredients in the grounds of a stately home, with a visit to Weston Park in Shropshire. This two-night break includes afternoon tea, a five-course dinner in surroundings full of antique furniture, a fireside nightcap, an overnight stay, breakfast, a morning of foraging, and a cookery masterclass on Sunday that Mrs Patmore would be proud of. Held over November 7 and 8, the package costs £350 per couple.
- 01952 852100, www.weston-park.com
Our rule is, ‘If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s good enough for us!’ Eastwell Manor, an elegant country house in Kent, was home to Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred for 20 years. Now it’s a lovely spot for a break. Enjoy a stroll in the rose gardens to build an appetite for afternoon tea. Rooms start from £140 per night (based on two sharing), including breakfast.
- 01233 213000, www.eastwellmanor.co.uk
For an active break that Lady Mary would choose, visit Stapleford Park in Leicestershire. Here you can learn the ancient art of falconry with the hotel’s resident owls Bernard and Boo! Other countryside pursuits include archery, clay pigeon shooting and horse riding. Rooms start from £180 per night (based on two sharing) including breakfast, use of the spa facilities and a morning paper.
- 01572 787000, www.staplefordpark.com
Take afternoon tea (add a glass of Champagne if you’re celebrating!) before croquet on the lawn, swimming in an outdoor heated pool, or popping to a Polo match from the oh-so civilised The Manor, Oxfordshire. There’s even a resident dog to take for walkies – Lord Grantham would approve! Prices from £175 for two, including breakfast.
- 01869 350621, www.themanorweston.com
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