Famous Film & TV Locations in Britain

by Stuart Haggas
Olly Alexander | Famous Film Locations in Britain

Now that you’ve binged on Bridgerton or rewatched old favorites like Four Weddings and a Funeral, perhaps it’s time to take it to the next level and plan a visit to those fabulous filming locations.

Olly Alexander in It’s A Sin (Photo by: Ben Blackall/HBO Max)

Caernarfon Castle in north Wales featured in season three as the location for Prince Charles’ investiture. Unusually, this wasn’t a stand-in but was the actual location where the ceremony had taken place in 1969.

Even when a storyline is set in the United States, those scenes are filmed on-location in the UK. For example, the neoclassical façade of Hylands House in Essex represented The White House in season three. And in season four, when Princess Diana makes her 1989 solo visit to New York, with an itinerary that included meeting an AIDS patient at Harlem Hospital, and homeless mothers and children at the not-for-profit Henry Street Settlement, those scenes were actually filmed in the city of Manchester and not the Big Apple. And that’s just a selection of filming locations! It’s reported that around 90 locations were used for season four alone.

Created by Russell T Davies, the limited series It’s A Sin depicts the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the 1980s and the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Although the story is set in London, it was predominantly filmed in Manchester (as were some of his previous hit dramas, including Queer as Folk, Cucumber/Banana/Tofu, and Years And Years). This meant that several of Manchester’s iconic buildings and venues had to double-up as London locations.

Cloisters at Christ Church Oxford | Famous TV Locations in Britain

Cloisters at Christ Church Oxford
Photo: VisitBritain Kiyoshi Sakasai

Situated close to Manchester’s famous gay village, Paton Street doubles as the scruffy side street in London’s Soho where Ritchie, Roscoe, Colin, Jill and Ash rent an apartment together, which they christen the ‘Pink Palace’. One of the shops you might spot in the street below is Clampdown Records, which in reality is one of Manchester’s much-loved independent record stores. To give an authentic 1980s vibe, the production team dressed its windows with classic LP’s from the era.

When Colin joins his gay co-worker Henry (Neil Patrick Harris) for a beer, the scene was filmed in the Marble Arch. This historic Manchester pub has traditional tiled walls and floor, brews its own beer, and has a tasty menu of classic pub grub. Other Manchester venues including The Star And Garter and The Thirsty Scholar were given queer 80s makeovers and used as locations. London’s legendary gay nightclub Heaven is featured, with a bit of help from a smoke machine, a neon Heaven sign, strobe lights, and a crowd of extras. That sequence was also filmed in Manchester.

The production team transformed a derelict Manchester school to represent London’s pioneering Middlesex Hospital, which was the first in the UK to have a ward dedicated to the care and treatment of people affected by HIV/AIDS. Princess Diana opened the ward in 1987.

Several key scenes focused on and around the Cunard Building in the nearby city of Liverpool. The buildings façade doubled as a smart London hotel, while adjacent Water Street was transformed into a New York City street with the help of some classic American cars including an iconic yellow New York taxi, and (of course) a hot-dog stand.

British director Francis Lee follows his Yorkshire-set gay sheep farmer feature God’s Own Country with the period drama Ammonite, which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2020. Starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, the film is loosely inspired by the life of 19th-century British paleontologist Mary Anning, and imagines a romantic same-sex relationship between Mary and a close friend, Charlotte Murchison, the young wife of a geologist.

Portmeirion, Wales | Famous Film Location in Britain

Portmeirion, Wales
Photo: Chris Dorney

Much of the film is shot in and around Lyme Regis in Dorset, south west England. It is here, on what is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Jurassic Coast, that Mary made her greatest discoveries. In 1823 she uncovered the first complete Plesiosaurus skeleton, and in 1828 the first British example of the prehistoric flying reptiles known as pterosaurs. In spite of these and other remarkable scientific finds, she didn’t always receive full credit for her contributions to science (at the time, women were not allowed to join scientific societies). A self-educated working-class woman, she struggled financially for most of her life. Indeed, she largely supported herself as a fossil-hunter: collecting more ordinary invertebrate fossils such as ammonite and belemnite shells, which she sold to tourists from her home on Lyme’s seafront, later opening a fossil shop in the town in 1826.

On the site of her former home now stands the Lyme Regis Museum. Established in 1921, the museum celebrated its 100th birthday in 2021. Exhibits include a world-class collection of fossils. Open since 2017, the museum’s Mary Anning Wing has an interactive geology gallery that tells her fascinating life story.

Related: A Culinary Adventure Through South West England

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