Both Owais and I are huge fans of Downton Abbey. We find the drama serial to be very calming and relaxing while unwinding our day. While planning our trip to England, this was a must-do visit. Downton Abbey is filmed in various locations but most of it is mainly set in Highclere Castle, named Downton Abbey in the serial. We set out to the castle the very next day of our arrival in England. The drive to Downton Abbey form Slough was beautiful and full of English countryside scenery.
The first sight of the castle was absolutely stunning as the familiar yet surprising façade appeared driving up the driveway. Much as it was impressive, the feeling was not in anyway overwhelming or intimidating.The castle occupies around 6000 acres of Hampshire. Inside (photography not allowed), the hallways, staircases, rooms all came alive and we remembered the scenes from the drama which we have seen various times from comfort of our living room. The furniture was in gorgeous vintage condition – apparently the videographers used filter to make it look spiffy and new but of course the upholstery and all was original which lends a great deal of charm to the filming of the show. Each area was set as remembered in the TV. Not all the rooms featured in the series were open to public but we did get to see enough like Lady Grantham’s, Lady Edith’s, Lord Pamuk’s etc. The most real was the grand entrance, elegant foyer, regal stairways and the lush library.
My favorite room of the house, on-screen and in life- is the delightful communal drawing room. A feminine room with pastels of pinks, whites and gold with mint wallpaper, set in one of my favorite period style, Late Baroque.
From what we were told, the servant quarters in the castle are upstairs, instead of the downstairs unlike the serial showed. The quarters and kitchens were filmed at Ealing studios in West London. The Dower House is in Surrey named Byfleet Manor which itself is now offering afternoon tea among other hosting services (something to keep in mind to visit next time!). Crawley’s is a house in Bampton, Oxfordshire.
It really looked so real! Outside the castle, the grounds and gardens are splendid to walk through. They remind of classics like Secret Garden, scenes from Dicken’s and Austen’s novels.Both while outside and inside, the scenery was so familiar that it literally felt we were in the TV serial itself. There are three cafes which serve tea, light refreshments and lunch. Everything is served in real plates and the tea cups were fine bone china! We had tea with scones, cakes and savory tarts in the perfect outside weather. The tea was very tasty and so were the scones (a different expereince from Ritz at New Orleans or Madame Posh at Windsor). Later we visited the gift shop and picked up few items as souvenirs. They had beautiful Downton Abby books, tea blends, Highclere Caslte mugs, tea cozy etc. I also liked the pillow covers, place mats, Her Lady and Her Lordship mugs. I was able to find quite some on amazon as well and picked and chose what to get from there and what to order online for ease of travel and packing. I loved this book about the seasons, this one written by the current lady of Highclere Castle, Her Lady and Her Lordship mugs and some tea blends here.
If you are a Downton Abbey fan, a history buff, art appreciator or just someone who likes to look at old estates and the calmness they provide, Downton Abbey will not disappoint you! Tickets could be bought online before hand or on-the-spot at the counter. The parking arrangement is very comfortable. The tour experience was hassle free, relaxing and easy. Pleasant and well-informed guides always there to answer any question regarding the castle history and people who at various times occupied the castle as well as about the serial and info sheets were avialable in all rooms. The castle will be closed for filming starting September for about ten weeks. In routine, the owners of the castle, 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon use the castle in winters but the home is open for tours in summers and some other times around the year. I found the gift shop a bit expensive for some items but most of the smaller knick knacks were pretty well-priced.