With Wales’ stunning landscapes and thriving TV and Film industry, it’s no wonder Welsh landscapes are high in demand.
If you live in Cardiff you may have walked by a TV studio, but chances are you’ve probably walked past a film location without knowing it.
Here’s a list of the six most iconic Welsh filming locations and how you can visit them.
Doctor Who, Cardiff Bay (and the whole of Cardiff and Wales)
When Doctor Who came back onto our screens in 2005, everything had changed. The most surprising change for viewers, however, was the show’s unashamed embrace of Cardiff city. Instead of hiding where it had been filmed, Doctor Who made a point of basing its episodes around locations in the city. Fans of the show know Roald Dahl Plass as the place the TARDIS parked in Boom Town and Utopia, Bellini’s as the last dining place of Margaret Slitheen and Queen’s Street as the Doctor and Rose’s first stop after the End of the World.
Later, the spin off Torchwood, had its headquarters “hidden” under Cardiff Bay water tower!
A good game to play is switching on an episode and seeing how many locations you can name– the amount you can spot might take you by surprise!
Sherlock (Moriarty’s iconic crown jewels scene), Cardiff Castle
Back in 2012, the world was in the midst of Sherlock fever and the show’s most loved villain was moving his pawns into place for the perfect, explosive finale. To get himself back into the news and into Sherlock’s mind, Moriarty pulled off a heist of the Crown Jewels themselves.The scene quickly became one of the most iconic in the show.
It makes a convincing Tower of London, but did you know that what Moriarty really broke into was Cardiff Castle? The castle’s close resemblance to the tower in terms of material, style and structure meant that it was an easy substitute for the former. It also meant the crew could smash the jewel’s glass container without breaking any laws.
The Dark Knight Rises, Henrhyd Falls
This iconic location isn’t the most recognisable on the list– and it may also be the most remote– but to Batman fans, Henrhyd Falls is its own star studded location. The waterfall, located in the Brecon Beacons, was used as the exterior of the infamous ‘Batcave’ in the 2012 film The Dark Knight Rises.
The waterfall has had so many visitors that the site has been developed to allow better access via a woodland trail. The location is owned and maintained by the National Trust, with a small car park nearby for day trippers. If you feel like making a day of it, the site suggests a walk around the Nant Llech river valley.
Sex Education, The Wye Valley
If you’ve watched the Netflix show Sex Education you’ve probably had the “hang on, is this supposed to be England?” moment. Whilst the show itself has a very American feel and is set in England, it is actually almost all filmed in Wales! Everywhere from the school the characters go to, to Otis’ house, to the roads we see students cycling to school on are filmed in the Wye Valley, an area on the border of Wales and England.
The grand, sweeping landscapes of the show are at the very core of its image and it’s hard to imagine what the show would look like without them. They make for a good hike and, if you’re looking for some away time, Otis’ house is available for rent!
The Prisoner, Portmeirion
Here’s a show you might not have have heard of before, but one that undoubtedly made an impact on TV and pop culture for years after it aired.
The Prisoner is a show about a man who is abducted and imprisoned in a village he has never seen before. The series follows him as he navigates his mysterious new surroundings and is interrogated about his past as a spy.
Portmeirion– the village– itself is a wonder of architecture, looking more like somewhere in Italy than its location in North Wales. Each building is painted a dreamy pastel and there are fantastical gardens scattered throughout.
Portmeirion was originally designed by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis to demonstrate the effective use of a landscape without spoiling its natural beauty. In total, it took 51 years to build and was still technically under construction when the programme was filmed. Now, the location is available to stay in, serves a host for a festival and fan conventions and even originated its own speciality pottery company.
The World Is Not Enough: Snowdonia/Eryri
In one of the biggest films of the decade, the 1999 Bond epic The World Is Not Enough, Wales played a crucial role. The film features scenes set in Kazakhstan, though in reality some of these scenes were shot in Snowdonia. Most prominently, the oil pipeline the film revolves around which (spoilers) later blows to smithereens.
Though shots of Wales are well hidden, the landscapes of Snowdonia were no doubt crucial for giving the film its global feel.
To find out more about how you can visit these locations yourself for a low cost, have a look at the Sprout’s guide to Welsh public transport
For some more recent examples of Welsh filming locations, see Visit Wales’ filming location guide.