One of the most successful British TV dramas of all time, Downton Abbey’s sumptuous depiction of the quintessentially British aristocratic lifestyle of yesteryear delights from start to finish. If watching the new Downton Abbey film, in theaters September 20, makes you dream of magnificent stately homes and settling down to afternoon tea, you don’t need a time machine to indulge in fantasy. Relive the drama and the historical magic by immersing yourself in some of Britain's best Downton-esque locations and experiences.
Choose your eveningwear
The stunning costumes beautifully showcase fashion through the decades. Pick out your favourite historic fashion pieces as you journey through the permanent fashion collection at London’s V&A Museum in South Kensington. It’s the largest and most comprehensive collection of dress in the world, covering five centuries and including rare 17th-century gowns and 1930s couture evening wear.
Dine like an aristocrat
Enjoy a traditional British meal like Lady Edith and Lady Mary at London's oldest real-life restaurant, Rules, located in Covent Garden. The interior decoration looks just as it did 100 years ago which has made it a popular filming location, appearing in the Downton Abbey TV series three times.
Party like the Crawleys
Throughout the Downton Abbey TV series and movie, characters are known for their love of a great party. Why not get dressed up to the nines and enjoy a night out in London? Book a table at world-famous Ronnie Scott's, where you'll feel like you've stumbled upon a hidden world. Or for true 1920s immersion, don your flapper dress for one of London's best authentic Jazz Age experiences in the form of The Candlelight Club. The dress code is strict – think top hats for the chaps and pearls for the girls – as you sip cocktails from a teacup and whirl around to the Charleston. Locations for this 1920s pop-up event remain secret until you purchase your tickets online.
Try aristocratic outdoor pursuits in the country
Lady Mary is no shrinking violet when it comes to outdoor pursuits – remember her horse riding with the ill-fated Turkish diplomat in the first series? Horse lovers can book into chic Coworth Park in Berkshire, south-east England. This grand 17th-century mansion and polo estate is located just 45 minutes from central London by train or car. Saddle up on one of the hotel’s well-trained steeds and enjoy the extensive grounds. Novice riders can take basic lessons, while the more experienced can try dressage and jumping. The hotel’s spa is the perfect place to soothe any tired post-ride muscles.
Another country retreat fit for a Crawley is Llangoed Hall, located on the edge of the lush Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. One of the cosiest and most romantic destinations in Wales, The Dowager Countess would no doubt approve of the hotel’s afternoon tea, enjoyed in front of roaring fires in the Morning Room. Clay pigeon shooting – an activity that will make you feel like a Downton Abbey extra – can be arranged on request.
Gather for a traditional Christmas in a castle
Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, north-east England, doubles as the magnificent Brancaster Castle in both the Series 5 and Series 6 Downton Abbey Christmas specials. Its medieval architecture and sumptuous Italianate interiors made it the perfect lavish location for Lord Sinderby’s shooting party. Alnwick is the second largest inhabited castle in Britain, second only to Windsor Castle, and has been home to the Duke of Northumberland's family for more than 700 years. The castle’s State Rooms are home to one of the finest private art collections in the country and were used by the cast and crew during filming in July and August 2014. Visitors to Alnwick Castle can explore a behind-the-scenes on the 'On Location' tour. Another castle featuring in the series is Lady Rose’s Scottish family home, Duneagle Castle, actually filmed at Inveraray Castle, located around 60 miles from Glasgow. Visitors can explore the castle’s beautiful architecture and the historic artefacts before exploring one of the many walks and avenues of the surrounding Argyll Estate.
Retreat to Yorkshire
While Downton Abbey is a fictional estate, in the show it is situated close to the villages of Ripon and Thirsk in the very real county of Yorkshire, one of the prettiest pockets of England. Home to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, it is where some of the most scenic cycling and walking routes in Britain are located.
Roam the Crawley’s lavish family home
Highclere Castle in Hampshire, south-east England, is the real-life Victorian castle that is used as the filming location for Downton Abbey. It is the family home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose ancestors have resided here since 1679. Make a trip over Easter or during summer when the castle is open to visitors and truly step into aristocratic life. Take tea at the café, stroll the garden just like Lady Mary and Lady Edith, and admire the sumptuous bedrooms. Highclere Castle is located about an hour and a half from London by train.