It’s possible to explore the country like your favorite characters from the award-winning period drama series, among them fictional aristocrats Lady Mary and Lord Sinderby.
The hit television series Downton Abbey depicts the fictional lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their estate employees during the post-Edwardian era in England. From 2010 through 2015, the historical period drama aired six seasons on PBS (all of which can now be streamed on PBS Passport). This year, the Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning story is coming to cinema screens with one final installment: a feature-length film, which hits U.S. theaters on September 20.
While the show’s namesake countryside estate only exists in this fictional story, you can visit some of the settings you see onscreen. Here are a few of the Downton Abbey filming locations in England where you can live like a lord or a lady—even if just for the day.
Roam the royal grounds at Highclere Castle
A vast majority of filming for Downton Abbey took place at Highclere Castle, a Gothic-style palace in the bucolic county of Berkshire, England (about 90 minutes by car from London). This stately 19th-century manor—which has been the seat of the real-life Earl of Carnarvon for more than two centuries—was little changed for scenes in the show and upcoming feature film. Throughout September and October 2019, a special “Real Lives and Film Sets” guided tour will allow small groups of up to 20 visitors to nose around the castle rooms where memorable Downton Abbey scenes were shot, such as the central salon, where characters from the show often met to socialize. After exploring the grandiose state rooms, staircases, and cellars, guests will enjoy traditional finger sandwiches and scones in the Coach House Tea Room, prepared by the castle’s head chef. Each person on the special tour will receive a newly published collection of “recipes and traditions from the real Downton Abbey” written by Lady Carnarvon, who currently resides in the Victorian-era manor. Tickets cost £125 (US$155) and can be booked online.
Sleep like the Dowager Countess at Byfleet Manor
Fans of the Crawley family matriarch, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, can relive some of the character’s most entertaining moments at Byfleet Manor in Surrey, England. Located in a historic, hilly region southwest of London, this delightful manor—the real-life setting for the show’s Dower House–dates to the 1600s, although most of its current architecture stems from a renovation in 1905. The 6,000-square-foot property features eight bedrooms surrounded by 19 acres of land. You can email the current owners to book a stay in one of Byfleet Manor’s 19th-century West Wing rooms or reserve a private afternoon tea in the same room where Downton Abbey scenes were filmed. (Prices vary per inquiry.)
England’s charming Cotswolds region is home to the quintessential village of Bampton, which doubles onscreen as the fictional Downton settlement on the outskirts of the Crawley family’s estate. Located approximately two hours from London by car, the tiny town receives “coach loads” of daily visitors who arrive eager to snap pictures of the real-life Downton Abbey filming location. Still, the best way to enjoy Bampton—which is one of Britain’s oldest settlements, dating back to the Iron Age—is to enjoy a slightly longer stay. Head to the nearly 1,000-year-old St. Mary’s Church (where Lady Edith almost got hitched to Sir Anthony during season three) and the old Grammar School Building (where the show’s hospital scenes with Dr. Clarkson were filmed) before wandering Bampton’s streets lined with sandstone cottages draped in ivy, reminiscent of the show’s fictional Downton village homes.
To further discover England’s idyllic Oxfordshire Cotswolds region, the local tour company Undiscovered Cotswolds runs fantastic day trips departing from the nearby cities of London, Bath, Oxford, and Southampton. (Starting points for specific tours can be arranged in other areas. Small-group and private trips can be booked online.)
Explore London like a lord or a lady
During later seasons of Downton Abbey, some of the show’s action takes place in London. In the central Westminster district, the facade of Bridgewater House—a private residence that appears as the exterior of the Crawley family’s London residence, known as Grantham House—is clearly visible near Buckingham Palace and Green Park. Unfortunately, Bridgewater House is a privately owned home and is not open to the public for tours—but it’s worth a stroll past the regal building as you explore the area near London’s Royal Parks. (Downton Abbey scenes that depict the interiors of Grantham House were shot at Basildon Park in Berkshire, the same county west of London where Highclere Castle is located. Owned by the National Trust, this filming location does offer bookable guided tours.)
A short walk from Lancaster House on the nearest corner of Green Park, The Ritz London is a five-star hotel that’s historic in its own right (it was built in 1906). It’s also notable as the Central London location where many scenes from the series finale of Downton Abbey were filmed.
Take a stroll like a noble at Syon Park
On your way out of London, visit the 200-acre Syon Park, which served as the setting for an important scene between Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham during Downton Abbey’s season four. Through October 27 this year, travelers can visit the glass-dome Great Conservatory—designed in the 1820s—and the sprawling garden grounds in Greater London. The Syon House, Garden, and Great Conservatory are all part of the real-life Duke of Northumberland’s 600-year-old estate, less than 20 minutes from Heathrow Airport by car. (See hours and ticket pricing online.)
Another palatial English estate owned by the Duke of Northumberland appears onscreen in Downton Abbey: Alnwick Castle, which depicts the show’s fictional Brancaster Castle. This impressive property in northern England sits close to the border with Scotland, so once you’re here it’s worth continuing on to visit Downton Abbey filming locations in other parts of the United Kingdom. One such stop is at Inveraray Castle in Argyll, Scotland, which was used to shoot scenes in the fictional Duneagle Castle—where the Grantham family stayed in a 2012 episode during a trip to the spectacular Scottish Highlands.