In its 6th and final season, Downton Abbey has weathered the critics and nourished period drama addicts in the UK and the US since 2010. For die-hard fans you might want to plump for the 2-day, ready-made tour of the main Downton Abbey locations which let’s 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 in Berkshire. 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’.
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.
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.
Words by Agnes Davis