May 5th 2015

The TV phenomenon that is Downton Abbey has made an entry into Highclere Castle one of the hottest tickets in the UK. Open to visitors for just 70 days a year, the huge stately home, a monument to Victorian confidence and undoubted star of the PBS series, is still a family home, albeit one with several hundred rooms! While the series and the fate and fortunes of the aristocratic Crawley family are fiction, writer Julian Fellowes had Highclere, in the lush countryside on England’s Hampshire/Berkshire border, in mind for Downton. Our Downton Abbey Walk takes us in to Highclere, where Fellowes’ imagination meets the real lives of generations of a family. Take a look at Fiona, Countess of Carnarvon, on this Time magazine video, telling us a bit about what it’s like to live in the 'real' Downton. highclere vid But not so many miles away, there are other English country gems, so unspoiled that they too have featured in some of film and TV’s most memorable productions. Bampton in Oxfordshire is also a Downton star, whereas beautiful Lacock in Wiltshire is the epitome of the English village and featured in Cranford, Pride and Prejudice and the Harry Potter movies. Its abbey is a wonderful country house with a medieval monastic past. Deep in the Cotswold countryside, Castle Combe is everyone’s dream of an English village – honey-colored stone under an ivy cladding and cottage gardens overflowing with flowers. It was a perfect setting for key scenes in the World War One movie War Horse, with not a television antenna or telephone pole to be seen! But if you prefer to meet your history face to face, rather than via a camera lens, the heartland of England has thousands of years of it. One of Wiltshire's white horses Hike to Avebury, Europe’s largest stone circle. One of the foremost prehistoric sites in Britain, it is a mystical place and to walk up to one of the ancient standing stones and place your hand on its rough, weathered surface and wonder who else has done the same. The landscape in this part of the world is dotted with humps and mounds. Prehistoric burial mounds and barrows appear in even the most humble pastures. And on the hillsides, giant white horses are outlined and laid out in chalk – some very ancient, some only some hundreds of years! See our website for full details of our Downton Abbey Walk.

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