All you need to know about visiting Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle) including practical tips, best tours and how to plan your visit.

If you’re a fan of the TV series, then visiting Downton Abbey may well be high on your list of places to visit in the UK. This magnificent castle is located in Hampshire, not far from the Berkshire border. It is a Grade I listed building and set among grounds designed by Capability Brown.

With over 200 rooms and a site of more than 1,000 acres, Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey has been owned by the earls of Carnarvon since 1793, when the very first Earl inherited the site. 

In recent years it has been used as a filming location, not only doubling up as Downton but also featuring in the Stanley Kubrick film Eyes Wide Shut. The Carnarvon family are still in residence and the current Countess even runs a website, blog, podcast and social media pages. 

If you want to take a Downton Abbey tour, this guide will take you through all the options, including organised day trips and how to get there by car or public transport. By the end of this article, you may well have your Downton Abbey castle tour all sorted! Let’s get started. 

Tracy and Doug Collins standing in front of Highclere Castle.
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Visiting Downton Abbey – How to get to Highclere Castle

Getting to Highclere Castle by train

  • London Paddington to Newbury (40 minutes) + taxi to Highclere (15 minutes)  

It is possible to reach Highclere by train, but you’ll need to use another form of transport as well due to the fact that Newbury, the nearest station, is five miles away. Trains to Newbury depart from London Paddington and the journey takes around 40 minutes. You can then take a 15 minute taxi trip to Highclere. 

Getting to Highclere Castle by car

  • Postcode: RG20 9RN, but follow brown signs when close to castle

You could also take a trip to Downton Abbey by car. If you do, the castle website advises not to use the Sat Nav when you get close, because this will take you to the incorrect entrance. Instead, follow the brown signs which are clearly displayed once you’re nearby. 

Tours visiting Downton Abbey  (Highclere Castle)

The other option for visiting is to pick one of the organised Downton Abbey trips. There are plenty available at affordable prices, and you can hand over how to get there and how to make the most of your day to an expert.

The following Downton Abbey tour packages are highly recommended, and have been handpicked to offer a great range of options. Booking one of these also guarantees you’ll get in, even during high season! 

Downton Abbey & village tour from London

  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Destinations: Highclere Castle & Bampton village
  • Departure time: Varies
  • Departure point: Gloucester Road tube station, London
  • What’s included: Transport, local guide, entry fees
  • What’s not included: Lunch, hotel pick-up, exhibition entry

This 9 hour Downton Abbey day trip by air-conditioned coach shows you all the key sights. You can even catch up on episodes you may have missed or not seen for some time while travelling. 

The day includes 3 hours at the abbey, plus a guided walking tour of Bampton village. There is a cafe and gift shop at the castle, and full commentary is provided so you can make sense of what you’re seeing throughout. 

CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BOOK THIS TOUR

Small group Downton Abbey tour from London

  • Duration: 9 hours
  • Destinations: Highclere Castle & Bampton village
  • Departure time: Varies
  • Departure point: Gloucester Road tube station, London
  • What’s included: Transport, local guide, castle entry fee
  • What’s not included: Lunch, hotel pick-up, exhibition entry

This itinerary is similar to the previous one, but is more personal as you’ll be part of a small group, with a maximum of 15 participants in total. Your guide will thus have more time to spend with you, answering questions or showing the way to what you’d like to see.

As lunch is not included, you can take a picnic to enjoy in the landscaped grounds or eat at the cafe there. Your tour of the village, meanwhile, includes sites such as the village pub, church and Downton Hospital.

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Full day Oxford & Downton Abbey tour from London

  • Duration: 10 hours
  • Destinations: Oxford, Highclere Castle & Bampton village
  • Departure time: 08.00
  • Departure point: Victoria Coach Station, London
  • What’s included: Luxury transport, local guide, entry fee, signed book
  • What’s not included: Lunch, hotel pick-up

If you want to see Oxford as well as ticking off those Downton Abbey places to visit, this tour includes a visit to the historic and world-famous university city. You will also receive a signed copy of Lady Carnarvon’s book, an autobiography covering her life at Highclere.

This tour also includes Bampton village and time at the castle. Here you can see the library, hall, lounges and other interior locations featured in the TV show. 

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The Church in Bampton Village.

Small group Cotswolds & Downton Abbey tour from London

  • Duration: 11 hours
  • Destinations: Cotswolds, Cogges Manor Farm, Highclere Castle & Bampton village
  • Departure time: Varies
  • Departure point: British Museum, Great Russell St, London
  • What’s included: Luxury transport, local guide, entry fee
  • What’s not included: Lunch, hotel pick-up

For those trying to choose between booking Downton Abbey tour tickets and a trip to the Cotswolds, this itinerary is ideal as you can do both in one day. At 11 hours, it’s a little longer than the average trip, meaning you can visit more locations while someone else does the driving.

In addition to the obligatory Downton castle visit, you can also see the village, plus Cogges Manor Farm that starred as Yew Tree Farm in the series. You will also make a couple of stops in some of the Cotswolds’ prettiest villages.

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Downton Abbey & filming locations tour from London

  • Duration: 1 day
  • Destinations: Cogges Manor Farm, Highclere Castle & Bampton village
  • Departure time: Varies
  • Departure point: British Museum, Great Russell St, London
  • What’s included: Luxury transport, local guide, entry fees
  • What’s not included: Lunch, hotel pick-up

This one day trip is like a Downton Abbey set tour, as you’ll explore the village, the castle and Yew Tree Farm. An exclusive, in-depth tour of the 13th-century farmhouse is included, and if you wish you can purchase refreshments from the Cow Shed Cafe on site.

After touring the village you’ll have plenty of time at the castle to see sights like the dining, music, drawing and smoking rooms, plus perhaps some of the bedrooms. 

CLICK FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BOOK THIS TOUR

Bampton Village in the Cotswolds.
Bampton Village

Private Black Taxi tour of Downton Abbey locations

  • Duration: 1 day
  • Destinations: Cogges Manor Farm, Highclere Castle & Bampton village
  • Departure time: Varies
  • Departure point: British Museum, Great Russell St, London
  • What’s included: Luxury transport, local guide, entry fees
  • What’s not included: Lunch, hotel pick-up

If you want to stay away from the crowds, this personal tour by black taxi is suitable for a group of up to four. The day includes visits to Yew Tree Farm, followed by several locations in the Cotswolds used during filming. 

You can then take a guided tour of Bampton village, plus free time to explore independently if you wish. The final stop of the day is at Highclere Castle aka Downton Abbey, where you can marvel at the splendour both inside and out. 

CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO BOOK THIS TOUR

Visiting Downton Abbey – What to see and do at Highclere Castle

With hundreds of rooms and beautifully landscaped gardens designed by Capability Brown, there’s lots to see at Highclere Castle. The venue also hosts themed exhibitions, and if you want to enter these a separate fee may be payable. An Egyptian exhibition, for instance, showcases the fifth earl’s private collection. 

Inside Highclere Castle

Those who have visited say that the castle seems even more imposing in real life. Apparently Julian Fellowes wrote the first scripts with Highclere in mind, as he was already friends with the Carnarvon family.

Highlights inside Highclere include the grand entrance hall, the Mercia bedroom which retained its real name for the fictional series, the Drawing Room, the Library, the Smoking Room and The Music Room. 

Highclere Castle grounds

The grounds are also an incredible place to visit. You can see the wildflower, rose and secret gardens, and dotted around the grounds are various flower species including clematis, peonies, hydrangeas and poppies in late spring and summer or snowdrops and daffodils earlier in the year. 

Lots of oak and beech trees also grow within the property’s sizable woodland, while tall cedars provide shady spots during warmer weather.  

Highclere Castle.

Visiting Downton Abbey – Highclere Castle FAQs & info

Highclere Castle accessibility

As a historic building, the entire castle is not accessible by wheelchair as there is no lift. Non-motorised wheelchairs can be used inside. You can also pre-book a manual wheelchair: find out more here

Highclere Castle parking

A large field in front of the castle provides visitor parking, and you will be directed to an appropriate space by staff. 

Highclere Castle food

If you want to dine while you’re there, you can choose between eating at the on-site cafe and taking a picnic into the grounds of the castle. 

Highclere Castle opening times

The opening times vary by season and the castle may be closed a couple of days per week. Check current information here

Is it possible to visit Downton Abbey?

Highclere Castle is the real Downton Abbey, and the property is very much open to visitors. You can travel to the castle by car, train and taxi or take a day trip which includes a tour and entry to the building and grounds. 

Can you walk around Downton Abbey?

Whether by guided tour or on your own steam, walking around Highclere Castle, aka Downton Abbey, is the best way to see the magnificent gardens and interiors featured in the show.  Whenever the castle is open, you’re welcome to explore the grounds. 

Can you spend the night at Downton Abbey?

London and Grotto Lodges within Highclere Castle grounds are available for rent, so while you cannot sleep within the main building you can stay on site. You can rent these for two nights. More information can be found here

How long do I need at Highclere Castle?

For most people, around 3 to 5 hours is the ideal length of time to spend at the castle, including time for lunch such as a picnic in the grounds. 

Highclere Castle with daffodils in the fields surrounding it.

Tips for visiting Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle)

Here are five of our top tips to make your Downton Abbey castle visit go smoothly.

  • Book in advance

Highclere Castle is very popular, so do book early to make sure you don’t miss out!

  • Expect to wait in line

Waiting in line – or queueing as it’s known in Britain – is common at Highclere Castle.

  • Wear comfortable shoes

You’re likely to do a LOT of walking around the castle and grounds – perhaps more if you take in the village too.

  • Don’t carry too much

You can’t take large bags into the castle anyway. Although they can be stored, it’s much easier to do without unnecessary items.

  • No indoor photography, filming or drones

No video footage or photographs may be captured inside the Castle or exhibition.

Other popular destinations near Highclere Castle

As you can see if you check out the tour itineraries detailed above, there are other Downton Abbey locations near Highclere Castle, including Bampton village and the real ‘Yew Tree Farm’.

Other places to visit while you’re in this part of the UK include Oxford, the Cotswolds, Stonehenge and Salisbury, an attractive and historic city with a magnificent cathedral. 

Row of cottages in Bibury.
Stonehenge.

How will you visit Downton Abbey?

Whether you visit the castle independently or take one of the best Downton Abbey tours covered in this guide, Highclere Castle is a must for fans of the hit British TV show – as well as those who want to find out more about this ancient country’s history. 

Enjoy your visit!