Depart London and drive away from the city to the delightful Oxfordshire Cotswolds to see key filming sites of Downton Abbey.
Our first stop is a visit to Yew Tree Farm (Cogges Manor Farm), home of the Downton Abbey tenant farmers. After a tea/coffee break in the delightfully refurbished rustic cow shed Café at Cogges, we take a tour and learn of the relationship between the tenant farmers and landowners, showing the sites used in filming.
The historic farmyard and 13th century manor house sits on the banks of the River Windrush and first appeared in Downton Abbey in series 4. In series 5 the farm plays a central role with the farmer’s wife raising Lady Edith’s love child. In series 6 Mr Mason moves into the farm, with the help of Daisy.
After the tour we enjoy a sightseeing drive through the Windrush valley. First stop is the Swan Inn at Swinbrook, which hosted the elopement of Lady Sybil with Branson the family chauffeur (and now son in law!). This was one of the key, and most controversial, story-lines in Downton Abbey series 2.
We then continue our drive to Shilton, a truly stunning Cotswolds village in a small basin, where large coaches cannot drive. Time for a photo to explore the old stone foot-bridge, duck pond, old pump and well, before we take the short journey to ‘Downton village’, otherwise known as Bampton, a beautiful Oxfordshire Cotswolds village. The village of Bampton has been used extensively in all series for Downton Village filming. Bampton Library was used for Downton Cottage Hospital and Doctors surgery; St.Mary’s Church became Downton Church and Church Square; Churchgate House was used for exterior shots for the Crawley family home; and we walk along the street which has been used for shops, the post office and the Grantham Arms.
In the early afternoon we make our way to the Grantham Family home, Highclere Castle. On arrival at Highclere Castle there will be time to enjoy the beautiful gardens; The Monk’s Garden, White Border, Secret Garden and Wood of Goodwill.
There will be time for lunch, or a snack in the Tearooms where you can enjoy light lunches or afternoon teas made in the Castle kitchens, before we enter Highclere Castle for an afternoon visit. Our tickets are valid to enter the Castle, Gardens and Egyptian exhibition from 13:30pm-15:30pm (Castle closes at 16:30pm), and we plan to arrive at the Castle by 13.00pm. There is plenty of time to have lunch, enjoy the grounds and enter the 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 3rd Earl of Carnarvon brought in Sir Charles Barry to transform his home into a truly stunning mansion. During the First World War the Castle was transformed into a hospital, returning to a private home in 1922.
To this day the current (8th) Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live partly in the Castle and partly nearby, but remain closely involved in the Castle’s day to day life and future.
On entry to Highclere Castle visitors follow a route through the Castle through with guides in each State room. The State rooms include the Saloon, Library, Dining room, Music room, Drawing room and Smoking room. Visitors can then go up the Red Stairs to view some of the Bedrooms and the Gallery, before walking down the Oak staircase back to the Saloon in the heart of the house.
After the tour you will have time to visit the Egyptian exhibition. The Castle was the seat of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of the Egyptian Boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamun, in 1922. In the cellars of Highclere Castle there is now an Egyptian exhibition to celebrate the discovery.