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Scottish castle hopes to cash in on 'Downton Abbey'

10:23 PM, Feb 19, 2013   |    comments
A general view of the campsite and castle during the third day of the inaugural Connect Music Fesival, held in the grounds of Inveraray Castle on the banks of Loch Fyne, on September 2, 2007 in Argyllshire, Scotland. (Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images)
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(USA TODAY) -- Its heartbreaking shocker of an ending notwithstanding, the season finale of Downton Abbey delivered a new piece of scenic eye candy to smitten viewers: Scotland's Inveraray Castle.

Located in Argyll, about 60 miles northwest of Glasgow, Inveraray is the real-life version of the 18th century Highlands pile belonging to Lord Grantham's cousin, Shrimpie. As the ancestral seat of the Clan Campbell, the castle and 60,000-acre estate already draw about 75,000 visitors a year and earn income from such diversions as stalking (as in deer, not paparazzi), trout and salmon fishing (which poor Matthew Crawley enjoyed before his fateful car ride) and snipe shooting. The latter, notes the castle's website, can be enjoyed on the estate's Isle of Tiree, which "boasts the Guinness Book of Records entry for the amount of snipe shot with one barrel." (No details on how many snipe that would entail.)

Scenes for Downton Abbey's season three finale, which aired in the U.K. in December, were filmed at Inveraray Castle last summer. The estate is closed to the public for the winter and reopens March 29; adult admission to the castle and gardens costs $15.50.

The castle's current mistress, the Duchess of Argyll, told Scotland's Herald she and her husband "will talk to guides and if people want more of a Downton tour then we can arrange that."

But Inveraray doesn't need Masterpiece Theatre to gin up juicy gossip.

During the 1920s, when the fictional Crawleys would have visited, it was inhabited by the 10th Duke of Argyll, Niall, who built a bell tower to commemorate those who died in World War I and was a scholarly recluse later in life.

"He was brilliantly clever, never got married and very, very eccentric," the duchess told the Herald. "His mother slept under a fishing net and talked to the 'wee folk' and his sister, who also never got married, lived here (in the castle). He used to have an organ on the balcony and used to sing for his guests."

And then there's the late Margaret Campbell, the "sex-crazed" third wife of the 11th Duke of Argyll. The duchess' dozens of alleged conquests included the likes of Bob Hope and Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and she is the subject of a new opera, Powder Her Face, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Notes the Daily Mail: "Of the romantic Scottish castle that enchanted Downton viewers, (Campbell) once wrote: 'I fell in love with Inveraray at first sight.' Her last wish, recorded in her will, was to be buried in a churchyard 'close to Inveraray Castle' - but that wish was ignored. She is buried in the same grave as her first husband, Charles Sweeny, in Brookwood Cemetery, Surrey."

Laura Bly, USA TODAY

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