Five-time traveler Gail has been all over the world, having seen the sites from Amsterdam to Japan. On her last trip to Europe, Gail made it a mission to visit the famous sites of British TV series Downton Abbey. Read on to see why she suggests this experience as a great way to spend your free time on a London City Stay or London extension.
We planned a trip to London knowing the series Downton Abbey would be coming to an end. We needed to say a proper goodbye to the house which was a character in itself and to the village which made up the world of Downton Abbey.
So how does one arrange a trip to Highclere Castle (a.k.a. Downton Abbey)? Unbeknownst to us, tickets sell out a year ahead of time mainly because Highclere is only open a limited amount of days per year. I started planning our visit seven months before our London trip. The day of the trip, we met our private tour company at the Gloucester Road Tube Station at 8:50 a.m to begin our day-long adventure.
It was a one-and-a-half hour drive to Bampton (aka Downton Village). As we walked through Bampton, we were able to see the Hospital, the Post Office, Mrs. Patmore’s B&B, the Village Green, pubs, church and Crawley House. At the library (converted into Downton Hospital for the series), there is a gift shop selling three Downton Abbey books written by a Bampton resident, maps of the village marked with the famous sites, and other Downton Abbey souvenirs.
The drive to Highclere was next, and also took one-and-a-half hours. As we drove onto the rolling grounds, the tower came into view, and before long we were at the majestic Highclere Castle, home of the 8th Earl and Countess Carnarvon and the fictional Grantham family. If it reminds you of the House of Parliament in London, that’s because it was designed by the same architect, Sir Charles Barry.
After lunch at a restaurant on the grounds, we toured the interior of Highclere, walking through the Library, Dining Room, Great Hall, Music Room, Smoking Room, Drawing Room and assorted bedrooms. Unfortunately, photos are not permitted inside the castle.
Next, we explored the colorful grounds: Monks’ Garden, Walled Garden, the Secret Garden and Jackdaw’s Castle. You could view the house between the trees as seen at the beginning of each episode and sit on Maggie Smith’s bench. On the way back to London we watched two more episodes of Downton Abbey and returned to our starting point.
It might not be easy obtaining tickets to Highclere, but was it worth it? Definitely, yes! We felt like we were a part of the series as we walked through the village and entered Highclere’s familiar rooms featured in Downton Abbey. The series may have ended but our memories of this magnificent house will be with us forever.
Have you ever wanted to explore the site of a famous TV show or movie? How would you want to spend your free time in or around London?