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TRAVEL TV: Mr. Carson's London... and how to visit Downton Abbey

Jim Carter gives his tips for culture season, and Pól Ó Conghaile explains how to visit the real-life Downton Abbey

With crowds cooling off and the cultural season hotting up, autumn is the best time to visit London. Benedict Cumberbatch is playing Hamlet, the Rugby World Cup is coming to town, Judi Dench is at The Garrick, and those gorgeous parks are about to light up with fall foliage.

On today's Travel TV (watch above), we've got a preview of the cultural season from a very special guide. Jim Carter is better known as Downton Abbey's butler, Mr Carson, but in real-life he's a culture buff with some exquisite tips to share - as have we, on visiting the real-life Downton, Highclere Castle (below).

There's no doubting London can be expensive, especially given the current exchange. But it doesn't have to be. Lots of big museums and galleries are free, including the Tate Modern and Natural History Museum. Open House London (openhouselondon.org.uk; September 19-20) sees brilliant buildings open for free, there are guided walks in Richmond Park on October 3 and November 7 (­royalparks.org.uk), and the TKTS booth in Leicester Square (tkts.co.uk) sells theatre tickets at up to 50pc off.

Elsewhere, an Oyster card will lower your travel costs (children aged 10 and under go free on the Tube, DLR and buses), Carnaby Street and Chinatown are good bets for cheap eats, and The No.24 bus will take you past Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben, Downing Street and Trafalgar Square before heading for Camden Town and Hampstead Heath - a cheap and cheerful alternative to the €42 city tours.

See also visitlondon.com.



Westminster, London

Westminster, London

Westminster, London

Autumn: London's cultural season

Most Irish visitors to London book flights and accommodation separately.

There are other options, however. Budget Travel (budgettravel.ie), clickandgo.com and Cassidy Travel (cassidytravel.ie) do packages, among others, and you save further by avoiding the Friday-Sunday rush.

Going to press, Club Travel (clubtravel.ie) had flights to Stansted and two nights at the Generator hostel from just €74pp, while Travel Department (traveldepartment.ie) had a 4-star package including tickets to Wicked from €499pp.



Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle - the real-life Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey is set for its sixth and final season this year, but did you know it's a real house... set just an hour from London Heathrow?

Highclere Castle (above), ensconced in 1,000 acres of West Berkshire parkland, opens to the public some 60-70 days a year, so keep an eye on its website (highclerecastle.co.uk; €28) and Facebook for ticket releases.

Alternatively, splash on one of the Castle and Garden Tours scheduled for 2016 (€112), or two 'Afternoon Tea & Tour' events just announced for September 13 and 20 (€211).

NB. All prices subject to availability/change.

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