Behind The Scenes at the real Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle

From the captivating Lady Mary Crawley, to the protective Earl of Grantham, to the late, great Dowager Countess – no matter who your favourite Downton Abbey character is, fans of the aristocratic historical franchise will know that one of the most important roles is the one played by the grand estate itself.

As announced earlier this week, Downton Abbey is on its way back to the big screen, with filming already underway at Highclere Castle, in Hampshire.

The Grade I-listed building has been the home of Downton ever since its launch on ITV in 2010.

In keeping with tradition, the cast and crew have returned to the property, a popular filming location, to shoot scenes for Downton Abbey 3.

Before the venue became known as the Crawley family home, the castle may have been familiar to viewers from films such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Eyes Wide Shut.

Thanks to the staff and owners of Highclere Castle, fans can get a taste of the behind-the-scenes action on set.

In a video posted soon after the announcement of Downton Abbey 3 earlier this week, the official Highclere Castle Instagram page shared footage of the estate’s transformation from its normal decoration to interior touches more suitable for the show’s early 20th-century setting.

Employees and crew are seen “reversing time” by carrying lamps, tables and cushions out of the castle to make way for Downton Abbey-specific props.

Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey (Instagram / highclere_castle)
Highclere Castle, the setting for Downton Abbey (Instagram / highclere_castle)

Crew members outside the building climb ladders to adjust external lamps, while other workers remove vases, bowls and framed sketches out of view.

The castle is owned by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who welcome guests from all around the world to step into the world of Downton Abbey.

An Instagram story, posted on Thursday (16 May), shows the castle’s “Stanhope bedroom”. In this bedroom, a voice explains, “In the very first series [of Downton Abbey], the Turkish diplomat sadly died.”

The red bedroom in Highclere Castle, as featured in Downton Abbey (Instagram / @highclere_castle)
The red bedroom in Highclere Castle, as featured in Downton Abbey (Instagram / @highclere_castle)

In a recent post on the venue’s blog (Monday 13 May), the Countess shared updates from Highclere on the logistics of transforming the property into Downton Abbey.

She writes: “From Highclere’s point of view, we have been very busy with rounds of recces, now followed by the arrival of white vans, large unit base trailers, lots of black-out material as well as corex and boards to protect the floors.”

Having witnessed the process of Highclere turning into Downton Abbey several times, the Countess shared some of her gained insight into a day in the life on set.

“Whichever part the various members of the crew play in creating a film, the days are long, with cast in hair and makeup from the early hours and lighting and cameras put in place before any rehearsals for the first scene take place from about 8.30am,” she writes.

“There is always a plan in advance for each day for which rooms they are in, how it is going to work that day, where all the directors and computer screens are, where the green room is and so on.”

Downton Abbey 3 follows the series’ two spin-off films: Downton Abbey in 2019 and 2022’s Downton Abbey: A New Era.

A release date for the third film is currently unknown.