Picturesque Britain as seen on the festive silver screen

From quaint snow-covered cottages to regal central squares, Britain’s towns and villages have long enjoyed a starring role in festive hits on the silver screen. These charming locations all helped to inspire some of the best-loved festive films, serving up a joyful helping of spectacular landscapes to go with the Christmas turkey.

Shere, Surrey and Cornwell, Oxfordshire – The Holiday

Director Nancy Meyers’ hit festive flick The Holiday uses several striking locations to depict the quintessential English country setting where stars Cameron Diaz and Jude Law find romance. The picturesque Surrey village of Shere provided one backdrop, with both the church and pub featuring prominently. And while the characterful Rosehill Cottage was only developed for filming, it was inspired by Honeysuckle Cottage in the small commuter village of Holmbury St Mary. Found in the heart of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, this region is characterised by its rolling hills and woodland trails, as well as its narrow winding lanes and honey-coloured cottages.

The romantic comedy also sees the pair settling down for a cosy lunch in the surroundings of Cornwell Manor, a luxurious private estate in the Cotswolds. Found a short distance from Chipping Norton, this region provides an idyllic setting for a winter escape.

1
Cornwell

Snowshill, Gloucestershire – Bridget Jones’ Diary

Filming location for Bridget Jones' Diary, Mansion, Stoke Park, Buckinghamshire

Although primarily set in London, Renee Zellweger’s first meeting with Mark Darcy – played by the inimitable Colin Firth – in Bridget Jones’ Diary is set against the glorious snow-dusted backdrop of the Cotswolds. The charismatic village of Snowshill, near Broadway, provided the setting for a party at her parent’s home, with the crew using fake snow as filming took place in the middle of summer! Packed with pretty stone cottages and with hills rising up on three sides, the region is known for its unspoilt beauty, whatever the season.

The lavish surroundings of Stoke Park in Buckinghamshire provided the backdrop for Hugh Grant’s character whisking Bridget away for a romantic weekend too. Just five miles from Windsor Castle, the five-star luxury spa and golf hotel features a wealth of leisure facilities and fine dining for a festive getaway, including the opportunity to enjoy afternoon tea in The Orangery.

2
Snowshill

London – Love Actually

Christmas lights above traffic on Regent Street, London, England. Credit to VisitBritain/ Leyla Cobián

Filmed all over London, Richard Curtis’ romantic British Christmas classic includes a number of iconic locations, alongside some of the capital’s lesser-known spots. Packed with glistening lights and yuletide cheer, look out for Trafalgar Square and the Millennium Bridge, as well as the Tate Modern, housed in the old Bankside Power Station, and the glistening skyscrapers of Canary Wharf. From Gabriel’s Wharf on the South Bank to outside 10 Downing Street, other notable locations include St Luke’s Mews in Notting Hill, where Andrew Lincoln’s character uses cue cards to profess his love, and the department store Selfridges, where the late Alan Rickman waits as Rowan Atkinson takes an age to wrap a necklace.

3
London

Shrewsbury – A Christmas Carol

The 1984 production of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol, saw the streets of Shrewsbury transformed into Victorian London. This traditional market town in the heart of Shropshire featured in the opening scenes, and you can still view the grave of Ebenezer Scrooge, played by George C Scott, at St Chad’s Church. His name was chiselled into a gravestone prop within the grounds of the distinctive Grade I-listed building that overlooks the Quarry, an area of parkland by the banks of the River Severn, and remains there to this day.

4
Shrewsbury

Sussex – The Snowman

An animated classic based on the children’s picture book by Raymond Briggs, The Snowman is set in Sussex, where the author lived. A popular festive adaptation for those of all ages, The Snowman is entirely wordless, apart from its hit orchestral soundtrack, Walking in the Air. The countryside that James and his snowman fly over appears to be the snowy white landscapes of the South Downs National Park, with the pair soaring above Brighton’s iconic Royal Pavilion and its famous pier. Built as a coastal retreat for King George IV, the extravagant oriental pavilion has a history dating back more than 200 years and mixes Regency grandeur with Indian and Chinese architectural influences.

5
Sussex

Warwick – A Christmas Carol

Mill Street, Warwick, Warwickshire, UK. View of Mill Street, Warwick's most historic street. Tudor houses dated back to the 17th century. Credit to VisitBritain/LeeBeel

This seasonal three-part adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, by Peaky Blinders and Taboo writer Steven Knight, aired in 2019 and features scenes created at the Lord Leycester Hospital in Warwick. A medieval gem dating from the 14th century, with truly exceptional courtyard architecture, it provided the backdrop for stars Stephen Graham and Andy Serkis to bring the ghostly Christmas tale alive. Developed in partnership between the BBC and American channel FX, and co-produced by Tom Hardy and Ridley Scott, it mixes one of Dickens’ most-loved works with the splendour of Warwick, alongside east London’s Rainham Hall, a Grade II Georgian period property in Havering.

6
Warwick

Coventry – Nativity!

Starring Martin Freeman as the school teacher looking to put on an unforgettable Christmas play, this festive comedy features many locations in director Debbie Isitt’s hometown of Coventry. Soon to be a UK City of Culture in 2021, the historic Spon Street and Priory Street were transformed for filming, with camels seen grazing outside the war damaged ruins of Coventry Cathedral!

7
Coventry

Powys – A Child’s Christmas in Wales

Based on a renowned piece of prose by Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, and adapted for film, theatre and animation, A Child’s Christmas in Wales saw Denholm Elliott in the lead role. Filmed in the Welsh town of Montgomery in Powys, a quaint setting a short distance from the border with England, it’s a film full of beautiful visuals and Christmas memories. The historic town with its medieval streets and Georgian and Victorian architecture is close to the Offa’s Dyke Path too, a national trail that weaves its way through some of Wales’ most spectacular scenery.

8
Powys

Edinburgh and Glasgow: The Princess Switch: Switched Again

Vanessa Hudgens stars in the sequel to the feel-good 2018 Netflix hit The Princess Switch, which is set to arrive on the streaming platform in time for the festive season on 19 November. Scotland provides the backdrop, with the striking surroundings of the 12th century Glasgow Cathedral and Mimi’s Bakehouse in Leith among the locations transformed into the fictional world of Belgravia for filming. Shooting for the third instalment is already underway, with the Dalmeny Estate to the north west of the capital just one of the locations being given a festive makeover.

9
Edinburgh
28 Nov 2020(last updated)

Related articles