All may not be going swimmingly in the lives of newlyweds Alan (Derek Jacobi) and Celia (Anne Reid) in Sally Wainwright’s Bafta-winning drama Last Tango in Halifax, but at least the glorious north of England scenery remains a constant. “Sally’s a local and it’s the area that inspires her,” explains series producer Karen Lewis. Wainwright’s hit drama from last year, Happy Valley, starring Sarah Lancashire, was filmed in Yorkshire’s Calder Valley, but the current series of Last Tango showcases even more magnificent panoramas.
“Sally always wants to portray that the north is not what you think,” says Lewis. “It’s not all flat caps and cobbles; there is affluence, too. One thing she’s pulled off really well with Last Tango is writing a drama about middle-class people. And the setting is very important. I think the audience loves the picturesque and sometimes
bleak backgrounds. They’re very appropriate for the characters.”
Having said that, much of the first series wasn’t filmed in Halifax, or even in Yorkshire. The BBC’s northern headquarters are in Salford, and it made logistical sense to shoot nearby.
When the series first aired in 2012, Yorkshire folk soon realised it wasn’t filmed in their backyard. “Lots of fans would try to hunt down the real locations,” says Lewis. “Caroline’s house, which is supposed to be in Harrogate, is actually in Altrincham, and the farm is above Rochdale. But authenticity is very important and for the subsequent series we have tried very hard to film in locations that are particular to the area.
This elegant, ivy-clad, Grade II Jacobean manor on the edge of Brontë country features in a number of episodes in series two. It was the venue for Caroline and Kate’s romantic weekend break, Celia’s hen party and scenes from Alan and Celia’s wedding. “It’s a beautiful old hotel,” says Lewis. “The architecture is very characteristic of the area. It has these mullioned windows and the sandstone that buildings of this period were made of.” Since the series, fans
of the show have replicated the Last Tango in Halifax wedding at the hotel. “Recently, a couple got married there in a similar story to Alan and Celia,” laughs Lewis.
After Alan and Celia leave the hospital in the first episode of series two following his heart scare, they go up to Ladstone Rock on Norland Moor in the Calder Valley. “It’s this huge slab of rock overlooking this amazing view of the whole of Yorkshire,” says Lewis. “Alan and Celia talk about their past and about seizing the day.” Legend has it that witches were thrown from this rock in the Middle Ages. Today it’s a more peaceful, but dramatic, setting. “People come here for a walk, it’s a scenic beauty spot. You can go to the top, although it can be a strenuous climb.”