Which stunning TV settings topped all others last year? Read on to find out the top 10 backdrops of 2014…
10. Cardiff – The setting of Doctor Who
The city’s main claim to television fame is its connection with BBC1’s hit sci-fi show: the studios in Roath Lock on Cardiff Bay are where much of the series is filmed. Five minutes’ walk away is The Doctor Who Experience – a warehouse dedicated to the Time Lord, where Whovians can travel through time and space with the Doctor. Around the city, tours offer guided walks to filming spots from the series.
Barry Island Heritage Railway
Just outside the city, this historic railway, dating back to 1884, was used in the episode The Empty Child, where Christopher Eccleston and Billie Piper saved the world from a gas mask-wearing child during the Blitz.
Mount Stuart Square
This cluster of grade II-listed buildings doubles for the streets of London in the series. In Rise of the Cybermen, the Doctor and Rose walk through the area past motionless people wearing strange metal earpieces.
The Port of Cardiff
In The Sontaran Stratagem, the production team carried out a carefully executed stunt at this busy working port – they fired a car into the canal via a car-cannon.
9. Canada – the setting of Fargo
Set in Minnesota, but filmed in the equally frozen surroundings of Alberta, Martin Freeman (left) and Billy Bob Thornton’s hit Channel 4 drama offered up a dose of chilly dark comedy drama with snowy vistas and moments of extreme violence. The gritty and unforgiving, yet somehow innocent, feel of the show was created on a visit to Calgary. “We were guaranteed more consistent wintry weather up in Calgary,” explains producer Warren Littlefield. “The terrain really spoke to being in that chilly, cold, winter Fargo world.”
Giant bodies of water are fundamental to Fargo; the crew grew accustomed to filming on thick ice at below-zero temperatures. The glacier-fed Ghost Lake, at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, is well worth a visit in the summer when sailing trips take place, while the forest areas around Canmore are popular among hikers and sports climbers. Freeman loved the beautiful Canadian surroundings, until he did a few long shoots on Spray Lakes in the winter. “Martin said, ‘I’ve never been to the Rockies, this is an absolutely spectacular place to be. But I’m ready for it to be over, I’m going back to the warmth of London,’” Littlefield recalls.
“Drumheller gave us some wonderful visuals,” says Littlefield. “From the first episode there are the shots of these rooftops. There’s lots of snow in Drumheller; it sits in a little valley and it just fills up with snow. We were able to get up quite high and park our cameras across the rooftops of the city. It was really effective and gave us a sense of place.”
This rundown café is exactly what a true diner should feel like. “Lou’s is featured in most of the episodes,” says Littlefield. It has booths and checked tablecloths and sells coffee and steak sandwiches. “This is retired cop Lou Solverson’s [played by Keith Carradine] place of business. The real location is the Smokehouse Diner [at 6805 Ogden Road SE] in Calgary. Their speciality is pressure-cooked fried chicken.”
8. Liverpool – the setting of Cilla
ITV’s hit drama, charting the early career of singer Cilla Black and starring Sheridan Smith (below), transported us back 50 years to a time of pencil skirts, quiffs, knee-high boots and, most importantly, rock ’n’ roll.
The Cavern Club and The Beatles Story
Still fully open for business on Mathew Street and a thriving live music venue, the Cavern Club is where the Beatles and Cilla made their names. “The Cavern you see on screen was certainly inspired by the 1960s Cavern Club,” says Cilla producer Kwadjo Dajan. “The closest match to the original Cavern Club can be found at the museum The Beatles Story, at the Albert Docks.”
Early Beatles drummer Pete Best’s basement on Hayman’s Green was transformed into a rock ’n’ roll club, where the Beatles and Cilla Black played. “We looked upon it as our personal club,” is how Sir Paul McCartney has described it. “It still exists now,” says Dajan, “complete with the original paintwork, done by John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. It’s an absolutely tiny space – how the Beatles and Cilla managed to perform there, I’ll never know.”
7. Sweden/Denmark – The setting of The Bridge
The classic Nordic crime drama starts with a dead body found on the Oresund Bridge between Denmark and Sweden. This austere, eternal twilight setting can be explored over the course of a long weekend.
Swedish detective Saga Noren is based in Malmo (while her Danish counterpart Martin Rohde is from Copenhagen). The city was depicted in The Bridge as drab and industrial. But in reality, Malmo is a stunning medieval city with a beautiful centre, ancient cobbled streets and fabulous bars.
In the Western Harbour sits a new quarter of modern eco-friendly buildings where The Bridge shot exteriors for Saga’s flat and the headquarters of the Medisonus pharmaceutical company in series two.
The Oresund Bridge must be experienced by any fan of the show. This 11km engineering feat connects Malmo and Copenhagen: it’s expensive to use but the views are nothing short of stunning. Once in Copenhagen, you can visit the real-life Copenhagen police HQ in the centre of the city, which is used for the exterior shots of the station in The Bridge.
6. London – the setting of Sherlock
London is a key element of both Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories and the BBC1 hit series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (above). It’s easy to visit the capital’s Sherlock settings…
221B Baker Street
The exterior of Holmes and Watson’s flat (as seen in all three series) is actually shot in a quieter road 25 minutes’ walk from Baker Street. Find it at 187 North Gower Street, NW1 2NJ.
The Sherlock Holmes Museum
Between numbers 237 and 241 Baker Street (but numbered 221B by permission of the City of Westminster), this Grade II-listed building is devoted to the detective. Inside, fans will find a re-creation of Sherlock’s sitting room.
5. Derbyshire – the setting of The Village
Peter Moffat’s bleak, Bafta-nominated BBC1 drama follows one northern rural English village across the 20th century. “The heartbreakingly beautiful countryside is the 29th character in The Village and arguably it’s the biggest role,” says Moffat. “The more time I spend up in Edale and around Hayfield and Glossop the more I love this rugged, beautiful, honest part of England.”
“As the camera never leaves the village, I wanted to choose somewhere that was truly a bit of England. Not a fishing or mining village but a true rural location in the north,” says Moffat. It’s possible to see landmarks from the screen up close, including Rosie’s Café, which transforms into Hankins general stores in the series (above). Meanwhile, the Royal Hotel, where all the crew stayed while shooting, is a lovely place for a pint.
Lyme Park, Disley
Now managed by the National Trust (and fully open to the public), Lyme Park doubles for the Allingham family home. “We use the gardens, the lakes and the whole house [for filming],” says Augustus Prew, who plays George Allingham. “If you walk along the corridors, you will see many of the sets. One of the main focal pieces is the drawing room. It’s one of the oldest parts of the house, some of it medieval… you walk in and the architecture is so beautiful and empowering. It’s a masterpiece.”
4. Cornwall – the setting of Jamaica Inn
Based on Daphne du Maurier’s acclaimed novel, and filmed in the same area of Cornwall that inspired the original story, the BBC1 adaptation of Jamaica Inn, starring Jessica Brown Findlay and Sean Harris, was one of the most talked-about dramas of the year.
The magnificent countryside brings the story to life, and takes us back to this mesmerising world of smugglers, violence and sex. “Cornish locations are essential to the drama,” explains series writer Emma Frost. In the name of research, Frost stayed in a yurt on Bodmin Moor in the rain for three days, near the incredible Roughtor stone structure on the hill.
“I climbed Roughtor right to the top and did what Mary Yellen would have done and looked at the vegetation and granite rock… the end of the final sequence was filmed right here. You can see for miles and miles around.”
The Cheesewring and Hurlers, Bodmin Moor
“The Hurlers are kind of like tombstones,” says Frost. “They are as tall as a man and you can hide behind them. The Cheesewring looks like a pile of stone bagels!” The Jamaica Inn crew filmed at both locations, and captured vastly different landscapes. “What’s amazing about Bodmin Moor is that you move half a mile in any direction and the colours change completely. One minute you’re at the tor, the next minute you’re in this scrubby heather and the next it’s thick grass.
“Bodmin Moor is extraordinary. You can see for miles and watch the clouds go across the sun and you get these big purple patches of shadow on the land as they move across. It’s glorious – it makes you feel like this tiny, tiny unimportant speck.”
Holywell Bay, Newquay
All the smuggling scenes from the series were filmed at this quiet, pretty little cove, as well as the sea and caves around Newquay. “It was a really tough shoot,” explains Frost. “It was bitterly cold, and the cast were in the sea all week long… Some of them used wetsuits [under their costumes], but I know Sean Harris didn’t; he’s method and wanted to feel what it would have felt like. He got very cold.”
3. Northern Ireland – The setting of Game of Thrones
After the shocking finale of the fourth season last spring, the fifth series of the sex and violence-soaked fantasy will return to Sky Atlantic around Easter. The show has filmed in Croatia, Morocco, Iceland and Spain, but mainly Northern Ireland, which doubles for Winterfell, King’s Landing and Pyke in the series.
Ballintoy Harbour, Antrim
Transformed into the medieval-style fishing port of Lordsport on the island of Pyke in Iron Islands, Theon Greyjoy (Alfie Allen, below) docked here before making the journey to see his father in series two. After years apart, his sister Yara turned up to meet him without identifying herself and it all got a bit awkward on the scenic journey to the castle. In real life, though, this is a magnificent spot (left); the water is opaque, fishermen sell the day’s catch from their boats and nearby, White Park Bay, a three-mile long sandy beach, is a lovely place for a walk.
Brienne of Tarth beat Ser Loras Tyrell in a tournament at this striking amphitheatre-type space in season two. This beautiful headland with its white limestone cliffs also doubles as Renly Baratheon’s camp. “It’s surrounded by beautiful chalky cliffs with a gorgeous view of the ocean below,” says series location manager Robbie Boake. “There are stunning views out to sea.”
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2. Northumberland and Durham – the setting of Vera
ITV’s popular crime drama, starring Brenda Blethyn (right) as DCI Vera Stanhope, is set against a striking backdrop. “I absolutely love Northumberland. I think it’s beautiful,” explains series producer Margaret Mitchell.
Blyth and Whitley Bay
The small town of Blyth is real Vera territory. “This section of the coastline has these amazing turbines out to sea,” explains Mitchell. “It’s a very angular, metallic world out there.” The Rendezvous Café at Whitley Bay is also regularly used as a filming location. “It’s a timeless area. There’s a big statue just behind the priory where we shot the episode Sandancers and that’s a well-known landmark, too.”
Nose’s Point, Durham
This stretch of coastline runs south from Newcastle to Hartlepool, and features in series four. “The mainland has broken away and eroded,” says Mitchell, “and you’re left with these big monolithic stacks of rocks that you can walk right up to. It’s very dramatic.”
Recognisable from the Silent Voices episode, Rothbury is “a great place for walking,” says Mitchell. “When you’re here, you’re completely struck by the light and the skies.”
1. Italy – the setting of The Trip to Italy
Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan embarked on a Grand Tour-style romp through Piedmont, Tuscany, Rome and Capri, in a Mini Cooper (of course), stopping regularly to enjoy the very best Italian kitchens.
Beginning in the northwest, the pair began their trip with a meal at the Trattoria della Posta in Monforte d’Alba, sampling guineafowl and the local Barolo.
Vineyards, medieval architecture and enchanted forests were just a few of the sights that kept the pair happy
en route to Pisa.
The comic duo marvelled at the Roman buildings before demolishing a Michelin-starred meal at Ristorante Oliver Glowig.
Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast
The coastal mountains and stunning sea views of Amalfi have long been magnets for the rich and famous. Lunch for Coogan and Brydon was taken at the elegant Villa Cimbrone in Ravello.
The pair’s journey ended with a meal at the seafront Il Riccio at the Capri Palace Hotel, specialising in octopus, cuttlefish, bream, sea urchins and lobster.
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