Truth often stranger than Fiction.
Visit the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, with Hampshire Ambassador, Phil Howe. Approximately 45 minutes from London Waterloo, Hidden Britain Tours can pick you up from Basingstoke's local hotels or railway station and take you on a short journey through some of England’s most attractive countryside, explaining the beautiful Hampshire landscape as you go.
An expert guide, Phil developed a talent for explanation during his earlier career as a Senior Lecturer. On the journey to Highclere Castle you are driven through some of Hampshire’s finest scenery, taking in back roads that pass through the village of Kingsclere, with King John's peculiar legacy on top of the church. A short detour may be made to the top of Watership Down, where we can look down on the landscape that inspired Richard Adams to write the book of the same name which was subsequently filmed.
Leaving Kingsclere and keeping Watership Down on our left, we take to winding country lanes that pass the entrance to Sir Andrew Lloyd Webbers' estate at Syndmonton, composer of West End and Broadway musicals Evita, Cats and Phantom of the Opera.
At Old Burghclere we stop and trace the fascinating Carnarvon family history in a beautiful abandoned village church.
By the time you arrive at Highclere Castle, the location where Julian Fellowes’ popular ITV series Downton Abbey was filmed, Phil will have explained the context of the English country house and its dilemmas. The experience of the Carnarvon family has many echoes in the series.
In the light of the success of Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle is a popular destination and only opens at certain times of the year. Expert guides in every room help you understand this unique property and you visit the staterooms as well as below stairs.
Phil then drives you back to Basingstoke for your return to London, or your hotel, with an option to visit the National Trust’s Sandham Memorial Chapel if open. Painted by Sir Stanley Spencer and depicting his anguished experience of war as a medical orderly, the later series of Downton Abbey reflects its themes.
Alternatively, we drive to see the real house where Jane Austen fell in love with Tom Lefroy, as seen in the film, “Becoming Jane” starring Anne Hathaway, James McAvoy, Julie Walters and Maggie Smith, see the site of Jane Austen’s birthplace, the church where she worshipped, and the inn where she collected her post from mail coaches.
Lunch may be taken at in the pretty village of Kingsclere at The Crown, visited by Downton Abbey cast members.
Entry to museums and lunch not included.
Length of tour: All day