Finding English travel inspiration via film

Ashley Chalmers

Senior Contributor

For all the things 2020 has taken away, it’s given us one concrete thing: lots and lots (and lots) of screen time. Like most countries these days, England seems to constantly be either in lockdown or teetering on the edge of another. Pair this with shorter days and colder temps, and it’s the ideal time to cosy up and binge. But if you’re based in England, until the borders are fully and comfortably open, it’s probably safest to assume any near-future travel will be within the English borders.

This year can get filed away under lots of categories, but one that most surely applies is The Year of Traveling Outside the Box. As countries near and far have come in and out of lockdown, it’s been a small comfort to explore our home regions whenever possible. It’s safe to say that once this current lockdown ends, travel lovers will let their itchy feet carrying them wherever is still safe and accessible to visit. And when it comes to travel planning in the age of COVID, any inspiration will do.

So at least for the time being, let this round-up of big and small screen scenes serve as a handy guide to your own backyard.

Spot the London scenes in About Time

There are plenty of iconic films set in London, and this one doesn’t get nearly enough love. While films like Love, Actually and Notting Hill take you through the well-worn streets of London’s most colourful neighbourhoods, About Time highlights a handful of its lesser-known areas. Yes, there are plenty of scenes in Soho and Carnaby Street, but Tim (Domnhall Gleeson) lives in Queen’s Park, a buzzy little neighbourhood in Northwest London.

He repeatedly crashes a party in Earl’s Court—another area that most tourists probably can’t name. Tim and Mary (Rachel McAdams) dine at a random Greek restaurant in Bayswater for one of their earliest dates, and they kiss and stroll and run late for work through a montage set in the Maida Vale tube station. Find the beauty in these small pockets of London, and when in the meantime, support the local businesses that keep this city thriving.

Explore the Cotswolds with Emma (2020)

There’s plenty to love about the latest iteration of Jane Austen’s Emma, but the stunning, sweeping scenes in the English countryside are high on the list. The Cotswolds village of Lower Slaughter is used as Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy)’s home village of Highbury, and a real-life visit to this tiny hamlet will prove that it really is as untouched as it appears on screen.

Other scenes in the film are also shot at Cotswolds spots worth a visit. Chavenage House in Tetbury is usually open to visitors, with pre-booking required outside of lockdown. In Emma, the house is used as Randalls, the home of Mr Weston (Rupert Graves). Similarly, Emma’s friend Harriet Smith (Mia Goth) attends school at the real-life Kingston Bagpuize House, a private family home situated just outside of Oxford. Seasonal tours can be arranged.

Drink up the small-town Buckinghamshire charm in Four Weddings and a Funeral

This entire film is a love letter to England if you watch it with the right lens. From Somerset to the outskirts of London to the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, this ragtag troupe of old friends-turned-wedding attendees cover a lot of ground. But none of the scenes rustle up wanderlust as much as the quieter escapes to a village pub in real-life Buckinghamshire.

For the fictional Lucky Boatman Inn, the production team selected two pubs, both on the High Street in Amersham. In the film, it’s here that Charles (Hugh Grant) pursues Carrie (Andie MacDowell). In reality, the two separate pubs served different purposes, and both can be visited. For exterior shots, head the King’s Arms. For a stay, book Room 101 at the Crown Hotel. Rumour has it that the room remains exactly as in the film.

Stomp through Shropshire like Enola Holmes

With Millie Bobby Brown in the titular role, Enola Holmes might be one of the most charming things to come out of 2020. The film opens with Enola explaining her quirky relationship with her mother, who has very mysteriously gone missing from Ferndell Hall, the Holmes family estate.

In real life, the external shots show Benthall Hall in Shropshire… and we follow Enola as she bike-rides through the hills, ready for the mission her mum has been preparing her for her entire life. But don’t be too disappointed if you visit and find that the walls aren’t actually covered in an overgrown garden—that part was a bit of movie magic. If it’s the internal scenes you want to see, then that will require a trip to West Horsley Place, in East Sussex. Both offer tours, with pre-booking required.

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