Downton Abbey guide: history of Highclere Castle and how to visit, plus watch the new film trailer

The stars of Downton Abbey are set to return to the big screen as a new Downton Abbey film is set to be released in the UK cinemas this week. Here's our ultimate Downton Abbey guide, including how to visit Downton, the history of Highclere castle, plus watch a trailer of the new film.

The Crawleys, Downton Abbey

Here’s our guide to the historical drama Downton Abbey, including how to visit Downton Abbey, the history of Highclere castle, plus find details of the new Downton Abbey film, trailer and where to watch it.

When is the new Downton Abbey film set to be released in cinemas?

From the moment it started in 2010, Downton Abbey captured the hearts of the British public. From the grandeur of post-Edwardian parties to heart-warming human storylines, each episode had us hooked. Now, exactly six series later, Downton Abbey the film is set to hit the big screen across the UK on Friday 13th September 2019.

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What is the new Downton film about?

With original cast in tow, the film is set in 1927 – exactly one year on from the events of the final series. It’s a new era of Downton, and the staff at are suffering in the onset of Great Depression, but news of a Royal visit sees all that call the Crawley house home spring into action. Head Butler Carson returns from his retirement in order to rally his troops and prepare for the arrival.

Watch the Downton Abbey film trailer

Where can I see the new Downton Abbey film?

Downton Abbey will be released in the UK on September 13th.

The film will be showing in Cineworld cinemas, which are also offering dementia friendly screenings.

It will also be showed in Odeon cinemas and Vue cinemas across the country.

Manor house

Where is the real Downton Abbey?

Downton Abbey is set in Highclere Castle in Highclere Park, Newbury.

Inside the castle are the state rooms; the Saloon, drawing room, smoking room and library – home of some of Downton’s most famous scenes.

The history of Highclere Castle

According to Highclere Castle’s website, the first written records of the estate can be dated back to 749. This was when an Anglo-Saxon King granted the estate to the Bishops of Winchester, and a Medieval palace was built on the park.

Castle
Highclere castle was a filming location for the British award-winning period drama Downton Abbey. The castle and gardens are open to the public during July and August and at times during the rest of the year. (Getty Images)

In 1679, the palace was rebuilt as Highclere Place House after being bought by the Attorney General to Charles II and James II, Sir Robert Sawyer. In 1771, Capability Brown – a notable English landscape architect – then made plans to alter the ground for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon.

Since then, the castle has been in ownership of each Earl of Carnarvon – the 5th of which was responsible for the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb with his colleague Howard Carter.

Archaeologist Howard Carter opening the coffin of Tutankhamun, 1922
Archaeologist Howard Carter opening the coffin of Tutankhamun, 1922 (Photo by: Getty Images)

While Highclere Castle has remained primarily as a home throughout the years, it has also served alternative functions. In the years of the First World War, Highclere was a hospital for wounded soldiers, and in the archives of the castle, there still exists a number of letters of thanks written to Lady Almina, 5th Countess, from her patients.

Later in the Second World War, the castle became home to many evacuees, whose names, according to the website, you can see etched into the roof lead.

Who owns Highclere Castle?

Today, Highclere Castle is owned by the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

Countess Carnarvon outside Highclere Castle, the home of Downton Abbey
Countess Carnarvon outside Highclere Castle, the home of Downton Abbey (Photo by: Getty Images)

Lady Carnarvon writes a blog about the castle, including a behind the scenes account of life while Downton filming takes place, and has also written a book called called Lady Catherine and The Real Downton Abbey.

What to do on your visit to Downton

Die-hard fans might want to plump for the 2-day, ready-made tour of the main Downton Abbey locations which lets you try out life as an Edwardian aristocrat, and provides tasty smatterings of insider gossip.

For those after a quieter, more personal exploration of the Downton landscape, you can still head to Highclere Castle. The Victorian Castle sits on 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland which has been in the Carnarvon family since 1679. Wander among the wildflower meadow, explore the secret and walled gardens and get lost in the ‘Wood of Goodwill’.

Rather out of keeping with the post-Edwardian England we have come to associate with Downton, Highclere also houses a rather magnificent exhibition of Ancient Egyptian artifacts. One hundred years ago, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon famously discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun, an Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, and the cellars of the Castle now celebrate the Egyptologist’s achievements.

If you’re visiting out of opening hours, or simply want to keep out of the way of the masses, there are also numerous beautiful walks in the surrounding area. You might like to take in the nearby Carnarvon Arms, a grade-II listed former coach house with overnight rooms and a good restaurant. Though filming has finished, apparently for good, you can comfort yourself that you may be sitting in the same seats as cast members Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens or Maggie Smith.

Remember, Since the programme began the estate has become an increasingly popular tourist destination, so book in advance if you want to get enveloped in the Crawley family’s spectacular rooms, or walk in the estate gardens.


The best events at Highclere Castle

Now the filming of the Downton film has ended, the castle is open to the public again, and a number of Downton Abbey themed events are set to be held. Here’s our pick of the best events to visit:

Real lives & Film Sets: Castle guided tours

September/ October

Visit the spots from Downton’s most famous scenes, and view the sites used in the upcoming film. Explore the Saloon, bedrooms and grand staircase before enjoying a seasonal buffet prepared by Highclere’s head chef.

Christmas Tours and Afternoon Tea at Highclere Castle

28th – 30th November,  1st – 12th December

Tour the real life Downton and enjoy afternoon tea amongst festive décor and a traditional Victorian Christmas Tree.Tickets are £125 per person and the dress code for the event is smart/ casual.

Kate Middleton speaks to Mrs Patmore
Kate Middleton speaks to Mrs Patmore (Photo by: Getty Images)

Champagne and Carols

11th – 17th December

Visitors, in suits and cocktail dresses, will be offered champagne and canapes on their tour around the castle. Carol singers will end the evening with a performance on the oak staircase often seen in Downton, plus there’ll be a chance to visit the gift shop for some Christmas shopping.

Living in a Castle tour

May 2020

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This event is all about life in a castle, past and present. The event will include a guided tour of the Castle State rooms and bedrooms alongside, a tour around castle gardens where cherry trees, tulips and shrubs will be in bloom.