The Downton Abbey Lover’s Tour
The United Kingdom maintains allure to us Yanks, particularly in recent years with royal weddings, babies and jubilees. But the biggest attraction has been the upstairs/downstairs drama of Downton Abbey that invades our living rooms for a precious seven weeks a year. While the plot may be fictional, much of the scenery is not. Hop on a transatlantic flight across the pond and live the Downton Abbey experience as you visit these sites:
Known as Highclere Castle in real life, the beautiful estate known as Downton Abbey on TV is located near the town of Newbury in Berkshire, England. Easily accessible by bus or car, travelers can take a taxi from the Newbury train station to Highclere Castle.
Sold out for 2013, Highclere Castle offers some walk-up tickets available after 2 p.m. Book ahead for 2014 or simply pretend you’re the Earl of Grantham and stroll through the vast gardens and grounds for about $8, followed by a afternoon tea and scones at the Castle Tea Rooms.
If you succeed in scoring tour tickets, you’ll enjoy walking through the very rooms that the members of the Crawley family dined, entertained soldiers, and even stole a kiss. You’ll also learn the history of the Carnvaron family, and how each generation has been altering the house since the late 1700’s. The Carnvaron family also claimed fame when the 5th Earl helped discover the Tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, and some relics from this expedition are on view in the cellars of the castle.
Highclere Castle is open in the summer from July 14 to September 12, Sunday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Single adult tickets for the full tour are about $27. Pump up your photographic memory now; no pictures are allowed to be taken inside the castle.
In real life, if Lady Mary wanted to run down to Downton village to see Matthew, she’d actually have to take an hour long train ride to Oxford and then a bus to Bampton, a small town in the Cotswolds that serves as the film setting of Downton village. Bampton has a lengthy history, starting in 500 A.D., which is well-catalogued on the town’s tourism website. However, it has little to offer tourists beyond a stroll through the market square to observe the well preserved 17th and 18th century buildings featured on Downton Abbey. As any small English town should be, pubs and B & B’s are aplenty, so consider making Bampton your base when you visit the surrounding Cotswolds.
Head north just as the Crawley family did at the end of Season 3 for a visit to the Highlands and to see Inverary Castle, the fictional Duneagle Castle of the Downton Abbey series. Inverary Castle makes a good day trip if you are based in Glasgow, accessible both by car or Citylink bus service. Situated on the banks of Loch Fyne, Inverary Castle was built in the mid-1700’s. The area has been the home to the Dukes of Argyll and the Clan Campbell since the 1400’s. Like Highclere Castle, the Inverary experience includes gift shops and tea rooms, as well as walking routes ranging from one to five miles in length around the estate. A $15 admission ticket gains you access to both the castle and gardens, seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 31, 2013.
Visiting these sites are a must for Downtonites, the U.K. is chock full of manor houses and castles from the Edwardian era and Roaring Twenties. Go to www.visitbritain.com for lists of British castles, stately homes and historic houses.
Magellan’s Product Picks
Be sure to take the following from Magellans with you to keep comfortable:
The ladies of Downton Abbey would carry their essentials in a petite wrist bag. In that spirit, this Wristlet lets you carry your ID, money, credit cards and cell phone in a charming pouch safely around your wrist.
A healthy walk requires comfortable shoes. Stay stylish with Mary Janes. This hip hybrid from Dr. Scholl’s allows for a natural walking motion and flexible rubber outsoles to avoid slipping.
The Wrap by ANGELROX®
Dress for a successful Downton Abbey journey with one simple item. You can literally take The Wrap and change it from a skirt to sun dress to evening dress to cozy shawl. Now that’s packing light.