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Ten of the best film locations on British roads
Ten of the best film locations on British roads
The Newport Pagnell service area on the M1 is an unlikely location for this British thriller starring Daniel Craig. Two groups of gangsters meet to discuss a drug deal in the distinctive glazed internal footbridge that connects the services on either side of the motorway.
The M96 is a motorway with a difference. You can’t drive on it, you can’t see it from any other roads, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s actually a dummy motorway, complete with nine lanes, hard shoulders and signage, and is kept by the Fire Service College for emergency drills. As such, it’s used regularly in films and advertisements where it can be identified by the asymmetrical number of lanes. It featured, for example, in the 2003 BBC ‘mockumentary’, The Day Britain Stopped, about a series of disasters that led to the meltdown of the country’s transport system.
This period piece based on the life of C.S. Lewis (author of the Narnia stories) has Anthony Hopkins in the leading role driving a 1949 Morris Minor around the Forest of Dean for his honeymoon with his new wife, played by Debra Winger. One of the most notable shots is of the breathtaking view from Symonds Yat Rock, which overlooks the gorge through which the River Wye snakes. Access to the viewpoint is via Woodland Road off the A4136.
In the 1967 film, Thunderbirds 6, Alan and Tin-Tin travel by Tiger Moth bi-plane to rendezvous with Lady Penelope and Parker. Location shooting involved stunt pilot Joan Hughes flying under a motorway bridge between junctions 3 and 5 of the M40 (which had just been completed and was not yet open to traffic). The Ministry of Transport gave permission for this only on the basis that the bi-plane would pass under the bridge with its wheels in contact with the road surface. Ultimately, a sudden crosswind prevented the pilot from landing the plane and she was forced to fly under the bridge without touching down. The Department of Transport prosecuted the crew but the case was thrown out of court. The team was subsequently refused permission to film any more scenes on the M40, so the special effects crew built an entire section of the motorway in miniature. In the finished film, the miniature work was indistinguishable from the location work.
His latest mission sees James Bond driving up to his ancestral Scottish estate in a 1965 Aston Martin DB5. The spectacular route he takes through the Highlands is actually the A82 through Glen Coe. This road has also featured in a number of other notable films, including Alfred Hitchcock's The 39 Steps.
Ex-butler Stevens (played by Anthony Hopkins) drives a 4.1-litre Daimler Vanden Plas Straight 8 through the West Country on his way to propose (or not as it turns out) to Emma Thompson. Apparently the car’s real-life owner lay in the back of the car during filming to make sure the actor drove it properly. One of the most memorable scenes is where the car runs out of petrol near the village of Lower Limpley Stoke, a couple of miles south of Bath on the A36, and Stevens has to spend the night at the Hop Pole Inn, Woods Hill, Lower Limpley Stoke. This same village also featured in another British classic, appearing as the village of ‘Titfield’ in the celebrated Ealing comedy The Titfield Thunderbolt.
The idyllic village used for the filming of this World War Two thriller (starring Michael Caine as a Nazi paratrooper) is Mapledurham, on the banks of the Thames just across the border into Oxfordshire, a few miles north of Reading. It is accessed via country lanes that lead west side off the A4074, and the lack of major through-roads have made it an ideal filming location. The manor house, church and watermill that featured so memorably in the film can still be seen just as they were.
One of the most famous opening sequences in British cinema depicts Lawrence’s fatal last motorbike ride. The scene was among the last to be filmed (in 1962, just three months before the premiere), and used Stone Hill Road and Staple Hill Road on Chobham Common, Surrey as locations. In real life, Lawrence’s accident occurred just a few miles from his cottage at Clouds Hill (now a National Trust property) near Bovington, Dorset. A Memorial Plaque has been placed at the spot.
This 1950 crime caper by the Ealing Studios was the progenitor of the long-running television series, Dixon of Dock Green, and featured one of the earliest extended car chases in British film. The route of the chase is almost entirely logical (unlike the montages you get in more modern films). It takes you through the area between Paddington and Westbourne Park in West London, starting on Senior Street and taking in Clarendon Crescent, Harrow Road, Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road and numerous others along the way.
This classic comedy sees the shambolic duo of Withnail and Marwood drive up to the Lake District in a battered old Jaguar MK2. The motorway used in the film was an as yet unopened section of the M25. In fact, if you watch carefully, you can actually see at least one motorway construction vehicle driving in the same direction, but on the other carriageway. On reaching Cumbria, the pair make for ‘Crow Cragg’ – which is really Sleddale Hall, a derelict cottage alongside Wet Sleddale Reservoir, just west from the A6, near Shap, about twelve miles south of Penrith.