Visit PBS's Downton Abbey on Your Own
The English manor costume drama Downton Abbey won our hearts this season, especially for its performances by Dame Maggie Smith. The DVD has just been released and the next season is now being filmed, but until then, here's how to re-create its best moments on location on your next vacation to England.
The series – a U.K.-import that aired in January on PBS's Masterpiece – follows the Crawleys, a family thrown into turmoil when the noble Earl and patriarch Robert Crawley loses his male heirs in the sinking of the Titanic. The family's efforts to deal with modern times are staged in a way that's travel-inspiring. Think: spectacular English country estates, cute villages, lords and ladies, and champagne and pearls.
Near the Cotswolds in Hampshire, this grand Gothic revival castle played the role of Downton Abbey in the show. Stroll its thousand manicured Berkshire acres, past firs and chocolate-box cottages. Practice sounding like Dowager Countess of Grantham ("Do tell!" and "What is a 'weekend'?")
The Edwardian mansion, built in 1842, is still inhabited, so it's only open for a smattering of days in the spring and summer (adult admission, from £9, or $14.50). It is, lucikly, being added to the list of attractions that can be seen when you buy the national tourist office's Great British Heritage Pass for 2011. The pass costs from £4 (about $6.50) a day for adult admission to nearly 500 of Britain's iconic heritage sites, such as Stonehenge and Balmoral Castle (visitbritainshop.com/heritagepass).
The estate is about 70 miles west of London. From London's Paddington Station, hop National Rail and ride an hour to Newbury (from £20, or $32). Once there, take a cab or bus about 6 miles south to the castle.
This village in Oxfordshire, with its 1,000-year old St Mary's Church, was used for the filming of many outdoor scenes. The village library, for instance, became the entrance to the cottage hospital.
Marks & Spencer
In London, the flagship of this department store sells, among other things, top hats and bonnets reminiscent of the ones worn in the show. Drop in to 458 Oxford Street, by Marble Arch, to shop at one of England's stalwart chains. Pick up some classic tea and biscuits, too, so you can sample the tasty bits of upper class Victorian life.
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