A Journey to the Highlands is the final episode of the Third series (season) of the UK-US period drama, Downton Abbey. This episode focuses on the Crawley's visit to Duneagle in Scotland for a house party, one year after the death of Lady Sybil.
This episode would introduce Lily James in the role of Lady Rose MacClare. She was introduced in the previous episode, but she would become a series regular for series four and five. She would also make appearances in the final season. Also introduced in this episode were her parents Hugh, Lord Flintshire (Peter Egan), who had been spoken of before, and his wife, Violet's niece, Susan MacClare (Phoebe Nicholls).
This episode also marks the final appearance of Dan Stevens after three seasons in the pivotal role of Matthew Crawley. He would leave the series to move on to other projects. Sadly, in this episode, Matthew is killed in a car accident, not long after the birth of his son, George. Matthew's death would come on the heels of the death of Lady Sybil Branson from Eclampsia. He would be the second major character to die in the course of Downton Abbey's six series run.
It has been a year since Lady Sybil Branson had died of eclampsia. And due to the loss of Sybil, a usual family trip was put off. This year, the family goes to their yearly trek to Duneagle in Invernesshire, of Scotland, for a ten day visit.
Duneagle is the home of Susan MacClare, her husband, Hugh MacClare, Lord Flintshire, called "Shrimpie", a diplomat for the Foreign office in London; and their only child still at home, Lady Rose MacClare. Rose has two older siblings, James, the new Earl of Newtonmore, and Annabelle. Both James and Annabelle are grown and moved out, with Annabelle married.
The name Shrimpie became affixed to Hugh as he was smaller and as a part of a nursery game with his two older sisters. Agatha was known as a shark (which was understood), and Louisa was known as a lobster.
Robert Crawley; Cora Crawley, Lady Mary Crawley; Lady Edith Pelham and Mary's husband, Matthew Crawley, as well as the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley, go up to Duneagle (Susan is Violet's niece, and Robert's first cousin). However, Tom Branson wasn't invited, for whatever reason, it is not sure. It was presumed that he had work to do as he had been named the new land agent.
Also, appearing is Edith's new publisher and her boss, Michael Gregson, who is staying at a nearby lodging. The usual maids and valets, Anna Smith Bates; her husband, John Bates; lady's maid, Sarah O'Brien; and Matthew's valet, Joseph Molesley are the members of staff who also go to Scotland.
Meanwhile, back at the Abbey, the staff is taking some time to do some extra work. A new maid, named Edna Braithwaite, the replacement of Ethel Parks, who had been sacked after having an affair with a soldier. Edna, who was clearly one of the most conniving maids that ever slithered through Downton Abbey's doors, is doing her best to make him regret his new life and position. Her attempt was to make him feel ashamed of his new life, and she succeeded.
At one point, Tom was so devastated about what had happened that he had to speak to Elsie Hughes, the head housekeeper. So upset was he about what was going on that he started to cry. Mrs. Hughes, who had always had a bond with Tom, did her best to comfort him.
While Mrs. Hughes, Tom and the rest of the staff are away at the Thirsk Market fair, Charles Carson, the butler, stays behind. While patrolling the gallery, he hears the sound of a baby crying.
He goes into the nursery and hears Tom's daughter, Sybbie Branson, at that time, a one year old infant, crying in her crib and her nanny wasn't anywhere around. He picks up the crying baby and she calms down in an instant. He takes the baby down to the library and she is entranced by the books.
When Mrs. Hughes returns from the fair (which was quite adventuresome, since Thomas Barrow was attacked by some nasty townspeople, bravely taking the attack from Jimmy Kent, whom the town toughs would want to attack), she notices how Mr. Carson spent his day more productively by calming and taking care of Sybbie.
Hiding behind his crust, Carson tells her not to be so sentimental. However, he himself couldn't help but feel that way, as he was remembering when her mother, Lady Sybil, was that very age, and he did the same thing, or something similar to it.
Meanwhile, back at Duneagle, Rose is still having issues with her mother. She and Susan have no liking for one another, and the latter is often criticizing her for her dress, her conduct or mainly anything else (it is presumed that Susan favors her older children over Rose).
At one point, Bates and Anna talk to her, when they see her outside smoking. Rose tells the servants how hard it is with her mother. Her father, Shrimpie, on the other hand, isn't as tough as Susan, and doesn't criticize Rose as much as his wife does.
However, he and Susan have their own issues. There is talk of divorce, and they don't want Rose to be exposed to the ugliness that would occur. Shrimpie and Susan would eventually convince Robert and Cora to have Rose move in with them at Downton Abbey for a while, as they are planning on moving to Bombay (today called Mumbai), India, where he is to take a job (this would help bring again three girls in the mix, Rose taking Sybil's place).
Mrs. Beryl Patmore, Downton's cook, meets a man named Jess Tufton, the new grocery distributor, however, he was always flirting with every woman nearby. All he was interested in was her cooking. She would share a laugh about that with Mrs. Hughes. Also attending the fair was Isobel Crawley Grey and Dr. Clarkson, the town's leading physician.
Clarkson wanted to propose marriage, but she felt that she wasn't ready for it. That was made moot however, when Clarkson was called to help Barrow, who had been viciously attacked, protecting Jimmy from assault.
Meanwhlie, back in Duneagle, at the Gillie's Ball, Molesley gets a drink, a drink which was spiked and he is becoming very uninhibited. It was revealed that the drink had been spiked by Wilkins, Susan's lady's maid. to get even with O'Brien for taking the favor of Susan away from her.
After Susan criticizes Rose's dress, she is remonstrated against by Shrimpie, who tells her to quit making everyone so bloody unhappy. Violet helps Rose to forget by telling her a story about her first gillies ball that she had ever attended.
Unfortunately for Shrimpie, Robert overheard him yelling at Susan. Rose is drinking punch enough to kill the most disagreeable of tastes. If it hadn't been clear that Rose and her mother absolutely despise one another, it certainly was evident now!
Meanwhile, during a reel, Mary's begins to go into labor, and she is taken back to Downton. Once she is admitted into hospital, Isobel sits with her, as the labor is about to begin.
She gives birth to a baby boy who is eventually called George Matthew Crawley. Matthew is thrilled to meet his son, and as such, he goes to his car to drive towards the abbey, however, en route to the Abbey, he is run off the road by a lorry driver and he flips the car. He is instantly killed. As such, with Matthew's death, and due to the entailment, baby George becomes the new heir presumptive of the Downton estate.