Eight series in, the ITV crime drama Vera is more popular than ever and Northumberland’s dramatic scenery can probably take a lot of the credit.
Series producer Letitia Knight certainly thinks so.
“It’s a stunning place and our location manager travels hundreds of miles to find us the most perfect locations” says Knight, who’s helmed the ITV drama for three years.
“We always try and find places surrounded by beautiful landscape. We like to be by the sea a lot and in the moors. I’m sure that’s why viewers enjoy it – they’re entranced by the beauty of Northumberland.”
Here are a few of her favourite locations from recent series.
1. Kielder Water
In the final episode of the current series, a body is found in a dam, which locals will recognise as Northumberland’s biggest dam: Kielder Dam.
“We were the first drama to film inside its tunnels,” says Knight. “It had a very James Bond feel to it, and the dam was also incredible – so powerful and stunning. When the pipes are on, the water is so powerful, you do realise that if you got in front of that you’d be killed in a shot.”
The reservoir it feeds is the UK’s largest manmade lake by capacity (it holds 200 billion litres) and is surrounded by Europe’s largest manmade woodland. It’s also the site of England’s largest hydro electric plant.
Kielder Water and Forest Park is situated in the heart of Northumberland and is a popular spot for walking, cycling, water sports, bird-watching and star-gazing. There are three visitor centres and a bird of prey centre which is home to eagles, owls, falcons, hawks and vultures.
2. Whitley Bay
In episode three of this series, eagle-eyed viewers will clock one of the show’s favourite locations: The Rendevous Café in Whitley Bay, which is only 10 miles from Newcastle. Vera has visited this Art Deco ice cream palace on several occasions.
“It’s a really interesting, beautiful café with a lovely view of the sea,” says Knight. “You walk down the steps and you’re onto the beach. It’s a famous local landmark.”
Vera wonders where her ice cream is
This family-run cafe on the North Promenade has been dishing up teas, ices and a glorious panorama since the 1930s. You can work up an appetite by walking the four-mile round trip from Whitley Bay to St Mary’s Lighthouse along its award-winning beach and going rock-pooling.
3. Farne Islands
A rocky outcrop off the Northumberland coast played a pivotal role in series seven. DCI Stanhope is called in to investigate the mysterious death of a wildlife ranger whose body is discovered on the shore of a remote island, a bird sanctuary. This island is one of the Farne Islands.
“Getting across to the Farne Islands with Brenda Blethyn and all the crew was a real challenge,” recalls Knight. “We relied on good weather and a calm sea. But it was exciting to film there and in boats around the island.”
Vera looks for clues on one of the Farne Islands
The Farne Islands are home to many species of seabird including puffins and grey seals. There are 28 rocky isles altogether but many of them are submerged at high tide. The National Trust looks after them and boat trips sailing round the islands run all year (weather-permitting) from the village of Seahouses. From April to October, visitors can land on one or two of the islands.
4. St Cuthbert’s Cave
In series six, Vera visited a famous stone pillar known as St Cuthbert’s Cave.
“St Cuthbert’s Cave was a great location for us apart from the swarms of flies!” says Knight. “We had to wear hair and face masks whilst filming. But it was a beautiful day and we had wonderful views.”
It’s located near the hamlet of Holburn, deep in the Kyloe Hills. The story goes that monks from the Holy Island of Lindisfarne brought the saint’s body here as a safe resting place in the 9th century, following Vikings raids on the island.
The cave is in the woods, but you can walk up to a rocky crest above it for a great view down to the coast.
5. The abattoir
There’s one location in the current series that Knight and her team won’t be returning to in a hurry: the abattoir in episode one.
The abattoir really was that smelly
“That was an interesting one! We had a lot of hygiene issues: we had to wrap ourselves up before we even walked in. The stench of the meat was overwhelming – a lot of us went vegetarian for a month after filming there. We built a huge furnace where the body was shoved into.”
Vera is on Sundays on ITV, 8pm