While you're waiting for the return to your screens of the aristocratic Crawleys in the period drama Downton Abbey this autumn, you can visit the setting for many of the upstairs scenes at Highclere Castle, Hampshire. Don't expect to recognise the servants' quarters, though as below-stairs scenes were filmed at Ealing studios. Another look at the bygone age is the poignant Brideshead Revisited. The 2008 film version included locations at Castle Howard Yorkshire.
The much more modern tale, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, still needed aristocratic settings, and Hardwick Hall, Chesterfield in Derbyshire was chosen to feature as Malfoy Manor in the film which is due to be released later this year.
In Richmond, just west of London, the seventeenth century Ham House, whose impressive formal gardens escaped the fashionable landscaping trend, provided the exterior for Hailsham, the seemingly idyllic boarding school in last year's disturbing film Never Let me go based on the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro.
On the other hand, Pemberley, the home of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice, was located in Derbyshire and so, too, is Keira Knightley as the spirited Elizabeth Bennett opposite Matthew Macfadyen as the proud Mr D.
In another fantasy setting, Blenheim Palace near Oxford, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, which has been described as 'the most extravagant house in Britain', became the Liliputian castle in the recent Hollywood adaptation of Gulliver's Travels starring Jack Black. Osterley Park, one of the last of the great country houses to survive in the Metropolitan area of London provided the perfect location for filming the scenes in the Princess' bedroom.
The residents of southern Shropshire would have been well aware of the beauties of Stokesay Court, but its appearance in Keira Knightley's 2007 film Atonement brought the magnificent late-Victorian mansion into the public eye. The beautiful actress is clearly at home in the country houses of England, and showed her own aristocratic side as she starred as Georgiana, the extravagant eighteenth century Duchess of Devonshire in the 2008 production The Duchess. This time, Keira and her co-star Ralph Fiennes were on location in Derbyshire, at the National Trust property Kedleston Hall, home to the Curzon family since the 12th century.