How to visit Downton Abbey house Highclere Castle

Film fans can step inside the real-life Downton Abbey (Picture: Focus Features)

Downton Abbey fans have had a treat this week after the new film based on the hugely popular ITV series opened in cinemas.

The films stellar cast, including stars such as Michelle Dockery and Dame Maggie Smith, filmed scenes at a magnificent gothic pile in Hampshire.

Highclere Castle is a regular setting for cinematic scenes, and has previously been seen in films such as Stanley Kubricks Eyes Wide Shut, as well as TV series Jeeves and Wooster.

It was built by Sir Charles Barry in 1842, but people have been living on the site where the castle stands for around 1,300 years.

Rather than setting up a museum, organisers choose to preserve the venue as a family home that visitors can explore.

Its use for Downton Abbey owes much to the friendship between director Julian Fellowes and the owners of the house, George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon, a British peer, and his wife Lady Carnarvon.

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Together, the pair take care of areas including a library full of books that have been leafed through by royalty, featuring a desk and chair used by Napoleon Bonaparte.

What does the inside of Highclere Castle look like?

In the adjacent room, the drawing room was the place where the beds used by the officers in Downton Abbey could be seen.

Lady Carnarvon revealed how she spent one evening after filming playing the piano in the room, which was still full of props from the film.

She told The Telegraph: When it was here, of an evening after they were all gone, I tried to play the piano – I was playing to a whole selection of dummies and beds, but at least they couldnt complain if I didnt play very well.

The dining room is also instantly recognisable from the period drama, featuring a huge painting of Charles I on horseback.

The Queen holds another version of the artwork that dominates the room, and there is another version at Warwick Castle.

A photo of Highclere Castle, as used in the film and series of Downton Abbe
The castle is set within 1,000 acres of parkland (Picture: Focus Features)

Lady Carnarvon has watched Downton take over the saloon for scenes showing the officers eating at trestle tables.

Recalling the influx of cameras, she said: When the filming is here there are 90-odd crew before the cast, even. Its chock-a-block with people.

We have had a few accidents. Some of its quite straightforward – just paintwork. Theres the most charming chap – we call him Nick Noladder because hes so tall he doesnt need a ladder to get up many of the walls.

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He comes in and starts painting some of the galleries and things like that. There are quite a few scenes where theres great action and they are running along a gallery or up and down the steps.

Sometimes, as they run along there, they tend to knock the walls and skirting boards.

There was an accident on the first day of Downton filming when a small box was damaged, but organisers at the site remain huge fans of the film.

Lady Carnarvon said: Its a fantastic story about different characters – we can all recognise bits of ourselves or other people in them.

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