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Downton Abbey is open for business: Lord and Lady Carnarvon re-open Highclere Castle to the public

Lady Fiona Carnarvon

(Daily Mail) – While viewers have long-since waved goodbye to Lord and Lady Grantham, life goes on for the real-life Downton Abbey family.

Lord and Lady Carnarvon reside full time at the stunning Highclere Castle where the six series’ of the hit ITV show were filmed, and the pair have been forced to step-up their workload since the show came to an end two years ago.

Compensating for the location funds they previously received from ITV – rumoured to vary between £300,000 and £700,000 a year – they have once again opened their doors to the public, and introduced new, themed events.

One resident of the Highclere village, who works at the castle, said: ‘Filming used to take place from February until July but that hasn’t happened for the past two years so they’ve starting doing tours in the winter.

‘The castle used to be closed to the public in winter but they’ve started doing private tours.

‘It’s mainly American tourists, they come over and have a private tour for a day. Downton is huge over there so they love it.

‘There’s also more private functions, more weddings, more business conferences.’

Another source close to the Carnarvons said: ‘I’ve heard they have had to work hard to make up the money they would have had from ITV.

‘It was such a godsend to have that cash injection every year but now they have had to look to other projects.’

On the Highclere website, it proudly boasts the offer of a special ‘Valentines Tour & Afternoon Tea’, and a ‘Valentines Champagne & Canape Reception’ next month, followed by a ‘Treat your Mother to Afternoon Tea’ in March.

However, to all intents and purposes both Lord and Lady Carnarvon appear to be enjoying the success the series has brought them.

Lady Carnarvon has a hugely successful blog that reaches an international audience and she is about to release her new book At Home at Highclere, Entertainment at the real Downton Abbey, which will tell of the extraordinary characters, banquets and parties held at the castle.

Lady Carnarvon’s assistant told the Daily Mail: ‘Lady Carnarvon has since introduced a week in May, which last year explored Capability Brown and this year explores Jane Austen, as well as the [opening up] gardens.

‘The Vintage Garden party was also a great success and gave much pleasure. Lady Carnarvon’s blog also reaches a very wide audience now which encourages and engages people. You only have to read it to see how busy we all are.

‘The new book (At Home at Highclere) is also creating much excitement and we are delighted it is being shared initially with the Mail and its readers. It is the first coffee table book ever about Highclere and its format of archive photographs, short stories and recipes is a first as well.’

The Jacobean Grade I listed castle boasts 5000 acres, with a park designed by Capability Brown.

As well as Downton, the Hampshire stately home was a filming location for Jeeves and Wooster but it was only after the success of the period drama starring Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith that its popularity as a tourist site really took off.

Society bible, Tatler, even dubbed the phenomenon ‘Downtonia’.

Asked about the Canarvons’ extra workload, last night a spokeswoman said: ‘I think Lady Carnarvon already worked very hard, and it is simply that whenever she completes a book as well she is then burning the midnight oil.

‘She would say she is just multi-muddling.’

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