Top UK filming locations outside London

Where are some of the most notable UK filming locations outside London? The Knowledge offers a selection for consideration.

Peaky BlindersThe Black Country Living Museum

Dramas to have used the UK’s canal and waterway network are plentiful, among them TV series Humans, Lucky Man and Happy Valley. But one of the most evocative uses of canals on TV comes in the BBC’s drama series Peaky Blinders, though in this case the location is the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley. 

“Many people think the series was all filmed in Birmingham, but because many parts of the city were razed to the ground during the war, filming period drama there is difficult,” says Andrew Lovett, the museum’s CEO.

Peaky Blinders has shot scenes from its first three series at the museum, sometimes extending the museum’s authentic building with CGI. The museum has Edwardian, Victorian, 1930s and 1940s buildings, industrial sites and canal boats. It also has parking, green rooms and production offices. 

Anglesey, north Wales

To date, the Welsh production boom has favoured south Wales, but a growing band of adventurous producers in search of bleak, isolated and mystical backdrops are venturing further north to Snowdonia, Aberystwyth and the island of Anglesey.

The latter hosted new BBC show Hard Sun, about two police officers struggling to maintain law and order in a pre-apocalyptic world. It was filmed around the Parys Mountain quarry, which is one of the oldest copper mining sites in Britain, dating back 4,000 years to the early Bronze Age. The landscape is vividly coloured orange, purple and green due to exposed minerals in the land. 

Anglesey is also host to the second series of the ITV drama Safe House, which is using the remote, other-worldly nature of the island. Key locations include the village of Aberffraw and Craig-Y-Mor, a historical building near Trearddur Bay known by some locals as ‘The Haunted House on the Hill’. 

Rillington PlaceGlasgow

The thriving city of Glasgow is becoming an onscreen star. 

“Glasgow has made a name for itself recreating other cities,” says Jennifer Reynolds of the Glasgow Film Office.

“It’s played London in Outlander, Rillington Place (pictured) and Fast & Furious 6, San Francisco in Cloud Atlas, Stockholm and New York in upcoming feature The Wife. 

“The city has also hosted productions eager to portray Glasgow as itself. The BBC’s The Replacement and Netflix’s Lovesick filmed in Glasgow, showing the city as a contemporary, vibrant setting. Both use city centre cafes, bars, venues and houses.” 

Redcliffe Caves, Bristol

The growing popularity of Bristol’s Bottle Yard Studios has made a wide range of locations in and around the city accessible to producers. Redcliffe Caves is a series of manmade tunnels originally dug for the pottery trade. 

“Redcliffe Caves is a hugely atmospheric and unique location, steeped in history, that lends itself incredibly well to a range of storyline elements, like sci-fi or supernatural, and underground or tunnel-set scenes,” says Natalie Moore of Bristol Film Office.

“With no natural light at all, the pitch-black surroundings give great scope for what can be achieved with lighting. Redcliffe Wharf just outside provides a convenient unit base.”

The caves stood in for an underworld setting in the BBC TV series Atlantis and provided a secret rave location for the teen drama Skins, but they have also been used in children’s shows. 

Filming here does bring its own challenges. The caves are a historic site and so must not be damaged in any way when they're being dressed. It’s also easy to get lost, so the local caving group oversees the site’s use.

The Frankenstein ChroniclesArmagh, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s geographic beauty has featured frequently in Game of Thrones. One town-based location growing in popularity is Armagh, 40 miles outside Belfast. Among the town’s attractions are its ecclesiastical heritage and Georgian architecture, perfect for period doubling. 

The town features in the BBC’s three-part drama The Woman in White and ITV’s The Frankenstein Chronicles (pictured). Showcased buildings have included the court house, library and famous jail (or ‘gaol’, to use the archaic spelling), built between 1780 and the 1840s.

Armagh is film-friendly and allowed The Frankenstein Chronicles' production team to shut down public places, including a busy street in the town centre. The tarmac was overlaid with soil to look like an unpaved 1830s London road and populated with carts and coal sacks. Shambles Yard was used as a production base, with lorries and trailers for the cast and crew. 

Calderdale, Yorkshire

Calderdale is the borough around the town of Halifax and is known for contemporary dramas such as Happy Valley and Ackley Bridge. It has also just been used by Mike Leigh for his period film Peterloo, set in 1819.
“We have, in Calderdale, preserved our heritage,” says Katie Kinsella of the Calderdale Film Office. “Heptonstall is an ancient weaving community. We also have Shibden Hall – home to renowned 19th century diarist Anne Lister – which will be the feature of a period drama next year. The landscape is the same as in Bronte Country – the South Pennines pack horse trails and moorland which provides a perfect backdrop to period dramas.”

DunkirkCareful management means locations are protected and unspoiled. The location also has the additional benefit of being close to Leeds and to the filming hub MediaCity in Salford

Weymouth Harbour, Dorset

Christopher Nolan’s World War Two movie Dunkirk (pictured) has put Weymouth Harbour on the map.

One of Weymouth Harbour's key attributes is the striking array of Georgian buildings that run along the esplanade.

For key sequences in Dunkirk these provided the backdrop to an array of military personnel and equipment. 

Supported by Dorset Film Office, the town worked hard to make Nolan and his team welcome for the Dunkirk shoot. The harbour is busy with boats and owners coming and going, but for three days the authorities imposed limited berthing, road traffic control and street closures, as well as temporary river closures.

Weymouth Sailing Club cleared vessels from their moorings and the lifeboat was relocated. Other locations in the vicinity are Swanage Railway station (that also featured in Dunkirk) and Portland Bill (used as a location for musical comedy The Boat that Rocked and Alfonso Cuaron's dystopian feature Children of Men).

Main page image: Murphy. Article images: Peaky Blinders and Rillington Place (both BBC), The Frankenstein Chronicles (ITV), Dunkirk (Warner Bros. Entertainment/Ratpac-Dune Entertainment)


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