Top 10 Film Location Hotels
by Adrian Mourby (April 2017)
My home is in Oxford which can sometimes feel like living in a film set. It’s a familiar experience to find the road you want to walk down closed off by a lighting van and location caterers. But the whole of Britain is a gift to film makers. One reason is the extraordinary variety in our landscape and its long history of development. The Full Monty was filmed in industrial Sheffield, only a few miles away from beautiful countryside used in the TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Film in the middle of Canada or America’s “flyover” states and you can drive for a day and not see any great difference in landscape. Film in the middle of Britain and you are a few hours at most from most kinds of urban landscape and every natural landscape apart from deserts and ice caps.
We also have a wonderful range of buildings from Anglo Saxon to skyscraper – earlier still if you can get permission to film at Stonehenge. And our hotels not only provide lovely places for film crews to stay, they feature in many movies, from James Bond to the curious oeuvre of Stanley Kubrick, from the Inn of Sixth Happiness to Elephant Man.
I’ve written here before about British Hotels that have featured in the movies. Here are ten more – even more exciting - to visit in 2017.
Showing below are all 10 records in "Top 10 Film Location Hotels"
53 Park Lane, London
Anyone who has seen Wimbledon will know that the famous Dorchester on Park Lane features as the place where the top-rated players stay during this romantic comedy starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst. Room 1221 is where low-seeded Bettany walks in on top American tennis diva, Kirsten Dunst, who just happens to be showering. A romance ensues over fish and chips eaten on her balcony overlooking Park Lane, much to the annoyance of Sam Neil, who plays Kirsten Dunst’s ambitious father.
No mention is ever made of the fact that it’s an hour by public transport to the All England Lawn Tennis Club from Park Lane but hey, who’s going to turn down a few nights at The Dorchester?
The hotel has also featured more recently in Ridley Scott’s thriller The Counselor with Michael Fassbender, and the BBC’s dramatisation of John Le Carre’s Our Kind of Traitor with Ewan MacGregor and – back in the land of romcom - as the location for an engagement party in the film Chalet Girl with Felicity Jones.
The Dorchester has a long history in the movies. Alfred Hitchcock liked to stay in a suite overlooking Hyde Park, blithely explaining to staff that The Dorchester was a perfect place for a murder because there was so much space nearby for burying the body.
David Lean was known to take a suite at the Dorchester for London auditions. In 1940 Deborah Kerr met with Lean and colleagues to discuss the film St Joan. "How bizarre it was,” she later wrote. “This room full of chaps smoking enormous cigars and drinking martinis and this young girl reciting the Lords' Prayer.”
Today there’s always a good chance of meeting an American movie star in the lifts. Although the hotel is famously discreet, the list of celebs who’ve tipped off the paparazzi that they’re to be found staying at the Dorchester is very long.
Many films and series have been shot at Cliveden, the former home of Nancy Astor including the nine part TV Series Nancy Astor about the first woman – and an American at that – who in 1919 took her seat in the House of Commons.
The truly palatial house and grounds of Cliveden have also appeared in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes (briefly) standing in for a Parisian hotel bedroom, in the Patrick Dempsey romcom Made of Honour (2008) where it pretended to be a New York study, and in the Beatles film Help! (1965) as Buckingham Palace.
The hotel’s grounds were featured in The Yellow Rolls-Royce with Rex Harrison (1965), Death on the Nile with Peter Ustinov (1978), Carrington with Emma Thompson (1995), Chaplin with Robert Downey Junior (1995), and Mrs. Henderson Presents with Judi Dench (2005). Ironically the one film in which Cliveden was not used as a location is Scandal. This 1989 drama about the Profumo Affair featured John Hurt, Ian McKellen and Joanne Whalley, with many scenes set amongst the libidinous 1960s Cliveden set led by Bill Astor (son of Nancy) played by Leslie Philips. However these were actually filmed at Longleat in Warminster and Wilton House in Wilton. At the time of the shoot the Astor family did not want Cliveden used as a location for a film about the Profumo Affair. This understandable reluctance nevertheless means that many cinema-going audiences have no idea how beautiful the real Cliveden is.
If you stay the weekend – and I would strongly recommend doing so – you may well fall in love with this serene neoclassical structure and its extensive grounds on a cliff-top above the River Thames. But you’ll also be charmed by the staff, who are not only very good at their job but clearly find working at Cliveden enormous fun.
2 Whitehall Court, London
On the banks of the River Thames stands the historic National Liberal Club which in 1987 sold off its 140 bedrooms (floors 3-8) to the Royal Horseguards Hotel next door. The club's fine neo-Gothic structure was the second-largest clubhouse ever built. It was designed by Alfred Waterhouse, who was also responsible for the National History Museum in South Kensington.
Not surprisingly Royal Horseguards, a hotel that has operated next to the Liberal Club since 1971, has proved itself an atmospheric location for a number of British films. David Lynch used the club's corridors and its spiral staircase for hospital scenes set in The Elephant Man (1980). Michael Caine played a former spy turned a jazz-club owner in the thriller Blue Ice at Royal Horseguards. The film was shot in 1992 during Caine’s wilderness years before he romped back to form to become a national film icon, and is pretty much forgotten now.
In 2005 the hotel’s Smoking Room provided the backdrop for a London meeting between Bill Nighy, a smooth-talking but extremely dodgy head of the Foreign Office and Ralph Fiennes in John Le Carré’s movie about corruption in high places, The Constant Gardener.
Royal Horseguards is now part of the Guoman hotel group and has 281 rooms and suites, many of them overlooking the Thames.
The Mansion House, Luton
I’ve written previously about Luton Hoo being the location for one of the most embarrassing moments in Four Weddings and a Funeral. It also featured in the 1994 film of Vanity Fair. But this imposing hotel has doubled for a number of other locations along the way. If you visit Adam’s Brasserie in the old stable block you’ll see stills on the walls from quite a few of them.
The stables themselves were used as part of Lord Queensbury’s estate in Wilde in 1997. The same year the top floor of the mansion was a setting for Surviving Picasso with Anthony Hopkins. The hotel’s drawing room featured in the James Bond movie, The World Is Not Enough in 1999 with Pierce Brosnan and the next year again in Quills, with Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade. To prove that one Bond film is not enough, Luton Hoo’s wonderful circular marble staircase and Palladian portico were featured in Never Say Never Again with Sean Connery. It played Shrublands, the spa where an ageing Bond is sent to get healthy again and ends up nearly being killed before seducing a nurse.
Though there is lots to do at Luton Hoo, my advice would be to book a nice suite and bring a handful of these movies. Then you can spend a great weekend playing “spot the location”.
Swinton Park was built in 1695 for the Sir Abstrupus Danby. We do not get enough people going by names like that these days. In 1767 it was almost entirely rebuilt by his descendant William Danby, who favoured a castellated historical style. In 1813 a gracious Regency library was installed.
Today Swinton Park is a 30-bedroom hotel with landscaped grounds, five artificial lakes and 100 fallow deer abutting the gorgeous Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is still owned by the Earls of Swinton, although it was converted into a country house hotel in 2001.
Swinton Park has also featured in a number of TV series including BBC1’s The Syndicate which was Kay Mellor’s story of betting syndicates. Each series followed a different syndicate. The third, with Lenny Henry, chronicled the lives of a lottery-winning staff syndicate at a fictional North Yorkshire stately home. That building, crumbling Hazelwood Manor was “played” by Bramham Park near Wetherby in the series but Swinton featured as one of the other stately homes.
These days Swinton is referred to locally as “our Downton Abbey ” proving that TV and the movies really do rule our lives.
The Trip was – and still is - an unusual concept for a TV series which feeds off the genuine friendship between actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. The first series took them round Britain, ending up in a final episode at the Angel Inn, Hetton. The (fictional) premise of the series was that Steve Coogan had been commissioned by the food supplement of a Sunday newspaper to review half a dozen restaurants and intended to take a self indulgent trip round the north of England with his food-loving American girlfriend. But when she leaves him to return to the States, Steve is faced with a week of meals on his own so he reluctantly calls Rob, the only person he can think of who will be available. Together they set off for a culinary adventure.
Over the course of six meals at six different restaurants Steve and Rob discussed the big questions of life over a series of six meals. In the final episode, after visiting Bolton Abbey, they rocked up for breakfast at The Angel at Hetton.
This ivy-clad wayside inn has just nine bedrooms with a “wine cave” located across the road. In its current form it has its origins as a fifteenth-century drovers’ inn. It first came to prominence as a pub for foodies in the 1960s when delicacies like deep fried whitebait and steak and chips made the Angel one of the first “destination” dining pubs. In 1983 Denis and Juliet Watkins took over The Angel Inn and did away with chips, beginning a British-wide revolution in pub food.
Denis also introduced one of the most extensive lists of wine by the glass in the country. When he died in 2004, obituaries referred to him as the “Godfather of the Gastropub”. His legacy continues and can be sampled still today before toddling upstairs to bed.
Nant Gwynant, Caernarfon
Pen-y-Gwrd is a small family-owned inn fashioned out of an early nineteenth-century farmhouse. It sits north of Beddgelert and is deliciously old fashioned. Not all bedrooms are ensuite, there are no TVs or radios, and dinner is served round two large tables so you quickly get to know your fellow guests. In the early 1950s the farmhouse and surrounding countryside were used as a training base for the first expedition to reach to top of Everest. Today the bar is filled with Everest memorabilia.
But Pen-y-Gwrd also sits in the dramatic section of Snowdonia countryside that was used for the shooting of The Inn of the Sixth Happiness in 1958. This story of a diminutive Cockney missionary (played by a rather tall Ingrid Bergman) tells how she led more than 100 children over the mountains to safety at the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War. After the damp. misty mountainous landscape the most convincing element in the film were the children from Liverpool’s Chinese community. Less convincing are Kurt Jurgens as a Chinese officer and Robert Donat as the local Mandarin.
The Inn of the Sixth Happiness is an interesting oddity to view on your laptop if you’re staying at Pen-y-Gwrd. After all there is no TV.
In a curious footnote, after shooting was done the film’s gold-painted Buddha was rescued by Clough Williams Ellis and taken 10 miles down to the coast to become part of his Home for Discarded Buildings at Portmeirion.
Stonor Park sits in a secluded fold of hills in Oxfordshire, a remote, pretty red brick manor house that expanded repeatedly over the centuries and is now a popular wedding venue. Dozens of red kites circle overhead, making the most of the rising thermals, and the Italianate Garden and small arboretum are full of flowers. Serene Stonor has also found its way into the movies where it doubled as the Bladen Safe House, in which defecting Soviet General Georgi Koskov is being debriefed over caviar in the James Bond movie, The Living Daylights.
Of course Koskov (played by Jeroen Krabbé) turns out not to be defecting at all and after many reversals of fortune he is arrested and sent back to Moscow for some nasty retribution, while Bond (fresh-faced Timothy Dalton) gets Koskov’s girl in time-honoured Bond fashion. The external and internal scenes for Bladen were shot here, which meant that when Koskov is seized in a violent and explosive raid on the Bladen, a bit more of Stonor got damaged than the owners intended.
Perhaps not surprisingly they’re keener to hire it out for weddings rather than films these days.
Hyde Park Corner, London
The Lanesborough is one of London’s most expensive hotels, and when Stanley Kubrick made his bizarre 1999 thriller Eyes Wide Shut he hired its most expensive suite, The Royal. This became the snooker room where Bill (Tom Cruise) and Ziegler (Sydney Pollack) circled round a red pool table while discussing the previous night's masked orgy which Bill attended with his wife (Nicole Kidman).
You don’t have to take the Royal Suite with its three bedrooms, a drawing room, study, kitchen, 24-hour butler service, and a chauffeur-driven Bentley at your disposal to enjoy the Lanesborough today. Junior suites are much more affordable and so is the Lanesborough Spa, an unusually opulent facility even by London standards with gym, hydro pool, male and female saunas and steam rooms.
The Lanesborough occupies splendid neoclassical premises that used to be St George's Hospital on Hyde Park Corner. The architect of this 350-bed facility was William Wilkins who also designed London’s National Gallery and additions to several Cambridge colleges. The hospital had a walk-on role in one of the real-life dramas in Ernest Hemingway’s eventful 61 years. In 1944 Hem was in London, staying at The Dorchester and getting very drunk in anticipation of the D-Day landings when he and his driver crashed in the blackout. Hemingway was taken to St George’s Hospital where he received stitches in his head. When his wife, the journalist Martha Gelhorn arrived, she found him in the middle of a party in his hospital room and walked out, exasperated with his drunkenness.
It’s an event that was dramatised in the 2012 film Hemingway & Gelhorn with Clive Owen as Hem and –coincidentally- Nicole Kidman as Martha.
Beanacre, Melksham, Bath
No films have been shot at Beechfield House just ouside Bath, but this 24 bedroom gentleman’s residence has been home to a number of TV and movie actors, including several members of the Downton Abbey team when they were filming the final series at Lacock in 2015.
Lacock village doubled as the livestock market visited by Lord Grantham, his family and staff. The village itself is only two miles from Beechfield and its historic abbey has appeared in the films Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. In both cases members of the cast stayed at Beechfield House.
The hotel is set in eight acres of its own grounds and has three very comfortable bedrooms – Pear, Hazel and Elm – all with views of the outdoor swimming pool, something that might easily bring out your inner movie star.
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