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Top 5 Downton Abbey Tours from London

Downton Abbey, the magnificent Crawley family estate that gives its name to the most watched British TV series on the planet (and also the movie!), has led many unsuspecting tourists to the wrong parts of England. Here I will tell you about the different excursions you can take to discover this wonderful place.

Ivana Nazareno

Ivana Nazareno

11 min read

Top 5 Downton Abbey Tours from London

Downton Abbey | ©UKinUSA

Downton Abbey, the magnificent Crawley family estate that gives its name to the most watched British television series on the planet (and movie too!), has led many an unsuspecting tourist to the wrong parts of England. Here I'll tell you about the different excursions you can take to discover this wonderful place.

In the series, the lands of the Earl and Countess of Grantham are located in Yorkshire, in the north of the country, but the filming actually took place not far from London. Highclere Castle in Berkshire is the real-life Downton Abbey. And Bampton in Oxfordshire is the Downton village.

The best part is that all of the locations are close enough, both to London and to each other, that you can visit them in a day trip.

Even if you're not a fan of this aristocratic drama of British families, these sites will be a great way to get into the English culture of the early 20th century and you can discover the incredible buildings and villages that bordered the great metropolis of London. One of the best ways to explore the locations where the best scenes of the famous Netflix series were filmed is through a full-day excursion. For this you will have the possibility to choose from several options that different companies make available to tourists, and of course you can also go on your own by rental car or public transport.

To make your trip to the hidden places that you loved on the small screen a success I am going to tell you the best excursions and tours to go all over the Downton Abbey area on your next trip to the United Kingdom.

I also recommend you to read the post what to see and do in London to make a list of the best plans for your trip.

1. Marvel at a complete tour of Downton Abbey and the city of Oxford with Highclere Castle included.

Highclere Castle| ©Richard Munckton
Highclere Castle| ©Richard Munckton

This tour is one of the most complete, as it starts in London at a meeting point, previously agreed with the guides, and then moves to the city of Oxford.

In this well-known British city you will be able to walk through its beautiful streets, stores and you will also have enough time to take pictures of the ancient buildings of one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

The tour will then take you to Bampton, a town that belongs to the Cotswolds and which is actually the village of Downton in the award-winning fiction.

There you will be shocked to see in real life the sturdy and solid Victorian mansion of Downton Abbey, the most amazing thing is that it is just as you have seen it on TV!

A stop further along the tour will take you to the spectacular Highclere Castle , the castle that was transformed into a hospital in the drama series. The icing on the cake of the great Downton Abbey adventure.

The castle was built in the nineteenth century according to a project of the same architect who designed nothing less than the Palace of Westminster. You will be able to walk through its rooms, gardens and admire the decoration and architecture of the place. Highclere Castle is located west of London in Berkshire, about 110 km from the English capital. It is currently home to the eighth Earl of Carnarvon, his children and his wife, Lady Carnarvon. It is open for visits only for a few months each year. You can consult the calendar here.

Outside of this period, the nearly 25 square kilometers of the estate are reserved for family use, closed events and, of course, filming.

After a beautiful walk it will be time to return to London with thousands of spectacular photographs and a memorable experience.

Details of interest

  • Price: prices are approximate and each company may have different values but range around 170 euros.
  • Duration: the tour usually takes about 10 hours between travel and free time at each point of interest.
  • Means of transport: air-conditioned tourist bus.

Advantages of this option

  • You will not have to rent a car or drive on your vacation.
  • A professional guide will tell you all the details and secrets of the places and the series.
  • You will be able to meet other Downton Abbey fans and maximize the experience.
  • If you have little time during your stay in London, the tour is your 100% ally.

Disadvantages of this option

  • It is not an economical option so if you are traveling with a group of friends or family it may be wise to evaluate going on your own.
  • If you want to visit the town of Bampton, Oxford, and Highclere Castle in more depth I recommend you stay in Oxford at least one night and then you can explore on your own all the attractions of the city and the locations of the series. I recommend this post if you want to know how to visit Oxford from London.

Book your tour to Downton Abbey with visit to Highclere Castle

2. Discover the charm of Downton Abbey village and the beautiful Blenheim Palace.

Blenheim Palace| ©jonathan
Blenheim Palace| ©jonathan

This excursion is ideal for a perfect day where you can live an authentic rural experience and discover the treasures of the town of Bampton, the fictional town where Downton Abbey is set.

First you will get to know and fall in love with Blenheim Palace and the country house where Winston Churchill himself was born and which is also protected by UNESCO, then you will continue your journey and you will be able to admire the beauty of the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds is an area of England that is surrounded by mountains and hills with dreamy villages, typical buildings and London cuisine, a real charm that you can not miss! I take the opportunity to recommend this post if you want to know how to get to the Cotswolds from London.

The villages that stand out the most are Bibury and Bourton on the Water, where you will discover the typical cottages by the river, the town hall and Victoria Hall.

Now it's time to enjoy the Downton Abbey experience to the fullest because you will arrive at the famous village of Bampton which is the setting where the most memorable scenes of the series take place.

There you will have time to stroll around the village, taste exquisite gourmet dishes and drink the famous English tea, if you are in the village in the afternoon.

Details of interest

  • Price: The estimated value of the excursion is 110 euros.
  • Duration: the average trip is approximately 10 hours but varies depending on traffic and weather.
  • Means of transport: the tours are conducted by air-conditioned tourist bus.

Advantages of this option

  • When you have few days in London but still want to know the charming villages around the English capital this tour is everything you are looking for. Especially because one of the famous villages you will visit is the set of the mythical series.

Disadvantages of this option

  • If you are a big fan of the English series this option does not include a visit to Highclere Castle which is the most important location of the series.

Book your Downton Abbey tour with visit to Highclere Castle

3. Fall in love with this tour of all the most iconic Downton Abbey scenes from London.

Bampton Church| ©Hugh Llewelyn
Bampton Church| ©Hugh Llewelyn

This day trip includes the entrance to the famous Highclere Castle and a visit to Downton Village and Downton Church. You will be able to visit the filming sites associated with Downton Abbey in the morning and enjoy an afternoon at Highclere Castle, the home of the Grantham family in the series.

You will leave London for a beautiful day at Downton Abbey!

First, you'll get to see the beautiful and charming Cotswolds, which doubles as Yorkshire in the Downton Abbey TV series and in the recent Downton Abbey movie.

Here you can explore honey-colored villages and rolling hills as your driver takes you to the centuries-old Cogges Farm, where you can enjoy a stroll around the farmyard and say hello to the friendly animals that live here.

You will also learn about Cogges' role in Downton Abbey as Yew Tree Farm, the home of the Drewe family and the place where Lady Edith's daughter Marigold grew up.

At the Manor House you'll watch a specially recorded documentary focusing on a day of filming and then it's time for coffee in the old milking barn. Not bad, right?

The next stop on the tour is the village of Bampton, which any Downton Abbey fan will immediately recognize as Downton Village.

Here you'll get to explore St. Mary's Church and Cemetery, where some of the characters have their final resting place. Oops! We won't give you spoilers in case you haven't seen the series yet, but fans love this experience.

Inside the church you're going to see where many of the characters got married, and at least one was jilted. You know who it was for sure! I recommend visiting the gift store where you can buy the best Downton memorabilia.

The next stop on the Downton Abbey tour is the cherry on top! You will see the magnificent house that was designed by Charles Barry for the Earls of Carnarvon and Highclere Castle which is still home to the 8th Earl today.

Details of interest

  • Price: from approximately 200 euros.
  • Duration: full day tour.

Advantages of this optionThis tour is ideal for true fans of the series who do not want to miss any detail and want to know all the locations and experience every corner as an authentic English aristocrat.

Disadvantages of this optionIts cost is higher than the more traditional tours and although it is a super complete tour if you go in a group it is better to choose to do the whole itinerary on your own because you will save money.

4. Complete tour of some of the 'Downton Abbey' sets and Blenheim Palace

Bampton, Downton Abbey set.| ©bazzadarambler
Bampton, Downton Abbey set.| ©bazzadarambler

With this excursion you will get to know the Cotswolds filming location. Imagine being able to follow the example of the lords and ladies of Downton and walk to the limestone hills of the Cotswolds, where much of the action of the period drama was filmed.

You can also tour the Oxfordshire town of Bampton, the actual location of Downton Village, and the country inns of Shilton and Swinbrook Yew Tree Farm and Grays Court at Cogges, featured as Downton Place, are also included in your itinerary.

You can be dazzled by the unique beauty of Blenheim Palace and learn about its royal history. As I have told you, this palace was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, and being able to discover every nook and cranny is an incredible experience.

Details of interest

  • Price: the price of the tour starts at approximately 185 euros.
  • Duration: the whole tour takes about 10 hours from start to finish.
  • Means of transportation**: an air-conditioned tourist minivan.

Advantages of this optionThis tour will give you a complete overview of the places chosen by the creators of the series to shoot the outdoor scenes and the food outside the castle.

Disadvantages of this optionThe only problem with this tour is perhaps the high cost of the tour considering that it does not include the entrance to the famous Highclere Castle.

5. Live a VIP experience with a private cab tour of all the locations of the series.

Cabs in London| ©aimee rivers
Cabs in London| ©aimee rivers

This tour will take you on a walk through all the most emblematic places of the series that I have told you about before but it has the particularity that it is totally private, you can also stop for lunch, walk through the town of Bampton and enter the Highclere Castle to see its beautiful decoration and relive the most enthralling chapters.

Details of interest

  • Price: the tour starts at approximately 868 euros.
  • Duration: the London black cab will pick you up at your hotel and drop you off at the same place at the end of the tour. The whole tour will last about 9 hours.
  • *Means of transport: a private black cab with air conditioning and exclusive driver.

Advantages of this option

  • This option is relaxed, you will be able to discover absolutely all the places related to Downton Abbey in the comfort of your own chauffeur-driven car.
  • It includes the entrance to the castle.
  • If you are more than 2 people you can split the cost of the excursion and go comfortably on this private tour.

Disadvantages of this optionThe cost of the excursion is quite high for a single person or family, but if you always dreamed of a private and customized tour this tour is definitely a perfect alternative.

What you will see at Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle| ©Neil
Highclere Castle| ©Neil

The famous castle is undoubtedly the most iconic part of the Downton Abbey tour, not only for being the central setting of the series, but also for the real history contained in its walls and beautiful gardens. The entrance fee will allow you to visit the interior of the castle, the gardens and the exhibition of subway Egyptian artifacts.

As a curious fact, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon became an archaeologist and was one of those responsible for discovering the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun.

The good thing about visiting the interiors of Highclere Castle is that several of the environments portrayed in the series really exist, and you will see them as they appeared on the small screen. The library where Lord Grantham read the correspondence brought by Mr. Carson; the drawing room where Violet Grantham and the other women of the family met and talked, the stairs and the hall that appeared in some of the most dramatic scenes of the series (such as the dance of Mary and Matthew, in which they get lost in a kiss and end up being caught by Lavinia).

Much of the original décor was used in the series, and those who saw the episodes easily recognize the settings.

A little history of the famous castle

The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679. Major rebuilding work was carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries, and in 1838, the third Earl of Carnarvon brought in Sir Charles Barry to transform their home into a truly impressive mansion. During the First World War the Castle was converted into a hospital, returning to a private dwelling in 1922.

To this day, the current (eighth) Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live partly in the castle and partly nearby, but remain closely involved in the daily life and future of the castle.

How to book a tour to Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle| ©Neil
Highclere Castle| ©Neil

All tours and excursions are booked online at the websites of the various companies that market the tours and you may have different cancellation policies depending on which one you choose.

Generally if you must cancel the tour more than one day in advance you will be able to get a full or partial refund but it is very important that you read all the conditions before paying.

Regarding the weather, it is possible that some tours may not be able to take place on days with heavy rain or adverse weather. If this happens you will be given the option to reschedule the tour or receive a refund.

Duration of the Downton Abbey tours

Inveraray Castle| ©Shadowgate
Inveraray Castle| ©Shadowgate

The Downton Abbey area is very close to London but there are several stops you will have to make to see the best locations of the series, such as the village of Bampton, Highclere Castle, Downton village church and much more. That's why most tours tend to average nine (9) hours in length.

Traveller Tip

If you want to make the most of your time and see more of England an ideal option is to combine the Downton Abbey tour with a visit to another location, both on the same day. Popular destinations nearby include the university city of Oxford and Blenheim Palace; both sites resonate with a history dating back to the days of Downton and also contain many tourist sites with real English village history and beautiful nature and architecture.