England’s Highclere Castle & Downton Abbey

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The third season of the TV series Downton Abbey premieres January 6, 2013. If watching the show makes you wish you were having afternoon tea in the beautiful garden of a magnificent stately home, then wish no more. You can turn that desire into a reality by visiting the “real” Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, west of London, England, in Newbury, West Berkshire.

Highclere Castle is the real castle that plays the role of Downton Abbey, fictional home to the Earl of Grantham, his glamorous wife, daughters and a host of servants. The Victorian castle is set amidst 1,000 acres of parkland that is as beautiful as it looks on screen. The actual residents are the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family have lived on the site since 1679. Downton Abbey author, Julian Fellowes is a longstanding friend of the family and had Highclere in mind as the home of the Granthams while writing the series.

Make a trip next spring, when the castle is open to visitors, and step into Downton life: sip tea at the café, stroll the garden pensively just like Lady Mary, Edith or Sybil, and admire the sumptuous rooms, many of which are used during filming. Entrance tickets can be purchased in advance, which is recommended to avoid disappointment. Highclere is located about an hour and a half away from London by train.

(Photo of the Secret Garden Gate courtesy of Highclere Castle)