A trip into the world of British drama Downton Abbey

The exterior of Rules restaurant in London is seen in this Dec 15, 2011 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The exterior of Rules restaurant in London is seen in this Dec 15, 2011 file photo. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

(Reuters) - Fans of the popular British period drama Downton Abbey can visit a number of sites depicted in the television series about life among the upper crust early last century.

From wandering around the Victorian stately home that is the centrepiece of the show to afternoon tea at the home of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, visitors can enjoy their own moments of intrigue and drama at the following Downton Abbey destinations. The article below is an edited version of a blog compiled by the travel site GoEuro.co.uk.

Undoubtedly the jewel among the many splendid Downton locations on the list, Highclere Castle in Newbury, Berkshire is where the series is set. The castle is the home of the eighth Earl of Carnarvon and his wife and is open during the summer months, when the earl and countess move to a summer cottage, and on select days during the rest of the year. Tickets have already sold out for 2015 so visitors need to plan well ahead.

Also located in Berkshire, Basildon Park is used in the series as the fictional Earl of Grantham's London residence, Grantham House. A Georgian mansion owned by the National Trust, the house offers Downton fans a behind-the-scenes video and guided tours throughout November.

The beautiful Inveraray Castle Scotland was the setting for the 2012 Christmas episode where many juicy plot lines were hatched. It is the family home of the dukes of Argyll and is the seat of the Clan Campbell. The stunning castle and grounds, located on the shores of Loch Fyne, are open to visitors from April through October and offer an array of activities and events.

Two of London's oldest restaurants are also spots worth visiting. The Criterion, opened in 1873, remains one of the most luxurious places to dine in the capital. This is where Lady Edith and Michael Gregson shared their first kiss and where he laid out his doomed plans to go to Germany in order to divorce his mentally ill wife and be with Edith. Visitors can absorb the decadence and feel the excitement of a secret lunch date here, or stop in for a cocktail at the long bar.

Season five also saw Downton characters dining at another of London's oldest restaurant, Rules. Founded in 1798 by Thomas Rule as an oyster bar just off the market in Covent Garden, it now serves traditional British food and has been a dining favourite of the rich and famous throughout its more than 200-year history.

Byfleet Manor, nestled in Byfleet near Surrey, is a private house that is used as the location for the Dowager Countess of Grantham's residence. Most recently in the Downton universe, the imperious Dowager, Violet, and Isobel Crawley have been seen taking tea there and debating whether Isobel will in fact marry Lord Merton. The house is private and not usually open to the public to visit although it can be booked for private events and takes private reservations for afternoon tea.

Nearby in West Sussex is Horsted Keynes Station, which is used as Downton Station in the series. The actual station of Horsted Keynes is on the Bluebell Railway, a preserved 18km line that uses steam trains. Afternoon tea is served on some trains on the railway line, which also hosts Christmas and other events.

Last but not least is the location for the village where Downton is set. Downton Village is fictional and is supposed to be located in Yorkshire, northern England, but is actually filmed in Bampton in Oxfordshire, hundreds of miles to the south. The village is historic and picturesque, and its easy access to London made it perfect for filming. Here visitors will find St Mary's church, which can be seen in many Downton episodes, and the pub which serves as the Grantham Arms in the series.

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