10 Britain's Finest Filming Locations
by Adrian Mourby (April 2016)
This month Alice through the Looking Glass is released in the UK, yet another British film that makes the most of our countryside and its historic buildings. Not surprisingly a lot of classic hotels have featured in British films too. It’s not uncommon for a film crew to take over a whole hotel, shoot its exteriors while putting everyone up in the bedrooms and commandeering the restaurant for make-up and costume. When you’re staying a film-location hotel you’ll often realise that it was carved up to serve as several locations that appear many miles apart in a film. This selection of hotels in England, Wales and Scotland takes you through ten hotels that have featured in comedies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Love Actually, and One Day as well as more serious dramas like Witchfinder General, The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Persuasion.
Showing below are all 8 records in "10 Britain's Finest Filming Locations"
The Mansion House, Luton
Four Weddings and a Funeral. If you loved Four Weddings and a Funeral then you’ll enjoy staying at Luton Hoo, which provided the staircase down which Kirsten Scott Thomas (Fiona) descended early on in the film, the chapel where David Haigh and Sophie Thompson (Bernard & Lydia) were married and the bedroom where Hugh Grant (Charles) accidentally evesdrops on their honeymoon.
The hotel began life as a house built by Robert Adam for the 3rd Earl of Bute between Adam 1767 and 1774. Capability Brown provided the gardens. While visiting the house in 1781 Samuel Johnson exclaimed, "This is one of the places I do not regret coming to see....in the house magnificence is not sacrificed to convenience, nor convenience to magnificence".
The house was remodelled in the 1830s to create the neo-classical style we see today. It passed through a number of hands, including the diamond magnate, Sir Julius Wernher who employed the architects of the Ritz Hotel, Charles Mewes and Arthur Davis to remodel the interior at the beginning of the twentieth century. It also received a number or royal visitors, including Queen Victoria’s son, the Duke of Clarence who proposed to Princess May of Teck here. (She eventually married his brother, George, and became the formidable Queen Mary.) In due course Wernher's son Harold Augustus married Anastasia “Zia” de Torby, a member of the Russian Imperial family who brought her Fabergé collection to the house. After Lady Zia’s death in 1977 the house had a number of uses (including as a film set) until in 2007 when it was converted into Luton Hoo Hotel, Golf and Spa with 228 bedrooms and suites.
Broad Street, Lyme Regis
The French Lieutenant’s Woman. John Fowles’ novel The French Lieutenant's Woman was set in Victorian Lyme Regis and was brought to the cinema in 1981 as a film within a film. The Royal Lion featured prominently in Harold Pinter's screenplay as the hotel where Meryl Streep (who was playing an actress called Anna) was staying when she was discovered in bed with co-star Jeremy Irons (playing an actor called Mike). This ambitious film exists in two worlds simultaneously and the Royal Lion features in both. Immediately across the road at No18 High Street are the lodgings where Charles, the Victorian palaeontologist played by Mike (played by Jeremy Irons) is lodged. You have to keep your wits around you watching this film! The Royal Lion with its distinctive bay window, decorated with three Prince of Wales feathers, overhangs Broad Street and dates back to 1601 when it served as a coaching inn.
Recent refurbishment has added a swimming pool, but the original oak beams, wood panelling and open fires have been retained and exude a very nineteenth century air. Just down the High Street guests get their first view of the Cobb, which was not just the setting for the opening shot of The French Lieutenant’s Woman but also features in the 1995 film of Jane Austen’s Persuasion with Ciarian Hinds and Amanda Root as another pair of star-crossed lovers.
Market Place, Lavenham
Witchfinder General. Anyone who has seen Hammer’s sinister Witchfinder General, a tale of anarchy during the English Civil War will recognise Lavenham’s village green as the place where Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) burns his witches. The Great House Hotel and Restaurant is clearly visible behind one innocent “witch” as she is lowered into the flames, although it was made to look a lot scruffier in the 1968 film.
The director of the film Michael Reeves grew up in Suffolk and knew Lavenham well. He died at the tragically early age of 25 in 1969. Today this fifteenth-century building with its imposing eighteenth-century façade offers some of the best accommodation in Suffolk. It also has a superb restaurant for which booking is always essential. The menu is French with local ingredients and the waitstaff entirely French. Bedrooms are elegantly and lightly decorated with espresso machines, wifi, hifi and a complementary decanter of sherry.
You could not find yourself further away from the seventeenth-century world of Hammer’s film (which is 2005 was named the 15th greatest horror film of all time by the magazine Total Film). And thank goodness for that!
4/7 Russel Street, Bath
Persuasion. Arriving in Bath feels like stepping into a film set. You could be mistaken for thinking that it was built just so that the BBC could adapt Jane Austen novels although Jane’s letters tell us she did not much care for the city. Nevertheless the climax of Persuasion, a story of love lost and found again, was set in Bath and filmed there in 1995. Amanda Root as Anne Elliot and Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth were the lovers divided by interfering friends and family in possibly the best of all Jane Austen adaptations. The Assembly Rooms where Anne begs Captain Wentworth not to walk out on a recital is just at the bottom of Russell Street where sits the Queensbury Hotel. A number of scenes in the film were shot in this part of Bath, which is parallel with the famous Royal Crescent and delightful Oval.
Laurence and Helen Beere, who run this lovely 29-bedroom hotel, have taken its name from the fiery Ninth Marquess of Queensberry who laid down the rules for boxing. A list of their own more amiable “Queensberry Rules” is displayed in the stone walled garden. Ask for an attic room. The hotel offers some excellent views across Georgian Bath.
6-10 Gloucester Place, Edinburgh
One Fine Day. Nira Caledonian in Edinburgh’s Gloucester Place is no distance from the spot on Moray Place where Dex (Jim Sturgess) introduces Emma (Ann Hathaway) to his parents in the sweetly doomed romance, One Day. Lovers of that film will enjoy sauntering the three minutes up Doune Terrace to where the unexpected – and frustrating – meeting took place.
There are currently four Nira hotels across the world, all of them very different. The company describes its ethos as “havens of stylish and elegant escapism for nomadic people who realise that sincerity and enthusiasm are the qualities that create a spirit of genuine hospitality”. Nira's Edinburgh hotel is made up of a number of Georgian townhouses in Edinburgh’s New Town. Here the designers have eschewed tartan in favour of lots of black and gold and contemporary interpretations of Caledonian cool but the hotel still offers 25 Scottish single malts in the bar. Downstairs Blackwood’s restaurant, overseen by Head Chef David Scott, uses the best Scottish beef and salmon. Although it might be a bit out of the price range of those two students who begin the film in 1988 it would definitely be somewhere that Dex would have aspired to.
50 Great Cumberland Place, Marble Arch, London
Love Actually. Anyone who has seen Love Actually (and let’s face it, who hasn’t) will remember the excruciating scene in which Harry (Alan Rickman) tries to quickly buy a Christmas present for his predatory new secretary. The salesman, played by Rowan Atkinson, takes sadistic pleasure in spending a painfully long time wrapping it up. The scene was shot in Selfridges, Oxford Street’s best-known store, which is just around the corner from The Arch Hotel. The Arch really is an ideal place to base yourself while Christmas shopping – or indeed any kind of shopping spree.
Cleverly reconstructed behind the facades of a number of houses in Great Cumberland Place, the Arch is revealed as a modern redevelopment once you step through its eighteenth-century front door. Hunter 486 Restaurant and Bar is proud to present a ‘Best of British’ menu designed by Head Chef, Gary Durrant that includes his take on traditional fish and chips. The stylish bar area features original designer chairs by Tom Dixon and glass chandeliers. Do book one of the private booths that can be curtained off, and if you are in a movie-mood order the hotel’s signature Grace Kelly Martini. However arduous your day shopping, cares and tired feet will quickly be forgotten. What a shame Alan Rickman had to shoot back to the office instead of recovering at The Arch!
Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth
Poldark. Poldark has been one of the BBC’s great recent TV successes, a historical drama that sometimes seems to owe its success entirely to the ripped torso of its star, Aidan Turner (playing the eponymous Cornish hero). But Poldark was also a big BBC success in the 1970s when everyone kept their clothes on. What both series have in common is the glorious countryside of Cornwall, which was the home of its creator, Winston Graham. At the age of 17 Graham’s family moved to Perranporth on the North Cornish coast and a number of locations along this stunning stretch of the Atlantic were used in both TV adaptations.
To explore Poldark country, stay at Scarlet, a dramatically modern hotel that sensibly excludes children but welcomes pets. It is situated eight miles south of Porthcothan which was used to portray Nampara Cove, Ross Poldark’s home, in the recent TV series. It's also 18 miles north of St Agnes Head with its world-famous engine houses set on dramatic cliffs which doubled as Nampara Valley during the series.
Spittal Street, Stirling
Skyfall. Skyfall was one of the most emotionally intense Bond films ever made with a dramatic climax shot in the Scottish Highlands. Here it was that Bond (Daniel Craig) retreated to his family home, Skyfall in the company of M (Judi Dench). This section of the film was actually filmed in the majestic but menacing Scots valley of Glencoe with Albert Finney drafted in to pretend he was a Scots caretaker and Javier Bardem donning a blond wig as deranged Bond villain Raoul Silva.
Towards the end of the film Silva arrives in Glencoe with a band of heavily-armed mercenaries he has quickly picked up in London and proceeds to try and eliminate Bond and M. Inevitably the mercenaries are quickly disposed of leaving 007, M and Silva to fight it out in the Bond family chapel watched by a very confused caretaker.
To follow in the steps of Bond and M – and of Silva and his mercenaries – stay overnight at the Stirling Highland Hotel which was converted out of one of Scotland’s most successful grammar schools. The oceanographer Sir John Murray, the bacteriologist Sir David Bruce, the documentary film-maker John Grierson and the movie conductor Muir Matheson all studied here. The school itself is quite cinematic, and resembles a dark Oxbridge college from the outside with a working observatory on the roof. Now converted into a 96-bedroom hotel it’s an ideal place from which to set off in pursuit of Bond on the road to Glencoe.
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