The 'Downton Abbey' Movie Takes On-location Filming to a New Level — Here Are the Gorgeous Real-life Spots You'll See
It’s been more than three years since the halls and characters of Downton Abbey graced our screens. But with the release of the spinoff film later this month, fans will be able to delve back into the addictive British drama — back with more zest and more extravagance than ever before.
“Because the world seemed to fall in love with Downton Abbey, what we wanted to do was give them more. A bigger, better and more extravagant experience,” Donal Woods, the film (and series) production designer told Travel + Leisure. “With all the new sets and locations, we’ve gone for it. We’ve tried to make it a very cinematic experience for the big screen.”
The series was always set in Yorkshire but, because of budgeting and logistics, this part of the country did not make it onto TV screens. Not so with the movie. For the film, case and crew trekked “all over the country to get some iconic locations,” Woods said. “North Yorkshire, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Lake Hoch. We’ve been everywhere.”
Fans of the show will know that the real Downton Abbey is Highclere Castle, a mid-19th-century castle in Berkshire, about 60 miles west of London. The castle has become a totem for the show, with fans making pilgrimages to see where their favorite series was shot. When the team was scouting locations for the show, executive producer Gareth Neame told T+L there were only three other people on the Highclere tour. Now, an estimated 1,200 people visit Highclere each day the house is open to the public.
With the release of the film, there will be a whole new swarth of locations around the country for Downton fans to visit. The film is set in the year 1927, a year after the series ended. The story centers around a royal visit to the Crawley household — loosely based off the real-life tour of their Majesties King George V and Queen Mary — and the drama that ensues, both upstairs and down.
Mark Ellis, the film’s location manager, said that the film’s larger budget means viewers will be treated to a visual spectacle on the big screen. “It’s like Downton on steroids,” he told T+L.
Before the movie opens in cinemas on Sept. 20, T+L learned which locations will host the drama, intrigue, and irresistible decadence of the Downton characters.
1. Harewood House
This historic house may soon be considered in the same breath as Highclere Castle. It plays the home of Lord Lascelles and is actually the real-life home of the current lord. The Lord Lascelles (who was around in the early 20th century) features in the Downton story alongside his wife, Princess Mary (who was the king’s daughter). “They had really great taste and it’s still in very good condition,” director Michael Engler told T+L. “We kept everything the way it was except for the furniture that can’t be sat on because it’s so precious.”
The village of Bampton in Oxfordshire was used as a stand-in for the village of Downton in the series. These days, you can even go on a Downton Abbey tour to see the real-life filming locations.
The streets of Bradford’s “Little Germany” were used as the streets of York in the film. The audience will see the outside of a police station and the outside of a “questionable” club where the character of Thomas goes for a high-action night out.
This “open-air museum of the North” could perhaps be considered the British, early 20th-century equivalent of Colonial Williamsburg. “It’s an amazing place to visit, all the shops are dressed like they would have been back then,” Engler said. “There’s a bakery and a candy shop and a tea room. It’s the perfect place to film because you would never be able to create all that stuff on the street.”
When Lady Edith moved out of Downton, she went to this castle in Northumberland. Anglophiles may recognize the castle for something else though: it’s been used several times in the Harry Potter movies, as well.
Visit the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to see the old train station used in the film. From the station, crew also filmed some helicopter views of the Yorkshire countryside.
7. Wentworth Woodhouse
This house is the real-life inspiration for the film’s royal visit. Writer Julian Fellowes was inspired by the King and Queen’s 1912 visit to Wentworth Woodhouse, as guests of the Earl and Countess Fitzwilliam. During the royal visit, a ball was held in the house’s jaw-dropping Marble Saloon, which the film recreates with a band and more than 150 extras.
This “perfectly-preserved 18th-century village” is the setting for one of the film’s most memorable scenes, Engler said: a parade featuring the king’s inspection of the Yorkshire Hussars, a British Army unit. (For British drama fans: the TV show Cranford, starring Judi Dench, was also shot here.)