Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sightseeing for the Downton Abbey Fan

My sister and her husband are fans of Downton Abbey, just like I am. (We are fine with the Season 3 tragedy, in fact, we may even mock it now and then).  I was excited to see anything that had graced the scenes of the show, and so we took a day to explore.

The abbey  scenes (exterior and limited inside) are filmed at Highclere Castle.  (Seen above the hill behind me)

If you go on season, you can tour the castle and learn more about it's history, and the filming that is done there.  We were off season, and we knew that, so we ignored the CLOSED signs just wanting to get a  little closer for a picture.

Ummm...oops! CLOSED meant closed for filming...not closed for the season. (Let me hurry and snap a photo anyway) I am no expert- and this is taken from quite a distance, but could that possibly be Tom Branson walking to the set?  He is probably so sad about Sybil...perhaps a quick hug.......

We were asked to leave (very kindly, might I add, as my sister talked her sweet American sweet talk with the security) and did so quickly.  But it was enough for this fan to be pretttyyyy happpyyy.......

The Gorgeous Highclere Castle

My brother-in-law had also done his research and took us to Bampton, where the scenes are filmed when they go into town for the market, the fair, church and hospital.  This little town was amazing, so quaint, and we were definitely spotted out as 'Americans here for the TV show'.

Side street in Bampton, near the Library
Library entrance, filmed as hospital
This town feels so historic (really, like most of England) and it did seem like Anna and Bates would walk past me any moment.  The library had a little booklet they had put together with more information about the filming of the show, which I purchased like the suckered-in tourist that I am.

The highlight of the city, however, is the lovely St. Mary's church, where more filming is also done, and visitors are free to enter and photograph.  The grounds are amazing here, too.

St. Mary's Church gate

As seen in Downton Abbey- Matthew Crawley
(from the book The World of Downton Abbey)

Side yard of church
And the character of Isobel Crawley, Matthew's mother, lives in the church gate home- blocked by stone walls but seen from the church grounds on the hills.

Front yard and patio of the Crawley house
I think the most surprising thing was that the entire town felt so timeless, and while the people were all gracious and friendly, it was obvious that some of the ones we talked to, looking for directions or what not, didn't seem to really care that the show had been filmed there, or even care about the show much at all.  I guess that's just part of living somewhere lovely like that on a day to day basis. It's nothing special.

For a fan, it was perfect.  The sun shone at the right times and the green trees and grass framed everything we saw.  I do wish the town had some place to eat, pickings were slim for cafe or dining options, and we were ready to eat after walking around all morning.

If you haven't watched Downton Abbey yet, you can stream it on and catch season one on Netflix.  Such a delicious escape in television...I wish the US would produce something worth getting excited about.

And this is the book for the fan of the show, or the book lover, or as in my case, BOTH.  The thick pages are full of stunning photographs, behind the scenes peeking, and historical facts and trivia. It is a gorgeous book.

Until next time, mind your manners and please dress appropriately.

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