With its picturesque, pastoral vistas, rocky shores, lavish castles and centuries of art and history, there are plenty of reasons why the United Kingdom provides the backdrop to some of the most iconic moments in film and television.
This year alone saw big Academy Award wins for movies filmed or based in the United Kingdom, including The Favourite and Bohemian Rhapsody. From historical biopics to some of the most sweeping period romances ever captured on film, all the cinematic glory of the United Kingdom is awaiting travelers in 2019. Queue up your Netflix, and prepare yourself to see some the sites from your favorite films and television shows, including our highlights below.
It’s hard to find a more quintessentially English series than Downton Abbey. The beloved drama, with its focus on the aristocratic Crawley family upstairs and their servants working downstairs, captured audience’s attention with its intense drama, intrigue and gorgeous set design for six seasons. A highly-anticipated film adaptation is due out later this year picking up where the series left off in the roaring 1920s. You can get a glimpse at the glamour in the upcoming film in these recently released posters.
Take a trip to Downton with a visit to Highclere Castle, the Jacobethan country house in Hampshire, England used as the series’ primary filming location. The stunning exterior should be immediately recognizable, but interiors like the great hall and several bedrooms will seem familiar to viewers of the show.
Highclere had quite a history before Downton. The 5,000-acre estate served as the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon and was the location where the British North America Act of 1867 was drafted, leading to the foundation of present-day Canada. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was the one to discover the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922, which accounts for the exquisite collection of Egyptian artifacts at Highclere. Most of the Earl’s acquisitions were sold to the Metropolitan Museum of New York after his death in 1923, but his family rediscovered items left behind in 1987.
These days, you can find guided tours and special concerts held at Highclere, including a special Downton Abbey Live concert hosted by Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) this June. Be sure to check the website for available dates, and pre-book your tickets for the castle.
Before Downton, many considered Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice the definitive English period romance. Keira Knightley earned an Oscar nomination for her role in the 2005 film adaptation, also starring Matthew Macfayden. Filmed in Derbyshire, Lincolnshire and Kent, it’s the stately Chatsworth House that stood in for Mr. Darcy’s home Pemberley in the film.
A longtime favorite country house and the seat of the Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth is home to an impressive collection of art, including works from Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese. Visitors can explore more than 30 exquisite rooms, but a true winter fantasy awaits those making their journey between November and January when things get festive at Christmas at Chatsworth.
Ten years earlier, the BBC produced another beloved adaption of Pride and Prejudice, this time starring Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. The six-episode series features the iconic scene of Firth emerging dripping wet from a lake, this time with Lyme Park in the background standing in for his Pemberley. The impressive estate is the largest in Cheshire and includes a 1,400 acre deer park featuring guided walks.
Perhaps you prefer your romance with a side of comedy. For a lighter-hearted take on love across the pond, fans of the film Love, Actually can walk the streets of some of their favorite scenes in London. From the opening in Heathrow Airport to Gabriel’s Wharf (where Liam Neeson had a heart-to-heart with his stepson), the city is chock full of recognizable locations. True fans will want to swing by Selfridges, the site of the film’s most memorable scene, where Rowan Atkinson took a comically long time to pack up a necklace for the late, great Alan Rickman.
A new Bond film, Bond 25, is expected in 2020, so it’s great time to get reacquainted with the world’s most famous spy. Of course, there are famous locations spotted in the most recent Bond flick, Spectre, like the London Eye, but if you want to dive deeper, peruse props at the London Film Museum or the see the Jaguar XRK from Die Another Day at the National Motor Museum. You can even grab a martini — shaken, not stirred, of course — at the bar Bond author Ian Fleming liked to frequent, Dukes Bar in Mayfair.
Travelers with children (or children at heart) can leave Muggle life behind. Stop by King’s Cross Station to see the Harry Potter series’ famed Platform 9 3/4, prominently marked with a sign and a cart disappearing across the magic barrier. Envision yourself walking the cobblestone streets of Diagon Alley at London’s Leadenhall Market, a covered Victorian market used for exterior shots of the magic shopping center. Pay a visit to Hogwarts, filmed at Alnwick Castle where they host “broomstick trainings” throughout the summers. To really get a sense of student life at Hogwarts, book a room at the B&B at Christ Church College, which includes breakfast in the Great Hall, the inspiration for Hogwarts Hall. All aboard the Hogwarts Express; you can ride a steam train over the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland. You’ll recognize the iconic railway from the film, overlooking the Glenfinnan Monument and Loch Shiel. You can see actual sets, props and costumes from the Harry Potter films at the Warner Brothers’ Studio Harry Potter tour.
Of course, some of cinemas greatest heroes are actual people. Take pioneering gay computer scientist Alan Turing. Portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game, the father of artificial intelligence was hardly recognized for his achievements due to his homosexuality until recently. You can learn more and see the Bombe that broke Enigma at the National Museum of Computing. The museum is housed at Bletchley Park, where Turing and company famously worked. The once top-secret home of code breakers during WWII is now open for visitors a short walk from the Bletchley Train Station (under an hour from London Euston).
Last year’s Academy Award-winning film, Bohemian Rhapsody, also highlighted another queer pioneer, Freddie Mercury. Queen fans make pilgrimages to Mercury’s home the Garden Lodge in Kensington. He bought the home while with the band and passed away there in 1991. Although fans can’t see beyond the large privacy walls, visitors have long left flowers and other mementos at the gate, though Mercury’s ex Mary Austin (who still resides at Garden Lodge) strongly requests they don’t.
For a more immersive experience, take a half-day for the Queen ‘We Will Rock You’ tour, presented by London Rock Tours. In addition to a stop at Garden Lodge, the tour will take you by where the band met, recorded and performed.
Of course, Queen’s most famous performance was at Live Aid. The concert, painstakingly recreated in Bohemian Rhapsody, took place at Wembley Stadium in 1985. You can tour the ‘Walk of Legends,’ changing room, players’ tunnel and more on the Wembley Stadium Tour.
When it comes to real-life inspirations and biopics, there are countless historical figures to get the royal film treatment. Another Oscar winner, The Favourite shot at locations at Hampton Court Palace, including the scene where Queen Anne (Elizabeth Coleman) shouts at a group of musicians playing in the Fountain Court. However, the majority of the movie, 85 percent of its scenes, were filmed at the Hatfield House, which opens to the public April through the end of September.
Hatfield House was also a location for the critically-acclaimed Netflix series, The Crown. The hotly-anticipated third season dropping later this year features a new cast, including Academy Award winner Olivia Coleman as Queen Elizabeth and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. The Old Palace at Hatfield House is actually where Elizabeth was raised and where she learned she would ascend to the throne. When the series portrayed Queen Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Phillip, they used Ely Cathedral as a stand-in for Westminster Abbey. The Cathedral, with a history dating back to 672 AD, was also used in The Other Boleyn Girl, Elizabeth: The Golden Age and The King’s Speech.
Royal drama isn’t contained to England. Mary Queen of Scots stars Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan as Queen Elizabeth I and the titular Scottish queen, respectively. Parts of the movie were filmed in Derbyshire (interiors were filmed at one of the most stunning Elizabethan houses, Hardwick Hall), Oxford and London. However, if you’re in Scotland, you can visit Mary’s birthplace, Linlitgow Palace, or Edinburgh Castle, where she gave birth to her only child. (You’ll have to travel to England to visit the site of her execution, the ruins of Fotheringhay Castle.) Explore more of Mary’s tragic history at the Mary Queen of Scots Visitor Centre in Jedburgh or peruse artifacts (including her death mask) at Lennoxlove House. Mary has quite a history at the Palace of the Holyroodhouse, where her private secretary David Rizzio was murdered in the supper room. He was stabbed 56 times, and it’s said that you can still see the bloodstains in the outer chamber.
Of course, not all queens wear crowns. Russell T Davies’ ground-breaking gay series Queer As Folk took place in Manchester’s Gay Village. Many parts of Canal Street will feel familiar from the series, but if you’re looking to dance like a night at “Babylon,” swing by Cruz 101, which was used for the exteriors of the show’s fictional bar. The pioneering series, which was already rebooted with an American setting in 2000, is reportedly being relaunched again on Bravo.