Christmas in the Highlands for upstairs, but while the cat’s away…
Laura Mackie and Gareth Neame have revealed audiences should expect both laughter and tears in the two-hour Christmas special of ‘Downton Abbey,’ to be screened on ITV1 at 9pm on Christmas Day.
The special will see the arrival of Bad Girls,‘ Simone Lahbib and White Heat’s, Myanna Buring, as well as plenty of love and trouble for our residents of Downton and the Grantham’s and Crawley’s on their annual visit to the Cousins in Scotland.
“We hope the Downton family of viewers will gather together to watch this major TV event as a shared Christmas night experience,” said Laura, Director of Drama at ITV.
“Last year’s special episode set the nation talking on Boxing Day and 2012’s Christmas Day episode is no different. As ever, Downton will take its audience through a whole range of emotions. All of life’s experiences will feature in this episode.
“This is one episode you will want to see live with millions of others – and best have the tissues ready.”
It sees Lord and Lady Grantham and family heading for a summer break in The Highlands of Scotland, leaving most of their servants back at home.
The annual visit to his Scottish cousins at Duneagle Castle, where the piper calls the tune for breakfast and dinner, is the highlight of Robert’s (Hugh Bonneville) year.
Duneagle is the home of young, headstrong Lady Rose (Lily James), who was sent home in the last episode of series three after her dalliance with a married man.
The castle is a grander step up from Downton, with deer stalking and fishing also on hand in the stunning surrounding Scottish countryside.
During the special episode Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) discovers that newspaper editor Michael Gregson (Charles Edwards) also happens to be on holiday in Scotland and may not be there just for the sketching and fishing.
While Matthew (Dan Stevens) and Mary (Michelle Dockery) disagree about Mr Gregson’s motives towards unlucky-in-love Edith.
Personal servants John Bates (Brendan Coyle), his wife Anna (Joanne Froggatt), Molesley (Kevin Doyle) and O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) accompany the family on their trip north.
O’Brien discovers a kindred spirit below stairs in the form of her opposite number, Susan’s lady’s maid Wilkins (Simone Lahbib).
But who will be left reeling at the Gillies’ Ball?
The Scottish scenes were shot on location at Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell.
Meanwhile back in Yorkshire, estate land agent Tom Branson (Allen Leech) has stayed behind at Downton with young daughter ‘Sybbie’.
In spite of the family’s attempts to integrate the former chauffeur into their world, he continues to live between the Crawleys and the servants below stairs. He’s still grieving for wife Sybil, the youngest daughter, who died after giving birth to their first child.
Butler Mr Carson (Jim Carter) faces the task of keeping the household servants concentrated on their work polishing the silverware and cleaning the rooms.
But with the family away, minds begin to wander to other things – including the forthcoming Thirsk Country Fair.
“While the cat’s away, the mice will play,” explained executive producer Gareth.
“The Grantham’s do not live at Downton Abbey 12 months of the year. They would go to London for the summer season and also go away on holidays like this.
“And when that happens the domestic staff of Downton would remain. What will they get up to while the family is away?”
In a not to be missed special episode, wise housekeeper Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) tells Mr Bates: “Life is full of surprises.”
And that is certainly true at the great house this Christmas Day.
Could there be romance in store for cook Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol)?
New housemaid Edna (MyAnna Buring) joins the restless servants around their big table as they look forward to the country fair.
‘Downton Abbey’ screens on ITV1 on Christmas Day at 9pm.