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  • Post published:10/06/2021
  • Post last modified:10/06/2021

Films have always brought every corner of the world to the screen and now travellers are eager to see the sets for themselves.

Whichever film set can lay claim to being the first tourist destination in its own right (think Lord of the Rings converting New Zealand into Middle Earth), ‘set-jetting’ is now a new way to explore the world.

It would be difficult to visit the magnificent Petra in Jordan (website: www.visitjordan.com) without being informed by Bedouin or fellow traveller alike that Harrison Ford and Sean Connery once descended upon the ancient Nabatean city to film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade here. It’s unlikely to be the only reason that makes people visit (it is a 2,000-year-old city carved from the face of rose red rock after all), but it does add to the visitor numbers and the fame.

Heritage holidays

The stately homes of the UK and their fictitious residents are enough to make any swooning female go in search of Pemberley (or its owner). Basildon Park in Reading was used in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice, one of many National Trust or English Heritage sites used as film locations (website: www.nationaltrust.org.uk and www.english-heritage.org.uk). Other popular places are Lacock Abbey, a converted medieval cloistered abbey in Wiltshire, Chatsworth (website: www.chatsworth.org), most famous as Mr Darcy’s residence, and Haddon Hall (website: www.haddonhall.co.uk), a fortified medieval manor house both near Bakewell in Derbyshire. Haddon Hall opened its doors to welcome Cate Blanchett to film Elizabeth in 1998.

The county of Kent in the UK recently had the fortune of being used as Tudor England in The Other Boleyn Girl, providing its tourist board with a perfect advertising campaign to encourage people to come to the region (website: www.visitkent.co.uk) – and the Tudor trail on offer is certainly worth it. Penshurst Place in Tonbridge is used as Whitehall Palace, whilst Dover Castle becomes the Tower of London.

No consideration of set-jetting would be complete without a trip across the UK’s most ancient cathedrals, castles and colleges to see the locations of the Harry Potter films. In recent years, students at Oxford have been lucky enough to be able to watch a game of Quidditch while they study away in dusty old libraries – Christ Church college (one of the university’s oldest) and the Bodleian library have both hosted Harry and his pals. The most visit-worthy sight from these films is surely Scotland’s Glenfinnan viaduct. The 21-arch structure accommodates the Hogwarts Express from the second film onwards.

Tourist trails

When Sofia Coppola decided to make Tokyo the canvas for her film Lost in Translation, she opened up the city to a wave of visitors eager to see where the scenes between Scarlett Johansson and Bill Murray were played out. The crossing at Shinjuku station, used daily by millions of people, had its moment in the limelight.

A similar thing happened to the beaches of Thailand, with most backpackers now in search of the island which allegedly formed some of the inspiration for Alex Garland’s book and later film The Beach (it’s Ko Phi Phi, in case you’re wondering).

Slightly less glamorous but equally popular with film fans is a 12-storey car park in Gateshead in the northeast of England, used for Michael Caine to hurl a man to his death from its roof in Get Carter. Anyone hoping to see this piece of brutalist architecture must act quickly – the demolishers are due any day.

Dirty Dancing is the kind of movie that inspires devoted fans – the kind of fans that would travel in search of Kellerman’s Resort. Though set in upstate New York’s Catskill mountains, filming was actually in Pembroke, Virginia. The Mountain Lake Hotel (website: www.mountainlakehotel.com) is where Johnny and Baby practised their famous lift sequence in the water.

For people that are able to distinguish between fact and fiction, an overnight stay in the hotel used in Kubrick’s The Shining may not be such a frightening prospect. The Timberline Lodge (website: www.timberlinelodge.com) on Mt Hood in Oregon was used for the front of the hotel in the film. Room 217 became 237 at the hotel’s request – to ensure that their room 217 wouldn’t be permanently empty.

Natural wonders

In The Motorcyle Diaries, viewers are able to witness the rare sight of a deserted Machu Picchu. With hordes of hikers arriving at sunrise, the ancient Inca ruins are covered with tourists even at 7am. In the film, Gael Garcia Bernal and Rodrigo de la Serna are left alone as Che Guevara and Alberto Granado to experience the sheer beauty of the majestic green city, hidden away high in the Andes. A matching effect may not be granted without a film crew, but milling tourists can do little to detract from the grandeur.

Similarly grand and a more frequent visitor to the cinema screen is the USA’s Monument Valley. A vast stretch of land spanning across Arizona and Utah, the valley and its iconic red sandstone pinnacles have been used in many films after John Ford first used it in Stagecoach back in 1939. Since then it has featured in Thelma and Louise, Back to the Future 3 and 2001: A Space Odyssey. It is also the place where Forrest Gump completes his run across America.

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