Since the debut of Downton Abbey, the thrilling turn-of-the-century TV drama that follows the trials and tribulations of the aristocratic Crawley family has transformed its venue into a world-wide hit.Highclere Castle which serves as the backdrop to the series enchanted audiences around the world who were eager to discover one of England’s most famous stately homes and witness the historical truth behind the fiction.
With revolution, romance, drama and intrigue surrounding the elegant grounds, it’s no wonder the location has become one of Britain’s favourite tourist attractions and the epicentre of the series. The Edwardian mansion, built in 1842 and set in Hampshire is still part-time home to the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnavon.
It was rebuilt in the mid-19th century in Elizabethan Revival style by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament and retains a similar style today.
But now open to visitors, Downton Abbey enthusiasts can witness first-hand the fairytale behind the historical property and walk around the lavishly furnished floors of the house laiden with framed portraits of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles.Experience the hall’s vast marble columns, the dining room’s impressive Van Dyck portrait of King Charles on horseback, a never-ending library that stretches almost the entire length of the house and, of course, the impressive 1,000 acre grounds surrounding the regal castle.''It’s like walking into Hogwarts or something like that in Harry Potter'' says Rob James-Collier who plays show's villian Thomas Barrow.And surprisingly, the cellars of the mansion even feature an exhibition of ancient Egypt. The home pays homage to this part of history because a previous Lord who lived in the mansion was a sponsor of the archaeological investigations that ended in the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922
For those considering a journey to Downton’s famous location situated about an hour's drive from West London, be sure to visit the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire and St Marys Church where many of the town scenes were filmed.Stay at the Carnarvon Arms, the local pub where stars such as Dame Maggie Smith who plays the stern but spectacular Dowager Countess of Grantham spend their time.Or, experience the Wayfarer’s walk, the 70-mile walking route connecting Inkpen Beacon and Emsworth on the south coast, at striking distance to Highclere castle.Showcasing the beauty of the British countryside, where quaint villages, forests and huddles of sheep are part of the landscape, Downton Abbey is not only a journey back through time, but a celebration of quintessential Britain.