The UK has set the scene for some of the world’s most iconic films and TV shows past and present. But instead of exploring the world via the silver screen, why not visit some of the famous film locations in real life?
Our round-up of the UK’s best film locations puts the spotlight on the places that don’t just bring stories to life, but are destinations worth visiting in their own right. From the high-society estates that housed our favourite period dramas to the atmospheric Scottish Highlands and the Oxford college that lets you walk – quite literally – in the footsteps of Harry Potter. Whether you’re a film buff planning an itinerary or merely looking for a good day out, these top UK movie locations are guaranteed to entertain. Lights, camera, action.
1. Ballymoney, Northern Ireland
Game of Thrones
This otherworldly tree tunnel would be well worth a visit even if Arya Stark hadn’t travelled along here with Hot Pie, Gendry and Yoren on her escape from King’s Landing in season two of Game of Thrones. On an off-the-beaten-track country road, the gnarled beech trees – known as the ‘Dark Hedges’ by locals – date back more than two centuries. Head here early in the day, when visitors are few and morning mists up the drama. Plus, it’s just a 20-minute drive from here to the fabled Giant’s Causeway.
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2. Bath, Somerset
Bath is one of the UK’s most beautifully preserved, Regency-era cities and, for that reason, prime location for throwback dramas – silver screen adaptations of Persuasion, Vanity Fair and Sherlock have been shot here. But if you got caught up in the gossip of Lady Whistledown’s society papers, it’s no doubt Bridgerton that springs to mind when you see its Georgian terraces. The sweeping Royal Crescent, designed by architect John Wood in the mid-1700s, stands in for London’s Grosvenor Square while the Bath Assembly Rooms are where Daphne and Simon locked eyes and… hearts.
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3. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scotland
Perhaps the most iconic of Harry Potter film locations, the Glenfinnan Viaduct carries its railway line over 21 majestic arches. We don’t recommend crossing in a flying car (like Harry and Ron did in the Chamber of Secrets), but we do recommend living out your Hogwarts Express fantasies aboard The Jacobite instead. The steam train runs a scenic service between Fort William, near Ben Nevis, and Mallaig in summer. Be warned: the compartments you see on Harry Potter sell out months in advance, so book ahead. The views of Loch Shiel are pure magic.
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4. Christ Church College, Oxford
But what about inside Hogwarts? The School of Witchcraft and Wizardry wasn’t shot in one place but several across England, including Lacock Abbey in Wiltshire and Gloucester Cathedral, which stood in for the school’s hallways. But it’s Christ Church College that really has the wow factor. Tucked in among Oxford’s dreaming spires, its Great Hall was the inspiration for Hogwarts’ dining hall, while the Bodley staircase and its cloisters pop up in the Philosopher’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets. Muggles are welcome to visit, though you will have to pay an entry fee. A 10-minute walk away: the beautiful Gothic ceiling of Bodleian Library’s Divinity School – yet another Harry Potter movie backdrop. Spellbinding.
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5. Leadenhall Market, London
Harry Potter fan in London? The Warner Bros Studio in Watford is just a 20-minute train ride from London Euston, with a shuttle bus available thereafter. But you don’t have to travel far to be bewitched by some of the UK’s most famous film locations. In central London, wander across the Millennium Bridge destroyed by Death Eaters in the Half-Blood Prince, visit Platform 9 and ¾ at King’s Cross Station or admire the Victorian architecture of Leadenhall Market, the real-life Diagon Alley. Potter fans will immediately recognise the entrance to the Leaky Cauldron at 42 Bull’s Head Passage.
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6. Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
Thought The Crown was shot at Buckingham Palace? Think again. That being said, the hit series’ film locations do join the dots between the UK’s most prestigious addresses, from the 16th-century Chatsworth House in Derbyshire (also filming place for Pride and Prejudice) to the Rothschild family’s Waddeson Manor in Buckinghamshire and Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College, where Henry VIII was born.
An hour’s drive from London, the Jacobean Hatfield House was where Elizabeth I spent her (real-life) childhood and, on screen, was used as the home of Queen Mary, Elizabeth II’s widowed grandmother. It’s close to many studios so you may recognise it from other flicks: Wonder Woman, The King’s Speech and The Favourite, for which Olivia Colman scooped the Oscar for Best Actress. Best of all, you don’t need to be a blue blood to visit today.
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7. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Mary Queen of Scots
If you enjoy a regal romp across the UK, wind the clock back further in time to the era of Mary Queen of Scots. Her namesake biopic starring Saorise Ronan and Margot Robbie (who plays her sister, Elizabeth I) was shot across the UK, including in the Chiltern Open Air Museum and the pretty seaside town of North Berwick. But it’s the scenes set against the undulating Cairngorms that really capture imaginations – along with all those spectacular costumes, of course. Poldullie Bridge near Strathdon is where Mary ambushes rebel forces.
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8. Notting Hill, London
Is there a film location quite as iconic as William Thacker’s royal-blue door in Notting Hill? Find it at 280 Westbourne Park Road before exploring the candy-coloured neighbourhood that made us sweet for Richard Curtis’ blockbuster. Visit Portobello Road Market (where the opening scenes were shot) and keep an eye out for number 142, the location of the fictional Travel Book Company shop – it’s The Notting Hill Bookshop today.
Time to spare? Tack on a visit to elegant Kenwood House in Hampstead Heath. The stately home and gardens is where William meets Anna on the movie set. It makes for a rather refined afternoon out. Make sure to stop at the café after admiring its impressive art collection.
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9. Gabriel’s Wharf, London
London’s most recognisable landmarks set the scene for this classic rom-com. We recommend buying something delicious to go from Borough Market (stopping to look up at Bridget Jones’ flat above The Globe Pub on Bedale Street) and walking along the River Thames to Gabriel’s Wharf to sit and eat on the bench where Sam told step-dad Daniel about the “total agony of being in love”. From there, catch the underground (Jubilee line from Southwark to Bond Street) for a spree in Selfridges, where Harry (Alan Rickman) tries buying an illicit necklace from a dallying Rowan Atkinson.
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10. Highclere Castle, Hampshire
Enjoy a slice of high society in the Grade-I listed Highclere Castle, better known as Downton Abbey. With manicured grounds by Capability Brown, Highclere’s past is as storied as its present. It was here, in the 1920s, that the fifth Earl of Carnarvon housed Egyptian artefacts collected in the company of Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings. And in the First World War it became a hospital for wounded soldiers. Today, visitors can take guided tours or stay the night in one of its lodges. If walls could talk…
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How many film locations have you visited? If you’re thinking about set-jetting or simply planning a visit to the UK, take a look at our tours that bring together the best of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.