Film and television has been a wonderful escape for many people over this past year. It has allowed us to immerse ourselves in different realities, away from current stresses and less than pleasant situations, providing much-needed comfort and distraction. From towering castles and idyllic landscapes, to the hustle and bustle of back-streets and city life – we’ve seen enough set locations to last a lifetime.
With that in mind, here is a list of 10 of the UK’s most famous filming locations to visit after lockdown and allow yourself to step into the shoes of your favourite character. (I’ve even been nice enough to categorise them.)
Houses and castles
Highclere Castle, Hampshire
Built in 1679, but transformed into the iconic building it is today in 1842, Highclere Castle (pictured above) is the set location of the award-winning television series Downton Abbey, which premiered in 2010. However, before it was used on the silver screen, Highclere Castle acted as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the First World War, and later as a site of evacuation for London children in World War Two. Currently, it is set to reopen on the second of December, just in time for their grand Christmas event. With nearly 300 rooms to boast, and a stunning 1,000 acres of parkland, Highclere is the perfect place to visit any time of the year.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Despite also being used in several episodes of Downton Abbey, as well as a surprise appearance in Transformers: The Last Knight, Alnwick Castle is most well known for being the primary setting for the first two Harry Potter films. Capitalising on such a global success, Alnwick even offers broom-flying lessons as part of a day’s itinerary! But it’s not all film-star success – Alnwick has its own rich history to explore, and is still in use as current home to the Percy family, whose line dates all the way back to the Norman Conquest. Moreover, for the nature lovers out there, part and parcel of Alnwick castle is the magnificent Alnwick Garden, home to the ‘Poison Garden’, known as ‘the deadliest garden in England’. Currently closed for the winter, the castle will reopen in March 2021.
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire; Lyme Park, Cheshire; Belton House, Lincolnshire
What all of these areas have in common is Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen. Each house listed featured in either the 2005 film rendition, or the 1995 television series. Let’s take a look.
Just down the road from Nottingham is Chatsworth House – also known as ‘the Pemberley Estate’, the residence of Mr Darcy in the 2005 film. Currently, visitors can explore 25 rooms, filled with artwork and sculptures, some of which dates back 4,000 years, as well as a 105 acre garden (pictured above).
Another interpretation of Pemberley can be found at Lyme Park (home of Colin Firth’s infamous ‘lake scene’). With a slightly more dramatic 1,400 acres of park land, dive into the stunning scenery of the Cheshire countryside whilst the house itself remains closed for the time being.
Finally, we come to Belton House (a personal favourite of mine). Moving away from Mr Darcy’s abode, this gorgeous country house acted as Rosings Park, home of the formidable Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Belton House is also home to around 300 wild fallow deer who live on the 1,300 acres of land. The antlers shed by the stags each year are collected and can be found in the gift shop, or decorating the walls of the house. Additionally, there is an enormous ‘adventure play area’ for children to let off some steam in after being dragged around by their parents all afternoon.
Oxford University, Oxfordshire
Oxford University made it to this list thanks to the new season of His Dark Materials, which features shots of New College and the surrounding area as the set for the fictional Jordan College. Noted to be the most iconic university in the world (but we’ll always love you, Nottingham), Oxford was also featured in the 2007 film version of The Golden Compass, as well as X-Men: First Class (2011), and Tolkien (2019). Draco Malfoy was also turned into a ferret on the grounds of New College in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005).
It’s not always about the fancy castles and imposing buildings! Here are a couple of fantastic streets to take a walk down and see the sights of.
Baker Street, London
What list of filming locations would be complete without a quick nod to the home of the world’s most famous detective? Admittedly, Baker Street is significantly less exciting in person, but don’t let that stop you from stepping inside 221B to visit the ‘Sherlock Holmes Museum’. Despite being primarily filmed in Cardiff, the hit BBC show Sherlock still uses exterior shots from areas in London, including North Gower Street, the actual setting of 221B.
The Shambles, York
Whilst very few films have made proper use of the street known as ‘The Shambles’ in the heart of York, you might immediately recognise this twisting and tilted terrace as the inspiration for ‘Diagon Alley’. Indeed, alongside medieval weaponry and fudge shops (not in the same establishment, I must clarify), there are three individual Harry Potter shops nestled amongst the cobblestone and timber-framed houses, many of which date back to before the 14th century.
Wildlife reserves and parks
Ashdown Forest, Sussex
Slightly larger than the ‘Hundred Acre Woods’ it is known for, Ashdown Forest is a 6,500 acre most famously known for being home to Winnie the Pooh. In reality, it is home to millions of small mammals such as foxes, shrews, and squirrels, but also larger grazing animals such as Riggit Galloway Cattle, and Exmoor Ponies – said to be Britain’s oldest native breed of pony. No ‘Tiggers’ or kangaroos to be found, I’m afraid, but maybe badgers or owls, and most certainly rabbits. It was used in 2017 film Goodbye Christopher Robin (2017), and you can visit the original Poohsticks Bridge, about a 15 minute walk away from the ‘Pooh Car Park’, where A. A. Milne and his son would go.
Hankley Common, Surrey
Far removed from the Scottish Highlands this location meant to replicate, Hankley Common is the beautiful setting for James Bond’s family home Skyfall (2012), in the film of the same name. Whilst the house itself was a complete fabrication (hence why film crews were allowed to blow it to smithereens), the 1,400 acre nature reserve still makes for a gorgeous hike. However, Hankley Common is owned by the Ministry of Defence, and access to the reserve is subject to whether or not there are military training exercises taking place. Keep that in mind before you find yourself in the middle of your own accidental action film!
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