From Father Ted to Bond in Basilicata: the best film and TV-inspired holidays chosen by readers | Travel


Licence to thrill in, Matera, Italy

The sight of James Bond cruising up a precipitous road towards the rock-hewn city of Matera, southern Italy, at the beginning of No Time to Die, proved irresistible. While Bond drove an Aston Martin, we arrived on the bus with an under-the-weather child. Like Bond, we checked into a cave hotel, the stylish Corte San Pietro, and meandered through the city’s labyrinth of staircases and cave dwellings. Then, just as disaster struck Bond in the cathedral square, we had to abandon sightseeing to look after our poorly four-year-old. At least we got to sample the gelato (excellent medicine for sore throats) at the famed I Vizi degli Angeli – something poor 007 had no time for.

Under Normal circumstances, Ireland

Streedagh beach in County Sligo was one of the locations used in Normal People.
Streedagh beach in County Sligo was one of the locations used in Normal People. Photograph: TCD/Prod DB/Alamy

As young student lovers stuck in lockdown two years ago my boyfriend and I made a pact to follow the path of Marianne and Connell’s relationship from the TV show Normal People by visiting the inspiring locations it was filmed in as soon as we could. We were not disappointed. Starting off on the Sligo coastline, we strolled hand in hand along with the stunning Benbulben mountain as a backdrop. It could have been Cape Town! We then drove up to Wicklow Mountains national park to check out the picture-perfect Palladian villa that doubled as Marianne’s house in the show. We climaxed our trip in Dublin with a walk around the lovely Trinity College: a cool craic!

A Grand Budapest adventure, Dresden

Tiled dairy interior
Pfunds Molkerei, Dresden, which doubled as Mendl’s Bakery in Grand Budapest Hotel. Photograph: Sam Aldersey-Williams

A trip to Dresden in search of the filming locations of Wes Anderson’s masterpiece The Grand Budapest Hotel started at the palatial Zwinger complex. Its baroque buildings provide the backdrop to a sinister Willem Dafoe giving chase to Jeff Goldblum, which memorably ends in Goldblum losing his fingers. But the highlight was Pfunds Molkerei, a fancy dairy with intricate hand-painted decorations that doubles as Mendl’s Bakery in the film. It holds the coveted “world’s most beautiful milk shop” Guinness world record title. Its fresh milk is delicious, and who would’ve thought you could get sage derby cheese in Saxony?


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Finding Atonement at the white cliffs, East Sussex

The Seven Sisters cliffs and the coastguard cottages, East Sussex.
The Seven Sisters cliffs and the coastguard cottages, East Sussex. Photograph: Alamy

Although Atonement is as beautiful as it is devastating, I immediately wanted to visit the location of Cecilia and Robbie’s idyllic seaside cottage. After doing extensive research, I roped my friend into a walking weekend in East Sussex. We started in Seaford and walked along the Seven Sisters trail which eventually brings you to Eastbourne. Along the trail, you pass through Cuckmere Haven, where you will find the Coastguard Cottages. I was absolutely blown away by the scenery. There is something so quintessentially British about the landscape of chalk cliffs, stone beaches and cottages. I instantly felt transported back to the film.
Abbey Ramsey

A spiritual experience in western Ireland

A fan dressed as a bishop at Father Ted Festival hosted on the Aran Islands.
A fan in fancy dress at a Father Ted festival on the Aran Islands. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Head to Ireland’s County Clare, and walk in the steps of Father Ted, Mrs Doyle, Father Jack and Father Dougal. A host of heavenly sights on this stretch of Atlantic coast formed the programme’s backdrop. From Doolin, take a ferry to Inisheer, the Aran island masquerading as Craggy Island in the opening credits. Visit the austere Burren landscape where Father Paul gets struck by lightning playing mini-golf, or the Aillwee Caves where Victor Meldrew is stalked by Dougal. How about the majestic Cliffs of Moher, where Father Jack takes his daily constitutional? Or the sandy sprawl of Lahinch beach, where Bishop Brennan cavorts? In the area’s many fine pubs, you may even bump into some of the many locals who played extras.
Berni G

Journey to The Promised Land, Łódź, Poland

Poznanski’s former factory in Łódź.
Poznański’s former factory in Łódź. Photograph: Martin Charlesworth

Andrzej Wajda’s epic film The Promised Land enticed me to visit Łódź, Poland’s version of Manchester. Izrael Poznański, the “King of Cotton”, was the inspiration for the film in which the oppressive conditions of workers contrast with the opulent lifestyle of the greedy owners. His former factory, a brick gothic cathedral to cotton weaving, has been repurposed to house a mix of trendy shops, cafes and cinemas – quite like Ancoats! The prewar eclectic mix of Poles, Jews and Germans is no more but the museums and graveyards, and in particular Poznanski’s mausoleum, testify to those exuberant times of industrial and social revolution. A fascinating place, two hours from Warsaw.

The Good, the Bad and the stunning Spanish desert

Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Photograph: Alamy

I did a double take as the bus passed a familiar mountain outline. Unknowingly, I’d entered Sergio Leone’s “spaghetti western” country, AKA the Tabernas desert in Spain’s Almeria – backdrop to huge hits including The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Wanting to find out more, I returned with my son to visit Fort Bravo, a still-hardworking wild west frontier town and Mexican pueblo film set. A hilarious, memorable day included gunslinging cowboys, deafening mock shootings in a saloon bar, charging horses and a sandblasted hall of fame gallery, where we spotted a signed portrait of David Beckham (who shot a Sky TV ad there) hidden among numerous Mexican soap stars.
Kate Cotton

Two countries for the price of one, Sweden and Denmark

Detectives with the murder victim on the Øresund bridge
Detectives with the murder victim on the Øresund bridge in TV series The Bridge. Photograph: Alamy

In lauded Scandi noir The Bridge, UK viewers were dazzled at the the ease with which characters crossed the Øresund, the longest road/railbridge in Europe, to continue the chase in another country. It may not be all that quick to nip across (20-ish minutes by train), but the structure is quite something. The artificial island in the middle cannot be visited; it is a haven for migrating birds. Although nothing’s been actively planted, some rare plants have found their way there (car windows? Bird poo?). For anyone thus inclined, visiting Øresund lets you tick two countries off your list, including one capital, with all its offerings!
Asa Melander

An in-tents horror pilgrimage, Wismar, Germany

Brick built gothic arch
The gothic arch in Wismar used in Nosferatu. Photograph: Charlie

Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror was filmed in 1921 in Lübeck and Wismar. Count Orlok arrives in the fictional port of Wisborg in a coffin on an apparently deserted schooner and commences his bloodthirsty work. Almost 100 years later I wandered the back streets of Wismar looking for the gothic arch leading to the docks that framed a publicity still of Max Schreck, who played the evil count. I was suitably cold and wet – it was a late September afternoon on the Baltic coast, but I found it. I shivered and returned by train to camp in a deserted field outside Schwerin, wishing I had been staying in a hotel.

Winning tip: A galaxy far, far away … by train to Norway

Han with Luke on a tauntaun
Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill on Hoth (aka northern Norway) in The Empire Strikes Back. Photograph: Alamy

Leave behind cosmopolitan Norway and enter a different galaxy via the Bergen Railway. At the highest point of the Norwegian rail network lies the village of Finse, better known to many as Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. I can see why they chose it, with frozen lakes and highland hikes in year-round snow on the serenely stunning Hardangervidda plateau. What more could an intrepid adventurer to an alien ice planet want? And what more could those A-list stars have wanted, at near the same altitude as the top of Ben Nevis, than the stylish Finse 1222 Hotel? Just be sure to wrap up in your best Jedi robes.
Matthew Walsh


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