Downton Abbey, the magnificent Crawley family estate that gives its name to the most watched British TV series on the planet (and film too!), has led many an unsuspecting tourist to the wrong parts of England. Here I'll tell you about the different excursions you can take to discover this wonderful place.
In the series, the lands of the Earl and Countess of Grantham are located in Yorkshire, in the north of the country, but the filming actually took place not far from London. Highclere Castle in Berkshire is the real-life Downton Abbey. And Bampton in Oxfordshire is the Downton village.
The best thing is that all the locations are close enough, both to London and to each other, to be visited in a day trip.
Even if you're not a fan of the aristocratic British family drama, these sites are a great way to get a taste of early 20th century English culture and discover the incredible buildings and villages that bordered the great metropolis of London. One of the best ways to explore the locations where the best scenes from the famous Netflix series were filmed is on a full day trip. You can choose from a range of options offered by different companies, and of course you can also go on your own by rental car or public transport.
To make your trip to the hidden places you loved on the small screen a success, I am going to tell you about the best excursions and tours to visit the Downton Abbey area on your next trip to the United Kingdom.
I also recommend you to read the post what to see and do in London to make a list of the best plans for your trip.
1. Marvel at a complete tour of Downton Abbey and the City of Oxford including Highclere Castle
This tour is one of the most complete, as it starts in London at a meeting point, previously agreed with the guides, and then moves to the city of Oxford.
In this well known British city you will be able to walk through its beautiful streets, shops and you will also have enough time to take pictures of the ancient buildings of one of the most prestigious universities in the world.
The tour then takes you to Bampton, part of the Cotswolds, which is actually the village of Downton in the award-winning fiction.
There you will be shocked to see the sturdy and solid Victorian mansion from Downton Abbey in real life - the amazing thing is that it's just as you've seen it on TV!
A stop further along the tour will take you to the spectacular Highclere Castle , the castle that was transformed into a hospital in the drama series. The icing on the cake of the great Downton Abbey adventure.
The castle was built in the 19th century to a design by the same architect who designed none other than the Palace of Westminster, and you'll be able to tour its rooms, gardens and admire the decoration and architecture of the place. Highclere Castle is located west of London in Berkshire, about 110 km from the English capital. It is currently home to the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, his children and his wife, Lady Carnarvon. It is only open for visits for a few months each year. You can check the calendar here.
Outside this period, the nearly 25 square kilometres of the estate are reserved for family use, closed events and, of course, filming.
After a beautiful walk it will be time to return to London with thousands of spectacular photographs and a memorable experience.
Details of interest
- Price: Prices are approximate and each company may have different values but range from around 170 euros.
- Duration: the tour generally takes about 10 hours between travel and free time at each point of interest.
- Means of transport: air-conditioned tourist bus.
Advantages of this option
- You won't have to rent a car or drive on your holiday.
- A professional guide will tell you all the details and secrets of the places and the series.
- You will be able to meet other Downton Abbey fans and maximise the experience.
- If you are short on time during your stay in London, the tour is your 100% ally.
Disadvantages of this option
- It is not an economical option so if you are travelling with a group of friends or family it may be worth considering going on your own.
- If you want to visit Bampton, Oxford and Highclere Castle in more depth, I recommend that you stay in Oxford for at least one night and then explore all the attractions of the city and the locations of the series on your own. I recommend this post if you want to know how to visit Oxford from London.
2. Discover the charm of Downton Abbey village and the beautiful Blenheim Palace.
This excursion is ideal for a perfect day where you can live an authentic rural experience and discover the treasures of the town of Bampton, the fictional town where Downton Abbey is set.
First you'll get to see and fall in love with Blenheim Palace and the UNESCO listed country house where Winston Churchill himself was born, then you'll continue your journey and admire the beauty of the Cotswolds.
The Cotswolds is an area of England surrounded by mountains and hills with dreamy villages, typical buildings and London gastronomy, a real charm that you can't miss! I take the opportunity to recommend this post if you want to know how to get to the Cotswolds from London.
The villages that stand out the most are Bibury and Bourton on the Water, where you will discover the typical cottages by the river, the town hall and Victoria Hall.
Now it's time to make the most of the Downton Abbey experience as you arrive in the famous village of Bampton, the setting for some of the show's most memorable scenes.
There you will have time to stroll around the village, sample delicious gourmet food and drink the famous English tea, if you are in the village in the afternoon.
- Price: The estimated value of the tour is 110 euros.
- Duration: The average journey time is approximately 10 hours but varies depending on traffic and weather.
- Means of transport: The tours are conducted by air-conditioned tourist bus.
Advantages of this option
- When you only have a few days in London but still want to see the charming villages around the English capital, this tour is what you are looking for. Especially as one of the famous villages you'll visit is the setting for the legendary series.
Disadvantages of this option
- If you are a big fan of the English series, this option does not include a visit to Highclere Castle, which is the most important location of the series.
3. Fall in love with this tour of all the most iconic Downton Abbey scenes from London.
This day trip includes entry to the famous Highclere Castle and a visit to Downton Village and Downton Church. You will be able to visit the filming sites associated with Downton Abbey in the morning and enjoy an afternoon at Highclere Castle, the home of the Grantham family in the series.
You will leave London to start a beautiful day at Downton Abbey!
Firstly, you'll get to see the beautiful and charming Cotswolds, which doubles as Yorkshire in the TV series Downton Abbey and in the recent Downton Abbey film.
Here you can explore honey-coloured villages and rolling hills as your driver takes you to the centuries-old Cogges Farm, where you can enjoy a stroll around the farmyard and say hello to the friendly animals that live here.
You'll also learn about Cogges' role in Downton Abbey as Yew Tree Farm, the home of the Drewe family and the place where Lady Edith's daughter Marigold grew up.
At the Manor House you'll watch a specially recorded documentary focusing on a day's filming and then it's time for a coffee in the old milking barn. Not bad, eh?
Next stop on the tour is the village of Bampton, which any Downton Abbey fan will immediately recognise as Downton Village.
Here you can explore St Mary's Church and Cemetery, where some of the characters have their final resting place. Oops! We won't give you spoilers in case you haven't seen the show yet, but fans love this experience.
Inside the church you'll see where many of the characters got married, and at least one was jilted. You know who it was for sure! I recommend you visit the gift shop where you can buy the best Downton memorabilia.
The next stop on the Downton Abbey tour is the cherry on top! You will see the magnificent house that was designed by Charles Barry for the Earls of Carnarvon and Highclere Castle which is still home to the 8th Earl today.
Details of interest
- Price: from approximately 200 euros.
- Duration: Full day tour.
Advantages of this optionThis tour is ideal for true fans of the series who do not want to miss any detail and want to see all the locations and experience every corner as a true English aristocrat.
Disadvantages of this optionIts cost is higher than the more traditional tours and although it is a super complete tour if you go in a group it is better to opt to do the whole itinerary on your own because you will save money.
4. Complete tour of some of the 'Downton Abbey' sets and Blenheim Palace
This tour takes you to the Cotswolds filming location. Imagine being able to follow the example of the lords and ladies of Downton and walk to the limestone hills of the Cotswolds, where much of the action of the period drama was filmed.
You can also tour the Oxfordshire village of Bampton, the actual location of Downton Village and the country inns of Shilton and Swinbrook Yew Tree Farm and Grays Court at Cogges, which appear as Downton Place, are also included in your itinerary.
You can marvel at the unique beauty of Blenheim Palace and learn about its royal history. As I told you, this palace was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and being able to discover every nook and cranny is an incredible experience.
Details of interest
- Price: the tour starts at approximately 185 euros.
- Duration: the whole tour takes about 10 hours each way.
- Means of transport**: an air-conditioned tourist minivan.
Advantages of this optionThis tour will give you a complete overview of the locations chosen by the creators of the series to film the outdoor scenes and the food outside the castle.
Disadvantages of this optionThe only problem with this tour is perhaps the high cost of the tour considering it does not include entry to the famous Highclere Castle.
5. Experience the VIP experience with a private taxi tour of all the locations from the series.
This tour will take you to all the most emblematic places of the series that I have told you about before but it has the particularity that it is totally private, you can also stop for lunch, walk around the village of Bampton and enter Highclere Castle to see its beautiful decoration and relive the most enthralling chapters.
Details of interest
- Price: the tour starts at approximately 868 euros.
- Duration: The London black taxi will pick you up from your hotel and drop you off at the same place at the end of the tour. The whole tour will take about 9 hours.
- Means of transport: a private air-conditioned black taxi with an exclusive driver.
Advantages of this option
- This option is relaxed, you will be able to discover absolutely all the Downton Abbey related sites in the comfort of your own chauffeur driven car.
- Includes entrance to the castle.
- If you are more than 2 people you can split the cost of the tour and go comfortably on this private tour.
Disadvantages of this optionThe cost of the tour is quite high for a single person or family, but if you've always dreamed of a private, tailor-made tour this tour is a perfect alternative.
What to see at Highclere Castle
The famous castle is undoubtedly the most iconic part of the Downton Abbey tour, not only for being the central setting of the series but for the real history behind its walls and beautiful gardens. The entrance fee allows you to visit the interior of the castle, the gardens and the exhibition of underground Egyptian artefacts.
Fun fact: the 5th Earl of Carnarvon became an archaeologist and was one of those responsible for discovering the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.
The great thing about visiting the interiors of Highclere Castle is that several of the environments portrayed in the series actually exist, and you will see them just as they appeared on the small screen. The library where Lord Grantham read the correspondence brought by Mr Carson; the drawing room where Violet Grantham and the other women of the family met and chatted; the staircase and hall which featured in some of the most dramatic scenes of the series (such as Mary and Matthew's dance, where they lose themselves in a kiss and end up being caught by Lavinia).
Much of the original décor was used in the series, and those who saw the episodes easily recognise the settings.
A little history of the famous castle
The Carnarvon family have lived at Highclere since 1679. Major rebuilding work was carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in 1838, the third Earl of Carnarvon brought in Sir Charles Barry to transform their home into a truly impressive mansion. During the First World War the Castle was converted into a hospital, returning to private residence in 1922.
To this day, the current (eighth) Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live partly in the castle and partly nearby, but remain closely involved in the daily life and future of the castle.
How to book a Downton Abbey tour
All tours and excursions are booked online through the websites of the different companies that market the tours and you may have different cancellation policies depending on which one you choose.
Generally if you have to cancel more than one day in advance you can get a full or partial refund but it is very important that you read all the conditions before you pay.
With regard to weather, it is possible that some tours may not be able to take place on very rainy days or in bad weather. If this happens you will be given the option to reschedule the tour or receive a refund.
Duration of Downton Abbey Tours
The Downton Abbey area is very close to London but there are several stops you will need to make to see the best locations from the series, such as Bampton village, Highclere Castle, Downton village church and much more. That's why most tours tend to average nine (9) hours.
If you want to make the most of your time and see more of England an ideal option is to combine the Downton Abbey tour with a visit to another location, both on the same day. Popular destinations nearby include the university city of Oxford and Blenheim Palace; both sites resonate with a history dating back to the days of Downton and also contain many tourist sites with real English village history and beautiful nature and architecture.