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Highclere Castle, home of Downton Abbey

2012 is going to be something of a ‘perfect storm’ year for the British tourist industry. Several events which have been bubbling away for a while will reach a peak of excitement between now and the end of the year, and each will bring a fresh batch of visitors in its wake. So if you’ve a trip to Britain planned, you’ll be in good company.

First, and most obvious, is the Olympics. London is being thoroughly spruced up right now, all the nooks are being dusted, the pigeons groomed and the homeless people tidied away, ready for the enormous influx of visitors.

But it’s not just sports fans who are flocking our way this year. The 19th Century Highclere Castle in Newbury has reported a massive increase in tourist interest, and it’s entirely due to one thing: Downton Abbey.

Highclere is the home of the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, and it’s also the breathtaking location of Downton Abbey, which means fans of the show are now flocking to see it.

Lady Carnavon, who has written about about her predecessor, who converted Highclere into a hospital during World War I, told CNN that they have been overwhelmed by the interest, and are glad to welcome visitors: “It has been amazing, we have so many e-mails now saying ‘We love your home.'”

In fact, the interest has been so overwhelming (some 50,000 visitors in the last year, nearly twice the usual amount) they’ve had to insist on pre-booked tickets and timetabling when new visitors are allowed in.

“I think you have to look positively on it or you’ve married the wrong husband,” Lady Carnavon continued, “You have to want to share it, which we do.”

And for slightly younger building fans, there’s an actual Hogwarts to explore, in the new Warner Brothers Studio Tour, featuring the making of the Harry Potter films. That opens this spring.

Then there are the Royals. Last year’s Royal Wedding brought a massive boost to the tourist industry, and it’s hoped that the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June will have a similar effect.

And we’ll have just put away the bunting before we have to drag it back out again for the Olympics.

I tell you, if things continue at this rate, the British will all have to emigrate until November just to make room.

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By Fraser McAlpine