Downtown Abbey gave us an epic, two-hour series finale Sunday night. But, truth? We still haven’t had enough of the Crawley family, nor of the sprawling English countryside they inhabit. So it’s cracking news that Highclere Castle — otherwise known as “the real Downton Abbey” — reopens for tours on March 26. A trip to England is clearly in order.
Set on acres of rolling hills in Hampshire, England, Highclere is home to the Earls of Carnarvon — and has been since the late 1600s. The castle’s lavish interior is instantly recognizable to Downton diehards, who collectively swooned over Lady Mary’s bridal entrance down its central staircase — and got major home-entertaining envy as Carson attended to every detail of the glittering holiday bashes.
Open to the public for 60 to 70 days each year, the castle allows visitors to explore its interior, stroll its garden grounds, and learn about ancient Egypt in an on-site exhibition filled with ancient artifacts. (Earlier residents, in turns out, were avid Egyptian travelers, and didn't shy away from bringing home souvenirs.)
In May, the castle will offer an all-new “Capability Brown” tour. Named after the master landscape designer who helped create the park at Highclere, the tour offers an in-depth look at the gardens and parkland. (Honesty, what better way to experience an English garden?) The castle also launched a new app this year, giving users a virtual tour via 360-degree photography and videos narrated by actor Jim Carter (he played Carson!) And of course, tearooms are open to the public to offer the perfect post-tour snack.
Quick tip: For the ultimate lodging, book a stay at one of the estate’s two-or-three bedroom cottages. (That’s so Mrs. Patmore.)
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