The filming of Downton Abbey takes place at Highclere Castle in Hampshire. The castle is a country residence of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, but opens to the general public at certain times of the year.
History of Highclere Castle
The castle, which was built on the foundations of a medieval palace, has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1679.
During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Carnarvon family carried out some major rebuilding work. The property was turned into a classical Georgian mansion in the Jacobethan style, with gardens designed by the famous Capability Brown.
Like many stately homes, Highclere Castle was converted into a hospital during the First World War. It also became a home for evacuee children for a short time during the Second World War.
Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle
Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, has been a friend of the Carnarvon family for some years. He apparently had Highclere Castle in mind as he was writing the series. Filming of Downton Abbey started at Highclere Castle during 2010.
As the servants quarters at Highclere Castle have been modernised, the ‘below stairs’ scenes are filmed at a London studio. However, the state rooms and exterior will be instantly recognisable to any visitors who have watched Downton Abbey.
Major repairs had been needed at the castle since 2009, but in 2012 the Carnarvon family stated that they were now able to start repairs due to the huge increase in visitors, which they attributed to the filming of Downton Abbey at the property.
Weddings at Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle is available to hire for weddings. They are licenced to hold civil ceremonies, so both the wedding and the reception can be held there. The castle can also provide a wedding co-ordinator to help plan the arrangements.
The bride can get ready in the castle, before walking down the spectacular staircase to start the wedding, accompanied by music.
The reception can be held in one of the luxurious state rooms, with a disco and buffet provided for the evening party. If the wedding is to be a small, intimate event, the party can be held in the dining room.
Visiting the castle
Highclere Castle is usually open to the public during the Easter and summer holidays, as well as Bank Holidays. It also opens for special events, such as the Christmas Fair. Private tours of the castle can be arranged on certain dates.
Visitors to the castle can view the impressive state rooms and explore the Egyptian exhibition in the cellar, before taking a walk around the gardens and woodlands. There are beautiful views of North Hampshire and the Kennet Valley.
Those who want to plan a holiday in the area should have plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation. Finding a hotel in the nearby city of Bath should be fairly easy, as the accommodation available ranges from budget to luxury. Bath is an interesting city, with attractions including the Roman Baths, Theatre Royal and various museums. Visitors to Bath can take a day trip to Highclere Castle, and see the building made famous by Downton Abbey.