The picture-perfect landscape and exquisite architecture within the Cotswolds and surrounding areas, are no stranger to film tourism, an industry that is worth more than £100,000,000 in the UK. They add a touch of magic and mystery to our silver screens; at times, a great film can even elevate its natural beauty.
We filter through numerous filming destinations in and around The Cotswolds, and invite you to check out five amazing spots that will humble film fanatics and entice those with a remote interest in the glitz and glamour of Hollywood.
Blenheim Palace’s majestic exterior seizes the attention of filmmakers across styles and genres.
The Baroque palace features frequently in blockbusters, such as the 24th James Bond film Spectre, Michael Bay’s Transformers: The Last Knight, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Triple xXx with Vin Diesel, and Bollywood’s award-winning thriller FAN. Its vast grounds are a dream for fantasy films, like Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, and Cinderella starring Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden.
Built in the 18th century, Blenheim Palace was a gift from Queen Anne to John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough, to celebrate his victory in the Battle of Blenheim in 1704. But it is most remembered for where Sir Winston Churchill, the former British Prime Minister whose leadership and determination sealed Britain’s victory in WWII, was born.
Enter the Great Court to start your tour in the palace. Feel the weight of history as you browse the valuable collections and admire the stately rooms. Follow the Italian Gardens to find the Temple of Diana, where Sir Winston Churchill proposed to Clementine Hozier, the future First Lady.
Take long strolls in the picturesque gardens, before crossing the Vanbrugh’s Grand Bridge to see the Column of Victory. Finish your tour with a breathtaking sunset view by the lake.
For a different Blenheim experience, book an afternoon tea or Sunday roast at the Orangery Restaurant. Drop by for a flower show in June, open air cinema in the summer, or festive celebrations at Halloween and Christmas.
When to visit:
Open all year from 9am to 6.30pm, except for Christmas Day
12 College Green
Harry Potter may have produced the nation’s most beloved superstars and cemented J.K. Rowling’s status as one of the best-selling authors in the world, Gloucester Cathedral is the true star of the film series.
When scouting for locations for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the film crew set their sights on the 1,300-year-old cathedral. The cloisters turned into the school’s corridors; the Lavatorium disguised as a hiding place for Harry and Ron when they encountered an enormous troll; and a covered passage became the entry to the Gryffindor Common Room.
If you are a true Harry Potter fan on a mission to capture every scene of the cathedral in The Philosopher’s Stone and The Chamber of Secrets, then you are in luck – join their guided tour that runs seven days a week.
For those not looking for movie magic or wizardry, the medieval cathedral still has a lot to offer for it is an eyewitness to the evolving British monarchy and the English Reformation which triggered many religious upheavals.
Encompassing architectural styles such as Roman, Norman, and Anglo-Saxon, its 21 metres-tall fan-vaulted roof and stained glass windows will have you gasping at their spellbinding beauty.
Time to spare after the cathedral? Head towards the Gloucester Docks where Tim Burton filmed Alice Through The Looking Glass.
When to visit:
Open daily from 7.30am to 6pm
Owlpen Manor (near Uley)
One of the best things the Cotswolds has to offer is serene seclusion that takes you back to a simpler time.
Residing on a private estate in a sleepy valley, Owlpen Manor dates back to the 13th century when the Daunts took over from the de Olepenne family and started major construction work.
Today, the Tudor manor house is the home of Sir Nicholas Mander and Lady Karin Mander. Through their significant efforts in restoration, the estate now consists of luscious gardens, nine historic cottages, and expansive woodlands.
All of these provide period-appropriate settings for The Other Boleyn Girl, which charts the troublesome relationship between King Henry VIII and his wife’s sister, and the Oscar-winning 1950s-set Phantom Thread, with acclaimed British actor Daniel Day-Lewis in the lead role.
Reserve a cosy cottage for a family holiday or romantic getaway; descend into the valleys that reward visitors with mesmerising views of Cotswolds’ signature rolling hills; indulge in the best and freshest of British produce at the historic Cyder House Restaurant.
When to visit:
Gardens: Open Monday to Friday from 12pm to 5pm, during April-September
Tudor Manor House: Not open to public, booking is required for exclusive tour groups
For every epic war film or mega-budget blockbuster, there is a magnificent forest that conquers acres of land and hosts a never-ending trail of flora and fauna – from the towering Bourne Wood in Gladiator to the haunting Pisgah National Forest in The Hunger Games.
A southwest England version of that is Puzzlewood, on the edge of Gloucestershire, with a long list of film credits that pale in comparison with its natural wonders.
Puzzlewood dabbles in the film world in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Jack the Giant Slayer. But it was Star Wars: The Force Awakens that attracted a new wave of tourists, who trace the footsteps of Kylo Ren, Rey, and BB-8 in the 14-acre ancient woodlands. Puzzlewood is also rumoured to be the blueprint for Middle Earth in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.
Put on your wellies and explore the fantastic forest by navigating your way through the moss blankets, an ocean of bluebells, the curiously twisted tree branches, and eerie bridges. Spend a night at one of their cottages, so you can venture out to the neighbouring Forest of Dean and Wye Valley.
When to visit:
Open daily from 10am to 5pm, during April-October
Open for limited days and hours during February, March, November, December
Closed in January
Cotswold Farm Park
Cotswold Farm Park Limited
Although Cotswold Farm Park does not feature in films, its dedicated team played a key role in providing historically accurate animals for film productions – from Bronze Age to the Viking Age.
The farm park produced its most famous work for Braveheart, a 1995 film that gave Mel Gibson his career-defining role and industry recognition as a masterful director.
Only a half-hour drive from Cheltenham, Cotswold Farm Park welcomed its first visitors in 1971. It boasts many different types of horses, sheeps, and cattle by running special breeding programmes that help conserve British wildlife.
The park offers endless possibilities of adventure, entertainment, and a much-needed digital detox and re-connection with nature. Go camping or glamping, take a bushcraft course, try horse riding, or catch a Farm Safari tour. Make sure you check their daily schedule for activities that suit your appetite.
When to visit:
Open from 10.30am to 5pm, during February-December
*Images courtesy of the Facebook pages of Owlpen Manor, Puzzlewood, and Cotswold Farm Park