Explore movie filming locations
It's easy to watch the big blockbuster films and expect them to all be filmed in a studio in Hollywood with the help of CGI. While this is definitely the case for some movies, you might be surprised by how many big-name films visited towns, cities and villages across the UK to find the perfect location. What's more, those places are just waiting to be explored by film fans following in the footsteps of their favourite stars!
Here are five of our favourite movie filming locations to explore:
1. Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire
With its links to Dracula, haunting ruins and beautiful sea views, you'd think Whitby would be the go-to spot for filming. But the small fishing village of Robin Hood's Bay, just six miles down the coast, sees most of the action.
In the Phantom Thread (2017), the Victoria Hotel on Station Road became the spot where dressmaker Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis) meets his future muse and lover, Alma (Vicky Krieps). You can also see the bay in the backdrop of scenes on the cliffs. In Carrington (1995), starring Dame Emma Thompson and Jonathan Pryce, the clifftops became both the Sussex cliffs and the Welsh coastline. Meanwhile, Testament of Youth (2014), a coming-of-age wartime film with a star-studded cast, had the dramatic cliffs as the backdrop when Roland (Kit Harrington) returned from the front.
The beach and village have had their fair share of screen time as well. In Wild Child (2008), Poppy (Emma Roberts) and Freddie (Alex Pettyfer) sit on the rocks, explore the rockpools and wander across the sand after exploring the village. The beach is the final stop on the epic coast-to-coast trek completed by four friends in Downhill (2014), and, if we rewind the clock back a few decades, the fishing village was centre stage in the 1935 drama film, Turn Back the Tide - you can even see the WY identity codes on the boats.
There are a lot of blockbuster filming locations near Robin Hood's Bay, too. Whitby Abbey's ruins can be seen in Possession (2002), starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart, while Harry Potter fans might know that Goathland Station - just 20 mins down the road - is the setting for Hogsmede Station and can be seen in a couple of the films. In fact, Goathland is a pretty popular filming location for TV shows - you can find out more in our Explore TV filming locations blog.
Get up close...
You can get down to the fishing village and beach all year round to go exploring, although you'll need to check the tide times if you're hoping to sink your feet into the sand or go rock pooling, like Poppy and Freddie. To see all the hidden gems the village has to offer, take on the Robin Hood's Bay treasure hunt Trail, where you'll wind through the backstreets and enjoy stunning views as you hunt for the clues. If you're feeling adventurous, you could easily add a clifftop walk detour along the Cleveland Way. Or, if a brew with a view is more your cup of tea, the Victoria Hotel is open to non-residents for drinks, dining and afternoon tea - perfect for refuelling after your quest.
While you're here, it's well worth taking the short journey into Whitby (approx. 15-minute drive) to explore the town and abbey ruins, and a trip from Whitby to Pickering, via Goathland, on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is an absolute must.
2. Farnham, Surrey
Farnham's residents are pretty used to seeing global superstars wandering down the street. Not because the town itself has been a prominent filming location - it's not had much chance to get on the silver screen - but because Bourne Wood, on the edge of town, has been part of some of the biggest films of the last 20 years.
It all started in 1999 when the woods were used for the opening battle scene in Gladiator, starring Russell Crowe. Crowe came back a decade later to film Robin Hood (2010). By then, the woods had gained a reputation for being a great location and had seen at least 10 production crews. Films of various genres have been shot here, including sci-fi drama Children of Men (2006), adventure fantasy Inkheart (2008) and the horror sequel The Descent: Part 2 (2009).
Are you a fan of superheroes? Well, you're in luck! The woods were used for the forest scenes in Gal Gadot's Wonder Woman (2017), and so far, three films for the Marvel Cinematic Universe have visited here: Captain America: The First Avenger (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013) and Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). The woods were also used in two Harry Potter films, The Half-Blood Prince (2009), for some woodland scenes, and The Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010) twice. The first time is when they're camping, and Hermione puts up protective enchantments, but a snatcher smells her perfume. Later they return, and the trio are chased through the woods by the snatchers before being caught.
There's another popular filming location around here, too! Nearby Frensham Ponds has also spent some time on both the big and small screens, including The Mummy (1999) for a Nile scene and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), which utilised both locations - the woods for forest scenes and Frensham Ponds for a fishing village.
Get up close...
Bourne Wood is a great place for walking, cycling, horse riding and picnicking, and it's just a five-minute drive from Farnham town centre. Even when filming is taking place, the public car park is still open, and around 20 hectares of woodland is still accessible for exploration. Both Waverley Abbey, which has seen some film crews itself, and the Rural Life Living Museum are nearby if you want to learn more about the area. You can pay a visit to Frensham Ponds, too - the Little Pond is a 10-minute drive from the town, and the Great Pond is a 15-minute drive, and they're great places to be in the summer months.
Of course, we can't forget the town too! It may be waiting to get the screen time it deserves, but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty to discover! Take on an adventure fit for Hollywood on the Castle and Town detective mystery Trail, which takes you through the winding streets of the market town, through the park and up to Farnham Castle, which is well worth a visit if open. Or, see the other green spaces this lovely town has to offer on the Maltings and Meadows spy mission Trail.
3. Edinburgh (Dùn Èideann),Scotland
Farnham isn't the only place on this list to get its share of superhero action. In Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Edinburghwas the only filming location outside the studio! The Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) used Edinburgh's Old Town as a hideout and can be seen outside a takeaway on Cockburn Street. The duo are also attacked by Thanos' thugs in Waverley Station, near platform two. But, the most significant scene set in the city was the massive fight scene along Royal Mile and in front of St Giles' Cathedral.
Residents of the city certainly aren't strangers to action-packed filming. In September 2019, filming crews from Fast & Furious 9 spent 19 days filming in the city. They used 11 different areas of the city centre to film epic car chases and stunt scenes.
But, for the most part, the movies filmed in the city are at a much calmer pace. One Day (2011) has several early scenes set here as Emma (Anne Hathaway) and Dexter (Jim Sturgess) graduate from the University of Edinburgh. One scene sees them climb to the top of the iconic Arthur's Seat, also used in Chariots of Fire (1981). Another popular backdrop for the city is the monument on Calton Hill, which can be seen in both the wartime biographical drama, The Railway Man (2013), starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, and in Sunshine on Leith (2013), a feel-good musical featuring songs from The Proclaimers.
There are two films where the city really takes centre stage, though. In T2 Trainspotting (2017), over half the scenes were filmed on location in Edinburgh, including in the airport, Holyrood Park and the Old Town. Meanwhile, the comedy-drama The Lost King (2022), based on a true story, was filmed entirely in the city. A number of landmarks can be seen in the background as amateur historian Philippa (Sally Hawkins) conducts her search for King Richard III's final resting place.
Get up close...
How adventurous are you feeling? If you don't mind a climb, follow in Emma and Dexter's footsteps with a walk to the top of Arthur's Seat - an extinct volcano. It's well worth it for the incredible views across the city. For a panorama with a slightly smaller climb, venture up Calton Hill and investigate the monuments while you're there. Or, try climbing another extinct volcano with a trip to Edinburgh Castle, where Philippa shows her determination to find Richard III's remains.
There's plenty to see in Edinburgh's city centre itself, with heaps of filming locations to spot and twisting tales to discover. There's no better way to see the Royal Mile than with a detective mystery Trail, which takes you along the famous cobbled street and past must-see landmarks as you hunt for evidence. Don't worry - it may look like it was destroyed during Infinity War, but the Royal Mile is still intact. Fancy seeing more of what the city has to offer? There are three more Trails around Edinburgh just waiting to be explored with!
4. Wells, Somerset
You'll need to keep your eyes peeled for rogue swans and serial killers as you explore Wells - you're in Hot Fuzz territory now! The 2007 action comedy film, starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and a supporting cast of British acting royalty, spent a lot of time filming in this pretty Somerset city, with Wells becoming the fictional Sandford. The Swan Hotel is where Nicholas (Pegg) stayed when he first arrived in Sandford, and where most of the crew actually stayed. The Crown Pub is where he first meets a drunk Danny (Frost), and the Bishop's Palace is used for the eerie torchlight meetings of the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance. The Market Place, with the Bishop's Palace Gate in the background, can be seen a number of times in the film, including in the final battle scene.
But Hot Fuzz wasn't the first feature film to visit Wells, and it certainly won't be the last. In the 1972 adaptation of The Canterbury Tales, Vicars Close in Wells was used for the exterior shots when Sir January (Hugh Griffith) chooses May (Josephine Chaplin) to be his wife. This iconic street, which lays claim to being the oldest continually inhabited residential street in Europe, has been used in some TV shows, too. It's fairly easy to spot - just keep an eye out for the unusual chimneys!
The cathedral has also had its time in the spotlight, standing in for the interior of Whitehall Palace in Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) and for both interior and exterior scenes in The Hunstman: Winter's War (2016), starring Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain and Charlize Theron. It's no surprise that this stunning building - the first Gothic-style cathedral in England - is a favourite for period dramas, too. It's featured in plenty of TV shows, including Wolf Hall (2015), The Spanish Princess (2019-20) and A Discovery of Witches (2018-).
Get up close...
Vicar's Close is free and open to explore - just be respectful of the residents. Wells Cathedral is open to visitors daily for a donation, although you'll need to check ahead for any closures and restrictions due to filming, events or special services. The Bishop's Palace and Gardens is well worth a visit for anyone who wants to learn more about Wells' history...or pretend they're in a Neighbourhood Watch Alliance Meeting. Please leave your cloaks and torches at home - you don't want to scare off other visitors or the swans!
Don't want to limit yourself to just one attraction? We don't blame you! There's so much to see and discover in this cathedral city. With the Wells detective mystery Trail, you'll get to see it all - from the Market Place and Bishops Palace exterior to Vicar's Close, the cathedral and the winding shopping streets. All while finding fascinating facts and sneaky clues.
5. Lavenham, Suffolk
Wells wasn't the only place to play host to film crews from The Canterbury Tales (1972). Lavenham in Suffolk, one of the best-preserved medieval villages in England, stood in for medieval London during the film's recording and can be spotted during the Wife of Bath's Tale.
In fact, the village had a surge of filming during the 1960s and 70s. In Witchfinder General (1968), Market Square was the site of the witch-burning scene. The following year, the last film starring the late Sharon Tate, Twelve Plus One (also known as The Thirteen Chairs), used Lavenham for the location of Aunt Laura's house. Just a few years after The Canterbury Tales, Barry Lyndon (1975), Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, used Lavenham's 500-year-old Guildhall as the inn where Barry (Ryan O'Neal) is treated after taking part in a duel.
After a few quiet decades, where Lavenham only starred in a couple of films and the TV series Lovejoy (1986-94), there was slowly an increase in interest in the chocolate-box village. It gained fame for becoming Godric's Hollow in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010). During the scene when Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Hermione (Emma Watson) arrive in Godric's Hollow on Christmas Eve, you can spot the Guildhall in the background. De Vere House on Water Street was also used in these scenes, becoming the house where Harry was born. Sadly, you won't be able to literally walk in the footsteps of the duo, as they didn't actually visit Lavenham during filming - the crew just filmed shots of buildings in the village and used CGI to turn them into a backdrop.
It looks like Lavenham should be getting some more screen time soon. In late September 2021, it was reported that film crews had descended on the village to film scenes for an upcoming Netflix production, believed to be called Cold Harbour Lane. It's yet to be revealed whether this is a film or TV show, or a codename for a big existing production, or when it will be released - we'll just have to keep our eyes peeled! What we do know is that filming took place in Market Square, and a number of businesses were transformed for the set, including The Parlour ice cream shop, The Little White Box shop and Lavenham Blue vintage tea rooms. Watch this space!
Get up close...
If you want to know more about the village's past, Lavenham Guildhall is the place to be. A National Trust property since 1951, the Grade I listed building now houses a local history museum, a tearoom, a courtyard garden and a second-hand bookshop. If you're spending the night, then definitely check out De Vere House, a luxury B&B. Don't worry - it's intact. The missing roof in Harry Potter was all CGI.
Make sure you see everything worth seeing in Lavenham on a treasure hunt Trail. You'll hunt high and low as you search for the lost loot, weaving past historic buildings and landmarks, including the Guildhall, market cross and the old Grammar School. As you keep a sharp eye out, you might notice that a number of the buildings in Lavenham are a little wonky - especially The Crooked House on High Street. According to legend, Lavenham and its crooked buildings were the inspiration for the nursery rhyme 'There Was a Crooked Man'!
Be the star of your own movie
With a Treasure Trail, you can walk in the footsteps of your favourite actors and actresses AND star in your own-real life adventure! Whether you choose to play the part of a fearsome pirate or brave adventurer on a treasure hunt, a super sleuth on a detective mystery or a top-secret agent on a spy mission, you'll have heaps of fun exploring, solving clues and unearthing fascinating facts.
Plus, if you tackle a Trail adventure with strong links to films, you might even be lucky enough to unlock the Film special badge in your account. Just make sure that you submit your answer once you've revealed whodunnit, cracked the code or tracked down the loot, then check your badges to see what you've unlocked!
You can find out more about our Trail Blazer Badges and Footsteps Rewards here.
Only eight locations will earn you the Film special badge, and we've listed them below for you. If you'd rather it be a surprise, look away now!
Trails that'll unlock the Film special badge:
- Aberfeldy detective mystery - a film-based backstory and home of an annual film festival hosted by the Heartland Film Society.
- Dobcross detective mystery - one of the filming locations in Yanks (1979).
- Hadleigh treasure hunt - a film-based backstory.
- Holywood detective mystery - this one is self-explanatory!
- Lacock spy mission - a very popular filming location, including several Harry Potter films, Pride and Prejudice (1995) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008).
- Notting Hill detective mystery - known for the 1999 film of the same name, starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant.
- Richmond treasure hunt - a film-based backstory, birthplace of Amanda Sonia Berry, CEO of BAFTA, and a filming location in A Woman of Substance (1984) and Wuthering Heights (2011).
- Ulverston treasure hunt - the station the Walker family arrives at in Swallows and Amazons (1974) and the birthplace of Stan Laurel, of Laurel and Hardy fame.
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