A period drama tour of Yorkshire

'Victoria' (Mammoth Screen for ITV) filmed at Harewood House

March 26th 2021

Heading south to north, this driving itinerary shows off the impressive country estates, historic gardens and storied houses that have made Yorkshire such a hit with location scouts for period dramas including Downton Abbey and Victoria.

How long? Four to seven days
Where? Sheffield to the Yorkshire Dales

A half-hour drive north of Sheffield, Wentworth Woodhouse is a staggeringly large country mansion with a chequered past. The fact that it’s uninhabited means the interior salons and drawing rooms can be used as a blank canvas for creative set designers. Wentworth has featured in dozens of shows, including ITV’s Victoria and the BBC’s Gentleman Jack.

An hour’s journey northeast brings you to Halifax and Shibden Hall, the ancient house once lived in by early 19th-century landowner and industrialist Anne Lister. Anne’s life is the subject of Gentleman Jack, which will film a second series in Yorkshire in 2021. You can learn all about her life and explosive lesbian diaries, which were written in code, inside the house museum.

The 'Downton Abbey' Ballroom scenes were filmed at Wentworth Woodhouse

Keighley & Worth Valley Railway

The honeycomb-coloured Georgian houses of Halifax and central Bradford also served as the backdrop for street scenes in Gentleman Jack, so have a wander to see what you can recognise. On the outskirts of Bradford, the Unesco-listed village of Saltaire played a starring role in the 2019 Netflix series The English Game and also featured in Peaky Blinders. Original heritage store fronts and the looming Salts Mill (great for shopping!) give the high street a frozen-in-time appeal.

Not far from here, the brilliantly retro Keighley & Worth Valley Railway cuts through Haworth – the home of the Brontes – and Oakworth Station, where several scenes in the 1970s Railway Children film with Jenny Agutter were shot. The station appeared on our screens again in 2020 for the new adaptation of All Creatures Great & Small.

Heading east, Harewood House and Bramham Park are en route to York. These two country estates are sublime examples of 18th-century architecture and both were filming locations for Victoria. Harewood also featured in Downton Abbey, while Bramham Park recently hosted Gentleman Jack.

The photogenic city of York is less than an hour further east. Its medieval high street, the Shambles, is famously thought to have been the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films (you’ll see why when you spy its hunched, timber-framed buildings casting shadows over the narrow street) and it’s now home to more than one Harry Potter fan shop.

The city is also crammed with elegant heritage mansions, beloved by film and TV producers because of their wonderful state of preservation. Spend a couple of days here, touring the Georgian beauties York Mansion House and Fairfax House – the former was used to shoot scenes from Victoria while the latter hosted Gentleman Jack.

The lesbian wedding scene in Gentleman Jack was filmed at the Holy Trinity Church off Goodramgate, so make that another stop. Then drop by the gothic York Minster, which hosted Victoria too, but also Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and many other productions over the years. Its beautiful bones were destined for the screen.

'Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell' filming at York Minster

Brideshead Revisited (2008) filming at Castle Howard

Next head up into the Howardian Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty about half an hour north of York, to spend a day at Castle Howard. This decadent stately home shot to fame again in 2020 thanks to its appearance in Netflix’s Bridgerton. Before that it was synonymous with Brideshead Revisited, as both the original TV series and 2008 film remake were shot here – there’s an exhibition inside about Brideshead filming. Castle Howard’s grounds are magnificent, full of follies, temples and fountains.

Loop back west towards the Yorkshire Dales, stopping at Newby Hall along the way. This red-brick hall near Ripon was built in the 1690s by Sir Christopher Wren. It’s little known compared with some of Yorkshire’s other country estates, but has featured in productions including Mansfield Park, Gentleman Jack, Victoria and Peaky Blinders.

End your trip in the bucolic Yorkshire Dales, where you can make like James Herriot by pottering between the hills and high pastures around Grassington. This small traditional town plays Darrowby in Channel 5’s 2020 adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small and the old shopfronts, village square and pub may all look familiar. When it’s not dressed up as a production set, Grassington is a popular base for hikers.

Grassington features as Darrowby, the central village setting in All Creatures Great and Small