Can you stay at Highclere Castle, the real life Downton Abbey? Yes, but it takes some planning -- and some money. With the “Downton Abbey” film opening Friday, fans will have a one-time opportunity to score an Airbnb stay at the distinguished estate of Cora and Robert Crawley, the fictional gentry in the PBS Masterpiece series that won hearts on both sides of the pond.
You also can experience Highclere on custom tours and cruise excursions, or stay in a lodge on the 6,000-acre home where scenes were filmed for the six-season drama that ended in 2016 in the U.S.
Here’s a chance to live out a deep “Downton” fantasy: Two fans will get to sleep at Highclere, clink cocktails in the saloon, dine in the formal state dining room, and sip coffee in the library. This is a promotion that goes hand-in-hand with the film release. You’ll need luck to snag the one-night Airbnb reservation for the evening of Nov. 26. Reservations open noon British time (eight hours ahead of Pacific time) Oct. 1; it’ll cost you $159.
The castle, shown at the beginning of every “Downton” episode, is about 45 miles west of London. George Herber and wife Fiona, the eighth earl and countess of Carnarvon, own the place. Tours are offered on select dates throughout the year. General tours ($30) of the castle, the gardens and an Egyptian exhibition (they have a rich collection) will open on select dates in April; tickets are available now. You also can book special and private tours at other times of the year. Check the website for opening dates as well as ticket sales for general tours and special events.
Info: Highclere Castle
The castle’s lodges
Highclere Castle hosts two lodges on the grounds: the Grotto Lodge, a circular stone building set on a popular walking path ($747 a night), and the London Lodge, the formal entry to Highclere Park built in 1793 by the first Earl of Carnarvon ($529 a night). The lodges, which require a two-night minimum stay, have been renovated and are booked up for a while, but it’s always worth an ask if you want to sleep over.
Info: Highclere Castle (look under “Estate”)
Viking Cruises, which sponsored the PBS Masterpiece series during its run, offers an Oxford & Highclere Castle trip on certain river and ocean cruises ($1,649, plus cruise) which takes three days and explores the castle and surrounding area. Viking adds a new five-day excursion ($1,999 to $2,099, plus cruise) for select 2021 cruises which includes a visit to Highclere Castle; Broughton Castle, which appeared in the PBS “Wolf Hall” series; and other notable homes.
European Waterways has sold out this year’s cruises that include a tour of Highclere Castle. However, 2020 dates are on sale now aboard the Magna Carta barge, which holds just eight guests. Prices start at $4,750 per person, double occupancy.
Info: European Waterways
You can put together your own “Downton Abbey” itinerary with CIE Tours International. You get to pick the places to go, such as the village of Bampton in Oxfordshire where many scenes were filmed, and Lady Edith’s home, known as Brancaster Castle. CIE Tours will book rooms, arrange a driver and meals, and take care of the details. Prices for groups of two to eight start at $2,500 per person, depending on dates, group size, lodging selections and itinerary.
Info: CIE Tours International
Follow VisitBritain’s itinerary of filming sites in southeast England, such as Highclere and the surrounding areas of Brancaster Castle, Bampton Village, Lacock Village and Wrotham Park. It’s a five-day itinerary that includes prominent homes such as Blenheim Palace, the birthplace of Winston Churchill, which has its own Downton-style vibe.