Like quite a few crime dramas that have hit our screens over the last few years (Shetland, Liar, Broadchurch), The Bay was filmed on the UK coast. This ITV show, which stars Morven Christie as DC Lisa Armstrong, is set in Morecambe – and features plenty of shots of the sandy beach, windswept promenade and choppy seas.
It also puts the spotlight on a small town, including both the run-down areas and the “leafier” neighbourhoods.
Here’s what you need to know about Morecambe – and the locations we see on screen:
Where is The Bay set – and filmed?
ITV drama The Bay is set and filmed in the coastal town of Morecambe. This Lancashire town is located north of Blackpool, and was once a bustling seaside resort which has seen a decades-long decline in tourism.
But screenwriter Daragh Carville believes Morecambe doesn’t get the recognition it deserves – and this drama will put the town back in the spotlight.
Although originally from Northern Ireland, Carville has made his home in nearby Lancaster where he and his wife, the novelist Jo Baker, have raised their family. “Morecambe’s right on our doorstep, and when our kids were young we’d bring them to Morecambe and it was a place that I always liked,” he told RadioTimes.com ahead of the first season in 2019.
“It’s a really interesting mix of things, because on the one hand it’s very striking, it’s beautiful, it’s got extraordinary views out across the bay towards the Lake District. But it’s also got that very distinctive British or Irish seaside town quality, because as with many seaside places, it has slightly lost its raison d’être.”
Morecambe thrived after the arrival of the railways, with holidaymakers coming down on the trains from Scotland and from Yorkshire all through the first half of the 20th century. But from the 1970s, Brits could increasingly afford foreign holidays and Morecambe was out of fashion – especially after its two piers were destroyed.
“You can still see traces of it. There are still these magnificent buildings like the Winter Gardens and the Midland Hotel, so it’s still got this sense of slightly faded grandeur,” Carville said, explaining why he decided to set The Bay in Morecambe.
“And I suppose the combination of it being a beautiful place, but also a place that has had its struggles – there’s something about Morecambe, it’s literally on the edge of the country, but there’s also a metaphorical edge to it as well.”
Morecambe is also not the sort of place you usually see in a TV drama. “One of the reasons I wanted to write this story and to set it there was just simply because nothing had been set there before,” Carville said. “And I think there’s something really important about seeing your own life represented on screen or on stage.”
So will people be tempted to visit Morecambe after watching The Bay? Will we see the Broadchurch effect?
“It is a crime drama so there is a dark aspect to this story and we can’t get away from that,” the writer said. “But that’s not all it’s about, and we also kind of show the beauty of the place and the richness and warmth of that community. Richness in the sense of a lived history. And I think that’s all there, in the mix.
“At the same time, it’s not like a tourist guide to Morecambe, it’s not a travelogue. We have the dark side and the positives.”
Where was The Bay season 2 filmed?
Speaking at a virtual Q&A ahead of season two, Daragh Carville explained that one of the “founding ideas” of the show was that – if the show was recommissioned – it would explore another “aspect of life” in Morecambe.
“So in the first series the family was very much a blue collar working class family and they lived on an estate in town, and this time it’s a more middle class family and a bit more well-to-do,” Carville said.
“We’re not talking big money here, but they’re a bit more well-off and they live in… there’s an area of Morecambe called Bare, which is the leafier, more suburban side. So we get to see that.
“But we never lose sight of the bay itself, and I was always consciously – when I’m writing I’m always thinking: ‘Where geographically are we? And how does that relate to the bay?’ So you’ll notice that when people have businesses, they’re very very often on the prom.”
Where were the beach scenes filmed?
Morecambe has a five-mile stretch of sandy beach with panoramic views over to the Lakeland Fells. Along the coastline is a long promenade, lined with cafés and restaurants and hotels.
Filming took place along the beach, but particularly around the Stone Jetty which is now all that remains of the original Victorian harbour.
Morven Christie said: “Morecambe Bay itself is vast, but each little section of it is completely different. Sometimes you’ll go down there and the tide is miles and miles out, and it’s just mudflats and quicksand, almost all the way across to the Lake District. Then other times the tide can come in, in minutes; it happens so fast that it catches you unawares. There are bits where it looks rocky, but once you get down onto it, it’s hunks of mud. Visually it can go from these beautiful sunsets and sunrises over the water, to these moments where it looks like it’s closing in on you. It’s quite powerful in terms of imagery. It definitely changes the mood of the town.
“There’s a scene we shot on the prom; it was really sunny and it felt like it was a festival in the middle of summer and everybody was out. Then two days later it was freezing and foggy which made it suddenly feel like a different town. That feeds the spirit of the place; it feeds the spirit of the stories really well.”
Where is the police station filmed?
Lisa works for DI Tony Manning (Daniel Ryan) at the police station in Morecambe, where filming actually took place.
“It is indeed a working police station,” Carville told us, adding: “But to be fair, and without wanting to ruin the magic of television, the exteriors and the interiors are filmed at different places.”
While exteriors were shot in Morecambe, the interior scenes of meeting rooms and office and interview rooms were filmed at a disused police station in Manchester.
Is the karaoke bar a real place?
The first season drama opens with Lisa Armstrong and her girlfriends heading to The Royal Bar on the seafront, where they take to the stage for karaoke night.
“You won’t be surprised to learn that there are plenty of bars in Morecambe, including plenty of bars that do karaoke – so that’s a real spot,” Carville said.
“One hand there is a toughness to somewhere like Morecambe; it is an area of real deprivation that’s been really hit by austerity. But as is often the case with these kinds of communities, there’s also a great warmth to it and a strong sense of community. Life goes on, and there’s fun to be had.”
Where was the arcade filmed?
In the first season, Lisa’s troublesome teenage daughter Abbie (Imogen King) is hanging out on the prom when a young workman approaches, asking if she wants to look inside the building site – a closed-down arcade that has long seen better days.
“That’s a real place,” said Carville. “In the world of the show, it’s kind of being renovated, done up. There are lots of, there are existing amusement arcades that are still there, and there are many that have closed down over the years. All of that is very real.”
Where was Lisa’s old house filmed?
In season one, Morven Christie’s character DS Lisa Armstrong and her two teenage kids live in a house with a magnificent view – though by season two she’s been demoted to DC and sold her house to live in a somewhat more cramped flat.
On the house in the first sesaon, Carville explained: “One of the things about Morecambe is that it faces out onto the bay, and the show is called The Bay, and we wanted a sense of that – there are all kinds of depths and dangers in the world of The Bay, and it’s got a kind of metaphorical richness to it. So it felt quite important that she is really living on the bay. So the house faces out right across Morecambe Bay, there’s a fantastic view from Lisa’s house.”
He adds: “You get the best sunsets in the world in Morecambe, they’re absolutely stunning.”
Where was the lido scene filmed?
Later in the first season, The Bay took a trip away from Morecambe further along the bay to Grange-over-Sands. Filming took place at Grange Lido, a decaying Art Deco lido which was once a busy attraction with a salt-water outdoor pool, sun decks, terraces, a pump house, a paddling pool and a diving stage.
The lido closed its doors in the 1990s and has since fallen into disrepair, but locals are now campaigning to Save Grange Lido and bring it back into use.
“We’ve got some wonderful scenes shot there, and that’s really a quite magical place,” Carville said. “And I hope it is saved, and I hope it’s brought back to life as an actual lido for the local community, because it’s really special.”
The screenwriter added: “There are a few absolute gems like that around the Morecambe Bay area. Another one – we glimpse it in the show, although we don’t have any actual scenes set there – but there’s an absolutely beautiful Victorian music hall called the Winter Gardens.”
He explained: “This was a working beautiful redbrick building, and it was a working music hall until I think the mid 70s. And ever since then, it has been run by the local community, who have just kept it together just about. And they patch it up, and they keep it alive, and there are a few times a year there are events there. And again there’s the big community campaign to try and save it and bring it back to its former glory.”
The Bay season two begins Wednesday 20th January at 9pm and continues on Wednesdays on ITV. Take a look at what else is on with our TV guide.