9 most popular filming locations across the UK - from Glenfinnan Viaduct to Chatsworth House

From BBC dramas to superhero blockbusters, and several Harry Potter films, the UK has provided the backdrop for thousands of popular productions over the decades

The UK features miles of gorgeous landscapes, picturesque city streets, and amazing historic buildings. Many of these fantastic places appear in popular film and TV shows. Several places across the country have been able to build their economy around tourists flocking to see these famous landmarks.

For those who don't have the time to travel the length and breadth of the country, you can find most of these amazing locations in the range of British films and TV shows, as well as major American blockbusters in which they provide the backdrop.

From viaducts to 11th century castles, grand stately homes, and even a little blue door - which of these iconic filming locations in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland do you recognise?

Glenfinnan Viaduct, West Highlands 

This railway viaduct built at the turn of the 20th century in the West Highlands, Scotland, is instantly recognisable due to its iconic role in the Harry Potter films. In the Wizarding World series, the Hogwarts Express crosses the viaduct on its way to Hogwarts school. The structure appeared in three of the eight films but its biggest role was in the second instalment, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

In this film, Harry and Ron are travelling to Hogwarts in a flying car, having missed the Hogwarts Express, when the train comes bearing down on them as they fly over the viaduct. It also featured in the third season of Netflix historical drama The Crown, Second World War drama film Charlotte Grey, and comedy series Monarch of the Glen. 

The  Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in Harry PotterThe  Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in Harry Potter
The Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in Harry Potter

Chatsworth House, Bakewell

There’s barely a British period drama that Chatsworth House hasn’t appeared in, and fans of the genre often visit the 300 room stately home. The iconic building was constructed in the late 17th century and underwent a £14 million restoration in 2011. 

Films shot there include Pride & Prejudice, The Duchess, Barry Lyndon, and period horror The Wolfman. TV shows filmed there include Death Comes to Pemberley and Peaky Blinders.    

Durham Cathedral, Durham

Durham Cathedral has appeared in one of the highest-grossing films of all time - the 11th century cathedral provided the setting of Asgard in Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. In the film Thor and Rocket travel back in time and return to Asgard to retrieve an infinity stone - the scene is one of the film’s most emotional as Thor reunites with his mother in the time before her death.

Once again Harry Potter gets a mention, as the Chapter House at the cathedral featured as Minerva McGonagall's classroom in the first two movies. Other films shot there include Elizabeth, and Ivanhoe. 

Derry MuralsDerry Murals
Derry Murals

Derry murals, Derry/Londonderry

Derry (or Londonderry if you’re a Unionist) is well known for its many murals, mostly found in the Bogside area of the city. The murals represent the history of Northern Ireland which entered a period of violent sectarian conflict known as The Troubles between Unionists and Nationalists in the second half of the 20th century. They honour the victims of the Troubles and Bloody Sunday in particular, in which 14 people were killed.

12 murals were painted in Bogside between 1994 and 2008. They are featured heavily in the Channel 4 black comedy series Derry Girls, which follows a group of schoolgirls, and one boy as they experience life in the latter days of The Troubles. Derry Girls was such a popular series that a mural of the cast was painted in Derry in 2019. The 2002 historical drama Bloody Sunday was also filmed in Derry, though it does not feature the murals as they were created after the event it depicts.

King’s Cross Station, London

Yet another location immortalised in the Harry Potter franchise, King’s Cross station was the setting of Platform 9 ¾ in the first two films, although the grander St Pancras next door was used for external shots of the station. Harry also finds himself in a ghostly King’s Cross during his near death experience in the final film, although that scene was not filmed at the station.

Action sequel Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation featured a scene filmed at King’s Cross, although an entirely new set had been built onto the platform so most viewers would not recognise the station. An early film to be shot at King’s Cross was Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, back in 1935. Superhero movie Wonder Woman and Second World War drama The Imitation Game also featured scenes shot there.

Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills

One of the most popular tourist destinations in Northern Ireland, with more than a million people visiting each year, the Giant’s Causeway is also well known by fans of fantasy series Game of Thrones. The landmark stood in for the Iron Islands, where Theon Greyjoy and the Ironmen come from. Game of Thrones was filmed at several locations in Northern Ireland and the Giant’s Causeway is a stop on location tours in the country.

The Luke Evans action horror Dracula Untold and Danny McBride adventure comedy Your Highness both feature the Causeway. Whilst Giant’s Causeway is one of the locations on this list not to pop up in Harry Potter, many fans mistakenly believe that it does. This is because Malham Cove, in North Yorkshire appears in the seventh film and the location bears a striking resemblance to Giant’s Causeway because of its distinctive rock features. 

Giant's Causeway, Northern IrelandGiant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

Mermaid Quay, Cardiff

Flagship BBC show Doctor Who has filmed across Wales since its 2005 return, as did the popular four season spin-off Torchwood. Many scenes in Doctor Who were shot at Mermaid Quay and inside the iconic Millenium Centre. Episodes shot there include The Girl Who Waited, New Earth, The Sound of Drums, and Once Upon a Time.  

Additionally, the large silver water tower outside the Millenium Centre is better known to many as Torchwood tower due to its role as the group’s headquarters in the series. Cardiff became so synonymous with Torchwood that a shrine to one of the characters, Ianto Jones, who was killed off in a 2009 episode, has remained in Cardiff Bay for almost 15 years. 

Alnwick Castle, Alnwick

Another one for Harry Potter fans, the 11th century Alnwick Castle stood in for the magical Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two films - it is notable as the setting for Harry’s quidditch lesson in The Philosopher’s Stone, and the setting for Harry and Ron’s car crash arrival in The Chamber of Secrets. Tourists can learn to ride a broom in the castle’s courtyard to this day.

Aside from Harry Potter, the castle has featured in a great number of other projects, including Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Elizabeth, Downton Abbey, Blackadder, and  Transformers: The Last Knight.

Portobello Road, London

The picture perfect street in the Notting Hill district of London unsurprisingly pops up in the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts romantic comedy Notting Hill. The row of brightly coloured properties along the road features in a number of quintessentially British films.

The road features in both Paddington movies as well as classic crime caper The Italian Job. A pub named after the Michael Caine movie can be found on All Saints Row, just behind Portobello Road. The iconic blue door seen in the Notting Hill film has become a tourist attraction in its own right, and can be found on the corner of Portobello Road.