There are many, many fans of costume/period dramas, and whether your passion is the juggernaut that is Downton Abbey or the gritty North and South, you can be sure that there are numerous kindred spirits wanting to visit the locations they’ve seen on tv or in films.
Organising a trip yourself is one way of visiting these locations, but obviously you do have to also organise your car hire (if needed), get map and sat nav details of the locations, and book your hotels en route. But more fans now want to leave all that to someone else. There are a whole group of tour companies providing tours for those travellers wanting something more. So whether you’re a solo traveller, a couple or a small group, here are some pointers for a successful tour:
- Research – put the internet to good use. Talk to friends and fans of the productions you’re interested in, discuss the locations you’d most like to visit, and the time of year that is best for you and your group. Remember that travelling during high season will mean high season prices, and more traffic on the roads, whereas spring and autumn in Britain will offer agreeable weather and access to the locations a little earlier/later in the season and fewer crowds to deal with. Make sure that the company you use allows enough time to travel and then actually see the locations, as many are often quite a distance from each other in real life. Of course watching the film/series a few more times will also help!
- Budget – Of course there are many companies now offering film location tours, but do you want a coach tour that whizzes past the locations or rushes you through the site, or do you want a tour that includes itinerary planning, and a guide with social historical knowledge behind the film, plus information about the actors, scripts and the locations themselves? Obviously this type of tour isn’t cheap – but for you, the avid fans, these tours will deliver a most complete and original experience. Whether you want to skip through the grounds at Longbourn or sit under the yew tree at Downton Abbey, and get the behind the scenes know how from the experts, then you won’t be disappointed. Checking the credentials of the tour operator is always a good idea, and also asking for feedback from their previous clients. You will very likely meet other people who are just as passionate as you, and from this, many friendships are formed that are lifelong. All you have to do is relax, enjoy the ride, and keep your camera or phone well charged for all those photos!
- Options – Consider what you want to see. What are your must see sights and sites? A good tour company will be able to put together a bespoke tour to include these locations on request. This will require more input from you of course, but a good tour company will take on the booking of tickets, hotels (on approval from you) and plan your itinerary. The tour company you choose will be able to add day tours or events to your specifications, to make your trip a memorable one.
- Going it alone – Of course this is the cheapest way of seeing the filming locations on your bucket list. However, finding the filming spots is sometimes harder than you’d think, even if you do have screenshots saved to your phone or iPad. It can be exceptionally frustrating at times trying to find them, but when you get there it is utterly amazing. Touring Highclere Castle is one thing, but finding and then walking up the rocks to see the views from Pride And Prejudice is quite another, and is for perhaps only the most avid fan! Then of course, you need the time to plan your itinerary, research and find good, restful hotels for you to relax in after a day of travel on unfamiliar roads.
- Details – Check, check and check again. Ask as many questions as you feel necessary to ensure your peace of mind. This way you can’t be taken by surprise or be disappointed that the location you so desperately wanted to see, will only be seen from the coach/car on the way to somewhere else. Ask those questions. The tour company you use won’t mind going over the points to make sure you understand what is included and what is not. The quality of tours on offer is quite wide, so you need to be clear on what you’re agreeing to.
It is a lot to consider, but once you’re there, standing in the spot that you’ve seen and loved so many times before on film, you’ll be enraptured, and watching the movie again when you get home seems somehow more magical than ever before!