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The Real Downton Abbey: An Interview with Lady of Carnarvon

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Yes, the Olympics are going on right now, but don’t limit your London experience to the Games. Recently, we showed you real-life travel opportunities inspired by Downton Abbey, now Travel Correspondent Alyssa Caverley introduces the real-life house, Highclere Castle, and the real-life Countess, the Lady of Canarvon.

As the British television drama Downton Abbey continues to have unprecedented success in the United States, people from all over America are flocking to the UK to visit the location and check out the real sites of the intriguing upstairs/downstairs dynamic.

Turns out majestic estate has a name – and it’s not Downton Abbey! It has been known as Highclere Castle since the 17th Century and is home to the Carnarvon’s – an aristocratic English family who has passed on the castle from generation to generation. The current residents are the 8th Earl and Lady of Carnarvon.

Lady Fiona Carnarvon oversees the daily activities of the castle – and there is a lot to juggle.

“They’re [filming] maybe solidly for a week and maybe go to Ealing Studios or they use Bampton Village in Oxfordshire or maybe they have a whole two days off. So we’re then doing public opening or a wedding or conference. And then they come back again. That happens from mid- February to end of June.”

In addition to managing the daily activities at the castle, Lady Fiona Carnarvon has written a book about the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, Lady Almina. The biographical novel, Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey, reveals stories of the real-life woman who is actually the inspiration behind some of the plot lines in the television series.

“I wanted to tell about the stories of the gardeners going to fight in Kuwait or Iraq and not coming back. Of the men who fought in the trenches and the contrast to coming back here to Highclere as a paradise after being in the trenches. Of the stores from Gallipoli coming back here. Of the stories of the odd man from Canada or the States who’d been nursed by Lady Carnarvon and who’s family had written, who’s mother’s had written to Lady Carnarvon.”