I made it to Downton Abbey at last!!! 參觀塘頓莊園
I’m a big fan of the UK period drama Downton Abbey and have wanted to visit its main filming location Highclere Castle for many years. This is the view I’ve been looking forward to all these years. I made it to Downton Abbey at last!!
身為英國劇集唐頓莊園的鐵粉，多年來一直也想去拍攝現場 Highclere Castle 參觀。今年終於如願以償，能夠親眼看到一直只能在劇中才見到的場景實在太開心呢！
In the past, I’ve visited one of the other Downton Abbey filming location Basildon Park, but Highclere Castle is THE place to go for DA fans. When Downton Abbey started in 2010, the summer tickets for Highclere Castle was always sold out as soon as they were released. Then I was out of the country for a few years, and when I returned, everything was shut down due to Covid. Finally!!! This year I was able to get some tickets to Highclere Castle.
Standing at the front door was so surreal. In the film, the actors and actresses would line up here to welcome guests and dignitaries and now I was standing at the exact same spot.
We walked around outside Highclere Castle, which isn’t really a castle, but a very big house. It was really fascinating to see it so up close and personal. Everything is coming true!
Apart from the front of the house, this is another very familiar sight that always appears in the film’s posters. I found it by accident as we were walking around on the grounds. Suddenly I looked towards the house, and thought… I’ve seen this view a million times before! Another massive tick off my list.
Tour of Downton Abbey / Highclere Castle
The highlight of my visit is of course to tour the inside of the Highclere Castle, and see the lavish rooms where the Crawley family live. This is where all the drama and gossip happens. Before I get you all Downton Abbey fans hyped up with images, I’m sorry to say there are none ☹️. Highclere Castle is the private home occupied by its owners the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, therefore no photography is allowed. I would have loved to take home more memories with me especially those that I can share with everyone, alas, things don’t always work out. Let me still give you an overview.
We entered the house via the front door, first impression was it was smaller than in the film. Then we turned left into a series of rooms and that’s where the oohs and ahhs started. The pictures hanging on the wall, the book case, the side table, the red sofa where the Crawley family sit in their lavish outfits, the door where Mr Carson the butler walks through. All these scenes we see in the film and now it’s a dream come true as I’m walking around on a real film set. An experience that all Downton Abbey fan would have on their bucket list.
Then we move upstairs to see a few bedrooms, a couple of which are used as filming locations. There’s a balcony that looks down to main ballroom downstairs. On one side of the balcony is a walkway, this has appeared in the film many times where people stop for gossips or first kisses. I remember those scenes well. From there we go down the main staircase, another familiar scene in the films. How I wished I could have taken a photo here. And finally we go into the dining room.
I was very disappointed with this. The dining table is one of these collapsable ones and they had set it to a small table for probably 10. Big for you and my dining room, but very small in the grand scheme of this room. Furthermore, they hadn’t set the table at all, it just had a pair of candlesticks on it. Overall it looks so bare and sad.
This was the last room of the tour, and I have to admit it wasn’t the best way to end the experience. You want visitors to end the tour on a high, not to exit via a water-down version of a grand house. Also, I get this is a private home and we have to respect the owner’s privacy. However, it would also be nice to allow visitors to take photos in at least one room, maybe the last one out. That way visitors can feel they’ve walked away from the grandeur of Downton Abbey which is the reason why everyone comes here. That would have made so much difference to the whole experience.
Given we couldn’t take any photos inside of the house, I made the most of the outdoors. Highclere Castle is located on 5000 acres of ground, so big it took me a while to drive around the estate to leave. The garden area by the house is pretty smallish but well kept. The only downside is the grass area looks quite dry due to the recent hot weather. Plus it was scorching hot that day, we couldn’t stay outdoors for too long.
The gift shop was located inside an old barn and had the whole range of normal touristy products on sale. Such as these Her Ladyship and His Lordship mugs. Plus there were edibles such biscuits, chocolate, jams and personal wellbeing products like soap and handcream etc. The barn was quite small and it got a quite crowded inside. I think they could easily expand the gift shop area, it’s not like they have not space. That would make the whole customer experience much better and drive up more sales.
The other area I think they totally missed the mark on was catering. When you pre book tickets (they’re sold out this summer now), you can order a £60 picnic box that came with half a bottle of champagne. Or you can order the afternoon tea package which was only available if you book a more expensive tour which included an Egyptian exhibition. I didn’t know about that. When I arrived on site, the catering options were quite limited and they didn’t even have many cakes available. In the end, we had to do a DIY afternoon tea with there not so glamorous sandwiches and scones. I’m sure if they offered a simple English afternoon tea set packaged up nicely, that will sell very well and again enhance the overall customer experience.
Overall verdict of visiting Downton Abbey
Given the opportunity, this is definitely a must go pilgrimage for all Downton Abbey fans. Many visitors during the day were from overseas, Americans, German etc. If you’re a Harry Potter or Games of Throne of Hobbit fan you will know what I mean when you get to visit the actual scenes in the film. However, I think Highclere Castle could have done a lot more with little effort to enhance visitor experience and to drive up revenue, crucial when it cost so much to maintain such a massive property.
I would rank the tour 7.5 out of 10. It gets full marks for visiting the property used in the films, you can’t beat that. The customer experience started off on a high with the lovely rooms we see in the film, then the rest was rather flat. It feels like I’ve drank a bottle of coke to ease my thirst, and I’m still quite thirsty, but there’s no point in drinking more as it makes no difference. If they could improve the customer experience, I’d definitely go back again.
For now, I’ve been there and done it, and am a happy Downton Abbey bunny!
以往每年 Highclere Castle 門票一推出已很快沽清，所以我很高興今年終於購得門票。我認為去參觀這裡是唐頓莊園鐵粉必要去潮拜一趟。如果可以改善一下讓遊客體驗變得理想，我一定會再去。現在就總算還了心願，去了就算，再去的機會應該不大。