Northern England’s set-jetting locations England is a hot bed of creativity, especially where films are concerned. From the world’s first UNESCO City of Film in Bradford to backdrops and scenery that helped Harry Potter leap effortlessly from print to screen, the North of England has built a unique film legacy of its own that refuses to be rivalled.
Follow Bradford's movie trail
The eclectic city of Bradford has supported many major movies, from iconic classics such as The Railway Children to contemporary blockbusters like The King’s Speech. You can follow the movie trail and stand where the stars stood, including famous British actors like Colin Firth and Julie Walters. Bradford was the world’s first UNESCO City of Film because of the city’s rich film heritage and its inspirational movie locations, so it is an essential visit for any film fan. Once you have explored the district make sure you spend a few hours in Bradford at the National Media Museum and uncover the inside secrets of film and television.
One of England’s largest inhabited castles and most iconic landmarks, Bamburgh Castle dominates a wild stretch of the Northumbrian coastline, towering above grass-covered sand dunes and looking out onto the beach below. The remote setting has persuaded a number of Hollywood A-listers to film here recently, including director Steven Spielberg, who was spotted in June 2015 filming scenes on the beach for a new film version of Roald Dahl’s childhood classic The BFG. The film is due to come out in 2016, the same year that England celebrates the 100th anniversary of the writer’s birth. Don’t miss out on the views from inside the castle wall, looking out across the beach and over to the Farne Islands, home to puffins and seals.
Bempton’s towering chalk cliffs skyrocket to over 100 metres along a dizzying stretch of coastline. They’re famously Yorkshire’s best place to sight sea birds, with over 250,000 birds including gannets, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmarks. Recently, the cliffs were a filming location for the feature film remake of the iconic Dad’s Army television series, due for release in 2016. Soak up the views with five cliff-top viewing points to peer out from with your binoculars, or enjoy a picnic with a beautiful wildflower meadow and a shining stretch of blue sea as your backdrop.
Go on a Swallows and Amazons-style adventure in the Lake District
Arthur Ransome’s classic novel about four children who camp on an island in the middle of the lake is pure adventure. It should come as no surprise then that director Philippa Lowthorpe chose the unreservedly scenic Lake District (as well as parts of Yorkshire) as filming locations for a movie version of the book, scheduled for release in cinemas in 2016. Set out on your own Swallows and Amazons-style adventure with a Mountain Goat combined bus tour and take a cruise of the area’s most famous lakes – just ask for the Ten Lake Spectacular. Visit poet William Wordsworth’s house, eat gingerbread made to a secret recipe and soak up uninterrupted views of the Lakeland fells as you revel in a day of jaw-dropping sights and unadulterated natural beauty.
Follow Jane Austen and Keira Knightley to Chatsworth
With its palatial surrounds and starring role in Pride & Prejudice, Chatsworth House is one of the Peak District’s most celebrated destinations. Since 1549 this has been home to the Cavendish family, and its ornate rooms and diverse gardens burst forth with rich history, and private art haul the Devonshire Collection is one of the finest in Europe. Writer Jane Austen was so taken with it all that Chatsworth is believed to have inspired Mr Darcy’s residence Pemberley in her celebrated novel Pride & Prejudice, and the estate took a starring role alongside Keira Knightley in the 2005 film adaptation of the book.
Instantly recognisable as the setting for the iconic British television series Last of the Summer Wine, the pretty village of Holmfirth is brimming with independent shops, galleries and cafes. Fans of the show mustn’t miss out on a tour of the famous filming locations. During July, Holmfirth becomes a hive of creativity as a range of fantastic events are held in a quirky locations all over town for Holmfirth Art Week, the UK’s largest open art exhibition, and its buzzing fringe exhibition. Venues include quaint village halls, quintessentially English teashops, castles and the atmospheric Picturedrome, a fantastic, intimate music venue perched on the hills overlooking the town.
See where Harry Potter was filmed at Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site
Whether you arrive into Durham by road or rail, your first sight of its Cathedral and Castle standing proud above the medieval city will awe and impress. A scenic stroll from the station takes you to these magnificent buildings, among the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites to be designated. At the Cathedral, one of Europe's finest Norman buildings, pop into the Chapter House if you’re a fan of Harry Potter – it starred onscreen as a Hogwarts classroom. Stroll through the cloisters, where further scenes were filmed, and climb the Tower's 325 steps for spectacular views of the city and countryside.
Visit Harry Potter and Downton Abbey sets in Alnwick, Northumberland
Harry Potter’s very first Quidditch lesson was filmed in the grounds of Alnwick Castle. And it’s not hard to imagine that the impressive building houses the same magic and mystery as Hogwarts – especially as you can now have a broomstick training session here too! If you’re a fan of stylish TV series Downton Abbey, you may remember Alnwick as ‘Brancaster Castle’, where the Crawley family stayed during season five’s Christmas special. Head downstairs to the renovated servants’ quarters and drift through the lavish State Rooms, daydreaming that you’re Lord or Lady Grantham. Explore the Downton Abbey exhibition, which features photography, costumes and props used during filming, then move your tour outside to the gardens, designed by famous English landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
Set-jetting in the geographic centre of England, Lancashire
Head to the geographic centre of England, the Forest of Bowland. It’s been designated an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, so expect to be impressed. The picture perfect English village of Downham was regularly used as a filming location for the popular BBC drama Born & Bred. The programme’s Signalman’s Arms is in fact the Grade II-listed Assheton Arms, a traditional 18th century inn with a stylish restaurant and luxury rooms.
What’s new? 2016 sees the 150th anniversary of the children’s book writer Beatrix Potter celebrated across the Lake District. 2006’s film Mrs Potter starring Renée Zellweger and Ewan McGregor brought a surge of interest to the filming locations of Loughrigg Terrace and Loughrigg Tarn, Grasmere and Yew Tree Farm, Coniston, and 2016’s anniversary is expected to do the same. Fans of famous tales like The Story of Peter Rabbit will relish the chance to dive into a whole array of events planned by the National Trust, Cumbria Tourism and the World of Beatrix Potter attraction. These will include a children’s literary festival at Wray Castle, a brand new guide to tell the story of her life, story telling events and, of course, a special birthday party on 28 July.
2016 is also the year that England celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Alf Wight, better known as the author James Herriot, the country vet from Thirsk in Yorkshire whose adventures inspired the beloved TV adaptation All Creatures Great and Small that’s due to be remade by HBO. A Visit to World of James Herriot (www.worldofjamesherriot.com) allows visitors to immerse themselves in his life and times. From the original home of the veterinary practice at 23 Kirkgate, lovingly restored to its 1940s glory, the Alf Wight statue, wartime bunker, farriers workshop, memorabilia and instruments on display offer much to do and see at this wonderful attraction.