Downton Earth: Historic Houses You Should Visit

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We don’t know about you, but for us, the gloominess of the end of summer is being lifted by exactly one thing: the return of the Dowager Countess and the rest of the Crawley family to our screens! The long-awaited film adaptation of the popular Downton Abbey is finally here, and we happily crowded into cinemas on the 13th September to escape into the entrancing and glamorous world of Downton. The heartwarming series drew us into the story of a struggling aristocratic family, and the beautiful sets had us yearning for a trip to a historic house or two. Just in case the new film sparks your interest in doing just that, we’ve rounded up a few of our favourites from around the country. The Dowager Countess would be most impressed.

Highclere Castle


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We can’t not start with the actual Downton Abbey – or at least the house that inspired writer Julian Fellowes. The expansive Highclere Castle was not only Fellowes’ muse – he’s apparently a great friend of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who own the estate – but it’s also the filming location for the series and now the film. Fans are sure to recognise the vast building, which boasts around 50 bedrooms. No wonder poor Anna is always rushed off her feet – think of the cleaning! You can’t just pop by, though: Highclere is actually a functioning estate, so visitors are only allowed in at select times. The good news is that you can book yourself onto a Downtonthemed tour, many of which take in nearby Bampton and Oxford as well, and learn all about your favourite characters. Bring a hat and channel your inner Maggie Smith!

Dunrobin Castle


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If you’re a wee bit further north (read: Scotland), you might want to pay a visit to a place that’s even bigger than Highclere – Dunrobin Castle. Easily accessible from either Inverness or Aberdeen, this place is well worth the trip up: its whopping 189 rooms now house an impressive museum, and the gardens and daily falconry display are the icing on the cake. This French chateau-inspired castle is the most northerly of Scotland’s great houses, as well as one of Britain’s most continually inhabited. You can visit from April to October to experience the wonder for yourself – and perhaps stop off at the nearby Royal Dornoch Golf Club on the way home… We reckon the Earl of Grantham would approve.

Lyme Park


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Just in case you’re not a fan of the Crawleys (…despicable!) but still love a good literary setting, check out Cheshire’s Lyme Park. This marvellous mansion played host to Mr Darcy and Lizzy Bennett as they matched wits and fell in love for the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. We don’t recommend diving into the lake a la Colin Firth, but there’s plenty to do instead: stroll the flower gardens, partake in a run or cycle around the grounds, or wander the enormous deer park – after all, “[one’s] figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking”!

Chavenage House


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Still, Lyme Park might have competition in the film star stakes: Chavenage House has made appearances in both Poldark and Lark Rise to Candleford. The imposing building sits in amongst a peaceful landscape that gives away nothing about the 21st century. You’ll find that the tour guides here are often members of the family who own the house, and know an incredible amount about the history and legends of the place.



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The Emerald Isle isn’t without its fair share of beautiful houses, either: Redhall, in Ballycarry, is cocooned in an oasis of wood- and parkland and feels like an escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. As well as the expansive gardens, there are family portraits, a collection of explorer’s artefacts, and – apparently – even a ghost! It’s only a 40-minute drive from Belfast, so you could combine a trip to Redhall with a visit to the impressive Belfast Castle.

Plas Newydd


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Feeling in the mood for a historical house coupled with spectacular views over some mountains? Look no further than Plas Newydd House and Garden in the wonderfully-named Llanfair­pwllgwyngyll­gogery­chwyrn­drobwll­llan­tysilio­gogo­goch (yes, it’s real –  we checked!). Aside from the merriment you’ll have trying to ask for directions, the house itself is well worth a visit: enchanting views over Snowdonia pair with a summer terrace and hydrangeas – which typically bloom in autumn. And, in case you’re an art lover, we should also mention that the house contains the largest exhibition of Rex Whistler works around. No big deal. 


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