The BBC and Masterpiece Classics Tour: 10 Film Locations

By: Susie Stauffer

From the verdant rolling hills of the English countryside to historic estates dating back centuries, follow in the footsteps of your favorite Masterpiece Classics and BBC television series like the Highclere Castle in Hampshire from Downton Abbey and the Yorkshire Dales of All Creatures Great and Small fame. Put on your London Fog trench coat, hop in a vintage Mini Cooper, and get ready for pints, tea and biscuits as you explore the same spots that inspired the legendary tales of Agatha Christie and James Herriot. Set against the romantic backdrop of the English countryside; discover the film locations of your favorite British television shows.


All Creatures Great and Small: Yorkshire Dales

Besides the cars on the roads, the Yorkshire Dales has remained largely unchanged with its rolling hills, old stone churches, and bubbling streams. Hop in a rental, put on your London Fog, and get ready to follow the same path as James Herriot from All Creatures Great and Small. First stop is Cringley House on Main Street, which served as the Skeldale House and vet headquarters in the series. Now the historic building is a Bed and Breakfast located in Askrigg, which gives James Harriott fans the chance to stay in the original house. Then, after filling up on tea and toast, or a full English breakfast, head to Holy Trinity Church, another film location and an Anglican landmark dating back to 1719. A good place to end a day of sightseeing the Yorkshire Dales is Kings Arms Hotel, known in the series as Drover’s Arms and still the same place where all the locals gather for pints and gossip.

Downton Abbey: Highclere Castle

Get ready to enter a world of opulent luxury and century old architecture of the romantic English countryside. Welcome to Highclere Castle, a Jacobethan style mansion in Hampshire and also the filming location of the popular Masterpiece Classics series Downton Abbey. Open to the public from July to September, visitors get a chance to wander into the same rooms that were filmed in the hit show, including the drawing room where Maggie Smith frequently offered pithy comments to unfortunate family members. Situated 5 miles south of Newbury, Berkshire, the castle is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, and is still in the family name today. It was originally built in 1839 on the foundations of the crumbling medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester. The classical style mansion reflects a mix of Victorian revival of English architecture that was popular at the time.

Poldark: Cornwall

The new series on Masterpiece Classics, Poldark, relives the life and ties of Cornwall haves and have nots of the 18th century. Situated on the cliffs of south west England, Cornwall is a rustic countryside filled with treasures and relics from long ago days. In fact, Charleston has a collection of vintage ships and traditional stone buildings, making it ideal for filming period pieces. Another hidden treasure featured in the series is Porthgwarra, an ancient fish cove that is now used as a beautiful swimming and snorkeling spot. Further along the coast are stone buildings of the Levant Mine that rests like an ancient medieval fortress nestled in the cliffs. Further along the coast is the Padstow area, a region of green cliffs and fields of barley, the perfect backdrop for period melodrama.

Campion: The Suffolk Coast

The Suffolk Coast has all the standards you would expect from the English countryside: Elizabethan mansions, perfectly manicured gardens, and ancient paths with brooks and old woodlands. In BBC’s retelling of Campion, the Margery Allingham mysteries, the show centers around Campion, a private small-time sleuth who hob nobs with aristocrats always up to no good, unless it was the butler. In any case, follow the same wooded trails to the quaint village of Dedham for a day out in the country. Along the way, there are plenty of places for tea and biscuits, like the Bridge Cottage, a 16th century, well-preserved thatch cottage in Flatford. From there, head to St. Mary-the-Virgin church and see up close the architecture from the 14th century. A leisurely 5-minute stroll leads to Willy Lott’s House, a 16th century mansion that is featured in Constable’s painting “The Hay Wain” (1821).


Land Girls: Arbury Hall

Standing in for the fictional Hoxley Manor in the BBC series Land Girls, Arbury Hall in Nuneaton is a rare example of early Gothic Revival and Tudor architecture. Built in 1586, the Elizabethan mansion still retains its authentic magnificence with its 300 acres of perfectly manicured lawns, ancient woodlands, and the verdant rolling hills of Warwickshire, England. The mansion has been in the Newdegate family for 400 years and in the 18th century, Sir Roger Newdegate transformed it into an opulent, luxurious palace, making it ideal for period film locations set in the English countryside. The estate has also been featured in George Eliot’s “Scenes of a Clerical Life,” a collection of short stories published in 1857. Today, the estate and gardens are open to the public on Bank Holiday weekends from April to August, the perfect time to see the flowers in full bloom.

Endeavor: Oxford, England

In the mystery series Endeavor, the latest reboot of the BBC show Inspector Morse, the ancient town of Oxford is the setting where the young inspector tracks down suspects and cracks impossible murder cases. Dating back to the 11th century, Oxford still contains original stonewalls, structures, and churches from the Medieval era, including the University of Oxford, one of the oldest colleges in the world. Also featured in the Harry Potter movies, Oxford is like an outdoor museum with tales of the ancient world on every corner. A good place to start a walking tour is the Carfax Tower, which is located in the city center at Queen and High Street. A cherished historical landmark, the tower is all that remains of the 12th century St. Martin’s Church. Visitors are also welcomed to tour the gardens and buildings of the University of Oxford, the crown jewel of Oxfordshire.

Sherlock Holmes: London

Find your inner sleuth, the English version, and head for London, the very streets where Arthur Conon Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes enthralled his contemporaries with his genius detective skills and odd manners. In the latest BBC version of the classic mystery, Sherlock Holmes, follow a trail of clues around the city. First stop is Baker Street, one of the most famous addresses in London, so popular in fact, most days it is congested with fan traffic, forcing the film crew to replace it with 87 North Gower Street. Devotees of the show might recognize Speedy’s Café beneath the apartment of Holmes and Mrs. Hudson. Just like Holmes in “A Scandal in Belgravia,” visitors can sit down and watch for clues over an evening meal. Then take a stroll to Russell Square Garden, the serene patch of green in Bloomsbury and featured in the very first episode of Sherlock.

Mr. Selfridge: London

Enter the historic streets and old buildings of England’s Edwardian era in the Masterpiece Classics period drama Mr. Selfridge. Filmed on the streets of Neaseden, the series transforms the neighborhood back to the early 20th century with vintage automobiles, top hats, and handbags. Although it has become modernized with the Chalkill housing estate built in the 1970s, many of the original buildings and cottages remain, making it a worthwhile stop on a trip to London. Keep walking and you’ll reach Wembley Park, which contains England’s main football stadium and the stages of the Wembley Arena, a major entertainment venue. If you want a taste of the English aristocracy, stop by Wrotham Park in Hertfordshire, which is featured as Lord Loxley’s mansion interiors in London.

Bleak House: Hertfordshire, United Kingdom

In southern England, you’ll find more relics from old world aristocracy, including several historic estates and gardens in Hertfordshire where the BBC Masterpiece Classics mini-series Bleak House was filmed. For a Charles Dickens period piece, the area is perfect with its expansive rolling hills and stately mansions. A good place to start is the Hatfield House, a Jacobean style mansion that has the embellishments of a typical estate in the English countryside. Visitors also have the chance to explore the surviving wing of the Tudor Palace, the very place where Elizabeth I spent her childhood. After a day of exploring, get ready to experience the life of the Dukes and Ladies at the luxurious Hertfordshire Spa, a retreat at the historic estate of Broxbourne. Relax after a spa day with top shelf Brandy, ornate chandeliers, and all the relics from the age of opulence.


Wolf Hall: Montacute, Somerset, United Kingdom

Set in a world of betrayal, revenge, and melodrama is the incredible true story of the English Monarchy and its tumultuous saga. In the Masterpiece Classics version, prepare to enter the world of the cutthroat court of Henry VIII in Wolf Hall, a retelling of the classic real-life tragedy. Filmed at Montacute House in Somerset, England, step foot on the same hollowed grounds that represent the Greenwich Palace, Henry VIII’s primary London seat and the site of Anne Boleyn’s arrest. The surrounding gardens also provide a spectacular backdrop for jousting and archery of the kings and dukes of old. After touring the grounds where the romance between Henry and Anne blossomed, stop in for a traditional English meal at the café or bring your own lunch for a picnic on the lawn. For a longer stay, visitors have the option of staying overnight at the South Lodge holiday cottage.