Created on: January 30, 2012 Last Updated: January 30, 2013
Downton Abbey, is an Edwardian period PBS series that has developed a loyal following. Staring Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Dan Stevens, Jim Carter, Penelope Wilton and many other well-known actors and actresses; the series has garnered an audience of 11 million viewers in Great Britain and is shown in over 100 countries around the world. The series has a famous screenwriter as well in Lord Julian Fellowes, who won an Oscar for Gosford Park. The real Downton Abbey is Highclere Castle.
Highclere Castle is located in the county of Berkshire and is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Lady Carnarvon is the author of a book about her predecessor Lady Almina and if you love Downton Abbey, this book is the perfect accompaniment. Lady Almina among other things, turned the house into a hospital in 1914 and you can see that this fact was used in the second season of Downton Abbey where the house is used for convalescing soldiers. The book entitled, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, is available at many major retailers as well as Amazon.com.
If you are one of the fans of this series, there is good news; the house is open to the public. The opening times are severely limited but in 2013 the house is open for two weeks at Easter. In May, it is open two weekends and then it is open Sunday to Thursday each week from Sunday, 14th July to Thursday, 12th September. Check the website for exact times and dates and by all means order your tickets in advance to avoid disappointment.
Tickets for visits can be pre-booked on the Highclere website and come in a variety of combinations. Visitors can choose to visit the house, the gardens and the Egyptian Exhibition. In case you aren’t familiar with the name, Carnarvon, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon was on the dig with Howard Carter that discovered the burial site of King Tutankhamen. The exhibit today is located in the basement of the castle and celebrates his accomplishments. Prices are reflective of how much you want to see and how many people are in your party, there are family tickets that bring the costs down.
In addition of seeing the rooms where the action in Downton Abbey takes place, there are some real treasures in the house to be on the lookout for including a desk that once belonged to Napoleon and some very fine artwork.
Will Carson, the reliable and loyal butler has a modern day counterpart in Collin Edwards who is the butler at Highclere today. In a recent visit by BBC’s Joanne Whaley, he took her on a tour of the castle and introduced here to the places viewers have come to recognize.
Lord and Lady Carnarvon still live in their house; it is a home. The site was originally a palace that belonged to the Bishop of Winchester over 800 years ago. Members of the family have resided here since the late 17th century and the current castle is very Victorian in its design.
Highclere has seen an increase in visitors since the series began and with the continued popularity as they begin filming of season three, it would appear that the interest is not going to decrease anytime soon.
Learn more about this author, Isabelle Esteves.
Click here to send this author comments or questions.
Below are the top articles rated and ranked by Helium members on:
A look at the real Downton Abbey