Despite its globetrotting, time-walking story Sky original fantasy A Discovery of Witches doesn’t actually zip around time and space quite as often in reality, with the majority of the vampire-witch romance (which stars Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer) filming in South Wales.
“I do love the consistency of it,” Palmer told us from the set of season two in late 2019. “It’s actually great for my family just to be in one place for a prolonged period of time.”
“And it’s horrific for my family – they’re not in Wales,” joked Goode.
But what extra locations did the cast go to outside the UK, and how did they bring Elizabethan London to life in South Wales anyway? Check out our full guide to the locations of A Discovery of Witches (and how they were created) below.
A great deal of A Discovery of Witches season two was filmed in the grounds of a manor house called Plas Machen (near Newport in South Wales), specifically around a large farm house which RadioTimes.com visited in 2019.
Of course, the sort of scenery Matthew and Diana encounter in 1590s England doesn’t really exist any more, which left production designer James North with the task of bringing it to life – with a little help from author and historical expert Deborah Harkness, who took key production members on a tour of Elizabethan buildings that were still standing.
“Elizabethan London’s quite an amazing place, you know, and obviously not much is left of it any more,” North told RadioTimes.com. “There are obviously tiny bits here and there, but nothing of any real worth.”
“As a historian, I’m so used to seeing an Elizabethan or Tudor show that does not look at all like what it should look like,” Harkness added. “Because it’s usually a kind of pastiche. And it was wonderful because James and [costume designer Sarah Arthur] and their teams really heard me when I said I can’t do a pastiche, where we cherry pick bits we like from over a 100 years and hope for the best.”
“[Deborah] gave us a really clear view of what the city would have looked like,” North said. “So we started off with a historic map, and placed out all the areas we needed to go in our story, and we cherry-picked the areas that we wanted.”
Then the team found their location, and got to work.
“We found a beautiful old 16th-Century manor house, that had got a collection of barns at the back of it,” North told us.
“And we ended up building around the courtyard of the farm. So it helped us, a little bit, make our money go further. Because we could clad onto the side of some buildings, and some buildings we could keep seeing.”
The finished effect featured full houses with multiple floors (meaning they could film on this set, rather than having separate interiors elsewhere) spinning off a main street, and was incredibly immersive and convincing – especially for book author Harkness and the cast.
“James made me cry for series one, when I walked onto the Bodleian set. But when he took me to Plas Machen, and I stood in that door to Elizabethan London, he did something even more amazing – he reduced me to speechlessness,” Harkness told us.
“I’m not normally at a loss for words. And I had to sit down – it was so overwhelming.”
“When I first stepped foot onto the set James North had built I was emotional – it felt like I had been transported back in time,” series lead Teresa Palmer, who plays witch Diana, told RadioTimes.com.
“The whole world felt so grounded in reality, and as a performer that’s just such a beautiful gift. Just to be able to be in it, and immerse yourself in it.”
“As an actor, I think it does 95 per cent of the job for you,” agreed series newcomer Steven Cree, who plays vampire Gallowglass.
Other major locations
Of course, not all of the series was filmed in the UK, with Palmer and Goode heading to Italy for two weeks towards the end of season two shooting to film key location scenes (including exteriors for Matthew’s ancestral home Sept-Tours, which located in France within the world of the series).
However, beach scenes which see Gallowglass, Matthew and Diana land in France were actually filmed in Wales’ Gower peninsula, which meant dealing with the temperamental Welsh weather.
“There’s been a lot of location shoots actually,” Steven Cree told us. “The beach I was talking about that we shot at a couple of weeks ago, was absolutely stunning. It was at The Gower.
“It was beautiful and clear blue skies. But also there was a day when it was utterly torrential rain. But that’s so dramatic – and in a place like that as well.”
The cast also filmed at other scouted locations around Wales including Pembroke castle – or at least, underneath it – while the interiors of key locations including Sept-Tours were built as sets at the studio base, also in South Wales.
“It was great where we were shooting last week, in a really beautiful cave, under Pembroke Castle, which was an incredible location as well,” Cree said. “There was another castle we shot at. I didn’t realise Wales had so many castles, actually. It’s got more than Scotland, maybe. I’m not sure.
“It’s great. That’s another great aspect to a job like this as well. You’re shooting in places that you would never normally visit necessarily off your own back. But actually I’m discovering new places that are steeped in so much history as well, and in particular that cave last week that was underneath the castle.
“You think of the people and the things this must have seen over the years. And then we’re here with our wigs on…”
A Discovery of Witches season two airs on Sky One on Fridays, and all 10 episodes are available to stream on NOW TV. Want something else to watch? Check out our TV Guide.