May 2 2017 2:00pm

My Favorite Filming Locations In the West Country, UK

Hannah Dennison's Honeychurch Hall series isn't the only thing set in the West Country, UK—countless movies and television shows have been filmed in Devon and Cornwall. Read about some of Hannah Dennison's favorites, and then make sure to sign in and comment below for a chance to win a copy of the 4th Honeychurch Hall Mystery, Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall!

Devon and Cornwall are known for many things. It’s not just the delicious clotted cream, Devonshire cider, and Cornish pasties that make the West Country such an attractive location for tourists worldwide. Filmmakers also flock to one of the most beautiful corners of England too—especially those who are partial to shooting book adaptations that lean toward the darker side of human nature. 

When my sister Lesley, who is the estate manager for The Flete Estate in south Devon, told me that Fox Searchlight was filming a remake of Dame Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic romantic suspense My Cousin Rachel, I wasn’t surprised. The privately owned, 12-square-mile estate has its own village of picturesque thatched cottages and a private beach with a beach house set into the cliffs. It also has a boat house—containing images dating from 1880—a sentry pill box from the First World War, and a bombed-out seawater swimming pool. 

In 1997, the beach and beach house on the Flete Estate were two of the locations for Rebecca, another Daphne du Maurier classic, which starred Emilia Fox, Charles Dance, and Diana Rigg. Happily, just this past January, American viewers can watch the miniseries on PBS. 

The bleak, windswept, granite moorland on Bodmin, situated in the heart of Cornwall, makes a chilling setting for yet another of du Maurier’s classics: Jamaica Inn. The latest remake stars Jessica Brown Findlay (Lady Sybil from Downton Abbey) as Mary Yellan. Jamaica Inn actually exists. Built in the 18th century, the former coaching inn is rumored to be one of the most haunted inns in Britain. In a taped interview, Daphne du Maurier said that she visited the inn in 1930 and was so struck by the feeling of menace and the tales of smuggling that she was inspired to write about it. 

There is another Dame who shares Daphne du Maurier’s passion for the West Country. Dame Agatha Christie was born in Torquay, Devon. Many of her detective stories have been filmed there. And Then There Were None (2015) was shot on Burgh Island in Bigbury-on-Sea. Set on a tidal island that's only accessible by sea tractor or on foot at low tide, the property is the perfect stand-in for Soldier Island. The Burgh Island Hotel website claims that Agatha Christie was a regular visitor and actually wrote both And Then There Were None and Evil Under The Sun while staying in The Beach House. 

I could write pages about my favorite film locations in the West Country and not even scratch the surface. From Arthur Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, filmed at Knightshayes Court near Tiverton in Devon, to the Eden Project near Par in Cornwall. James Bond fans are bound to recognize the peculiar biome globes that are featured in To Die Another Day (2002). And, of course, there is the charming South Devon Railway that runs between Totnes and Buckfastleigh for many of those steam train journeys we see in period costume dramas. 

So what does make Devon and Cornwall so appealing? 

The southwest peninsula has long been a hotbed of spooky tales and urban legends. The landscape is so diverse. The north coast, with its soaring cliffs, is often battered by the Atlantic waves and shrouded in thick fog—ideal for those wreckers from Jamaica Inn to make their mischief. The north is home to the bleakest and most treacherous of moors (Dartmoor and Bodmin) that make for the perfect stomping grounds for those infamous hounds of the Baskervilles. In fact, Bodmin claims to have it’s own terrifying creature: the Beast of Bodmin. Personally, I have never seen it … but I know people who have. 

By contrast, the south coast has undulating farmland that stretches as far as the eyes can see and is dotted with tranquil fishing ports and whitewashed cottages immortalized on boxes of English chocolates—always the best settings for murder mysteries where menace lurks beneath the surface of a perfectly ordinary village. 

But I don’t want to give my beloved West Country too much of a bad rap. There are plenty of light-hearted comedy series filmed there too. One series that is not based on a book but perfectly captures every day Cornish life—including the wonderful Cornish accent—is Doc Martin. Filmed in Port Isaac, the comedy show stars Martin Clunes as a doctor who can’t stand the sight of blood. It can be found on Netflix and is not to be missed! 

I’d love to hear of your favorite filming locations in Devon and Cornwall. Leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of my new book Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall, the 4th in the Honeychurch Hall Mysteries. And yes, you’ve guessed, the series is set in the West Country.

Read an excerpt from Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall!

Comment below for a chance to win a copy of Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison!

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Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall Comment Sweepstakes: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN.  A purchase does not improve your chances of winning.  Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States, D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec), who are 18 years or older as of the date of entry.  To enter, complete the “Post a Comment” entry at https://www.criminalelement.com/blogs/2017/05/my-favorite-filming-locations-in-the-west-country-uk-comment-sweepstakes beginning at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) May 2, 2017. Sweepstakes ends 2:59 p.m. ET May 10, 2017. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Macmillan, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.


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Hannah Dennison began her writing career as a trainee reporter for a small West Country newspaper in Devon, England, and is an especially big hit with librarians. Coincidentally her mother is a docent at Greenway, Agatha Christie’s summer home, which has been turned into a museum. Dennison is the author of the Honeychurch Hall and Vicky Hill mystery series.

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
John Smith
1. jsmith2jsmith
Eww, is that the real Jamaica Inn in the photograph? It looks so sinister!
Barbara Bibel
2. bbibel
A nice, creepy British countryside not so cozy!
Rhonda Barkhouse
5. Rhobar
Sounds like a good one. Cool cover.
Rhonda Barkhouse
6. Rhobar
Sounds like a good one. Cool cover.
7. KGMc
Yet another reason to revisit the UK soon!
Pearl Berger
9. Sunshine
A captivating post and I love British mysteries and novels.
pearl berger
10. beach
Cornwall is unique. What a perfect setting for the British Gothic stories.The series poldark is set there which is ideal.
Gwen Ellington
11. mamadonie02
A big hit with librarians will be a big hit with me!
bill norris
12. bnchile
well now ive got to catch up on the other three....
ellie lewis
13. italia
This is so fascinating and perfect. The setting makes the british mystery come alive. Penzance.
14. Carl Scott
Well now I want to go see all those places for myself. Time to start saving up, a free book would help (hint). Thanks for the chance to win.
Lori Provenzano
15. Mountainesque
Not a mystery drama but 'Poldark' took wonderful cinematic advantage of the coastal environs.
Shaunterria Owens
16. shaunterria
"And Then There Were None" is one of my favorite Agatha Christie TV adaptations, ever. I loved it!
I would love to visit Cornwall. It's on my bucket list.
Mary Lauff-Thompson
20. mtl166
Love the old stone prisons in that area
21. LStirling
Interesting history on the various settings in the West Country. Makes me want to visit and explore them. Besides, I do love clotted cream. Would love to read her new mystery.
Sharon Haas
22. kazul
If ever a place was made for murder it is the West Country!
Michael Carter
23. rubydog
Please enter me in this sweepstakes.
25. Polly Barlow
West Country sounds like a great place to visit; even in a book.
patty marsh
29. pattymarsh
Sounds like a greeat series! Thanks for having the contest!
M Lee
30. Emell
I've never been to either place, but I would love to read a book that takes place there
Pat Dupuy
34. Pat D
I would love to see that scenery in person. And if Doc Martin or Ross Poldark show up, all the better!
Mary Ann Woods
35. puttputt1198eve
Love mysteries that take place in Devon or Cornwall areas!
Linda Bogash
40. cgable5
Enjoyed the other books in the series. Looking forward to this one.
41. elsie321
sounds like a great mystery read. thank you
Jerry Eaton
42. celticursa
Don't often read cozies, but I really do enjoy Hannah's series.
Caroline Lennek
43. clennek
I find it interesting that Dame Agatha Christie wrote two of her more well know mysteries at the Burgh Island Hotel where they were filmed.
Susan Craig
44. twinreader
I would love to win this - the series looks interesting.
Jane Schwarz
50. Janeschwarz
Thanks for the brief tour of West Country and for the opportunity to win a copy of Murderous Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall.
Laura DeLaRosa
51. bluecat731
Thanks for the opportunity to win a great mystery.
Lauren Guarneri
52. lpg103
Love the post! I would love to visit Cornwall someday. My favorite show set there (though I don't know if they film there) is Poldark.
theresa norris
53. theresan
I've always thought I'd love to visit this part of the UK and after reading this, I'm sure.
Thomas Walker
55. twalker
Great article! Would love to win the book
Shelly Hart
56. shellbell
Would love to travel there! Would love to win!
Melissa Keith
57. melly801
I've been to England but not Devon or Cornwall. If they were filming a movie and I happened to be there I would definitely try to watch. I enjoy watching films shot on location. Back in '89 I stood and watched some of the scenes fom PARENTHOOD in Orlando FL. Later I met Martha Plimpton. I love to schmooze and name drop. :-)
Joyce Lokitus
62. Joyce710113
I love Port Issac from what is shown when watching Doc Martin but I've never been to England - yet! Thanks for indicating other cool spots to see as now I can google them to check them out.
Deb Philippon
63. DebP
I have travelled to Cornwall and Devon, and, yes, it definitely has an atmosphere of its very own. Hope to win. Wish me luck!
64. Donmcclure
I always try to pinpoint the locations
66. Helen Martin
Devon is so beautiful. I just watched And Then There Were None. A beautiful remake. I would love to travel there. I also watched Doc Martin
and was really taken with the landscape. Hannah Dennison's book sounds really good.
Peter W. Horton Jr.
67. mosaix
Location, location, location! Yes!
68. kross
The location sounds perfect. I'd love to read it.
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