Landmarks: England Off-Screen

Discover seven scene-stealing backdrops.

By Frances Mahoney

Highclere Castle

Downtown Abbey

Though the fictional Crawley family occupied the upper levels and their cohort of servants crowded into the lower ones on the highly lauded television series, this 5,000-acre property has housed a long line of real earls and lords. The estate, dating back to 749 A.D., played a leading role in history: The Fourth Earl of Carnarvon drafted the act that led to the formation of Canada here. Today, Lord and Lady Carnarvon live on the grounds and open the stately home in Hampshire to visitors each summer. It may be particularly popular this year given the buzz from the recently released Downton Abbey movie.

Platform 9¾

The Harry Potter films

The literary world’s most famous train platform, where Harry and his friends catch the Hogwarts Express, is a fictitious spot between platforms 9 and 10 at London’s King’s Cross station. Because platforms 9 and 10 are separated by tracks, King’s Cross has created a platform 9¾ at the rear of the concourse, where a luggage cart seemingly goes halfway through the brick wall. Yes, you can take a photo as you pretend to head off to the school of wizardry. And yes, there will absolutely be a line to do so.

Travel Book Shop

Notting Hill

Visitors swarm Notting Hill, the famous bohemian neighborhood in West London, for its market, pubs, and colorful homes. As you turn onto Portobello Road from Elgin Crescent, you’ll find No. 142, the site of the Travel Book Co., owned by Hugh Grant’s character in the late-’90s romantic comedy. Never actually a bookstore, this spot began as an antique store and is currently a gift shop—though you are more likely to find a unique take-home treasure at Portobello Road Market, which spans this street each weekend.

Hatfield House

The Favourite

As far as Jacobean mansions go, Hatfield House is a humdinger. It has been used in numerous blockbusters, from Batman (1989) to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001). But its marble hallways and grand parlors shine brightest as Queen Anne’s rambling palace in The Favourite, where the 400-year-old house was lit with real candles to keep the mood as authentic as possible. The property, comprising exquisitely landscaped gardens and the storied Hatfield House, is open to visitors year-round; you’ll never believe the bustle of London is a mere 21 miles away.

Lyme Park

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

This Elizabethan house and National Trust property in Cheshire stood in for Pemberley, Mr. Darcy’s estate, in the BBC television adaptation of the Jane Austen classic, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. You probably won’t catch Mr. Darcy after his dip in the lake—as Elizabeth Bennet does on-screen—but there is a very good chance you’ll spy herds in the 1,359-acre deer park as well as massive 400-year-old tapestries inside the mansion’s Entrance Hall.

Efford House

Sense and Sensibility (1995)

Tiny Barton Cottage was as charming a part of Jane Austen’s esteemed novel as the Dashwood sisters themselves. In the award-winning 1995 film adaptation of Sense and Sensibility, the squeeze of a home was actually Efford House, one of the villas on the historic Flete Estate, in south England. The cottage sits just down the coast from Devon—where you’ll find some of England’s most beautiful and untouched countryside—and, rather incredibly, is available as a vacation rental.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Mary Poppins

This 17th-century church in the heart of London is the backdrop for the song “Feed the Birds,” which Julie Andrews, as Mary Poppins, sings to the Banks children. The scene remains one of the most poignant in the film because of its affecting use of imagery and music. Though feeding the pigeons outside St. Paul’s Cathedral is now frowned upon, there are plenty of photo ops at the church’s famous west steps.

  • NOTE: Information may have changed since publication. Please confirm key details before planning your trip.
  • Published: Winter 2019