With the release of the Downton Abbey movie, it’s little wonder that South Africans are dreaming of English country houses and elegant afternoon teas. If you’re looking for a refined Downton-inspired getaway, consider these aristocratic travel experiences around the globe.

Visit The Real Downton Abbey

While Downton Abbey may be set in the fictional town of Downton in Yorkshire, the castle itself does exist – just with a different name.

Downton Abbey, as we know it, is actually Highclere Castle, a 19th-century country house in north Hampshire, the private family home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

Sections of Highclere Castle and grounds are open to visitors during specific times of the year. Visit the Highclere Castle website for more information.

The Village of Lacock in Wiltshire and Bampton in the Cotswolds were used for filming many of the outdoor village scenes. Visitors can wander the public areas of the village and will recognise many key sites.

Take A Selfie At Buckingham Palace

The Downton Abbey movie showcases the excitement and drama that follows when King George V and Queen Mary decide to overnight at Downton.

Visiting the most iconic home of the royal family is a must-do experience when in London.

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British monarchy. The many sumptuous rooms are still used today as the backdrop for the royal family’s official photographs.

Cotswold Village

The English Countryside At Christmas

Downton Abbey is set in the countryside of northern England.

Head out of bustling London to explore the aristocratic heritage of the English countryside.

The seven-day Back-Roads tour exploring various Christmas markets is a luxurious, effortless way to explore,” recommends Sue Garrett, General Manager of Marketing and Product at the Flight Centre Travel Group.

The seasonal trip travels the back roads, off the freeways, giving guests a glimpse into rural England, made famous by Downton Abbey and many popular British movies,” says Garrett.

Embark On The Grand Tour

In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was custom for well-to-do aristocratic gentlemen to take a coming of age tour of Europe.

Journeys usually spanned two to four years and were intended to educate the elite on the region’s history, art, architecture and culture.

Today, all travellers can trace the footsteps of a typical European ‘Grand Tour’ on a guided holiday or tailored package.

Travel through Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and more. Spend your days tasting the local cuisine, exploring the museums and galleries and toast a day’s ‘work’ with new friends at sunset.

Sleep In An 800-Year-Old Irish Castle

What could be more Downtown-inspired than a stay in an 800-year-old Irish castle?

Ashford Castle lies in County Mayo in the west of Ireland, overlooking Lough Corrib and nestled on 350 acres of parkland. It’s one of the leading hotels of the world.

“From the moment you cross over the drawbridge, you’ll get swept up into the romance of Irish castle living,” says Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation, who has visited the castle countless times.

Fondaco dei Tedeschi Venice
Fondaco dei Tedeschi Venice

Cruise The Castles On The Rhine

A river cruise on the Rhine, past the regions’ many castles and medieval villages that watch over the river, as they have done for centuries, immerses visitors into the heritage of age-old Europe.

It’s a magical, hassle-free way to explore in any season. But springtime is particularly special.

Admire the tulips and windmills cruising through the Netherlands, feast on waffles in Antwerp and soak up the festive atmosphere while stopping for a pint in a Cologne beer garden. It’s just the sort of leisurely journey the Crawleys would enjoy.

Raffles Singapore

Opened in 1887, Raffles Singapore is one of the most beautifully restored and maintained 19th-century hotels in the world today.

It’s a national monument and an icon of Singapore, witnessing first-hand many of the city-state’s defining moments.

The famous Singapore Sling (a gorgeous gin-based cocktail) was first dreamed up in the Raffles bar by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon in 1915.

Sipping the signature pink Singapore Sling in the Long Bar is a must on any aristocratic tour of Singapore.

Mount Nelson

Enjoy an aristocratic stay much closer to home at The Mount Nelson in Cape Town.

‘The Nellie’ as she is fondly known, has proudly stood in the shadow of Table Mountain since she first opened in 1899.

The building was painted pink in 1918 to celebrate the end of World War 1 and her distinctive walls have remained proudly pink ever since. The hotel was also the first in South Africa to offer guests hot and cold running water.

Nellie is no stranger to upper-crust guests. Winston Churchill, John Lennon, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the British royal family and the Dalai Lama are just a handful of the famous guests that have journeyed up the palm-fringed drive of the Mount Nelson.

There’s no better time to book a Downton-inspired experience around the world. After all, don’t we all deserve five-star treatment when travelling?

Wherever you decide to go, let SAA get you there. Book your tickets today!

Words by Jenna Berndt