It only took until Season Four. Virgin Vacations has added to its fall lineup a visit to the United Kingdom that includes a trip to the real-life set of the upstairs scenes of PBS's Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle.
The seven-day trip includes round-trip flights, airport transfers, three nights' hotel in London and two in Bracknell, near the house. That's an hour west of London in Berkshire, "an area favored by the Royals for its scenic countryside," adds Virgin. The highlight of the tour is a "private cockatil reception" in the "public rooms" of the castle, where tourists will be "among guests" who will be at the castle for a benefit thrown by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, the hereditary owners of the property.
The trip leaves September 16 and October 31 and costs from $2,280 if you leave from New York, more if you leave from other cities.
Of course, you should know a few things. A standard four-night air-hotel package to London using Virgin Vacations normally starts at $1,169. Another thing to know is that the public rooms of Highclere are often open to the public anyway. The Earl and Countess (who are very much modern, normal-looking people) fund the upkeep of the old property with film shoots, weddings, and tours, and the schedule for everything is its website. They are also often on hand during the house's everyday tours, so you may not need to spend so much money to meet them.
Still, if you want the guarantee of their presence, maybe the extra $1,000 is worth it. The Earl of Grantham loved spending money, too.
Update: A Virgin Vacations representative contacted me to point out that self-purchased tickets to Highclere are sold out for this season, so its package's inclusions make it one of the only ways to get inside this year, unless you want to wait for tickets to become available again. I agree that the latter option would be less expensive, but not more convenient.