Touring Downton Abbey

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Downton filiming locations

The premier of season 6 of Downton Abbey aired in the US last night. I won’t give away any spoilers, but it certainly moved the stories along in the sweetest and most fulfilling way. If only Masterpiece: Downton Abbey Season 6” target=”_blank” rel=”nofollow”>my discs would arrive from Amazon so I could binge watch the remainder of the season! Some of my favorite quotes from episode one of season 6 are:

Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?” – Violet to Isabelle

I swear that one will slip out of my mouth one of these days!

Is this a refrigerator?” – Lord Grantham

Replace “refrigerator” with “dishwasher,” and this is my life with Big Daddy. I swear, you’d think he’d never even heard of such a modern convenience.

Sometimes it’s good to rule by fear.” – Violet to Isabelle

The context of this scene is priceless. If you’ve ever wanted to see a no-gooder get a dose of their own medicine, this is it! I’m still chuckling this morning.

Until those DVD’s arrive though, I’ll be reminiscing our visit to Highclere Abbey – truly a Downton fan’s must-do when visiting the UK. Sadly, they don’t allow photography of any kind INSIDE of Downton, but we had plenty of photo opps on the massive grounds surrounding it. And since we chose (much to Big Daddy’s chagrin) the tour bus trip,

tour bus to Downton Abbey

we got to not only the visit to Highclere Castle, but also a visit to charming Cotswolds main street (for a different post, I promise) and a walk through its village of Bampton, which you may recognize as “Yorkshire Village.” Thankfully, no photo restrictions in this historically preserved town.

Shall we have a look?

Highclere is teaming with tourists, however it’s majesty is unmistakable despite the throngs of people.

Flag above Highclere Castle

Even the door is dramatic.

Door of Highclere Castle

Wouldn’t you love to have a formidable door knocker like that?

Close up of door on Downton Abbey

Look above as you prepare for just how grand this trip inside will be.

Entrance to Downton Abbey, aka Highclere Castle

And sadly, like a blacked out NFL game, there were no cameras allowed of any kind inside. It’s just as well because it was wall-to-wall people so getting a good shot would be terribly frustrating. Even so, I got goosies when we came down the grand staircase and that I’ll remember even without a digital file as proof. Most of the castle is shut off to tourists as the Carnavrons actually live there (see my post about the Inverary Castle which also has royal inhabitants). No worries though, the tour still takes you through to peek in on the red bedroom where Kemal Pamuk famously stayed, stroll through Lord Grantham’s stately library and drink in the detailed and massive dining room fully set for guests. The house tour goes quickly – for a Downton fan, much too quickly. I suggest timing your visit during an off-hour so you can linger with the docents and enjoy more of it without prodding shoulders edging you forward. When you go though, don’t shrug off the basement that contains archeological finds from King Tut. The Castle was the seat, 100 years ago, of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922 with his archaeological colleague, Howard Carter. These are equally as fascinating despite having nothing to do with our love of the show.

Once back outside however, the 5,000 acre grounds will beckon you for a stroll. Maybe have some tea? With a scone and lemon curd? When in Rome…

Tea at Highclere Castle

Walk it off and explore the grounds. I know you’ll recognize this stately tree.

famous tree from Downton Abbey

The view was simply gorgeous.

view from Highclere Castle

With ample room to do cartwheels.

Cartwheels at Highclere

And check out the architecture.

estate of highclere castle

You simply must get a family photo before you leave.

Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey

(Side note. Always dress your spouse in brightly colored clothing when being tourists. Makes it much easier to locate him in a crowd.)

We were downright giddy after the Downton Abbey tour, and hungry for more. I’m so glad we had a full day planned. Just a bit down the road was the Cotswolds and Bampton, two other production sites for us to take in.

While the Cotswolds was idyllic and beckons a return visit, it’s village of Bampton was packed with recognizable landmarks and proved to be a real treasure because there were hardly any other people in sight. Do you recognize the church where Lady Mary and Matthew were wed, and later his (spoiler alert) funeral service? On the show it’s known as “St Michael” but in reality it is St. Mary’s Church.

St Michaels church from Downton Abbey

church from downton abbey

St Michaels church from Downton Abbey

It’s ancient both outside and inside. The present appearance of the church is largely a result of a remodelling of 1270, when the spire was built and the aisles were added.

brampton church where downton was filmed

Inside the church where Downton was filmed

the pulpit from church in Downton Abbey

pew finial

Unlike the mega-churches we have in North Texas, these still have notables entombed. Can you even imagine???

entombed at church in brampton

ancient entombed

Regardless of the spattering of knights laid to rest, the architecture and history was breathtaking.

pew finial

You know this flag has many stories to tell.

really old flag in Bampton church

organ in brampton church

stained glass church window

Walking along the streets, we recognized the pub — without it’s signage of course. It’s actually someone’s house.

Yorkshire village street from Downton Abbey in Bampton England

Speaking of houses, they were so interesting, especially the roofs.

beautiful brampton garden

This roof was made of slate.

slate roof

And this was a thatched roof.

thatched roof house in brampton

Here it is up close.

close up of thatched roof

The local library served as the hospital during Downton shoots.

library in Bampton

But in the off-season, was chalk full of set photos.

production photos from downton abbey

This idyllic little town is stripped of all the Downton accessories during normal days. We were told that when the show wraps shooting each season, they throw a huge “barbecue” for the whole town where the actors and residents gather. It’s their way of giving back for the inconvenience they bring to the little burg when all the cameras roll in.

streets of brampton

the horse shoe in UK

Before we left, I was searching for a souvenir shop or anything to maybe purchase a book about the town but all we found was the butcher shop. For real. And the butcher didn’t look like he had anything touristy to offer, or Starbucks related for that matter.

butcher shop in bampton, england

Bampton felt as if you stepped back in time, which is of course why the producers of Downton Abbey chose it, and is so integral to it’s huge success. Known for their strict adherence to history and artifact, it made national news that a water bottle had mistakenly made it into the promotional photos. The horrors! I saved the article because it was such a big deal.

bottle blunder

While I would NOT recommend the tour company that we booked for our Downton Abbey excursion because of the immense difficulty in booking and confirming the trip, there are plenty of others available. Check the reviews before you buy, and make sure you purchase with a card that will back your purchase from fraud. You can always book your own trip to Downton and discover the local area on your own as well. Maybe even stay for the formal tea? More about visiting Downton Abbey/Highclere Castle can be found here. Plan ahead as the summer books up as early as February!

Check out many of my other photos from Inveraray Castle where you’ll see where the Christmas 2012 episode was filmed. Also, you don’t want to miss this AMAZING map that Wayfair.co.uk has created of all the Downton Abbey filming locations. If ONLY we had this when we were touring England!!! 

downton abbey and my peanut

 

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