The butler poses in the saloon at Highclere Castle on March 15, 2011 in Newbury, England.
Matthew Lloyd—Getty Images
February 8, 2016 8:00 AM EST

The prospect of opening up Downton Abbey to the public might shock the fictional Lord Grantham, even if ticket sales could help subsidize the house’s upkeep. In real life, however, the house at which the popular TV show is filmed does allow commoners to traipse through. As the house’s current resident, Lady Carnarvon, recently told LIFE Books, Highclere Castle has been open to the public since the 1980s, when an exhibition of Egyptian artifacts went on display. The home is currently open to visitors for a couple dozen days a year, and it’s even possible to book an overnight stay at the estate.

In 2012, TIME visited the estate to take a look at what it’s like to live at the real Downton Abbey. And, as the article explained, the real reason for the tours is just the same as the one explained on the show:

Luckily for visitors, however, the real Lady Carnarvon proved a better tour guide than Cora Crawley:

Write to Lily Rothman at lily.rothman@time.com.

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