Last updated: 02:23 PM ET, Thu May 07 2015

Opinion Home | Why Wales? Discover Britain's Road Less Traveled!

  • Visit Wales Staff Writer | May 7, 2015 2:23 PM ET

    Live Like a Lord or Lady – Wales for Downton Abbey Fans

    Live Like a Lord or Lady – Wales for Downton Abbey Fans

    PHOTO: Powis Castle. Courtesy Visit Wales.

    If you're one of the millions of people who can't get enough of the Crawley clan and Downton Abbey, you'll feel right at home in the country house hotels of Wales. Here, a stay will make you feel pampered as if you had Mrs. Hughes and Mr. Carson taking care of you themselves.

    At Llangoed Hall, for instance, the decor and feel is distinctly early Downton – the Edwardian era. The home was redesigned as a country house in 1912 (a year before the Titanic sank and the fictional scion of the Crawley family was lost aboard). The large and accommodating great house and 17 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens remain much as they were in the Downton Abbey era. In 1987, Sir Bernard Ashley bought the house, and he opened it as a hotel in 1990 and decorated in fabrics and styles created by his late wife, the famous designer Laura Ashley (yes, that Laura Ashley).

    The Hall's charming, four-poster-bedded rooms would be very familiar and comfortable to Ladies Mary, Sybil and Edith. Original art by painters like Whistler, Augustus John and others hang on the walls: all artists that Lord Grantham would have known and collected. Chef Nick Brodie sources his fruits and veggies fresh from the garden just as Mrs. Patmore would have done. He serves them with as much elegance and style as they do at Downton, albeit with a little less formality and a lot of hearty Welsh warmth.

    While Llangoed Hall is a full hotel where visitors can stay, Wales also offers a wealth of Downton Abbey era great houses and parklands that can be visited for a day of Downton delights. These homes were once owned by gentry such as the Crawleys and are now open to the public. They often include mini museums, tea rooms and charming restaurants on site.

    At Erddig House, for instance, a historic house and garden run by the National Trust in Wrexham, visitors can peek both upstairs and downstairs and get a sense of what life would have been like at a great house like Downton. This 18th-century beauty has been home to one gentry family for over 250 years. At Erddig, you can see versions of Mr. and Mrs. Bates, Daisy and the rest of the downstairs staff – the home’s famous servants’ portraits are a unique attraction. Upstairs, there's decor that would make the Countess of Grantham proud: fine furniture, textiles and period wallpapers. Beyond the house, there are stables, a smithy, a joiner's shop, and a sawmill. And then, there are the 18th-century formal gardens, where your own version of the romance between Lady Mary and Matthew Crawley may take place.

    At Penrhyn Castle, a huge 19th-century, neo-Norman confection that lies between Snowdonia and the Menai Strait, travelers can wander through great halls and dining rooms that echo the Downton era in their lavish proportion and grand scale. The house and its 60-acre parkland are open for day visitors. You could spend an entire afternoon exploring objects in the castle like a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria and a unique collection of model trains in Penrhyn's model railway museum. The restored kitchens are another delight that will make guests feel like they've just been welcomed downstairs by footman Thomas or kitchen maid Daisy.

    Great houses are evocative of Downton Abbey, but so are the buildings and businesses that made up what was once village life in Wales and the United Kingdom. At one of the most popular heritage attractions in Wales, St. Fagan's National History Museum, Downton fans can wander through over forty original buildings from the past. They’ll feel like they've gone back in time to the days when the museum's houses: farms, a school, a chapel, and a workmen's institute, were in their heyday. The museum is also home to a magnificent 16th-century manor house, donated to the country by the Earl of Plymouth.

    The collection of objects at St. Fagan's includes an extensive group of documents and artifacts from the First World War – an important part of the plot in Downton Abbey. Walk through the house's Italian and thyme Gardens and you'll really feel like time has stood still. A visit to St. Fagan's is like a visit to Downton's house and village together.  There's a farmer's market and plenty of wonderful fresh food on site, so it's easy to spend the whole day at this open-air museum. You’ll be transported to the Downton era with completeness hard to find anywhere else.

    The same feeling of time standing still can be said for Powis Castle in Welshpool, near the Wales-England border. Powis was home to the Herbert family, who like the Crawleys, lived there for generations. The home has been remodeled and embellished over 400 years. Inside you can view a magnificent collection of paintings, sculptures, furnishings, and tapestries. Like the Crawleys, the Herberts had connections to British India. The castle has a unique collection of treasures from that time as well as treasures from the Far East displayed in its Clive Museum.  Powis' artifacts were collected over many eras – Downton Abbey's 1900s-1920s included.

    These and the many other great country houses and parklands in Wales evoke the beauty and style of the Downton Abbey era so perfectly visitors feel as if they might expect the Dowager Countess to appear and take tea with them at any moment. The elegance and exquisiteness of the country’s stately homes and gardens would have caused the great lady herself to smile and feel perfectly at home.


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Visit Wales Staff Writer Why Wales? Discover Britain's Road Less Traveled!

Visit Wales Staff Writer Visit Wales is the New York-based government tourism office for Wales, one of four countries that make up the United Kingdom. A land with 641 castles, 870 miles of walkable coastline, three national parks and award-winning cuisine, Wales offers travelers a variety of activities and different landscapes to explore. The country's Celtic history and ancient language make it a distinctive British destination. For more information on Wales travel, trade can visit and consumers can visit
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