Whether your favourite on-screen location is from Downton Abbey or The Sound of Music you can guarantee there are many like-minded fans wanting to visit the real life locations they have swooned over on celluloid. Of course you can make a personal pilgrimage which will involve the hassle of hire cars, map-reading and asking for directions, but more and more fans want to do it in style.
There are luxury and escorted tours for the most discerning of travellers – whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple or a group. Follow our tips for guaranteed success.
1. Do the homework
And we don’t just mean watch the movie another 17 times! Use the internet, speak to friends who share the same passion, look on fan sites and decide which locations you most want to visit and what seasons are best in the local region. Off-peak times such as Spring and Autumn in the UK offer the most pleasant sight-seeing conditions, as well as good access to the locations. Make sure you allow enough time to travel between tours and sites – in real life the film locations are often far apart.
2. Select the package
At the top end of the film location tour industry are those rare beasts – the tour guides who offer elite escorted film tours. With chauffeur service, itinerary planning AND genuine inside knowledge about the movie locations, actors and scripts, this kind of service isn’t cheap – but for the avid fan or the solo traveller it offers the fullest and most authentic experience. If you want to touch the desk where Colin Firth wrote a letter as Mr Darcy, and hear every snippet of gossip from the experts, you won’t be disappointed. Make sure you check the credentials of the tour operator and ask for testimonials from clients. On a tour like this you will meet like-minded fans – and friendships formed here can last for life. You just sit back and enjoy the ride and take plenty of photos!
3. Pick and mix
A good travel agent will put together a bespoke tour including film locations on request. Unlike the elite location tour companies you will need to give plenty of input of what you want to visit, but the travel agent will take over the hassle of booking. If you have children you may want to consider including a trip to a Film Studio Tour like the Universal Studios USA or Warner Bros. Studio Tour of Harry Potter in England. These are fun and fantastical and offer plenty of memorabilia. Your agent can then add on day tours or events which include your must-see filming locations, as well as booking cars and transport for you between parts of your tour.
4. DIY is for the brave
Don’t attempt this unless you have plenty of time to plan, and a budget for charming and restful hotels at the end of the day. Finding film locations yourself is harder than it seems – even when armed with film clips on a laptop. It is incredibly satisfying to do it, but frustrating in equal measure. Walking around the interior of a major house is fine, but trudging across a moor used in Jane Eyre is best left to the hardiest fan!
5. The small print
Be circumspect when you’re doing your research and check that you will be taken to the genuine film location, not just seeing a view from the coach as you drive by taking blurry photographs. The quality of the different tour offerings is quite wide.
However you choose to get there – once you stand in the very spot you have seen and loved on film – you’ll be hooked. And watching the movie is even more magical afterwards!
Helen Porter is a Director at P&P Tours.