Why you shouldn't bother visiting Downton Abbey?

So I don't really mean that you shouldn't visit. But then again, maybe I do. I mean doesn't the magic of some places exist in the realm of make believe and immortalised in film and TV.


 When we visited on a cold early spring day, I was like an excited child at Christmas. I'd been such a fan of the show for so long and watched every episode countless times, so to visit the beautiful set of Downton Abbey at Highclere Castle seemed like a dream.
 It was every bit as grand and imposing as I'd hoped with the long sweeping driveway we see the Earl of Grantham walk down at the start of every episode. I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I get every time I hear the first few chords of the music start - like the feeling of early autumn, a new term, a new start, darker nights, cosy blankets, log fires and cinnamon. Thats what Downton Abbey makes me feel like. An english autumn day.
 The first indication that something was not going to be quite as magical was the hoard of tourists queuing outside and the muddy car park, familiar at every Stately Home up and down the land. Clearly people travel a very long way - internationally even, for Highclere Castle, though.
 We took in the outside from every angle until I could wait no longer to get inside and see my Downton Abbey dream in real life.

Of course no-one is allowed to take cameras inside as that would give away the secrets of the grand home and could also spoil the rich tapestries over time. Any good tourist attraction knows it must maintain an air of intrigue to keep attracting the masses.
Inside I was so excited to see the library and the kitchen were so much of the action takes place and the first room is so familiar. Of course the TV cameras and lighting really make the place look different and bigger in my opinion but it is instantly recognizable still.
Even aside from the Downton connection its a beautiful stately home with antiques galore.
One of the best rooms is the grand hall which you can look down on from the gallery above and many a soiree has been held there in the Downton Abbey series so its a special one to view.
Sadly you don't get to the kitchens or servants quarters which oddly was the bit I wanted to see most. Its were so much of the gossip and scandal takes place and I love stately homes were you get to see the secret corridors and attics. But this is not part of Highclere Castles tour and I don't actually think any of that bit if filmed here. Booo.
I was a bit gutted about it and felt a bit robbed of the Downton experience I thought I would get but never-the-less it was a good day out. Downton aside there's beautiful gardens to explore and the house is impressive.






We even squeezed in a visit to the old coachhouse they have on site for a spot of prosecco afternoon tea. It was a real treat.






It's easy to forget sometimes that some of these big stately homes are still lived in by the families - Earls and Dukes - but they try to keep a wing separate. They still provide important employment for local residents and preserve a part of history unique to Britain.





So whilst if you're a major fan of Downton Abbey, I might not recommend trekking down to the bottom of the country for a visit, it is a lovely day out and the view from outside is every bit as impressive as the opening credits.
Of course with the film coming out, it seems like a good time for me to reignite my love affair with Downton Abbey, so I'll keep you posted on my review of the film...

I may even have to delve back inot the TV series and watch it again....after all, it is Autumn and what is Autumn without Donwton Abbey?

Have you visited a TV set and been a bit underwhelmed or completely overwhelmed?

EDIT: I saw the Downton Abbey film last night and thought I'd do a little update to this post with a review. I did get the Autumnal feels when the music came on the opening scene came on screen. I'm so glad we saw it on a dark, drizzly night. I really enjoyed the film and it was as a good, if not better than the previous extra long Christmas specials.

Although it would have worked perfectly well as a TV movie, it also had some lovely cinematic moments with more lovely rooms and elements of Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) featured. I recognised plenty from our visit there.

The Carnivore enjoyed it but felt it was a bit too long and also a bit simple in parts but for me that's the joy of this movie. It's not CGI, action and doom and gloom, it's human, with minor peril (love that term) and connection between communities. I even found myself a bit emotional in parts but then I am a breastfeeding mum of two so tend to get choked up at all manor of things now.

If you're a fan of Downton Abbey, definitely go watch this film, I think you will enjoy all of the same magical moments of TV but on the big screen.

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