The British television show Downton Abbey is set in 1912 and features gorgeous estates, picturesque villages and drama. Cast includes talented actors and actresses like Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael and Michelle Dockery. In a January 30, 2012 Reuter’s article it is reported that Golden Globe winning actress Shirley McClaine will join the cast for the third season. The show has high ratings from viewers and won industry awards such as Broadcasting Press Guild’s Best Drama Series, The Television and Radio Industries Club award for TV Drama Programme of the Year and a Golden Globe for the Best Miniseries or Television Film.
If you are a member of the more than 9 million viewers who enjoys watching this successful show, then a Downton Abbey themed trip may be the perfect getaway. Since most people are operating on tighter budgets these days, the cost of touring some of these locations can add up quickly, especially if traveling from another country to England or out of London and into the countryside. These tips will help you see the highlights on your Downton Abbey tour without breaking the bank or your wallet.
In the show, Downton Abbey is a country home to characters Earl and Countess of Grantham. In reality, the castle is named Highclere and is owned by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Due to the show’s popularity, the couple has opened their home to occasional touring. Highclere Castle is located in Hampshire, England.
Purchasing a tour to see the castle can add up if you purchase a package that includes a meal. For a quick inside look, pre-purchase tickets online and pay only $16 pounds for a complete tour. Are you on an extremely tight budget? Purchase the garden tour for $5 and wander around the grounds. You’ll still be able to see the castle in the distance, take pictures and enjoy the colorful gardens. Although lunch can be purchased at the estate, visitors are also welcome to bring a picnic lunch. Packing a lunch can help add even more savings to your trip.
The village where many of the outside scenes for the series are filmed is called Bampton and is located just over an hour to the northwest of Highclere Castle. A visit to the village is free, although you may want to stay there or have lunch, if it is in your budget. Visit the local church and library for free. The church that appears in the television series is St. Marys the Virgin. The front of the library appears as the front of the hospital in the show. Main Street is also featured, so you’ll want to walk or drive up and down Main to get the complete Downton Abbey experience.
Edwardian Themed Side Trips
If you need a few more places to visit, there are some excellent places to visit to carry on the Edwardian era theme of your trip.
Step back into the Edwardian era at this living history museum located in County Durham. The “open air” museum allows visitors to wander from building to building as characters in costume tell about life in the early 1900s. You’ll also find buildings and information from the Victorian and Georgian periods. A side trip to Beamish may be a little out of the way, but it is a mere $16.00 pounds for a full day pass. Want to save more? Visit during the winter months for half the price.
Grymm Tooms Traveling Museum
This historical re-enactment group is based in London, but travels the countryside surrounding the M25 area. Attending one of the Grymm Tooms events is like stepping back in time to a traveling medicine show during the Edwardian period. To discover which events are going on near you, visit the website at www.grymmtooms.co.uk and click on the “Events” tab. Cost to get in will vary, depending upon the venue where the museum appears.
If you want a true Edwardian experience, check out Langtry Manor’s Edwardian Banquet, which occurs every Saturday night. Langtry Manor was built in the late 1800s and was used as a home and place to entertain during the Edwardian period. A visit to the hotel reveals décor from the time period. Tables are set the way they might have been at an event in 1901. The menu features dishes that would have been served during that time period. The entertainment is a short presentation from the era and the staff is decked in Edwardian period costumes.
The cost is £39 per guest, but the meal consists of 6 courses. If you need a bit more Edwardian emersion, you can also spend the night at the manor.
Day Trip or Overnight Stay?
If you live near London, then a day trip to the castle and a separate trip to the village might be ideal. This will allow you to split up the cost of travel and also save the cost of staying at a bed and breakfast or local inn. Plan ahead and take a cooler with favorite foods to save on dining out prices. If you are travel to England to visit the castle and town, it might be worth your while to go ahead and stay at a bed and breakfast in the area. Although you’ll pay a bit more than you would for a motel, the price of breakfast is usually included and the décor will likely make you feel as though you’re one of the Crawley family entering the area.
If you do stay overnight, plan to spend the extra time on the grounds of the estate to take full advantage of the admission cost. In addition to the castle and surrounding gardens, within walking distance there are park paths to stroll, Milford Lake to sit by for a picnic and a Victorian cemetery chapel to explore. With around 1000 acres on the estate alone, you shouldn’t run out of things to do.
Should you decide to pay for entrance to the castle, you’ll need to visit between Easter and the end of summer, as this is when the estate is usually open to visitors at a reasonable rate. You’ll feel as though you stepped back in time and straight into a scene from Downton Abbey as a guide takes you through the state rooms, such as a gilded dining room, a library bursting with books and a beautiful drawing room drenched in green French silk. You’ll then traipse up the Red Stairs on your way to see the gallery and a few bedrooms before being taken back downstairs to the Saloon.
Get the Most from Your Trip
A trip that allows you to walk in the footsteps of your favorite characters is often an once-in-a-lifetime event. Take along a camera to snap pictures. Flash photography may not be allowed around 18th Century tapestries and paintings, so be sure to take a digital camera which has the ability to disable the flash. No matter how much you spend or save on your trip, getting the right snapshot to remember it for the rest of your life is priceless.
This article was written by Lori Soard