Visit the Real Downton Abbey
As viewers from around the world frolic to their television sets this January, they will be intently watching the lives of Lady Mary, Lord Grantham, Mr. Bates and the rest of the family and staff of Downton Abbey. Possibly one of the most popular shows developed in Britain and imported to the United States, Downton Abbey is now the most watched show ever on PBS Masterpiece.
If you are visiting England, you can visit the very same castle and estate where Downton Abbey is filmed at. The entire production is filmed within the walls of Highclere castle and although the Granthams make their home in Yorkshire -- the real castle is in Berkshire. It is 68 miles west of London, right in between the capital and Bristol. Highclere castle actually has its own lord of the manor. The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon make the castle their home. They are the owners, caretakers of the estate and they also run the tours and gift store. What they offer for tourists are highly frequented tours to the castle.
Best time to visit
First things first, the castle is not open throughout the year. From spring until the fall, the castle is open for tours as it remains closed during winter and/or filming days. And in order to attend these tours, you can register with the official website or you can join a licensed tour group. These licensed tour groups take fans of the show from London to the castle via coach. The caretakers of the castle set up two tours every day. One in the AM, between 10:30 am and 1 pm, and another from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm. The times are open only for registered guests and they are to go into the castle and the adjacent museum. Meanwhile, getting to the castle is rather easy -- it is 68 miles west of London and 72 miles east of Bristol. From London, take the M4 to the south A34 and the castle is located west of the A34. Coming by train, there is a good service from London, Paddington, to Newbury, (taxis are usually to be found at Newbury Station to reach Highclere Castle).
There are three tiers of tickets that one can purchase to Highclere castle. The basic ticket runs at 35 pounds at it provides admission to the gardens of the estate. The next level up provides admission to their exclusive exhibitions, which varies from Egyptian artifacts to British heirlooms. The highest level of admission goes for 55 pounds and give complete access inside the castle as well as the gardens and exhibitions. Special events occur at the castle. Many newlyweds rent the castle in order to have their very own Lady Mary and Matthew moments. Parties and receptions can take place at the castle as they provide their own catering and planning. And if you want something more “English” in nature, one can schedule their own tea time with an expert tea maker. If you are a fan of the show visiting the castle where it is filmed is a must. You may not be able to own the estate or work in its kitchen like Mrs. Patmore, but you can walk the same grounds as your favorite characters.