7 incredible places film buffs should visit across the UK

Portobello Road during a busy market day.

When you think about where big budget movies are made, Hollywood probably comes to mind first. However, the film industry in the UK has been growing at a rapid pace. So, if you want to visit some of the locations used to shoot blockbuster films, there are plenty to choose from.

According to the British Film Institute (BFI), the value of film production activities in 2020 was £1.36 billion despite Covid restrictions affecting schedules. During the year, 81 domestic UK features were made, including 10 “big budget” films – defined as having a budget of £30 million or more.

It’s not just the production companies that are investing in films either. BFI statistics show that admissions to the cinema reached 74 million in 2021. The latest instalment to the Bond franchise, No Time To Die, was the highest-grossing film of the year.

Heading to these seven film locations can leave you feeling like you’ve stepped straight into a film.

1. Alnwick Castle, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

The Harry Potter franchise was filmed across the UK, and parts of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland served as Hogwarts. Fans of the series will recognise the buildings from the first two films, including the Outer Bailey, which was used as the area Harry and his fellow students learned to fly broomsticks.

As well as Harry Potter, Alnwick Castle has been used as a set in Transformers: The Last Knight and Downton Abbey.

2. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard, Les Misérables

The iconic opening scene of the musical Les Misérables was filmed in No.9 Dock at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. As the cast, including Hugh Jackman, belt out Look Down they’re hauling a huge ship into the dock under the watchful eye of Javert, played by Russell Crowe. The usually working dock was filled with rain and wave machines to create the right atmosphere.

If you’re a fan of the musical, the film was shot almost entirely in England, despite being set in France. Other filming locations can be found in Bath, Somerset, and Northamptonshire.

3. Hatfield House, The Favourite

The 2018 period black comedy The Favourite stars the likes of Olivia Coleman, Emma Stone, and Rachel Weisz. If you’ve not watched it yet, it is well worth it – the film was nominated for nine Oscars, with Olivia Colman winning Best Actress.

The film tells the story of the power struggle between two women for the favours of Queen Anne. Hatfield House, a Jacobean estate in Hertfordshire, is spectacularly transformed into the early-1700s. The King James Drawing Room and the library were both used as sets.

4. Bourne Wood, Gladiator

The ancient woodland of Bourne Wood in Lincolnshire might not look like a typical film location with its winding paths and picnic spots alongside the pond. But the opening battle scene from Ridley Scott’s Gladiator was shot here. During filming, the woods were filled with dense fog, fires and bodies as Roman general Maximus claims victory.

In the two decades since Gladiator, Bourne Wood has been used for a whole host of other films, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Wonder Woman, The Golden Compass, and Snow White and the Huntsman.

5. Portobello Road, Notting Hill

As the world’s largest antique market, Portobello Road is an attraction in its own right. For film fans, there are even more reasons to visit as it’s been used as a location for several films, including the 1999 romantic comedy Notting Hill. You’ll easily recognise the colourful terraced houses.

More recently, Portobello Road has been used in the film adaptions of Paddington. Many of the stall holders were asked to set up and act as extras when the sequel was being filmed.

6. Osborne House, Victoria and Abdul

Queen Victoria once said of Osborne House: “It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot.” So, it’s impossible to imagine a better location to film Victoria and Abdul, which tells the story of the real-life relationship between Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and her Indian Muslim servant Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal).

Located on the Isle of Wight, the property is now managed by English Heritage. The Indian-inspired Durbar Room, opulent yellow drawing room, and the Grand Corridor are all featured in the film, as well as its extensive gardens.

7. Castle Ward, Game of Thrones

While Game of Thrones might not be a film, the TV series had a budget and cinematography to rival blockbusters, and there are many filming locations across Northern Ireland.

National Trust property Castle Ward was used as the setting for Winterfell, where House Stark resides. The cast and crew spent eight weeks building the set ahead of filming the pilot episode. Key scenes, like the Baelor battle and Robb Stark’s camp, were also filmed here. 

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