Live the life of Downton Abbey
Experience the lifestyle of an Edwardian aristocrat
ince its screen debut in autumn 2010, Downton Abbey has captivated the hearts and minds of the world with its picture-perfect sets and costumes and upstairs-downstairs shenanigans. Take inspiration from Downton, and channel your inner Lady Mary or Mathew Crawley with one of these aristocrat-inspired activities.
Head to Highclere Castle for a set-jetting daytrip to Highclere Castle, the ‘real’ Downton Abbey, in Hampshire. The filming location for the smash hit series, Highclere is often described as the finest occupied mansion in England. The castle has been the home of the Earls of Carnarvon for over 300 years. Set in 1,000 acres of 18th century parkland, the castle was the seat of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings in 1922, and there’s an exhibition in Highclere.
In 2013, Brit Movie Tours will be offering a new Downton Abbey Experience, allowing fans to fully immerse themselves in life above and below stairs, with anecdotes about the cast, filming and the production and a step back in time to live life as an Edwardian aristocrat.
Stay in the same hotel as the Downton cast
Book at stay in The Carnarvon Arms in Newbury where the Downton Abbey cast stay while filming. A grade-II former coach house to neighbouring Highclere Castle, it has recently undergone restoration by Marco Pierre White and his team and is now a luxury country inn hideaway with sophisticated yet good-value rooms and a hotspot for fine cuisine.
Take a tour of Bampton Village, Oxfordshire
Nestled on the edge of the Cotswolds, the picturesque village of Bampton is where the Downton characters come to post telegrams at the Post Office. It’s also rumoured to be the setting for the highly-anticipated wedding featuring in the third series. While there, seek out the shingle-roofed Bampton Coffee House for a cream tea or stop for a spot of lunch at the Vineyard at Stockcross (www.the-vineyard.co.uk), an elegant hotel with a great restaurant and an impressive wine cellar. Maggie Smith, Downton’s inimitable Dowager Countess, is said to have stayed here during filming.
Go downstairs at Harewood House, Leeds
Just a few miles from Leeds sits Harewood House , an 18th-century stately home designed by Charles Barry, the same architect behind Highclere Castle. Harewood’s servant quarters are still fully intact. Underneath the decadent state rooms splashed with gold fixtures and sumptuous scarlet and duck egg-coloured walls lies ‘Below Stairs’ where you can discover how the service staff lived and ensured that everything upstairs ran like clockwork.
Admire Edwardian aesthetics
Fans of the gorgeous lacy gowns and elegant Edwardian furniture seen on-screen can indulge in Edwardian aesthetics at the V&A Museum , Manchester Gallery and Geffrye Museum , which are all home to collections of costumes, décor and artefacts from that period. Fashionistas can nab Lady Mary’s sultry siren look at one of BVintage Bazaar Vintage Fairs in Henley-on-Thames. Those who favour vintage cars over vintage clothes can head to Beaulieu Motor Museum in the New Forest to drool over vehicles like the ones Lady Cybill ran off with the chauffeur in and Lady Edith learnt to drive.
Visit a World War I hospital at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton
Just like Downton Abbey, Brighton’s Royal Pavilion was used as a hospital during World War I, housing and recuperating troops from the Indian Corps wounded on the Western Front in France and Flanders. Today, the pavilion houses a permanent exhibition containing paintings, archive photographs, contemporary accounts and film footage detailing a remarkable and often forgotten story.
Read a day in the life of the real Lady Grantham
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