Arts and Culture

Downton Abbey Tours: Experience the Hit British Drama

Filed Under: London, United Kingdom
©VisitBritain/ -- Britain on View
Highclere Castle, the massive home used to portray Downton Abbey.
On the hit TV series Downton Abbey, the daily dramas of a World War I-era family of British aristocrats and their servants have captured the imagination of American viewers faster than you can say, "We love Will and Kate."

While ardent fans may suffer separation anxiety from the Grantham family and their house staff in between the show's seasons, loyal watchers can get up close and personal with the real Downton Abbey, better known as Highclere Castle, as well as the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire, where many of the show's scenes are set, by taking part in a Downton Abbey-themed tour across the pond.

The Downton Abbey set locations are an hour-and-a-half drive from London. Visitors can choose their own Downton adventure. Self-guided tours of Highclere, as well as private and group tours of both the castle and nearby village, and even a multiday tour are among the options granting fans the chance to experience Downton.

Highclere Castle Tours
Fans can indulge their wildest Downton Abbey fantasies -- if "wild" means wandering through parlors and drawing rooms -- on a tour of Highclere Castle, the massive home used to portray Downton Abbey. Owned by the Countess and Earl of Carnarvon, whose family has occupied the castle since 1679, and located 1 1/2 hours outside of London, Highclere now offers tours to the public.

Ardent fans now have the chance to sashay through the castle halls like a real-life Lord or Lady Grantham. Visitors can also meander through the castle's drawing room, saloon, dining room, library, bedrooms and music room -- where many scenes from the show have been filmed. Guides await in each room, ready to offer information and anecdotes to the curious. Bring your walking shoes: tourists are also allowed to wander through the castle's decorative gardens and surrounding woodlands, completing their idyllic royal fantasy.

Downton Abbey Location Tour
Does the thought of reenacting scenes from your favorite British period drama in Highclere Castle leave you wanting more than a mere visit to the set? In that case, hightail it to a Downton Abbey Location Tour. The 9-hour guided group tour not only takes you through Highclere Castle and its gardens and grounds, but also to Bampton, the Oxfordshire village that serves as Downton village on the show. In this village, the tour visits the home of Matthew Crawley, heir to Downton Abbey, and stops by the settings for the show's church, village fair and hospital.

Group tours include transportation via air-conditioned bus (which features televisions playing Downton Abbey episodes), a tour guide and entry fees to the castle, gardens and grounds. Get your cameras ready: the tour also takes you on a visit to the bedroom where a certain Turkish diplomat met with an unexpected end.

The Real Downton Abbey Tour
Experience firsthand the glamour of British aristocracy: pretend you're the Dowager Countess, as it were, on a private, guided Real Downton Abbey Tour. This 8-hour luxury journey features hotel pickup by private car and a professional chauffeur who acts as your guide.

The intimate tour allows you the privacy of visiting Highclere Castle and the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire, where scenes of village life from the show were shot. On the Real Downton Abbey Tour, travelers are afforded the chance to travel at their own leisurely pace, stop for photo opportunities as often as they please and enjoy the undivided attention of their guide.

7-Day Downton-Themed Vacation
Hyper-dedicated Downton Abbey fans with time to kill -- and money to spend -- should embark on a private 7-day Downton Abbey-Themed Vacation. For 6 nights, you'll live nearly better than the Granthams, guided by a private driver who is also a historian on World War I, British noble society and the British monarchy.

The tour includes visits to Bampton and Highclere Castle, trips to Oxford, Cambridge and the small town of Henley-on-Thames, as well as a guided tour of London, where museum visits give information and context on British life during World War I. The tour's additional trips to towns where some of England's finest universities are located extends your knowledge of the Downton Abbey era. Prices for the tour include hotel stays with breakfast, airport transfers and all transportation.

About the Author

Valerie Conners is a freelance writer, editor and producer who has worked with the Travel Channel for more than 14 years, specializing in travel topics including the world's best beaches, outdoor travel and romantic getaways. Her work also appears in many online and print publications including, Aol Travel, Discovery Channel, World Hum, Frommer's Travel Guides, the Boston Globe, Baltimore Sun and Philadelphia Inquirer. She's happiest when eating spicy Thai food, snorkeling with sea turtles in Indonesia and bargaining for bangles in Indian markets. She blogs about her travels at PassengerConners.com.

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