‘Downton Abbey’: How to Visit Highclere Castle

On September 20, Downton Abbey fans will flock to theaters to see the Crawley family and their dedicated servants on the big screen. The movie — which will focus on King George V and his wife Queen Mary’s visit to the family’s home — continues the story of the aristocratic clan, who we last saw in the series finale of the PBS drama in 2015. 

In addition to pleasing fans who’ve suffered years without a single witty remark from the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Maggie Smith), the film is likely to spark a resurgence in Downton-related tourism. If you want to see the real-life Downton Abbey for yourself, here’s what you need to know. 

Visiting Highclere Castle, the real-life Downton Abbey 

Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle, the main filming location for Downton Abbey| Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images

Much of what you see on screen in both Downton Abbey the show and the movie was filmed on location at England’s Highclere Castle. The grand house, which has been the home of the Carnarvon family since the 17th century, was used for both exterior and interior shots, though the servants’ quarters and kitchen were constructed on a soundstage, according to Radio Times

Downton fans can visit the castle, which is still home to the current Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. But because Highclere Castle is a private residence, it’s only open to the public on certain days, and you’ll need a paid ticket to visit. Right now, a limited number of tickets are still available for the “Real Lives and Film Sets” tour in October, where you’ll get to see some of the rooms seen on the show and in the film. 

Tours will also be offered through the Christmas season, various dates in the spring of 2020, and at other times. You can check the Highclere Castle website for complete information about available dates and ticket prices. 

Can you spend the night at Downton Abbey?

The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon
The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon | Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images

While Highclere Castle is open for tours, you sadly can’t spend the night in the house. However, you can stay on the estate at the Grotto Lodge or the London Lodge. But it’s pricey. A two-night stay in December at the one-bedroom London Lodge will set you back £850, or about $1,050. A three-night stay at the larger Grotto Lodge is £1,650, or just over $2,000, according to the Express

Whether you spend the night or just the day, visitors to Highclere can see some of the castle’s impressive interior, including the state dining room, the saloon, the library (which has more then 4,000 books), and some of the home’s bedrooms. You can also explore the more than 1,000-acre estate’s gardens and woodlands, including an enchanting secret garden and follies such as the Etruscan temple. Also on view in the castle’s cellars is a collection of Egyptian antiquities gathered by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who together with Howard Carter discovered the tomb of the Pharoah Tutankhamun in 1922.

Downton Abbey is in theaters September 20. 

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