Film and TV locations are always a big draw for groups visiting a certain region – Naomi MacKay provides a selection of some of the UK’s most popular on-screen favourites.
There’s something special about visiting a location that we’ve seen in our favourite film or movie – and the UK tourism industry is benefiting from a number of big-name productions that have been filmed on location. Remaking an old favourite is always a risky venture – and when it was revealed that a Dad’s Army film was to be made, die-hard fans of the old TV series were dubious about its success. The movie, which was released on February 5, was filmed in Yorkshire, with the fishing town of Bridlington as the main focus. Bridlington’s Old Town came into its own with shots of staples such as the Bank, Police Station, Jones’s Butchers and Hodges’ Greengrocers. Once the cameras left, the town managed to retain some of its Walmington-on-Sea identities – the Black Lion Pub, for instance, still sports its Royal Oak Inn sign, while Hair Artist retains its Beach and Souvenir Shop disguise.
While visiting Bridlington, add Sewerby Hall to the itinerary. Two miles away, this restored Grade I-listed Hall and Gardens, also used as a location in the film, offers a peek into how the house would have looked in the 1900s, complete with costumed guides, interactive demonstrations and a chance to play with Edwardian toys. Take time to explore the 50-acres of award-winning gardens with walks, wildlife and magnificent Monkey Puzzle trees. For monkeys of a different type, the venue also boasts a zoo with a micro pig, capuchin monkeys, birds and lots more. For group bookings, call 01262 673769. www.sewerbyhall.co.uk
Nearby Flamborough Head and Flamborough Beach were also the spots chosen for some exciting scenes starring Catherine Zeta-Jones. Nearby is The Living Seas (www.ywt.org.uk/discover-learn/living-seas-centre/visiting-living-seas-centre), a free centre dedicated to local coastal wildlife, and the chance to see the quarter of a million seabirds that breed here in spring each year.
The TV show was filmed in Norfolk and despite being 40 miles from the coast, Thetford will always be Walmington-on-Sea for many fans. The town is home to the Dad’s Army Museum (www.dadsarmythetford.org.uk).
Walking tours can be arranged through the museum, starting at the Charles Burrell Museum in Minstergate, highlighting filming locations around the Thetford town centre, the bronze statue of Captain Mainwaring, Jones’s van and ending at the museum. Allow two hours for the tour and museum visit. Don’t forget a visit to the 40s-style Marigold Tea Rooms. Call 01842 751975.
Star Wars – Another location feeling the force of screen tourism is Puzzlewood (www.puzzlewood.net) in the Forest of Dean, which starred in a number of scenes in the recent blockbuster Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Due to the growing popularity of the area, Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism has launched a ‘Film and TV Trail’ to help tourists explore the area’s cinematic connections. The trail – www.visitdeanwyefilm.co.uk – reveals locations for movies such as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Coppett Hill) and Clearwell Caves, a Doctor Who location.
Puzzlewood is 14-acres of ancient forest, which is said to be the inspiration behind the ancient woodlands of JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth. As well as its natural attractions, it offers a willow maze, indoor mazes, playground, toddler racing track, animals, café and gift shop. Entry is £6.50 for adults and £5.50 for children. For groups of 30 or more, it’s possible to gain access to the wood outside normal opening hours through prior booking. Refreshments can be provided. Many action-packed sequences for this eagerly awaited film were shot in Cumbria, with Thirlmere Aquaduct, Derwentwater and Ullswater seeing air battles above the lakes.
Like the Forest of Dean, some locations become so popular you start to lose count of how many films and TV episodes they’ve appeared in. Hertfordshire’s Knebworth House is a case in point.
As well as appearing in movies such as The King’s Speech, St Trinian’s 2, 28 Weeks Later, Nanny McPhee, Eyes Wide Shut and Batman The Movie, it’s also been the setting for all kinds of fiendish crimes – solved by the likes of Miss Marple, Poirot, Judge John Deed, Inspector Linley, Lovejoy, Jonathan Creek and many others. It’s even been used as a location for BBC’s EastEnders.
The house, despite its Victorian exterior, has stood since Tudor times. While the house may appeal to adults, the Dinosaur Trail and a fabulous adventure playground outside will keep children entertained. Group admission for the house and grounds is £12 for adults, £11.50 for children, and groups of 20 or more can arrange to visit the house on days when it is not usually open. Free admission is available for group travel organisers, plus refreshments for the coach driver. Call 01438 810931 or email email@example.com. www.knebworthhouse.com
Suffragettes at the races
Last year’s film Suffragette, about the women’s emancipation movement, starring Meryl Streep and Carey Mulligan, saw key scenes filmed at Royal Windsor Racecourse. It was transformed into Epsom Downs in 1913 for the filming of the famous moment when, at the Epsom Derby, Emily Davison ran under the hooves of Anmer, King George V’s horse. The racecourse is a good choice for a day out – choose a special event such as Ladies’ Day on August 27, with live music and a chance to dress to impress. Monday race nights also offer more than just horse racing, with live music during July and August, and Gentlemen’s Day, family days and live concerts across weekends, bank holidays and afternoons. A number of packages are available, which are ideal for groups, including the ‘Racegoers River’ package, which includes a trip to and from the racecourse along the Thames, Fish & Chips and Restaurant Packages. Prices start from £25 per person. www.windsor-racecourse.co.uk
Films at The Palace
Further South, The Bishop’s Palace in Wells, Somerset, saw some major Hollywood stars within its medieval walls last year when the likes of Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt appeared at the palace, which has been home to the Bishops of Bath and Wells for the past 800 years. They were there to film the blockbuster The Huntsman, due for release this month (April).
The palace also appeared in two episodes of ABC’s musical comedy Galavant, with homegrown talent Vinnie Jones reprising his role as Gareth. Wells was also a location for the wartime drama Another Mother’s Son, starring Ronan Keating, John Hannah and Jenny Seagrove. Set in the heart of the city, near Wells Cathedral, the palace also offers 14-acres of gardens to explore, which feature the well pools after which the city is named – and the mute swans that ring a bell when they want food.
Groups of 10-plus receive discounted admission (£5.95 for adults), expert-led tours, free entry for the group leader and coach driver, plus guidebook discount. For groups of 35-plus, catering will be offered in the vaulted, medieval Undercroft. Gardening groups can also book a tour of the Community Garden. At least two hours is recommended for a visit. www.bishopspalace.org.uk
Call the Midwife
Down in Kent, groups can visit locations from Sunday-evening favourite Call the Midwife. The Historic Dockyard Chatham gives visitors the chance for their very own ‘midwife’ to take them on a guided tour of the areas of the dockyards featured in the BBC drama. The Historic Dockyard Chatham has been transformed into the 1950s Poplar Dock during all five series of the show, with the likes of Miranda Hart and Jenny Agutter filming on the 80-acre site. Tours for 2016 will feature new locations and behind the scenes stories from the latest series.
The docks offer more than just themed tours – you can discover its history and its role within the Royal Navy from Tudor times right up until the 20th century. Plus there’s the chance to see three historic warships – the HMS Gannet (1878), HMS Cavalier (1944) and HM Submarine Ocelot (1962). Groups can pre-book tea and coffee on arrival, a guided tour and exclusive lunches. Free familiarisation trips/entry for coach driver is available. Group rates include £13.50 per adult and £9.50 per child. Call 01634 823815 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. www.thedockyard.co.uk
Period dramas are the stock-in-trade of many stately homes owned by The National Trust. It owns a vast array of grand homes, estates, countryside and buildings of interest throughout the UK, so it’s no surprise that the properties often become the star of TV and films. Last year’s Far from the Madding Crowd, starring Carey Mulligan, used the remote location in Buckinghamshire and stunning 18th century interiors of Claydon House for the retelling of the Thomas Hardy classic. It’s easy for groups to visit, with the gravel car park just outside the house – you even get an on-board welcome, guided tours, and tours of the private Verney family gardens. Call 01296 730349 or email email@example.com. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/claydon
Not far away is the Ashridge Estate, once a country home for the young Princess Elizabeth before she became the Virgin Queen, now often playing host to Hollywood royalty, as its acres of woodland offers otherworldly atmosphere to all manner of on-screen tales. Most recently it formed the backdrop for the Disney musical Into the Woods, based on the tales of the Brothers Grimm. It has also been home to the Whomping Willow in the Harry Potter films, and its ancient beech and oak woodland was the Enchanted Forest, home to Maleficent. Stop off at the Bridgewater Monument, which is open to be climbed on certain days, and pay a visit to the café, which does roaring trade in the biggest scones you’ve ever seen! www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ashridge-estate
Buckinghamshire’s Cliveden has been home to Dukes and Earls for more than 300 years, and once hit the headlines when John Profumo met Christine Keeler by the swimming pool there. Cliveden had a starring role in last year’s Cinderella. Take a look at the Fountain of Love at the end of the drive – it was the inspiration behind the water feature that appears in front of the Royal palace – while the all-important clock striking midnight was that in the gilded clock tower. You can see the real fountain and clock tower at Cliveden. The Italianate mansion is now a private hotel, but guided tours take place on Thursday afternoons from April to October. The gardens can be enjoyed throughout the week – and groups can book a tour to accompany their visit. Allow three to four hours for a visit, including lunch or tea. www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cliveden