The set for a film or a TV show is just as important as the stars who bring the script to life – perhaps even more so. If the filming location is wrong, the production will lose all authenticity and no matter how good the acting is, the final result will be nothing short of a flop.
On occasion, location scouts do such a good job of picking a filming location that fans flock to the set years after the production was aired just to have their photo taken there. Lots of those locations happen to be right here in the UK!
Here are some of the most iconic film sets in Britain:
1. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire – Pride and Prejudice
In 2005, Chatsworth House was selected as the location for the exterior scenes in Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice. The hit movie starred a young Kiera Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. The imposing Chatsworth House was Mr Darcy’s home, and it is where many believe Jane Austen based her original take on Pemberley when she wrote the iconic novel in Bakewell.
2. Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford – Harry Potter
Oxford is known as the home to one of the best universities in the world, but increasing numbers of visitors are taking a trip there, not for academia, but to get a glimpse of the place where wizards once roamed. Christ Church Cathedral played host to new wizards entering Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films. Fans will most noticeably recognise the staircase and the Great Hall, the latter of which was the basis for the grand dining hall in the films.
3. Castle Ward, County Down, Northern Ireland – Winterfell in Game of Thrones
Game of Thrones has been hailed as one of the greatest TV shows of all time, and for good reason. The show was filmed all over the world, but perhaps the focal point of the show, Winterfell, was filmed at Castle Ward in County Down, Northern Ireland. The 18th century castle’s farmyard was home to the Stark family and was at the epicentre of many iconic scenes, including the Baelor battle.
If you were to visit today, you may not instantly recognise it as Winterfell due to the amount of CGI work that was done post-production, but you’ll certainly get a feel for the bones of Winterfell.
4. Highclere Castle, Hampshire – Downton Abbey
When it comes to iconic film locations, it’s fair to say that Highclere Castle is among the most recognisable. Built in 1679, the palace is was based on the foundations of an Anglo-Saxon palace designed by Bishop William of Wykeham. Sir Charles Barry, the designer of the Houses of Parliament, remodelled Highclere into the infamous palace it is today back in 1842.
The Grade I listed property has seen a lot in its time, including being used as a hospital in World War I for injured soldiers, and housing children evacuated from London in World War II. These days, it’s most known for being the backdrop to Downton Abbey. With over 13 million viewers every week at its peak, Highclere Castle definitely qualifies as iconic.
5. Royal Crescent, Bath – Bridgerton
In December 2020, Netflix released the now-famed Bridgerton series. Supposedly set in London, the actual film sets were scattered across the country, with perhaps the most recognisable being the Royal Crescent in Bath. In the show, the Featherington’s live in one of the 30 Grade I listed buildings originally built in 1767. The terraced houses curve around a lawn that overlooks Royal Victoria Park, creating a stunning feat of architecture that is not only walkable to tourists but that is regarded as one of the best pieced of Georgian architecture in the whole of the UK!
6. St John’s College, University of Cambridge - The Theory of Everything
The University of Cambridge is iconic in its own right, producing some of the world’s finest academia. It’s also a feat of architectural beauty and is the backdrop to many productions. St John’s College was the location for The Theory of Everything, the 2014 film about Stephen Hawking’s life.
It documented his life as a young student through to his later years. Although Hawking actually studied at Trinity Hall, St John’s is often regarded as more photogenic, featuring grand sites such as Kitchen Bridge when he and his later-wide, Jane, danced together, and New Court, where there was the remarkable firework display aired during the film.
The UK has so much to offer in the way of film locations, with many of its oldest buildings being instantly recognisable to world audiences. Of course, this wouldn’t be an iconic film setlist without some international locations, so here are a few that you might recognise thanks to excellent location scouting!
7. The Beverly Wiltshire Hotel, Beverly Hills, California – Pretty Woman
In 1993, Julia Roberts made a name for herself after her starring role in the Disney rom-com, Pretty Woman. Much of the film was set at the Beverly Wiltshire Hotel. Built in 1928, the hotel has always been an upmarket location for the rich and famous, but it was propelled to superstardom after Roberts and her co-star, Richard Gere, began their infamous love story in the hotel’s reception.
8. The Virgil, Los Angeles - A Star is Born
Speaking of budding romances, The Virgil in East Hollywood, Los Angeles, was where Jackson, played by Bradley Cooper, first lays eyes on Ally, played by Lady Gaga. Anyone who has seen the film will testify that it’s one of the most heart-breaking love stories of all time, with that first meeting in the bar giving no indication as to what was in store for the couple.
9. Wadi Rum, Jordan – The Martian, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Prometheus
Wadi Rum in Jordan is a UNESCO protected site. It’s famed for its red desert appearance that looks out of this world, hence why the desert has been used as the set to a lot of sci-fi productions. Its most known for its appearance in Star Wars, The Martian and Prometheus, but outside the big screen, it has over 25,000 rock carvings dating back over 12,000 years ago.
10. The McCallisters' House, Winnetka, Illinois – Home Alone
Christmas isn’t complete without watching Home Alone. The cult favourite 1990 film portrays the story of Kevin McAllister who was forced to defend his family home from thieves after his parents forgot him whilst going on holiday. The outside of the house hasn’t much changed in 30 years, but the interior is now far more modern. Regardless, fans still visit the outside of the property to this day.
Find Your Dream Film Location
Many people think actors are the stars of a movie, but if this list has taught us anything, it’s that location scouts are the true heroes. If you’re a scout or looking to create a media project, take a look at our extensive property catalogue, or contact us to find out more.