Downton Abbey is one of the most widely watched TV shows in the world, and has become a global phenomenon. As much a part of the show as the characters is Newbury’s Highclere Castle, representing the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period, as well as the social class divides. Show creator Julian Fellowes reportedly always had Highclere in mind when he wrote Downton Abbey.
What to see
Although the show’s characters are fictional, the castle’s interior and grounds are just as they are portrayed on-screen. Visitors will no doubt recognise many of the rooms, specifically the Drawing Room, where Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess of Grantham can often be seen with the rest of the family having pre-dinner drinks.
The castle is also currently host to the Egyptian Exhibition, which includes a replica of Tutankhamen’s tomb. With membership of the Historic Houses Association (HHA), visitors will get free entry to Highclere Castle, and hundreds of other beautiful British houses, castles and gardens.
Where to stay or eat
Located eight miles up the road is The Vineyard, the world-renowned five red star Relais & Chateaux hotel, famed for its food, extensive wine cellars and Executive Chef and Saturday Kitchen regular Daniel Galmiche.
Don’t just stay for the food, however, as The Vineyard is also home to a ‘5 Bubbles Luxury’ spa, as well as a number of stunning suites that the Earl of Grantham himself would appreciate. It’s the perfect destination for those who are looking for a bit of luxury during their weekend breaks.
How to get there
The estate is open over Easter, during May and from mid-July to early September, as well as a few days in December. Located between Oxford, London and Winchester, a drive to Highclere Castle is relatively simple. Once off the M4 and on to the A34, brown tourist signs will lead you on a beautiful drive through the countryside around Newbury. It is advised that you do not use a sat-nav due to the area’s one-way traffic system.