Best Downton Abbey tours across the UK in 2023
Whether it's the church where Lady Mary and Matthew got married, the Grantham family's London home or the great house that stole fans' hearts, Downton Abbey was full of amazing real-life locations. Here's how to see the best of them on tours across the UK.
Downton Abbey quickly became a fan favourite when it first aired in 2010 and its popularity has hardly diminished since. With six seasons and two films under its belt, the franchise is as beloved as ever, and part of that is its use of real locations across the UK.
The franchise follows the lives of those who live and work in Downton Abbey, a historic country house set within its own estate in the Yorkshire countryside. The series starts with Lord Grantham and his family finding out about the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, and with the latest film Downton Abbey: A New Era set in 1928, we see the characters having to adapt to a rapidly changing world and class landscape.
And if you're anything like us, you've probably found yourself scratching your head wondering where Downton Abbey was filmed. From the Abbey itself and surrounding village to locations in London and beyond, the locations could do with their own cast list.
Well, the real Downton Abbey is actually a country house called Highclere Castle in Hampshire. Built by the same architect as the Houses of Parliament (we thought those turrets looked familiar), both the interior and exterior were used in the show.
So, whether you're visiting the UK from further afield or are an avid Downton fan who wants the full scoop on locations, here are the best Downton Abbey tours to do in 2023 in London, Hampshire and beyond.
More like this
- Best Downton Abbey tours across the UK 2023
- Where is Downton Abbey and what is open to the public?
- How much does it cost to visit Downton Abbey?
- Can I stay at Downton Abbey?
- Can you visit the Downton Abbey village?
Best Downton Abbey tours across the UK 2023 at a glance
- Downton Abbey walking tour of London locations for two from £30
- Holy Island, Alnwick Castle and Northumbria day tour from Edinburgh from £52
- Downton Village, Blenheim Palace and Cotswolds tour from London for £69
- Guided tour of Highclere Castle from £130
- Downton Village and Highclere Castle tour from London from £189
Best Downton Abbey tours across the UK in 2023
Downton Abbey walking tour of London locations for two
Whether it was for Lady Rose's ball, or trips to stay with Aunt Rosamund (that's Lady Rosamund Painswick to you and me), London has been the setting of much of the drama for Downton Abbey. Acting as a foil to the rolling countryside where we normally see the family, many aristocrats of the era would have had a London house or been a member of a club much like Lord Grantham is.
And did you know London also doubled up as the location for Liverpool and Manchester in the show? On this walking tour, you'll get to see locations like the exterior of the Grantham house, and where Tom first confessed his love for Sybil, all while walking around London and hearing behind-the-scenes facts from a knowledgeable guide.
Buy tickets for the Downton Abbey walking tour of London locations for two from £30 at Virgin Experience Days
Holy Island, Alnwick Castle and Northumbria day tour from Edinburgh
If you're Edinburgh based or on holiday in Scotland this is a great day out for any Downton Abbey lover. Alnwick Castle is the location for Brancaster Castle in the show, the seat of the Marquess of Hexham, which becomes Lady Edith's home when she marries the lovely Bertie at the end of season 6. Both the interior and exterior of the castle were used in the show, both when it was rented by Lord Sinderby, Lady Rose's slightly grumpy father-in-law, and when the family go to visit Edith once she's engaged.
On this tour you'll also see the beautiful countryside of surrounding Northumberland including Lindisfarne, one of the most important setting for religion in the history of the British Isles. You'll get to visit the island and even sample some of the 'mead' made by monks on the island. We think Lord Grantham would approve!
Buy tickets for the Holy Island, Alnwick Castle and Northumbria day tour from Edinburgh from £52 at Get Your Guide
Downton Village, Blenheim Palace and Cotswolds tour from London
Fans of country houses like those featured in Downton Abbey will be astonished by Blenheim Palace. The home to the Spencer-Churchill family, the house is the only non-royal palace in England and is a UNESCO world heritage site.
On this tour, you'll get to explore the grounds of Blenheim, as well as several villages throughout the countryside in the Cotswolds, including Bampton, the village frequently featured in Downton Abbey. This tour leaves from London and is a really great option if you are visiting the UK for the first time and want to see the true beauty of the English countryside.
Buy tickets for Downton Village, Blenheim Palace and Cotswolds tour from London for £39 at Viator
Guided tour of Highclere Castle
If you want to know all the behind-the-scenes secrets about filming Downton Abbey, plus the history of the historic house where the show is based, this is the tour for you. You'll get to see the rooms you recognise from the show, as well as some upstairs bedrooms and hidden rooms, as well as the Egyptology exhibit. As part of this tour you'll also get complimentary refreshments in the Tea Rooms, as well as a signed copy of Lady Carnarvon's book The Earl and the Pharaoh.
Buy tickets for a guided tour of Highclere Castle from £130 at the Highclere Castle website
Downton Village and Highclere Castle tour from London
This is a great tour for true Downton fans, plus with the journey from London included it's the ultimate no-fuss day out. First on the tour you'll visit the beautiful Cogges Manor Farm, which doubles for Yew Tree Farm in the series. Then you'll travel to Bampton, the real Downton village, before making your way to Highclere Castle to see the Abbey itself.
We really like that this tour has a maximum number of 18 people which means you're sure to get a more tailored experience from your tour guide.
Buy tickets for the Downton Village and Highclere Castle tour from London from £189 at Viator
Where is Downton Abbey and how much is open to the public?
OK, so the bad news is that Downton Abbey isn't a real place in so much as it's not called Downton Abbey. The house with the silhouette made so iconic by ITV's series is actually Highclere Castle, a country house in Hampshire in the south of England. It's pretty easy to get to (about an hour and a half drive from central London), which is one of the reasons they chose it as a location. Since the 'below stairs' scenes were largely filmed in studios, it needed to be easy for cast and crew to get between locations. That's right, it's not actually in Yorkshire at all!
There are options of what you can see when you buy tickets, but the standard option is for the house and gardens which gives you access to the walled gardens and grounds surrounding the house, as well as into the state rooms and some bedrooms in the house itself.
Highclere Castle is open to the public on limited dates throughout the year – at the moment you can book for dates in April and May, and it usually opens for weekdays throughout the summer months.
Travelling to Highclere castle by train? Check out our guide on how to get cheap train tickets.
How much does it cost to visit Downton Abbey?
There are several options for how much it'll cost you to visit Downton Abbey. You can go on one of the tours we've already mentioned, which can be a good way of paying for your ticket to the house as well as the transport to Hampshire.
If you've organised your own transport and just need to buy your tickets, an adult ticket for the house and gardens will set you back £22.50. Since one of the Earls was an avid Egyptologist (he even played a key role in uncovering Tutankhamun's tomb), there is a permanent exhibition at Highclere Castle which you can pay an extra £6.50 to see.
Shop tickets for Highclere Castle
Can I stay at Downton Abbey?
As Highclere Castle is still a private house, owned and lived in by the Canarvon family, members of the public can't stay there.
But, there are a couple of houses on the Highclere estate that are available to rent for holidays including the Grotto Lodge which you can rent for the weekend, and London Lodge.
Can you visit the Downton Abbey village?
Much like the house, Downton village isn't a real place, but rather a collection of locations brought together by good old-fashioned movie magic. The Cotswolds were used in place of the Yorkshire countryside for the scenic beauty, and the fact that many of the historic houses are listed, meaning they don't have too many modern additions and can be made easily to look like the early 1900s.
The village of Bampton was used for the majority of the shots of Downton Village, and several of the tours we've included feature a visit. This includes St Mary the Virgin church which was the site of several Downton Abbey weddings (and one almost wedding!) and Churchgate House, which doubles for Mrs Crawley's house in the series.
There are other locations that were used to make up the Downton estate, like Cogges Manor Farm which is a few miles from Bampton, which was used as the location for Yew Tree Farm where Mr Mason and later Daisy and Andrew lived in the later seasons and films.
Check out our Going Out section for other ideas for days (and nights) out. We've got everything from how to get last-minute Six Nations tickets to Wireless Festival tickets.
If you're interested in historic architecture like at Highclere Castle, check out our list of the best UK Harry Potter tours, and this guide to the best Cambridge punting tours.