Wouldn't it be cool to live in the British castle where popular British TV series "Downton Abbey" is filmed? You could watch production every day!
The mistress of Highclere Castle says it's not nearly as cool as you think.
"It's like watching paint dry," says Lady Fiona Carnarvon in a phone interview with The Tennessean to promote her upcoming Feb. 7 visit to Nashville. (details at end of story)
"It's not very glamorous," she adds. "But the result is very glamorous."
Millions of fans worldwide agree, including many who watch "Downton Abbey" in the U.S. on PBS, and anticipation is high for tonight's start of season four.
And it's that very popularity that may have saved the castle itself.
Before the show started taping therea four years ago, Highclere Castle was in need of more than $25 million in repairs, according to several published reports.
Lately, because of curiosity of "Downton Abbey" fans, the number of (paying) visitors to the castle has increased to five and six times what it used to be.
"It used to be some days were busy and others were not," Lady Carnarvon said. "Every day, now, we're full.
"It's a really lucky position to be in due to these difficult economic times. It means we can carry on spending money."
And lots of that money comes from U.S. dollars. Tourism from American fans of the show has grown dramatically, Lady Carnarvon said.
"In the States, everybody wants to love it. It's extraordinarily welcomed," she said. "In England there are a few more mixed feelings."
Another phenomenon attracting tourists to the castle: There are those, including Lady Carnarvon, who believe ghosts wander about.
"I've seen them," she insists. "Some people do and some people don't. My husband doesn't. Some of the staff has."
Her husband, Lord George Herbert Carnarvon, is the person who landed the series, as he is a longtime friend of show producer/writer Julian Fellowes.
Lady Carnarvon said initially she was worried that some historic antiques and furnishings might be damaged in filming the show.
But, she adds, "Part of our job is to try to manage the risk of that. You're effectively going into partnership and going on trust."
And Lady Carnarvon says she does a much better job of delegating oversight of daily production to her staff.
"I have to crack on with life," she says. "Otherwise, I wouldn't get anything done."
Still, the added attention now means added responsibility.
"Now we go from one thing to another. It's a seven-day-a-week job at the moment."
But Lady Carnarvon enjoys it: "We think we're very lucky and we have a blast
What: Lady Fiona Carnarvon, countess of Highclere Castle, home of TV series "Downton Abbey," will deliver the keynote speech for the annual Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville (Feb. 7-9). That will be followed by a book signing for her latest, "Lady Catherine, The Earl and the Real Downton Abbey."
When: 11:30 a.m. Feb. 7.
Where: Music City Center, 201 Fifth Ave. S.
Tickets: $12 to $15 in advance through www.antiquesandgardenshow.com, $20 at the door. The $50 tickets include the keynote address and admission to the three-day show.