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13 Sep 2019

Our own Downton Abbeys

Looking down from the hill towards the front entrance of Pollok House, as the morning sun catches the east of the building. Hosts of daffodils pop out from the ground.
Pollok House has been referred to as Scotland’s answer to Downton Abbey.
At number 93 on our 100 Ways list is highlighting how Downton Abbey fans can get a glimpse of the fictional grandeur of the film at our properties around the country.

From the television series to the big screen blockbuster, the Crawley family and their servants at Downton Abbey have caught the public’s imagination. But did you know that you can also get a feel for Downton life at some of the grand houses we protect across Scotland? 

Here are a handful of our properties that take visitors into a real-life period drama, with their grand interiors and hidden passageways, all packed with compelling stories from above and below stairs.

The entrance hall of Pollok House, with a black-and-white chequered tiled floor. A double staircase leads to the first floor landing, while a single staircase leads down to the basement. A very grand pendant light hangs from the ceiling.
Pollok House, Glasgow

Pollok House is known as ‘Scotland’s answer to Downton Abbey’. The grand country home was built in 1752 and showcases life during the Edwardian era.

Home to the Maxwell family, the upstairs is lavishly designed with luxurious furnishings and a world-famous art collection. Downstairs, the vast servants’ quarters and extensive tiled passageways show just how much work went into maintaining this impressive home and the wealthy family’s lifestyle.

Stories of life at Pollok House are not dissimilar to the depiction in Downton Abbey, with 48 household members of staff running the home for just three members of the Maxwell family.

An exterior view of Castle Fraser, framed by leafy tall trees.
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

The history of Castle Fraser dates back to the 1600s and was the residence of the Fraser family for more than 400 years.

Visitors can soak up the atmosphere of old Scotland and imagine how life was for the Frasers as you admire original family portraits, ornaments and mementos. Hidden trapdoors, narrow staircases and spy holes also hint at the secretive life below stairs.

This Aberdeenshire castle offers a glimpse into how grand properties were maintained from generation to generation with the evocative interiors representing all periods of the castle’s history. While Downton viewers watched Lady Mary take the reins on leading the estate into a new era, similar renovations were made at Castle Fraser by Elyza Fraser, who modernised the castle in the late 18th century and landscaped the grounds.

Hill of Tarvit seen from the lawns below on a sunny day. Manicured yew hedges define the terraces leading up to the house, which is surrounded by tall trees.
Hill of Tarvit, Fife

Downton Abbey fans need look no further than Fife to find a wonderful example of elegant Edwardian living.

At Hill of Tarvit, visitors can discover a fascinating record of life above and below stairs at this impressive mansion. Valuable fine art and porcelain pieces reveal the lavish lifestyle enjoyed by the Sharps, while the service wings give insight into the lives of the people that worked at the home.

The landscaped gardens of Hill of Tarvit are also home to a nine-hole golf course, designed for the Sharp family. As witnessed in Downton Abbey, taking part in sports and competitive games broke down the class barriers and often brought upstairs and downstairs together.

Haddo House seen from the far side of the immaculate and vast front lawn.
Haddo House, Aberdeenshire

An imposing stately home located north of Aberdeen, Haddo belonged to the Gordon family for over 400 years.  

Designed in 1732 by William Adam, the house underwent an opulent remodelling in the 1880s. As a result, it has the clean elegance and swooping lines of the Georgian style with a luxurious Victorian interior.   

The impressive property also served as a maternity hospital during World War II and more than 1,200 babies were born here. This is another parallel with Downton Abbey which also was a hospital (although during World War I).

The National Trust for Scotland works every day to protect Scotland’s national and natural treasures. From coastlines to castles, art to architecture, wildlife to wilderness, we protect all of this For the Love of Scotland.

In Our Strategy for Protecting Scotland’s Heritage 2018–23, we set out how we’re planning to work towards our vision that Scotland’s heritage is valued by everyone and protected now, and for future generations.