With season 5 of ITV’s Downton Abbey all wrapped up in the UK, fans now have to eagerly await the 2014 Christmas Special for their next Downton fix (oh why can’t time fly by as fast as it seems to on the show?). Of course North American fans, who are some of the most avid travellers coming to the UK to see all the best Downton Abbey locations, have had to wait even longer as the 5th season is set to air next month in January 2015. In the meantime while we all wait to see what our favourite characters both upstairs and downstairs have been up to since we last left them, you can always get your Downton on by visiting some of the filming locations and inspiring places that go into creating this beautifully shot and reservedly enjoyable drama. From real life castles to afternoon tea in one of the Dowager’s rooms, you can enjoy your own moments of intrigue and drama at these great Downton Abbey destinations.
Warning: For anyone who has not seen the 5th season of Downton Abbey, we politely forewarn that the following article may contain scandalous spoilers. In the wise words of the Dowager Countess…
Fans will find these spectacular Downton Abbey locations all across the United Kingdom, and our map gives a little extra insight into each place.
Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) and Basildon Park (Grantham House)
Undoubtedly a shining jewel amongst the many splendid Downton locations on the list, Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire is a real-life castle used for filming the Abbey itself. It is the home of the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his wife. During the summer months the Earl and Countess move to a summer cottage, during which Highclere Castle opens more frequently to visitors for tours. There are special events year-round that allow you to visit this iconic and beautiful castle – though you must always book ahead and tickets tend to sell out quickly. Spring tickets have already sold out for 2015, but summer tickets will go on sale in February 2015 – so make sure to always plan well ahead when visiting Highclere Castle. Those visiting Highclere Castle will of course recognise it immediately from the outside as it’s used for all of the exterior shots of Downtown, as well as for some of the interior shots indoors as well. Show creator Julian Fellowes is a long time friend of the Carnarvon family, and it’s said that he already had Highclere Castle in mind when he was writing the series.
Also located in Berkshire is the other home of the family: Grantham House. In the series this house is their residence in London, but the filming location is actually at Basildon Park. Basildon Park is a Georgian mansion owned by the National Trust located not far from Pangbourne. Its style of house matched perfectly with Fellows’ vision of the Grantham residence in London, giving the feel of grand old palace and perfect for interior shooting (though some may recognise this from other period romances). This location is truly pivotal for fans of Lady Rose as it was not only featured in 2013 when the family was in London for her coming out ball, but in last season’s finale it was also at the centre of the marriage of Lady Rose and Atticus Aldridge. This gorgeous house has much for eager Downton fans including a behind the scenes video and guided tours throughout November.
Inveraray Castle (Duneagle Castle)
This beautiful Scottish castle was the setting for the 2012 Christmas episode where so many juicy plot points were first cultivated: Lady Rose and her mother squared off (not for the last time), it was the last we saw O’Brien as she got an annoying taste for adventure, Mr. Gregson showed up and shared his dilemma and love for Lady Edith with Matthew (poor old Edith), and Anna danced a reel (was it all that impressive, really?). Inveraray Castle is currently the family home of the Dukes of Argyll and is the seat of the Clan Campbell. The stunning castle and grounds, located on the shores of Loch Fyne, are open to visitors from April – October and offers an array of activities and events throughout this time.
The Criterion, Rules Restaurant and Hoxton Hall (The Jubilee Dance Hall)
Not surprisingly, London has some of the most iconic locations used for Downton. Here you will find Hoxton Hall in Hackney, which served as the filming location for Jubilee Dance Hall in York where Rose, Mary and Matthew went off to for a night of jazz and excitement. The hall itself is currently undergoing refurbishment and remodelling, but it will reopen in early 2015.
The other two prime Downton Abbey spots in London are also real-life working restaurants: The Criterion and Rules Restaurant. The Criterion Restaurant first opened in 1873 and remains one of the most lavish and luxurious places to dine when in London – whether that means enjoying lunch or dinner, or just an afternoon tea. This is where Lady Edith and Michael Gregson shared their first kiss as well as where he laid out his doomed plans to go to Germany in order to divorce his mentally ill wife and be with Edith. Absorb the decadence and feel the excitement of a secret lunch date here and book your table online for the restaurant, or stop in for a superb cocktail at the long bar.
Season 5 also saw the characters dining at London’s oldest restaurant, Rules. This restaurant was founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule as an oyster bar just off the market in Covent Garden. The restaurant serves traditional British food and has been a dining favourite of many important and famous persons throughout its over 200 year history – so it was not surprising Lady Rose chose it for a cousin’s ‘bachelorette’ luncheon before her wedding. If you wish to dine here and enjoy some of the best in British cuisine (without learning that your betroved was ‘entertaining’ at his ‘stag do’), you can easily book a table online. Please note that smart casual attire should be worn to dine here.
Of course London holds many important sites and locations associated with Downton, and you can always check out VisitLondon’s list of London Downton Locations to see all of them.
Surrey & Sussex, England
Byfleet Manor (The Dower House) & Horsted Keynes Station (Downton Train Station)
Nestled in Byfleet near Surrey, Byfleet Manor is a private house that is used to film The Dower House where the legend that is the Dowager Countess of Grantham resides. Most recently in the Downton universe, we have seen Violet and Isobel share tea and debate whether Isobel will in fact marry Lord Merton (or will his vile and stuck-up sons change), as well as an emotional moment for the Dowager when she confides in Mary that she will lose her companion with the marriage. As the house is private, it’s not open to public visit; however, you can book the house for private events as well as request an afternoon tea in the Downton Room.
Nearby in West Sussex, you will also find another historical location used for Downton filming – Horsted Keynes Station which is used as Downton Station in the series. The ongoing saga of Marigold hit a peak note here in season 5 when after Edith returns to Downton with her illegitimate daughter after a hasty attempt to runaway together, it was at this station that Mr. Drewe help in the plan to have the two reunited under the guise of adoption (though Anna noticed something was not quite right, even though she has other things to be worried about like her own arrest for murder). The actual station of Horsted Keynes can be visited as part of the Bluebell Railway. Afternoon Tea and Christmas events are possible on the rail line, where you can visit the station as well as take a journey on one of the historic trains.
Bampton (Downton Village)
Last but not least of course is the location for Downton itself. Downton Village sadly is a fictional town that is supposed to be located in Yorkshire, somewhere between the cities of Ripon and Thirsk, though it’s actuallly all shot in Bampton in Oxfordshire. The town remains beautifully and perfectly historic in scenery, and its easy access to London made it perfect for filming the village scenes. The community here is very active and locals will turn out for a variety of events like the Pumpkin Club and annual Bampton Shirt Race. Pay a visit to this charming little town and you’ll find the iconic St. Mary’s church, which can be seen in many Downton episodes, and also serves as the location for the Grantham Arms pub.
Feature image courtesy of Flickr: James Rintamaki
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