The best film and TV locations to visit in the UK

Ever wanted to storm Winterfell or sip tea in Downton? Follow in the footsteps of the stars with our guide to Britain's best-known filming locations.

Old stones on a hill
Published: December 25th, 2021 at 7:10 am
Get a Regatta Highton 35L Trail Rucksack when you subscribe to BBC Countryfile Magazine

The British countryside plays an important role in the film industry, whatever the genre – action, drama, comedy, fantasy or thriller.

Location scouts have no difficulty sussing out places of enchanting beauty or dark romance on our diverse islands, from the rugged coasts and mountains of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to England’s leafy country estates. Drawing inspiration from TV and film settings, we can explore the interiors of nearby stately homes on rainy days, and their gardens and parks on bright frosty mornings. For the mountain, coast and moorland locations further away, we can start planning for longer spring or summer trips.

Viaduct and train track in autumn countryside
Glenfinnan Viaduct features in Harry Potter – remember when Harry and Ron had their traumatic flying Ford Anglia adventure?/Credit: Getty

UK landscape in film and and TV

The dramatic Highland landscapes that inspired the romance of Braveheart and Rob Roy, as well as the dreamy settings of 1983’s Local Hero, linger in the memory. From the old-world fishing village of Pennan to the white sands of Morar and Arisaig filmed in this gentle drama-comedy, the Scottish coasts cast a spell.

Advertisement

Love and passion in Game of Thrones is much darker – often ending in death – but the series makes use of Northern Ireland’s most mesmerising locations. Castle Ward and the medieval ruins of Inch Abbey in County Down, the wild Atlantic at Ballintoy Harbour, Cushendun Caves and the Dark Hedges of County Antrim are just a few of them.

Castle on a hill by the coast
Duart Castle was used to depict the Castle of Sorne in the romance drama I Know Where I'm Going!/Credit: Robert Harding, Alamy

In Wales, The Edge of Love centres around the poet and playwright Dylan Thomas. It showcases alluring Welsh landscapes, from Cardigan Bay and the cliff-top harbour town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire to Snowdonia National Park.

In England, pathos and passion play out against a backdrop of ravishing locations. Gothic love stories feature England’s wildest, most romantic landscapes. The adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn filmed in an old smuggling inn amid the bleak beauty of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall; Rebecca was shot on the high cliffs of North Devon. The 1992 film of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights utilises the Gothic drama of Malham Cove and Aysgarth Falls in Yorkshire; Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, the stately homes and moors of the Peak District.

The Jane Austen adaptations show off a plethora of stately homes up and down the country. The sumptuous costumes, dreamy locations and glamorous lifestyles of the landed gentry are compulsive viewing for many. Who could forget a smouldering Mr Darcy, aka Colin Firth, preparing to take a swim at Lyme Hall in Pride and Prejudice?


Best film and TV locations to visit in the UK

Crummock Water, Cumbria | Supernova

Mountain and lake
“Crummock Water represents a place that reminds Sam and Tusker of the beauty and longevity of their love for one another,” said writer and director Harry Macqueen/Credit: Phil Buckle, Getty

Supernova is a road movie set within this sweep of land so adored by Wordsworth. The romantic drama details the impact of dementia on a relationship, sensitively portraying a sublime aspect of love when compared to the excitement often seen in stories of fledgling romance.

You can visit many of the filming locations on a bike ride from Keswick, over Whinlatter Pass, down through Buttermere Valley and on through Borrowdale back to Keswick, each with its own share of both tranquil beauty and awe-inspiring nature.


New Quay, Ceredigion | The Edge of Love

Seaside harbour
The harbour at New Quay, Ceredigion, Wales/Credit: Simon Whaley

Partly set in New Quay, The Edge of Love (2008) tells of a fictional love triangle between Dylan Thomas, his wife Caitlin and Dylan’s first love, Vera Killick.

Starring Matthew Rhys, Keira Knightley and Sienna Miller, the story is set around a real shooting incident on 6 March 1945, when Vera’s husband William fired shots into Dylan’s bungalow, believing Dylan and Vera were having an affair.

New Quay’s Dylan Thomas Trail links the poet’s favourite places and includes several film locations. The walk is also a great way to see Mother Nature’s supporting cast.


Carnforth Station, Lancashire | Brief Encounter

Old railway station
Step on to platform one at Carnforth Station and be instantly transported to the romance of the steam era/Credit: Ian Taylor, Geograph

There aren’t many films that qualify as classics, that retain an enduring appeal long after they are made, but nearly 80 years on, Brief Encounter continues to top polls as one of the greatest British films ever made.

Adapted from Noel Coward’s stage play, the film was famously directed by David Lean and many of the scenes were shot in 1945 at Carnforth Railway Station in Lancashire, necessary to avoid the blackout restrictions and wartime disruption that affected filming in London.

It is a tale of the romance and unconsummated love between the married characters of Laura and Alec, played by Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. The station and its refreshment room feature as the backdrop to their first chance encounter and to their final, reluctant, tear-jerking parting.


Shibden Hall, Yorkshire | Gentleman Jack

Country House in England
Diarist Anne Lister inherited Shibden Hall from her aunt in 1836 /Credit: Steven Gillis, Alamy

"Shabby little Shibden”. That is how Anne Lister (1791–1840) describes her family home in Gentleman Jack, the BBC period drama that portrays the real-life romance between Anne Lister and her neighbour Ann Walker.

Shabby isn’t how you would describe the 600-year-old manor house today. Owned by the Lister family for over 300 years, Shibden Hall is where Anne Lister once lived and wrote her famous encrypted diaries. They remained here, hidden within the walls until John Lister, the last inhabitant of Shibden Hall, found them. The diaries weren’t decrypted until long after Anne Lister’s death and proved to be of great historical importance. They offer an understanding of her life in West Yorkshire and a deep insight into her romantic relationships with the “fairer sex”.


Duart Castle, Mull | I Know Where I'm Going!

Castle on the coast beside water
Duart Castle, Mull/Credit: Unlisted Images, Inc.,Alamy

True love blossoms at Duart Castle on Mull for the protagonists in I Know Where I’m Going!. Young, attractive and fiercely independent social climber Joan Webster meets her unexpected catch on the isle – a heart-throb naval officer, Torquil MacNeil.

One of the greatest silver-screen love stories, I Know Where I’m Going!’s evocative cinematography captures the magic of this Scottish isle, even 75 years on. Blending comedy, romance and dark undertones, the drama begins as Joan (Wendy Hiller) embarks for the fictitious Island of Kiloran to marry an elderly and wealthy industrialist. But a storm maroons her on Mull, where she meets – and soon falls in love with – Torquil (Roger Livesey). In the end, an ancient Celtic curse binds the two together.


Highclere Castle, Hampshire | Downton Abbey

Downton Abbey
Filming for the new Downton Abbey film, in cinemas September 13th, has just ended at the castle/Credit: Getty

The Crawley family cordially invite you to peruse the grounds of their home, known to us layfolk as Highclere Castle. The castle is owned by the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, where tours of the familiar state rooms can be booked directly through the Highclere website. Downton Abbey’s writer Julian Fellowes had the magnificent Highclere in mind when he wrote the script. According to the Highclere website, ‘he wanted a house which spectacularly testified to the confidence and soaring optimism of the Edwardian period’. During filming, the cast sometimes sleep and dine in The Carnarvon Arms, a grade-II listed former coach house. Keep lookout for thirsty cast members in the bar!

Castle Combe, Wiltshire, England

Strangford Castle Ward Estate, County Down | Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones, Winterfell
Strangford Castle Ward Estate, also known as Winterfell in HBO's Game of Thrones/Credit: Getty

Beware the White Walkers as you enter the medieval walls of Strangford Castle Ward Estate! It’s better known by Thronies as Winterfell, the Stark family stronghold from HBO’s Game of Thrones. If you think you know more than Jon Snow, have a go at shooting arrows at wildlings (targets) in Castle Ward’s historic farmyard, the exact spot from Bran Stark’s archery scene in the very first episode. Wander round Whispering Woods nearby and take a cycle tour of the world of Westeros.

For more intrepid inspiration, and visitor information, follow the links for National Trust's Castle Ward and Clearsky Adventure, who organise Game of Thrones pursuits onsite.


Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire |  Wolf Hall

Lacock Abbey Interior
The interior of Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire, a National Trust Property/Credit: Getty

The BBC’s darkly gripping Wolf Hall is set in Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire, the Seymour family seat in the TV series. Pace through the cloister court plotting your rise to power, and be sure visit the Great Hall where scenes from Henry VIII’s dim bedroom and Cromwell’s nightmareish banquet were shot. Check out the National Trust website for detailed prices and opening times.

Montacute House, Somerset | Wolf Hall

Montacute house
Montacute house gardens/Credit: Getty

Montacute House and gardens in Somerset is reimagined as Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s principal London seat and site of Anne Boleyn’s arrest. It’s a grand masterpiece of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture with gorgeous honey-coloured ham stone walls and enormous glass windows, surrounded by a 300-acre parkland and estate. Relive the violent jousting scene in the extensive grounds where the King dishonorably falls off his steed and gasps back to life. Go to the National Trust website for prices and opening times.


West Bay, Dorset | Broadchurch

West Bay, Dorset
West Bay features in Broadchurch/Credit: Getty

The hunk of glowing sandstone cliff on Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is the backdrop for Danny Latimer's murder in the ITV series Broadchurch. Specifically East Beach and East Cliff are where you’ll locate the scene of the crime. Broadchurch café is actually Ellipse Caffé Bistro - take shelter from the sea wind and watch the sunset over an expansive Lyme Bay. A stroll around Bridport Harbour afterwards will quickly uncover many other locations hijacked for filming!


Charlestown, Porthmeor, Gunwalloe, Cornwall | Poldark

Poldark filming site
The Levant and Botallack mines in Cornwall are visited by visitors from all over the world to view thanks to Poldark/Credit: Getty

Those of us who were eagerly awaiting Poldark’s return this year should also look forward to seeing some of Cornwall’s most beautiful spots. Winston Graham’s chronicle of Ross, Demelza and Warleggan is filmed around the moors, coves and harbours of Britain’s southernmost seaside fringe.

Mine ruins around Levant and Botallack have been glimpsed in previews, including West Wheal Owles engine house and Crowns Mine – built unthinkably close to the water or on rocky precipices (great for panoramic shots!) Botallack was given World Heritage Site status in 2006 by UNESCO, which testifies to its extraordinary features. Charlestown quay also features in the series, as do the picturesque beaches of Porthmeor and Gunwalloe.

The beaches are free of charge and the mine ruins can also be seen without charge – find the National Trust’s Botallack mining walk here.


Castle Combe, Wiltshire | Warhorse

*Plus Stardust, Dr Dolittle, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, Dick Turpin and Robin of Sherwood.

Castle Combe, Wiltshire, England
Castle Combe has been used in many films and TV shows/ Credit: Getty

A sleepy little village of golden Cotswolds cottages called Castle Combe has seen a whole host of film crews. Stephen Spielburg’s World War I drama Warhorse was set here, as well as the fantasy film Stardust and the 1960s musical Doctor Doolittle starring Rex Harrison, whose onscreen home can still be visited. The charming village is only ten miles from Bath. With its ancient monuments, thick stone walling and split natural stone tiles, it feels as much a step back in time as it does a quaint village film set.

Lyme Park, Cheshire | Pride and Prejudice 

Lyme Park, Cheshire, home of Pride and Prejudice
Lyme Park, Cheshire, home of Pride and Prejudice/Credit: Getty

If ever the image of a handsome and sopping Mr Darcy has been imprinted in your mind and refused to budge, take a visit to Lyme Park, better known as Pemberley in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. The breathtaking oblique view of Lyme Hall reflected in its lake is an iconic freeze frame of British television. Nestled on the edge of the Peak District, Lyme Park is also home to the BBC's rural drama The Village.

Lyme Park offers Edwardian costume dressing up box, an Edwardian games field, a deer park and 17 acres of carefully tended gardens. There's also a grand piano inside the hall, so make sure to brush up on your P&P theme tune!


Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highland | Harry Potter

Steam train on the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Highland
The Glenfinnan railway Viaduct is one of the most famous locations from J.K. Rowling's series/Credit: Getty

A few miles west of Ben Nevis are the stunning 21 arches of Glenfinnan Viaduct, where Harry and Ron had their traumatic flying Ford Anglia adventure. The muggle equivalent of the Hogwarts Express is the Jacobite steam train which travels an 84 mile round trip of deep lochs and high mountains.

Try VisitScotland, Rough Guides or Forestry Comission Scotland for information on activities, where to stay and more.


Lavenham, Suffolk | Lovejoy

Lavenham, Suffolk, from the BBC's classic series Lovejoy (Photo by: Getty Images)
Lavenham, Suffolk, from the BBC's classic series Lovejoy/Credit: Getty

The real stars of the 1990s BBC TV series, Lovejoy, were the picturesque medieval villages in Essex and Suffolk. The thatched cottages and timber-framed buildings are bursting with charm and treasure-filled antiques shops. You may not have Lovejoy’s expert eye or his trademark Morris Minor, but an unhurried trundle around his haunts is a great way to unwind – you may even pick up a bargain! Discover more about Lavenham on the National Trust website.

Holmfirth, West Yorkshire | Last of the Summer Wine

Sid's Cafe from Last of the Summer Wine
Sid's Cafe from Last of the Summer Wine/Credit: Getty

An ensemble of loveable incorrigibles spent their declining years idling and dreaming in the villages and beautiful countryside of West Yorkshire’s Holme Valley. Compo, Clegg, Foggy and many others helped weave a legendary series that is Britain’s longest-running comedy show. Generations grew up with a strange familiarity for this corner of the South Pennines; this walk drinks deeply of this Last of the Summer Wine country.


Turville, Buckinghamshire | Midsomer Murders 

Midsomer murders Church
This church in Turville, Buckinghamshire, also appears in The Vicar of Dibley comedy/Credit: Getty

Discover unspoilt villages seen in the hit TV series Midsomer Murders, on this intriguing trail through the fictional county of Midsomer. Midsomer Murders first hit our screens in 1997 and has since become a worldwide hit. Based on characters created by Caroline Graham, the detective series sees John Nettles as DCI Tom Barnaby, and Jason Hughes as DS Ben Jones, investigating deadly deeds perpetrated by residents of the seemingly tranquil villages of Midsomer.


Knole House, Kent | The Other Boleyn Girl 

Knole House, Filming site of The Other Boleyn Girl (Photo by: Ian Capper via Geograph)
Knole House, Filming site of The Other Boleyn Girl/Credit: Ian Capper, Geograph

Henry VIII was so enamoured with Kent’s stately Knole House he pinched it from the then-Archbishop of Canterbury in 1538 to use as a hunting lodge. The makers of The Other Boleyn Girl, the 2008 Hollywood adaptation of Henry’s turbulent love life, were similarly impressed, using the house’s courtyards as a stand-in for Whitehall Palace, and its turrets as London’s Tudor skyscape. Much of the house today is 17th century in style, but it’s easy to imagine a macho Henry, played by Eric Bana, riding around the surrounding 1,000-acre estate, little-changed since the monarch’s days. Nearby also lies another Tudor treasure – Ightham Mote. Both houses close out of season, but the grounds are open all year. Visit the National Trust website for more details.

Hathersage Moor, Derbyshire | Jane Eyre 

Jane Eyre Hathersage Moor
Millstones on Hathersage Moor in the Peak District, Derbyshire/Credit: Getty

Charlotte Brontë is believed to have used the Peak District as the setting for her classic novel after a visit to Hathersage in 1845. The BBC’s acclaimed 2006 dramatisation featured Ruth Wilson as the eponymous Jane Eyre, the orphan girl who, against all the odds, forges a relationship with tormented hero Edward Rochester. Filming took place at Bolsover Castle and Haddon Hall, while many of the stunning outdoor scenes were shot on Stanage Edge, the four-mile long gritstone escarpment above Hathersage, better known for its climbing.

Trace Jane Eyre's steps across the moody moorland beneath the expansive skies of the Peak District with our walking guide, or find our more about filming sites via the English Heritage website.


Portmeirion, Gwynedd | The Prisoner

Portmeirion. filming site of The Prisoner
Portmeirion's iconic pastel structures have also been the site of filming for Dr Who/Credit: Getty

The Italianate village of Portmeirion was created by the architect Clough Williams-Ellis after he bought a neglected mansion surrounded by a wilderness in 1925. He changed its name from Aber Iâ (Ice Estuary) to Portmeirion. The village contains artistic buildings rescued from demolition elsewhere and took 51 years to complete. Located on a peninsula, it proved the perfect prison from where Patrick McGoohan, inmate Number Six of The Prisoner TV series, repeatedly tried to escape. For details about the series’ film locations, head to Visit Portmeirion.


Bodmin Moor, Cornwall | Jamaica Inn

The world famous Jamaica Inn
The world famous Jamaica Inn/Credit: Getty

The quietly threatening Jamaica Inn, located on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall, is a gloomy guesthouse that inspired its own fiction. Novelist Daphne du Maurier once stayed there for three days after getting lost on the moor, thus her tale of shipwreck and illicit temptation was born. Built as a coach house in 1750, this renowned building became a smugglers den between the 17th and 19th century. These days, it’s an inn with a Smuggler’s Museum full of villainous tales and folklore.

The 2014 TV adaptation of Jamaica Inn was filmed in Holywell Bay, Bodmin Moor and Kirkby Lonsdale in order to provide a wealth of historic-looking scenery.

Advertisement

Authors

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content