Film & TV Locations

Dorset Film and TV Locations

With beautiful beaches, picturesque countryside, dramatic coastline and historic towns and villages, a holiday in Dorset is guaranteed to feature stunning scenery and its many charms have been winning over filmmakers for more than a century.

In 1913 a silent version of Hamlet was shot on location at Lulworth Cove as a full size mock up of Castle Elsinore was built at Dungy Head, while Dorset’s most famous literary son Thomas Hardy visited the set of the 1921 film adaptation of The Mayor of Casterbridge. It was partly filmed at Maiden Castle, as was John Schlesinger’s classic 1967 film of Far From the Madding Crowd. The 2015 version with Carey Mulligan featured a host of Dorset locations including Mapperton near Beaminster, West Bay, Eype, Sherborne and Durdle Door, which also appeared in Nanny McPhee.

One of the most famous ruins in the world Corfe Castle was used in the opening credits of Disney’s Bedknobs and Broomsticks and is also seen in Mike Leigh’s landmark TV film Nuts In May as well as the 1978 TV version of The Mayor of Casterbridge adapted by Dennis Potter.

Meryl Streep standing on the windswept Cobb at Lyme Regis in Karel Reisz’s 1981 film of The French Lieutenant’s Woman is one of modern cinema’s most enduring images, but not everything is as it seems. Reluctant to risk their star, the producers insisted art director Terry Pritchard stood in for her.

Other Dorset locations to spot in famous films include Swanage Railway and Weymouth Harbour (Dunkirk), Abbotsbury Swannery (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Athelhampton House & Gardens (Sleuth, Elizabeth), Cerne Giant (Tom Jones), Chesil Beach (The Dambusters), Poole Quay (The Heroes of Telemark), Portland Harbour (The Boat That Rocked), Bovington Tank Museum (Fury) and Tyneham (Comrades).

On television, Dorset locations have provided the backdrop for countless productions including The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin (West Bay) and Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Studland Beach), as well as recent hits such as Wolf Hall (Sherborne) and, of course, Broadchurch (Bridport, West Bay, Littlebredy).

Here are some other locations you may recognise…

Boscombe Pier – The Time of their Lives (2017)

Cerne Abbas – Tom Jones (1963). Cerne’s notoriously priapic Giant features, as does the manor house. Other scenes were filmed at Cranborne Manor.

Compton Acres Gardens, Canford Cliffs – Summer Holiday (1963), Barry Lyndon (1967), Full Metal Jacket (1987). In all cases the film locations have since been altered beyond recognition.

Corfe Castle – Nuts In May (1976)

Dancing Ledge, Swanage – Tess of the D’Urbervilles (2008)

Evershot – Emma (1996)

Forde Abbey – Restoration (1995)

The Fleet, Chesil Beach – The Dambusters (1954). The actual location where bouncing bomb trials were carried out.

Golden Cap – Gulliver’s Travels (1995)

Lulworth Cove – Mansfield Park (1999), Beyond the Sea (2004), World War Z (2012)

Lyme Regis – Persuasion (1995, 2007)

Mapperton House – Far from the Madding Crowd (2015). Thomas Vinterberg also brought his film to Eype, Sherborne and Forde Abbey.

Milton Abbey School – To Serve Them All My Days (1972), The Browning Version (1994)

Poole Park boating lake – The Bulldog Breed (1970)

Poole Quay – Woman of Straw (1964)

Portland – In Which We Serve (1942)

Russell-Cotes Museum, Bournemouth – Valentino (1977). Director Ken Russell later said making it was the greatest mistake of his career.

Sandbanks Beach: Morris: A Life with Bells On (2009)

Sherborne School – Goodbye Mr Chips (1969), The Imitation Game (2014)

Studland – Jubilee (1978)

Swanage – Wilde (1997)

Weymouth – The Damned (1963)

Winspit Quarry, Worth Matravers – John Carter (2012)

Curiously it is often maintained that scenes from The African Queen (1951) were filmed near Wareham. They weren’t.

Eagle-eyed music fans may have spotted Dorset locations in pop promo videos by Coldplay (‘Yellow’, Studland Beach), Cliff Richard (‘Saviour’s Day’, Durdle Door), The Style Council (‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’, Clavell Tower, Kimmeridge), Big Country (‘In a Big Country, Corfe Castle, Studland), Tears For Fears (‘Shout’, Durdle Door) and Enter Shikari (‘Hoodwinker’, Studland Bay).