The Best Film and TV Visitor Tours
Insert yourself into the locations of your favourite dramas
For the dedicated fan of a movie or TV show, it's sometimes not enough just to watch it. The experience can only be heightened by visiting the location and treading where your favourite characters trod, sniffing the same air, spending money in the giftshop that, had it existed in the drama itself, would undoubtedly have been trashed by leading characters in an exciting sword battle, shoot-out or barrage of sarcastic quips, depending on the genre.
There are many of these to choose from in the UK and Northern Ireland and they offer a varied range of immersivity, as it were. On the minimalist end of the scale there's Doune Castle. Doune was originally intended to be one of many locations for the filming of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but when the National Trust for Scotland got cold feet about the Pythons' intentions and withdrew multiple filming permissions, Doune ended up standing in for almost all the different castles in the movie. Stand at the foot of the wall where King Arthur argued about swallows; visit the kitchen in which Galahad nearly managed to lose his chastity; walk across the courtyard where Lancelot memorably crashed a wedding. An audio tour of the castle narrated by Holy Grail co-director Terry Jones is available from the Historic Scotland website.
007 fans should try Britmovietours' James Bond tours of London, which come in various different forms: an economy-scale version, in which you're driven around the city in a mini-coach and listen to narration on the locations you're looking at, such as Terry Farrell's architecturally wacky SIS Building at Vauxhall Cross; a VIP version, in which you have the option to do a spot of Thames kayaking; and the luxurious 8-9 hour private tour, which takes you to numerous venues in and around London in a people carrier with driver and expert guide, and climaxes with lunch at Pinewood Studios, followed by tea at Goldfinger's golf club, Stoke Park ('No, Mister Bond, I expect you to dine.')
Britmovietours also offers a tour of Downton Abbey and its locations, but Downton Abbey tours are thick on the ground and tend to be expensive, and a straightforward visit to Highclere Castle, the main location, may prove easier on the pocket.
If you're a Game of Thrones fan and don't fancy trekking to Malta, Croatia or Seville, Winterfell Tours will take you around the show's Northern Ireland locations, centred around Castle Ward on the shores of Strangford Lough. Try your hand at archery, meet a direwolf, go boating, even camp overnight; unlike that of a typical Game of Thrones character, the choice is yours. Groups can book a medieval banquet featuring Roasted Boar and Salad of Castle Black, which appropriately for such a mutilation-friendly TV show comes 'sprinkled with crushed nuts'.
The most spectacular of all is undoubtedly the Warner Bros Studio Tour London and it's The Making of Harry Potter attraction, which sprawls over two giant soundstages at the still-functioning Leavesden Studios complex in Hertfordshire. Numerous dazzling sets, models, costumes and artefacts are there to explore, from Hogwarts' Great Hall to Harry's cupboard under the stairs, and halfway through the three-hour tour you can refresh yourself with a frothy tankard of Butterbeer (although if you do, your dentist will never speak to you again). The giant Hogwarts scale model makes for a suitably breathtaking conclusion, but be prepared to take one last financial walloping as you exit through the UK's most epic gift shop.
Elsewhere in the world, it was announced recently that, to mark the reception into the Disney universe of the Star Wars franchise, the grandparents of all screen-related tourist attractions, California's Disneyland and Florida's Walt Disney World, are to open Star Wars-themed lands. With punchable Jar Jar Binks? We live in hope.