By Caitlin Ball
As much as I would like to say that my lockdowns consisted of regular daily walks during which I revelled in each opportunity to take in the ‘fresh air’, the novelty wore off very quickly. In truth, I spent the best part of the remaining 18 months glued to my TV, drowning my social and academic sorrows in multiple streaming services and taking in the stagnant air of my childhood bedroom.
Luckily, many of the films and shows I binged during periods of restricted travel were very good at softening the blow. Filmed in some of the UK’s most naturally stunning, historic locations, they offered us fleeting chances to explore scenery other than the interiors of our own houses.
While restrictions remain relaxed, I would highly recommend visiting some of the upcoming spots that, through my TV screen, momentarily cured me of my claustrophobia and lockdown blues.
Bath Royal Crescent
2021 got off to a notable start with the release of decadent Georgian period drama Bridgerton on Netflix.
Throughout the series, Bath’s historic Royal Crescent in Somerset doubles for the backdrop of fashionable London, most notably in Episode 1, moments before Daphne Bridgerton makes her grand social debut.
The 500-foot-long crescent of houses was designed by highly influential 18th century architect John Wood the Younger, is a Grade I listed building and is widely deemed one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country. Spread out before the Crescent is a vast green parkland, making for spectacular bucolic views despite being at the heart of the city (‘rus in urbe’, in technical terms).
The Crescent is home to a lavish five-star hotel, but if you’d rather not part with the cash, sitting back and admiring the Palladian architecture from the park below will surely also fulfil your Bridgerton fantasies.
If you’d prefer a more authentic countryside feel, Painshill Park in Cobham, Surrey, is another iconic Bridgerton location, whose white bridges even feature on some of the promotional posters. Painshill is used as a delicate backdrop for the Bridgerton’s to partake in various upper-class pastimes such as picnicking and horse riding, and the pleasant grounds are dotted with intricate gothic follies and can even boast a reconstructed Temple of Bacchus (for the classicists among us).
A discounted student entrance fee of £9 (paid online in advance) isn’t too unreasonable when you consider that other cult classic programmes such as Black Mirror and ITV’s Vanity Fair have also seen the stardom in Painshill and its distinctive grounds.
Belvoir Castle in Grantham, Leicestershire, features regularly in the first three series of The Crown as a double for Windsor Castle, with the show switching to Burghley House in series four.
Belvoir Castle boasts foundations dating back to the Norman Conquest, although the majority of the structure as it stands today was designed in the Gothic Revival style by James Wyatt, the same architect famous for his work on the actual Windsor Castle.
Standing atop the battlements, it is easy to see why Belvoir Castle (meaning ‘beautiful view’ in French), was christened as such. Breathtaking views of the English countryside, thanks to the strategic advantages of being built on a natural ridge, can be seen tens of miles into the distance.
Belvoir allows ticketed access into the castle and its gardens, although the castle itself only opens to the public from March 19th.
I’m not ashamed to admit that one of my absolute favourite lockdown films was Notting Hill; being kept from the pleasant hustle and bustle of the capital city for so long was a difficult pill to swallow.
Portobello Road Market comes to life each Saturday and is the perfect time to visit if you’re after the maximum Notting Hill experience. Unfortunately, the infamous ‘blue door’ is now nowhere to be found, but you’ll soon forget about that in amongst the vibrant pastels lining the street housefronts and the vast selection of pastries, vegetables, antiques and second-hand fashion on offer.
There is, of course, no entrance fee – but at least bring enough for the tube fare.
Puzzlewood, The Forest of Dean
Puzzlewood, part of The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, is without a doubt one of the most filmable locations in the country. The stunning natural beauty of its ancient woodlands are a testament to its immense list of film and television credits, including Harry Potter, Star Wars and Doctor Who – to name but a few.
A point of fascination for many visitors are the strange and unfamiliar rock formations, often smothered in moss and entangled in unruly, serpentine tree roots. Remnants of mining crazes and coins dating back to the Iron and Roman ages are also detectable, proving that Puzzlewood has sustained its power of intrigue for no less than two millennia.
Puzzlewood is also a ticketed attraction, at £8.50 for adult admission. But, over a mile of man-made paths were crafted for visitors to follow and will no doubt fully embroil you in the mysterious, legendary quality the woodland harbours.
Image credit: Nicole Wu