Downton Abbey fans will be pleased to learn that this year’s Christmas special, to be screened by ITV at 9pm on Christmas Day, will be a feature-length two-hour affair.
Those hoping for carols around the Downton piano will be disappointed though. In contrast to last year’s snow-flake filled special, this year’s Christmas episode will see the Downton clan heading to the Highlands of Scotland for their summer holiday. And the Crawleys – along with Bates, Anna, Molesley and O’Brien – will be swapping Downton for the even grander Duneagle Castle.
Their annual trip to Scotland is apparently the highlight of Robert’s year – so we can expect him to be in higher spirits than he was in series three. But there is sure to be drama as Duneagle Castle is home to feisty Lady Rose (remember the flapper dress-wearing, jazz dancing cousin who appeared in the last episode of series three. You know, the one who briefly had an affair with a married man before being sent away in disgrace.)
Romance might be on the cards, too. The episode will see Lady Edith bump into her newspaper editor Michael Gregson… who just happens to be holidaying nearby – and this will cause conflict between Matthew and Mary who disagree about the married journalist’s motives.
Meanwhile scheming O’Brien finds a kindred spirit in the form of lady’s maid, Wilkins. All of which is likely to come to a head at the spectacular Gillies’ Ball…
Back at the Abbey, the staff – and Branson, who has chosen stayed behind with baby Sybbie – are left to their own devices and bound to get into some trouble…
“While the cat’s away, the mice will play,” reveals executive producer Gareth Neame. “The Grantham’s do not live at Downton Abbey 12 months of the year. They would go to London for the summer season and also go away on holidays like this. And when that happens the domestic staff of Downton would remain. What will they get up to while the family is away?”
Responsibility falls to Mr Carson to try and retain some routine. But with the family away, the staff are easily distracted – especially when the Thirsk Country Fair is on the horizon.
New housemaid Edna – played by MyAnna Burning – arrives to stir things up and rumour has it there could even be love in the air for cook Mrs Patmore!
The Christmas special certainly sounds like an episode not to be missed.
Laura Mackie, Director of Drama at ITV said: “We hope the Downton family of viewers will gather together to watch this major TV event as a shared Christmas night experience.
“Last year’s special episode set the nation talking on Boxing Day and 2012’s Christmas Day episode is no different. As ever, Downton will take its audience through a whole range of emotions. All of life’s experiences will feature in this episode. This is one episode you will want to see live with millions of others – and best have the tissues ready…”
Ellie is an entertainment, TV and film journalist writing news and (hopefully incredibly witty) comment for RadioTimes.com. She loves light-hearted dramas and glossy US series - and is more than a little bit obsessed with Downton Abbey. Foodie, sun-seeker and aspiring novelist in her own time. Likes the fact that her name rhymes with telly.