Have a Downton Abbey experience on this luxury barge cruise

The release of the Downton Abbey movie next autumn is reinvigorating interest in the British upstairs, downstairs period drama.

Highclere Castle where Downton Abbey was filmed.Photo courtesy of European Waterways

If you are dying to know what it’s really like to be a lord, lady, footman, valet or cook, or experience afternoon tea in the parlour, there is a new experience that takes you and your friends inside the real-life castle that’s the inspiration for the fictional Yorkshire property.

Beginning in 2020 up to eight passengers at a time can charter European Waterways’ Magna Carta Hotel barge that features a tour of England’s Highclere Castle, the setting for the uber-popular show. Starting at US$37,400 for a minimum of six passengers, the six-night trip takes guests through many of the rooms seen on the show and lets them also explore the estate’s 1000-acre parkland. The chartered cruise also offers the possibility of meeting real members of the household and possibly Lady Carnavon herself, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon and the castle’s current resident.

Cruising past Cliveden on the Magna Carta. Photo courtesy of European Waterways

“You’ll walk the very halls in which Downton was filmed, taking in the main hall, drawing room, bedrooms and even a fascinating Egyptian exhibition,” says European Waterways managing director Derek Banks. “Highclere Castle looks magnificent on TV but it’s even more impressive in person, with the splendour of its rooms and the castle’s beautiful parkland bringing the magnificence of the drama to life.”

The charter option comes in the wake of the company’s sold-out Highclere cruises, but Banks says the former offers more flexibility and opportunities onboard and excursions while ashore and a true taste of English aristocracy. “An attentive crew that includes a master chef, the captain and a hospitality coordinator will make sure you cruise in total comfort, with luxurious cabins, an open bar with a wide selection of fine wines and spirits, and gourmet cuisine every day.”

Luxury cabin on board the Magna Carta. Photo courtesy of European Waterways

While docked, guests will see sites such as St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, the site of the latest Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, tour Oxford and moor at the regal rowing course of Henley Regatta. They will also cruise through Cliveden Reach and see Cliveden Estate, which has played host to such notable figures as Gandhi and Charlie Chaplin and was owned at one time by the American millionaire family the Astors. “Every excursion leads to castles and royal estates that are rich in history, the arts, culture, social and political intrigue," Banks notes.

Time to start channelling your inner Lady Mary, Thomas Barrow, Earl of Grantham or Mrs Patmore.