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TV’s most lavish period drama, Downton Abbey, will be back for a second series this autumn. Its runaway success has led to a revived interest in stately homes and all things Edwardian. Research shows that visits to historic houses and castles in England in the second quarter of 2011 increased by 6% compared to the previous year. VisitEngland looks at some of the country’s most impressive properties with opulent interiors:

Highclere Castle, Newbury
Discover the story behind the real Downton Abbey, with a day trip to Highclere Castle, the filming location for the smash hit ITV series. Often described as the finest occupied mansion in England, the Castle has been the home of the Earls of Carnarvon for over 300 years. Set in 1,000 acres of 18th century parkland the Castle was the seat of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the Tomb of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings in 1922. These days the cellar of the Castle commemorates this famous archaeological discovery in its Egyptology exhibition.

Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire
Once the home of Henry VIII’s last and luckiest wife, Katherine Parr, this medieval stronghold is steeped in history. Stay in one of 11 self-catering properties dotted around the grounds, from a converted paper mill with exposed stone and original beams to a former engine room. Wander around the award-winning gardens such as Queens’, renowned for its roses, and see Katherine Parr’s famous love letter to Sir Thomas Seymour and other memorabilia in the exhibitions.

Taplow House, Maidenhead
This Georgian manor house hotel is home to the tallest Tulip trees in Europe (so named because of their tulip-shape flowers). Stylish bedrooms have contemporary four-poster beds with silk throws, matching cushions and sleek bathrooms. Large picture windows overlook the six-acre grounds. Eat in the high-ceilinged Berry’s restaurant or down the road at Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Bray for snail porridge or egg and bacon ice cream. Windsor Castle is 10 minutes’ drive away.

Rushton Hall, Rushton, Northamptonshire
Charles Dickens is said to have used the lavish interior of this 15th century mansion house as the inspiration for Havershall Hall in Great Expectations. You can see why. Everything is on a grand scale, from the heavy timber doors with ornate plasterwork, stone fireplaces, mullioned stone windows and yards of oak panelling. Work up an appetite for the modern British menu in the contemporary Courtyard Spa with its sauna, steam room and indoor pool.

Hartwell House, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire
This 46-room Jacobean and Georgian house has eschewed the trend towards contemporary interiors and stuck firmly to its roots. Filled with decorative ceilings, wood panelling, antiques and fine paintings it must have been a fitting home for the exiled King of France, Louis XVIII, in the early 19th century.  Take one of the walking trails through the 90-acre landscaped gardens and grounds or chill out in the spa with its indoor pool, steam room and saunas.


For further press information or for high resolution images please contact:

Mark Anthony McCulloch / Yolanda Copes-Stepney / Laura Smith
EnjoyEngland Press Office
Tel: 020 7578 1400
Email: / /

Notes to Editors:
About VisitEngland

• VisitEngland is the country’s national tourist board. We work in partnership with the industry to develop the visitor experience across England, plan national tourism strategy, grow the value of tourism in England and provide advocacy for the industry and our visitors
• Our work is underpinned by robust research and customer insights. You can access the latest in-depth market intelligence and statistics on
• VisitEngland markets England under the Enjoy England consumer brand in the domestic market and markets England under the VisitEngland brand internationally 
About England
• England is a unique destination and a real powerhouse in global tourism. It represents 84 percent of the total UK visitor economy, is worth £97 billion, and supports in excess of 2 million jobs
• More information can be found on and