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.
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”.
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.
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.
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