The stars have aligned: You are the ultimate Downton Abbey fan and you happen to be going on vacation/business trip to England. Now’s your chance to immerse yourself in the world of Downton, but how do you know where to go? Wayfair has put together an interactive map, charting the locations the show was shot and noting which ones are public access and which ones are only viewable from the outside. Let’s have a look at 10 don’t-miss sites.
Remember Lady Rose’s bachelorette luncheon? Or that time Michal offers Edith a writing job? Or when Edith reconnects with Bertie Pelham? It all happens right here in Rules Restaurant, the oldest restaurant in London. It has been around for two hundred years. In WWII, the restaurant stayed open but was reinforced with thicker wood. Often during times of war, it was left running by the waitstaff, as the owner(s) went off to fight. Charles Rule, for example, left the restaurant under the watch of Charlie, his head waiter, during WWI when he joined the Royal Flying Corps. The restaurant has only changed hands twice since its original owner, Thomas Rule, two hundred years ago. Want to try Rules out for yourself? They offer some of the best game cookery, mince pies, and oysters in the city, and not at outrageous prices, either. Rules Restaurant is located in Covent Garden, London, and you can book a reservation through their website.
The final episode, the Christmas special, was filmed at The Ritz, a high end hotel chain in London. The Ritz London is currently celebrating its 110th anniversary, having opened in May 1906 by Cesar Ritz on the site of the old Walsingham House Hotel. Today, the elegance of the Ritz still requires men to wear jacket and tie for dining, and sportswear is not acceptable in the restaurant and bars. They have butler and chauffeur service, gift shop, a salon, and of course dazzling suites. The epitome of luxury. It is located at 150 Picadilly Circus in London. You can book through their website or by calling 1-877-748-9536 from the U.S.
This royal park is an absolute do-not-miss of London. Over its 265 acres of land, Kensington Gardens houses the Italian Gardens, the Diana Memorial Playground, Henry Moore’s Arch, the Serpentine Galleries, the Speke Monument, the Elfin Oak, Coalbrookdale Gates, Queen Anne’s Alcove, Queen Caroline’s Temple, and statues of Queen Victoria, Jenner, and King William III. Of course, you won’t want to miss the Albert Memorial, where the Downton characters enjoyed a picnic in the 2013 Christmas special. If you like, you can take a 45-minute guided tour of this particular memorial, so that you’ll have unique access to its memorial railings,which include marble carvings of 169 figurines of renowned poets, musicians, painters, sculptors, and architects. The tours start at 2:00 and are available March through December. They only cost eight pounds. More info about the tour here. You should also visit the Peter Pan statue in the park because that’s where Lady Mary and Lord Gillingham meet in S5E4 when she breaks up with him. Kensington Gardens is located on the far west end of London.
The Swann Inn
If you’re looking to get out of London, why not stay at the Swann Inn in the Cotswolds, to the northwest of London, near Oxford? This is where Lady Sybil and family chauffeur Branson tried to defy class barriers while they were planning to elope during season 2. The village of Swinbrook is, according to the Swan’s website, “where the time has stopped still in another era,…is magical and extraordinary in many ways and therefore not surprising it was chosen for the series’ most romantic plot.” This inn has a restaurant and bar (even Gourmet Burger Night on Thursdays!), gaming with the Oxford Shooting School, rental bicycles with TY Cycles, and even a reception venue for your wedding. More information and booking on their website.
St. Mary’s Church
Not far from the Swann Inn is Church of St. Mary Bampton in Oxfordshire, which played the role of St. Michael and All Angels in Downton Abbey, where Lavinia was buried, where Mary and Matthew were married, and where Lady Edith was left at the altar. St. Mary’s is an active Roman Catholic church, which you can attend on Sunday mornings at 9 a.m. It is also open to visitors during daylight hours all year round. The church is a magnificent landmark to visit, Downton aside, as it is built on the site of a church from the year 950 and was remodeled in 1270. You can find more information on their website.
West Wittering Beach
In the season 4 Christmas special, it’s a day at the beach! Remember when Carson took the staff of Downton Abbey to the beach and he and Mrs. Hughes held hands and paddled in the sea? This was set at West Wittering Beach in West Sussex, quite a ways out of London, but worth the trip. It’s down on the south shore of England, not too far from Brighton. If you’re taking the train, the nearest station is Chichester. Check out the beautifully painted, privately owned beach huts along the beach, providing an ideal summery spot to swim and tan. The beach includes the Beach Cafe (currently planned for a remodel), with coffee and ice cream, and a Windsurfing and Kitesurfing Club with changing rooms and showers. West Wittering Beach is a popular filming spot, included in productions like Trap for Cinderella, Now Is Good, When Did You Last See Your Father, Incendiary, and more.
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(They are castles!)