Netflix drama The Last Kingdom encompasses some incredible locations, from sprawling battlefields and lush forests to the grimy towns of medieval England.
It may surprise you to know that the series isn’t actually filmed in the UK. Instead, the cast and crew relocate to Hungary to shoot its action-packed episodes.
At our The Last Kingdom Q&A, executive producer Nigel Marchant told RadioTimes.com: “I think what Hungary brings to us is this sense of other world. We don’t really know what England looked like 1,000 years ago, so although its not England and we shot it on location, it has this sense of otherness to it that I’ve always really enjoyed.”
The intricately designed towns and cities seen in The Last Kingdom, including King Edward’s home of Winchester, are all elaborate sets that have been built near the village of Göböljárás, west of Budapest.
Vicky Delow, producer on Netflix‘s The Last Kingdom, said: “I think the main set is a huge part of the show’s success. It’s an incredible place to be. One of the most amazing things about it is when you drive to it, you drive over a hill and the whole thing is revealed before you.
“And even though it’s a mishmash of different streets and different towns, it’s incredible to look at and it’s incredibly detailed… It’s a beautiful, wonderful thing to behold and you really do believe it when you see it on screen.”
In season four, Uhtred attempted to recapture the fortress at Bebbanburg, the land which is rightfully his but was stolen away by his treacherous uncle.
This posed a problem for the team behind The Last Kingdom, as they no longer had access to the Bebbanburg set that had been used in the first two seasons. They began a painstaking process of recreating the fortress, an effort led by production designer Dominic Hyman.
He said: “We needed to pick up on the look and feel of what was established in season one, but grow it and build it out in many different ways. It was also a case of growing it and fading it and making it feel like it had had that 20 to 25 years of weather and experience and neglect and sadness within it.
“We had to build a courtyard set which is the interior of the fortress but we also had to build a sea cave, which is like the ocean-facing entrance to the fortress from the sea. So, that was built at a water tank and that was a very challenging build.”
Countryside of Wessex
Of course, the cast also had to venture out into the Hungarian countryside for many days during the shoot, such as when Uhtred and his allies travel across Wessex to escape Eardwulf.
For these scenes, the crew filmed in the beautiful hills of Dobogókő, a popular tourist destination which some faiths believe is the “heart chakra” of the world.
The Last Kingdom star Alexander Dreymon, who plays Uhtred, told RadioTimes.com that it was one of his favourite shooting locations: “It is just the most gorgeous place in the forest, with these huge boulders. The tree that Uhtred and his gang sleep under [in season four]… it really looks like that, it’s overwhelmingly gorgeous.”
Seasons 1 and 2
Martyn John served as locations manager for the first two seasons of The Last Kingdom and talked more about the tactical advantage of filming in Hungary.
“You go 45 minutes outside of Budapest and you’re in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “You can’t do that anywhere in the UK. To get landscape of that scale and variety you have to travel to Scotland or to North Wales, whereas in Budapest it’s all there for you – apart from a coast.”
The coastal scenes are the only ones shot in the UK. In series one, they were filmed in North Wales but the show decamped to County Durham.
John added: “When Uhtred is sold into slavery, we built a traders camp at Nose’s Point, near Seaham. They get a lot of film crews up there. They shot one of the Alien movies there because it’s got the most amazing cliff and the iron extract in the water makes it look orange.”
The Last Kingdom is available to stream on Netflix. If you’re looking for more to watch, check out our TV guide.