Few British period dramas have captured the world’s attention as completely as Downton Abbey, and millions of viewers around the globe now tune in to follow the lavish celebrations and ever-dramatic scandals of the Crawley family and its staff. But while the characters and storylines of Downton Abbey might be fictional, the magnificent estate and historic villages that bring early 20th-century Britain to life are all filmed on-location. Downton Abbey tours offer fans the chance to discover some of South England’s most atmospheric destinations.
With many of Downton’s set locations dotted around Oxfordshire County, Oxford makes a strategic starting point for following in the Crawleys' footsteps. Exploring picturesque villages like Cogges, Bladon, Swinbrook and Bampton (which doubles up as the on-screen Downton village), eagle-eyed viewers will recognize numerous locations from the series. There’s the home of Isobel Crawley, the church where Lady Mary married Matthew Crawley, the village where Lady Sibil eloped with then chauffeur Tom Branson and the Grantham Arms pub, where scheming maid Edna seduced the widowed Branson.
The most iconic filming location is, of course, the grand Highclere Castle, seen onscreen as Downton Abbey itself, but many Downton Abbey tours from Oxford opt for a tour of the equally extravagant Blenheim Palace instead. It might not be used in the series, but those looking to experience the lifestyle of the upper-class English aristocracy will feel right at home in the lavish UNESCO-listed residence, the ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill.