Relive scenes from your favourite movies with our guide to some of Britain's most notable film locations.

CHARIOTS OF FIRE

Filmed at West Sands, St Andrews, Scotland

chariots of fire running

The slo-mo shot of runners on the beach is one of cinema’s most memorable opening sequences. Mind you, it wouldn’t have had the same impact without the infuriatingly uplifting music by Vangelis.

The scene has even more resonance after last year’s Olympic shenanigans, and the fact there’s now a stage play of the film. The true story of British runners who competed at the 1924 Paris Olympics, Chariots of Fire won a shopping bag full of Oscars (“The British are coming!”—remember that?) .

There’s a plaque at the beach—in rather shabby condition—marking the location today, and a section of the Olympic torch relay last year followed in its footsteps.

 

KIND HEARTS AND CORONETS

Filmed at Leeds Castle, Maidstone, Kent

Kind hearts and coronets

We have an endless supply of stately homes used as sumptuous backdrops for British films—in fact, you’re hard pushed to find one that hasn’t had a visit from Keira Knightley in period dress. Then there’s this.

The blackest and most memorable of all Ealing comedies, it tells the story of a young man called Mazzini (Dennis Price) who, believing he’s been denied his rightful inheritance, systematically bumps off each member of the aristocratic family that stands in his way. Just to really show off, Sir Alec Guinness (before he was knighted or waved a lightsabre) played all eight D’Ascoyne family members, including the rabid suffragette Lady D’Ascoyne.

The moated Leeds Castle stands in for Chalfont, family seat of the D’Ascoynes, the real jewel of the inheritance—this Norman building is beautiful enough for anyone to consider murdering to live there. It was also a backdrop for Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.

Open daily (leedscastle.com)

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES

Filmed at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

Les Miserables Greenwich

We have an endless supply of stately homes used as sumptuous backdrops for British films—in fact, you’re hard pushed to find one that hasn’t had a visit from Keira Knightley in period dress. Then there’s this.

The blackest and most memorable of all Ealing comedies, it tells the story of a young man called Mazzini (Dennis Price) who, believing he’s been denied his rightful inheritance, systematically bumps off each member of the aristocratic family that stands in his way. Just to really show off, Sir Alec Guinness (before he was knighted or waved a lightsabre) played all eight D’Ascoyne family members, including the rabid suffragette Lady D’Ascoyne.

The moated Leeds Castle stands in for Chalfont, family seat of the D’Ascoynes, the real jewel of the inheritance—this Norman building is beautiful enough for anyone to consider murdering to live there. It was also a backdrop for Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett.

Open daily (leedscastle.com)

 

 

LES MISÉRABLES

Filmed at the Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

Les Miserables Greenwich

A location manager’s dream, says Paul Plowman of the website British Film Locations. Because of its size, versatility and sheer beauty, Wren’s masterpiece has appeared in dozens of films—anything from a Russian government building in Octopussy to the streets of 19th-century France in this year’s musical blockbuster Les Misérables.

Shot almost entirely in the UK, the final stirring scene on the barricades of Revolutionary France (with easy-on-the-eye Eddie Redmayne waving a red flag) is in Greenwich, while the opening shots of the wretched prisoners towing a vessel is No 9 Dock at Portsmouth Historic Dockyard.

 

THE KING’S SPEECH

Filmed in Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire

Kings Speech I have a voice

It’s always a poser—where to find somewhere to film an actual location if you can’t get the real thing. So Ely Cathedral becomes the scene of the coronation in The King’s Speech, the true story of shy, stammering King George VI (Colin Firth won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the role), who finds himself on the throne after the abdication of his love-struck brother.

It was filmed on a shoestring budget, mostly in London—Portland Place even doubled up as the treatment rooms of speech therapist Lionel Logue. The front of the nave at Ely Cathedral (known as The Ship of the Fens, thanks to its size) stood in nicely for Westminster Abbey in a pivotal scene, where George practises his speech with therapist Logue on the eve of his coronation. In the film, there’s an exact replica of the Coronation Chair, the 14th-century seat that’s been used for coronations since 1308.

 

GOLDFINGER

Filmed at Park Golf Club, Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire

Goldfinger

The epic golf duel between Bond and arch villain Goldfinger was filmed at the luxury golf club Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire. Immediately after the match—which Bond wins thanks to cunning gamesmanship—Goldfinger delivers a veiled threat by instructing his squat Korean manservant Oddjob to decapitate a nearby classical statue using some nifty frisbying with his steel-rimmed bowler hat.

Producers built a replica, so the statue can still be seen with its head intact. (Goldfinger, by the way, was named by Fleming after his loathed Hampstead neighbour, a famous Hungarian modernist architect.) The golf club is a hop from Pinewood studios, where many Bond films were shot, so it’s a handy choice of location. Sean Connery later admitted that filming at Stoke Park led to his “lifelong love affair with golf”.

Casual Green Fees for golfing are available at Stoke Park for non-members, as are spa days, afternoon teas or dinner. Be sure to book in advance (stokepark.com)

 

BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY

Filmed at Bedale Street, near Borough Market, London

The Bridget Jones Fight Borough Market

The memorable final scene where Bridget runs out in the snow in her pants and cardi after Mark Darcy (Colin Firth again) near the railway lines is in fact Bedale Street, alongside Borough Market in London—although, says location manager Adam Richards, there was only one railway bridge when it was filmed and now there are two, thanks to the Crossrail extension.

Bridget (Renée Zellweger) leads her hopeless singleton life in a flat above The Globe, a Victorian boozer with a curved frontage, and the street (which certainly wasn’t a desirable address back in 2001) is also the location for the shambolic fight between Darcy and Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant), even though the “Greek” restaurant where they crash through the window while scuffling in the street was actually the office of a firm of architects.

 

WITHNAIL AND I

Filmed in Sleddale Hall, Cumbria

Withnail and I

A black comedy set in 1969 and famed for its acerbic script, Withnail portrays two drink-sodden actors—played by Paul McGann and Richard E Grant —who escape their London squat for a spell in the countryside, where they encounter angry bulls, threatening farmers and endless mud and rain.

Withnail’s Uncle Monty provides the country setting—his cottage in Cow Crag (a “horrible little shack”). This was shot at Sleddale Hall in Cumbria, whose recent auction made the national press—some suggested that it should become a museum for visiting fans. Residents of nearby Penrith, meanwhile, are accustomed to film buffs hunting for the non-existent Penrith Tea Rooms, where a sozzled Withnail demands “the finest wines known to humanity”.

 

HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE

Filmed all over the UK, including Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Harry Potter

Could we mention British films without mentioning the words “Harry” and “Potter”? He’s been responsible for a zillion tourists beating their way to Heathrow Airport and, according to Blue Badge Guide Karen Sharpe, Harry Potter simply never dips out of fashion. Indeed, the UK seems like one huge film location for the scar-faced wizard.

However, the one to see is Alnwick (pronounced Annick) Castle, which stands in for the most famous school in children’s literature. Only the exterior is used, and it features in just the first two films, but it’s the backdrop to the infamous flying lesson (above). Alnwick has wonderful gardens, including the Potter-inspired Poison Garden. They rather cash in on their fame, though, with Broomstick Training classes on offer!

Open to visitors from 28th March to 29th October (alnwickcastle.com)

Image Source:Philip Bird / Shutterstock.com

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