A location tour of your favorite British TV shows and films
(Updated October 2020)
Do you have a favorite British TV show or movie? Are you passionate about Poldark or prefer the delights of Downton Abbey? Whatever your preference, I want to take you on a tour of the best TV shows and film locations in the UK.
Film locations in the UK
I’m always amazed by how many questions I receive from readers about the period TV drama Poldark. It’s a series set in the 18th century, based on the novels from author Winston Graham. The story revolves around Ross Poldark, a British army officer who has returned to his home in Cornwall.
It’s a show bursting with romance, drama and chivalry, and is a bit hit worldwide. However, as popular as the show — and its main front runner — is, the locations are also worthy of a mention.
Where is Poldark filmed?
Cornwall in the south-west of England takes center stage for most of the filming locations in Poldark. It follows the setting of the books, featuring the rugged cliffs, sandy beaches and hidden coves of the area.
The following places are some of the locations where they filmed Poldark. See which of these you recognize from the show.
Cornwall is known for its magnificent sandy beaches and wide-open bays. Near the town of Newquay is Porthcothan beach, a location that features frequently in Poldark. It was used as Nampara Cove, the land of the Poldark estate.
Here, you’ll find soft white sand, high cliffs and simply one of the prettiest coves in Cornwall.
Film locations in the UK — Bodmin Moor
A perfect setting for Poldark: Porthcothan Beach in Cornwall
Botallack and Levant — filming locations in the UK
Botallack and Levant are not just filming locations in Poldark; they’re also 2 important sites of interest in Cornwall. Both portray the area’s rich mining heritage — something which features often in the Poldark story.
Botallack is the setting of Poldark’s Wheal Leisure mines, while Levant Mine acts as the fictional Tressiders Rolling Mill.
At Botallack, the old engine houses sit on the cliff tops overlooking the dramatic Tin Coast. It’s also the scene of several clifftop encounters in Poldark.
Botallack and Levant are part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site and are both managed by The National Trust.
What else is there to do at Botallack and Levant?
Other activities you can do at Botallack include exploring the mines and visiting Botallack Count House Workshop. It was once a stable, workshop and classroom for Penzance School of Mines. Today, it’s a place where you can find out about Cornish mining over a slice of cake and tea.
From Levant, choose from one of several coastal walks. You’ll get to explore the glorious stretch of land — and splendid scenery — along the Tin Coast.
St Agnes Head
The last UK filming location I want to share on the Poldark tour is St Agnes Head. A location with engine houses on the cliff’s edge, it features as Nampara Valley in the show. St Agnes Head is also the place where many horse-riding scenes have been filmed.
Best boutique hotels to stay in Cornwall
Talland Bay Hotel, Talland
Talland Bay Hotel is one of those hotels you instantly fall for. There are 2, award-winning restaurants on site, and sea views to admire from your room.
Boskerris Hotel, St Ives
Check into the fabulous Boskerris Hotel in St Ives, Cornwall, with modern styled rooms and fantastic views. It’s 70m from Carbis Bay and a great setting for your Poldark tour trip.
The Botallack mine in Poldark – film locations to visit in the UK
“However, as popular as the show — and its main front runner — is, the locations are also worthy of a mention.”
Where to find the best British TV shows and film locations
2. Downton Abbey
No-one does period drama better than the British, as shown by the hugely successful TV series Downton Abbey. In case you’re unfamiliar with the show, the story revolves around the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family.
It’s set between 1912 and 1926, following the lives of the family upstairs, and their servants downstairs, on their Yorkshire estate.
Film locations in the UK — where is the castle in Downton Abbey?
The real-life stately home featured in Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle near the town of Newbury. It’s easy to reach from London and is also an ideal day trip to see the famous castle.
Once here, you can take a tour of the lavish state rooms, the gardens and woodlands. Explore the gorgeous Secret Garden with its curving green borders, and wander the Wood of Goodwill, with its 38 native British trees.
How can I reach Highclere Castle?
The most straightforward way to visit Highclere Castle is by car. They advise not to use your GPS when near the castle, as it will take you to the wrong entrance. Instead, enter this postcode, RG20 9LE, and follow the brown tourist signs to the main entrance.
Another way to reach Highclere Castle from London is by train. There are hourly trains from London Paddington station to Newbury. From here, it’s about a 14-minute taxi ride to reach the castle.
The last way to get to Highclere Castle is by joining a tour. From London, there are several options that also include transportation to and from the venue.
The grand Highclere Castle from Downton Abbey
Where is the village in Downton Abbey?
The real-life location of the village featured in Downton Abbey is called Bampton. It’s sits in a green, leafy region of England called The Cotswolds, and is the classic chocolate-box English village.
- Bampton is the location for many scenes, including:
- Branson teaching Lady Edith to drive, and
- Lord Grantham, Lady Mary and Tom walking across Shill Brook.
St Mary’s Church in Bampton dates back to the 12th century, and features as the entrance to the cottage hospital. It’s one of the oldest towns in England, and lies in the county of Oxfordshire.
Where to stay in Newbury, UK?
Treat yourself to a 5-star spa hotel experience at The Vineyard. With beautifully styled bedrooms, it’s an ideal location to reach Highclere Castle (12.9km), and Newbury Racecourse (8km).
The attraction of Bampton: St Mary’s Church a.k.a. the entrance to the cottage hospital in Downton Abbey
3. Doctor Who
The British BBC TV show, Doctor Who, has gained a legion of devoted fans since it began in 1963. It follows the adventures of a time lord, who travels the universe in a time-traveling spaceship called the TARDIS. He typically has a trusty sidekick who helps him in his battle against the Daleks and cybermen.
Filming locations of Doctor Who have usually been in the UK. However, season 12 was filmed in South Africa.
Film locations in the UK — Doctor Who filming locations in London
Doctor Who has been filmed against the backdrop of many London top attractions. Cybermen have marched down the steps from St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Doctor met Shakespeare himself inside the Globe Theatre.
Avid fans of the show may be interested to take a Doctor Who London walking tour. It’s your chance to follow in the footsteps of the much-loved protagonist, and with like-minded people that share your interests.
UK filming locations: The Globe Theatre in London features in Doctor Who
Doctor Who filming locations in Wales
The more recent series of the show has mainly been filmed in the studios in Cardiff in Wales. However, you’ll be happy to read that there are also some outdoor locations they use in the show. See how many of these you recognize.
2 Welsh castles in Doctor Who — film locations in the UK
There are not 1, but 2 castles in and near to Cardiff, which feature in Doctor Who. Cardiff Castle is right in the capital city center, meaning there’s no excuse not to visit. The castle was built in the late 11th century by Norman invaders, and is dripping in history.
Cardiff Castle has been the backdrop for several Doctor Who episodes, as well as the spin-off show, Torchwood.
Caerphilly is a short drive (29 minutes) from Cardiff, and is home to Caerphilly Castle.
The largest castle in Wales was built by the English in the 13th century, with massive walls, towers and gateways. It has its own leaning tower similar to the one in Pisa, and has featured many times in Doctor Who.
There’s also the option to visit inside the castle, but at a small cost.
Cardiff Castle in the Welsh capital is one of many UK filming locations
Film locations in the UK — the secret alleyway in Doctor Who
Transport yourself back to series 9, where viewers are introduced to the mysterious Diagon Alley. The Doctor and his sidekick come across the hidden entrance to the secret alleyway.
As it turns out, it’s not so secret, as you can find this along Westgate Street in Cardiff. Take caution, as you never know where it may lead!
Southerndown Beach in Doctor Who
Die-hard Doctor Who fans will instantly recognize this beach from one of the most popular episodes of the series.
A beautiful backdrop for a tearjerker ending, Southerndown Beach is where the Doctor bids farewell to his traveling companion Rose.
If you’d like to visit this memorable setting, there are several ways to visit from Cardiff. By car, it’s around 46 minutes, while train is 27 minutes from Cardiff Central to Bridgend. Afterwards, it’s a short taxi ride (9 minutes) to get to the beach.
The third option’s by bus. Look for the X2 bus and get off at the stop called Corntown, The Paddocks. From here, you’ll also need to get a taxi.
The stunning Southerndown Beach in Wales – the scene of the sad finale in Doctor Who
Boutique hotels in Cardiff
Extend your Doctor Who tour by spending a night or 2 in one of these sublime boutique hotels.
Jolyon’s Boutique Hotel
Boutique by name — and by nature, Jolyon’s Boutique Hotel is a striking townhouse in the docklands area of Cardiff.
Booking into this hotel also gives you a chance to stay in the same place as Doctor Who himself. Actor Chris Eccleston played the ninth doctor in the show and stayed at the hotel saying, ‘it’s much better than the tardis!’
Hotel Indigo — boutique hotels in Cardiff
Just 300m from Cardiff Castle is Hotel Indigo. With charming and colorful rooms, Indigo Hotel is not only a comfortable choice, it’s centrally located too.
There’s a terrace, fitness center and an all-round lovely hotel for an excellent price. Other nearby attractions include the Motorpoint Arena Cardiff and Principality Stadium.
Caerphilly Castle is another Doctor Who historic film location in the UK
4. Harry Potter
No post about the best British film locations to visit would be complete without mentioning Harry Potter. The story of the lovable boy (and later teenage) wizard and his friends has captured a mass fan base worldwide.
Alnwick Castle, Alnwick
You may recognize Alnwick Castle from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets. The castle was used as the exterior of Hogwarts — the school of magic in the movie.
Unlike many uninhabited castles around the UK, the dukes of Northumberland live at Alnwick Castle.
The castle is in the town of Alnwick in the county of Northumberland, north-east England. While it’s probably easier to drive, there are also buses that can take you there.
If traveling from London, you can take the train from London to Edinburgh and get off at Alnmouth. From here, take a taxi or a bus to Alnwick Castle.
There’s an entrance fee to visit the castle, the garden, and the castle and garden. However, you can choose to explore the exterior and keep the experience totally free.
Alnwick Castle in the north of England – Do you recognize it in Harry Potter?
Malham Cove — Harry Potter UK filming locations
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Harry and Hermione hide from Voldemort behind a unique rock formation.
It’s called Malham Cove, and you can visit this limestone rock camp for yourself near the village of Malham. The unique shape was made by the river that once ran over it, and it’s totally free to explore.
Gargrave is the nearest train station to Malham Cove and it’s about 7 miles. If you’re arriving by car, prepare for the narrow country lanes from Gargrave to Malham. While exploring Malham Cove is free, I can’t say the same for the parking.
Harry Potter film locations — Ashridge Wood
While Ashridge Wood is known for its diverse variety of flowers, plants and trees, it’s also famous for something else. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Ashridge Wood is where the Quidditch World Cup takes place.
The woods are ideal for Harry Potter fans and nature lovers alike. It’s a colorful setting for a fall or spring walk and makes for a great family day trip. The visitor center is open from 10am to 4pm and costs nothing to enter.
There are different options to get to Ashridge Wood. By train, you can travel from Newbury and get either a bus or taxi. By car, it’s about 1 hour and 30 minutes from London.
Malham Cove – the mysterious rock formation in Harry Potter ©George Hodan
Harry Potter filming locations in Scotland
Glenfinnan — film locations in the UK
Several of the Harry Potter movies were filmed against the glorious backdrop of Scotland. The magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct features in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the Prisoner of Azkaban, and the Goblet of Fire.
Fans of the franchise will recognize the Glenfinnan Viaduct as the bridge upon which the Hogwarts Express makes its journey.
To make the same ride across the iconic bridge, you can take a train from Glenfinnan. There are daily train services running between Fort William and Glenfinnan, which will take you across the famous viaduct.
Loch Etive — where did they film Harry Potter in Scotland?
The incredible Loch Etive features in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. It’s located in Argyll and Bute, towards the west coast of Scotland. You may recognize the location as the setting where Harry, Hermione and Ron had their camping trip.
Taynuilt is the closest town to Loch Etive. It’s about 87 miles north of Glasgow, but worth visiting if you love the movies and the outdoors too.
By train, you need to take the route from Glasgow Queen Street station and get off at Taynuilt. The ride is approximately 2 hours and 36 minutes.
Where can you stay in Glenfinnan?
Extend your break in the inspiring Scottish Highlands and take a look at these cozy and chic accommodation choices.
The Armoury, Glenfinnan
Book a night, or 2, at a traditional Scottish villa-style home with lake and mountain views. The Armoury has all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay, and is just 200m from the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
How does a Scottish style lodge with lake views and a roaring fire sound? Camas Tana is a unique property that lets you connect with nature, and is just a few steps from Glenfinnan Station Museum.
Jump on board and experience the wondrous Glenfinnan Viaduct for yourself
Film locations in the UK — Harry Potter London film locations
The UK capital features across all the Harry Potter movies, and they’re also all free to visit. King’s Cross Station is probably the most visited of all the film sites in London. It’s where you’ll find the famous platform 9 ¾: the stop for the Hogwarts Express.
It’s easy to find the hidden access to platform 9 ¾. You’ll spot it instantly once you see the luggage cart halfway into the wall. Take home a souvenir of your visit, and take a photo near the suitcase complete with a Gryffindor scarf.
Go all out on your London Harry Potter experience and book a studio tour. Transport is included in the ticket price and it’s a great day out for fans and families too.
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel
Along with having a fabulous luxury spa, the 5-star St Pancras Renaissance Hotel is also known for its grand exterior. The hotel features as the entrance to King’s Cross station in Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets.
Millennium Bridge – Harry Potter London filming locations
Cast your mind back to the opening of Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince, and the collapse of the Millennium Bridge. Today, the bridge still very much exists, and connects Bankside to the City of London. It was once known as the ‘wobbly bridge’ because it moved as pedestrians crossed it on first opening.
Millennium Bridge was closed soon after for 2 years to correct structural issues. It was re-opened to the public in 2002. The closest tube station to see Millennium Bridge is Blackfriars, and of course it’s absolutely free to visit.
Millennium Bridge in London – Harry Potter London filming locations
Free film locations in London
It’d be criminal of me to leave off some much-loved British films that were filmed in London. I’m guilty of watching the following movies several times, and enjoy recognizing the places in the capital.
How many of these have you seen?
5. Bridget Jones Diary
I’ve watched all 3 (maybe there will be a fourth) in the franchise of the hapless yet lovable protagonist. While chick flicks aren’t usually my thing, I’ve read the books, watched the movies and smiled throughout.
There are several places you can visit in London (for free) that feature in the film series.
8 Bedale Street — where does Bridget Jones live?
Bridget’s home is located above a pub called The Globe Tavern. It’s very close to London Bridge tube station and is also right by Borough Market.
The door that’s her home in the movie is a real door — and most likely to someone’s home. Just don’t go knocking on it!
Bridget Jones fight scene. The hilarious fight scene between Mark and Daniel takes place outside a Greek restaurant near Bridget’s home. In real life, the restaurant’s a wine shop called Bedales, named after the street.
When Bridget does a TV interview. Outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Bridget conducts an interview for a landmark legal case. The nearest tube station to the courthouse is Chancery Lane, which is on the Central (red) line.
The last scene. We all love a happy ending, and in the first movie, Bridget makes hers in her underwear. When she finally chases down Mark, they share their romantic exchange, and kiss, at the Royal Exchange in Cornhill. It’s easy to find as it’s near the grand Bank of England, right by Bank tube station.
Bedale Street in London Bridge – the home of hapless romantic Bridget Jones
6. James Bond
When you’re in the mood for a good spy film, you can do no wrong with James Bond. And though the English spy travels frequently to fight off the bad guys, he always returns to his London base.
And so, it’s only right that the capital features often throughout the entire Bond franchise. However, rather than me list every London location in the James Bond catalogue, here are some landmarks that frequently appear.
MI6 building: the headquarters of the British intelligence is a regular in many of the films. From Dr No and From Russia with Love, to Skyfall and Casino Royale, you can’t miss this iconic building.
In real life, you can find the MI6 building in Vauxhall, immediately south of the river. The nearest tube station is Vauxhall, which is on the Victoria (light blue) line. A word of caution: be careful about how many photos you take of MI6; someone may be watching you!
Houses of Parliament — James Bond film locations in the UK
In Skyfall, the iconic Houses of Parliament feature in the smash movie. Big Ben (still under construction at the time of writing), and the house is free to visit. However, if you’d like to take a peek inside, you may want to consider taking a tour. It’s an interesting, and educational, way to learn more about the history of the British Parliament, and see the incredible interiors.
Westminster is the nearest tube station, and sits on the Circle (yellow), District (green) and Jubilee lines.
Film locations in the UK — National Gallery
One of my favorite, and free, places to visit in London, also features in James Bond. During a scene in Skyfall, Bond meets up with Q in one of the rooms in the gallery.
If you visit London, do yourself a big favor and visit the National Gallery. It’s one of many free museums to visit in the city, and an incredible building to wander around. The National Gallery is near another great landmark, Trafalgar Square, and is close to Charing Cross tube and train station.
The National Gallery in Charing Cross is a must-see in London – free film locations in the UK
Best boutique hotels in London
You’re spoiled for choice with boutique hotels in London, so it can over-whelming knowing where to start.
No two rooms are the same at Flemings Mayfair, and the sizes are also generous for central London. There’s also an excellent restaurant and cocktail bar on site, plus the chance to have a traditional afternoon tea.
The closest tube station is Green Park, which is on the Piccadilly (dark blue) and Victoria (light blue) lines.
Dean Street Townhouse
Hip, uniquely styled and in the heart of the action is how I’d describe Dean Street Townhouse. Part of the SoHo House group, non-members are more than welcome to book at this SoHo-based boutique. A standing bathtub is the star attraction in the room, adding an elegant and almost retro feel to the look.
As the name suggests, Dean Street Townhouse is in Dean Street, which is in the SoHo area of London. While it’s a hotspot for nightlife outside, especially on the weekend, inside, you won’t hear a thing.
What did you think of this list? Were there any British shows or films that I missed that you’d like to know its locations? Let me know in the comments below.
Till next time, happy boutique travels x
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....