29 epic Welsh backdrops to Hollywood films and how movie tourists can find them

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We all know Wales is a beautiful country and so, it seems, does Hollywood.

Our wonderful scenery has had film-makers flocking to our shores, and towns and cities, for decades to replicate far-flung destinations – sometimes even the Batcave and mythological lands.

So for those film buffs who love to visit the locations featured in their favourite flicks, we’ve got the lowdown on the ones you really must track down in Wales.

1. Wonder Woman 1984

(Image: Ian Cooper/North Wales Live)

A welcome sequel to the 2017 DC hit, Wonder Woman 1984 takes the action from World War One right up to the 80s.

But what are they doing at Betws-y-Coed’s stunning Swallow Falls? And was star Gal Gadot there?

Well, we’ll have to wait until June 2020 to find out and, to be honest, we can’t wait. What a stunning part of the world.

Gal Gadot stars in Wonder Woman (Image: Dumfries And Galloway Standard)

Where: Snowdonia National Park, Swallow Falls, Betws-y-Coed LL24 0DW

2. Doolittle

(Image: Universal Pictures)

 

With a trailer that shocked Welsh film fans, Robert Downey Jr is playing his animal-communicating specialist with a Welsh accent. Lovely stuff.

Also lovely will be the stunning back drop of the Menai Bridge  where filming took place back in the summer of 2018.

Avengers icon RDJ was posting lots of Welsh-themed images on his Instagram and even posed in front of a Welsh flag at one point.

Where: You can find the Menai Bridge on the Menai Straits, Anglesey.

 

3. Lawrence of Arabia

In his Oscar-winning role as Lawrence of Arabia in 1962
Peter O’Toole in his Oscar-winning role as Lawrence of Arabia in 1962

Peter O’Toole got to visit Morocco, Spain and California for the filming of this seven-times Oscar-winning classic in 1962.

The lucky devil also flexed his acting muscles in, er, exotic Bridgend, at the Merthyr Mawr sand dunes, the second highest in Europe.

It’s a lovely destination for a day out and you’re only a short walk away from the ruins of the Norman Ogmore Castle and its 52 stepping-stones across the Ogmore river.

Where: Head towards Bridgend on the M4 and exit at junction 35 and then follow the A48 towards Bridgend and follow the signs to the village of Merthyr Mawr.

Once in the village continue in a westerly direction along Merthyr Mawr Road, passing the village church on your right-hand side, for a distance of around three kilometres (two miles) until you come to the main car park, which has room for approximately 100 cars.

4. Harry Potter

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (2007) was filmed in part at Freshwater West in Pembrokeshire (Image: Athena Picture Agency)

 

The amazing shell cottage from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts One & Two was specially built at the foot of the sand dunes at Freshwater West beach and, well, we all know what happened there and we’re too sad to talk about Dobby, so we’ll just leave it at that.

(Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency)

 

Unfortunately the cottage was removed after filming but any true Harry Potter fan would go and pay their respects anyway.

Where: Freshwater West lies along the B4319 road and is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park if you wanted to make a day of it.

5. Snow White and the Huntsman

 

Not far away from the Harry Potter location is Marloes Sands beach where Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth charge on their horses in the amazing battle scene in Snow White and the Huntsman.

Cast and crew spent a week in the area in 2011 and the end result saw a huge, craggy castle added to the beach with special effects.

(Image: James Davies Photography)

 

Where: Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire, which is near Marloes village. For more information click here.

6. Man From U.N.C.L.E

Henry Cavill stars in The Man From U.N.C.L.E
Henry Cavill stars in The Man From U.N.C.L.E

 

A 150-strong crew was based opposite the Dyffryn Castell pub, near Ponterwyd, and spent 10 days filming action scenes involving a car chase in the surrounding forests and hills of the Cambrian Mountains in Ceredigion.

It is where the chase with Alexander Vinciguerra (Luca Calvani) takes place.

The Cambrian Mountains
The Cambrian Mountains

Where: Find Ponterwyd about 12 miles east of Aberystwyth on the A44.

7. The Dark Knight Rises

Hynrhyd Falls was the location for the Bat Cave
Hynrhyd Falls was the location for the Bat Cave

The Batcave is one of the most secret hideouts in film history so hands up who knew the entrance to it was a beautiful Welsh waterfall?

For the exterior scenes in The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan used Henrhyd Falls in the Brecon Beacons – Wales’ tallest waterfall.

Any visitor can disappear behind a beautiful white curtain of water just like the Caped Crusader.

Where: The nearest car park to Henrhyd Falls is Coelbren and the address is Brecon Beacons National Park, Dol Henrhyd, Neath, SA10 9PH.

8. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

King Arthur
Charlie Hunnam is King Arthur (Image: Warner Bros)

This brand new interpretation of King Arthur is directed by Guy Ritchie who brought his production to Nant Gwynant, near Beddgelert, and Vivian Quarry, near Llanberis, as well as Capel Curig in Conwy.

The film, starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, and Eric Bana was filmed in the heart of Snowdonia and sees some hair-raising stunts.

King Arthur filming in Snowdonia

Where: Find Nant Gwynant near Caernarfon, Gwynedd, LL55 4NR. Vivian Quarry is at Parc Padarn near Llanberis.

9. Clash of the Titans

Clash of the Titans
Clash of the Titans

As well as joining Tarzan at Dinorwig slate quarry in Snowdonia, Greek mythology flick Clash of the Titans also paid a visit to Anglesey’s Newborough forest.

The film’s volcano scenes took place at the quarry’s Harriet hole, while the stunning woods around Newborough beach were also used.

Where: The postcode to Newborough is LL61 6SG. And you can find the former quarry in the Llanberis area of Snowdonia National Park. Use the postcode LL55 4TY.

10. Highlander

Christopher Lambert in Highlander (Image: Mirrorpix)

The 1980s mystical fantasy is beloved by many film fans and the final scene took place right here in Wales.

It was filmed at Sychnant Pass in Conwy, which winds through much of north Snowdonia. There are many walking routes and sights around this area which will please any fan of the outdoors.

Sychnant Pass (Image: Google images/Creative Commons)

Where: If you’re planning a day out to see the Sychnant Pass the nearest car park is found at Sychnant Pass Road, Henryd, Clwyd, LL32 8AZ .

 

11. Robin Hood

Robin Hood filming at Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire

Another to make use of one of our beautiful Welsh golden sands was the Russell Crowe flick Robin Hood which was released in 2010.

Locals lined Freshwater West to see a huge ship wheeled onto the beach and 30 galloping horses in the surf. This exciting action was just weeks after the Harry Potter crew had packed up and left.

Where: Freshwater West lies along the B4319 road and is part of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

12. The Libertine

Johnny Depp starred opposite John Malkovich and Samantha Morton in this big-screen interpretation of the life of a saucy 17th century earl.

The film was made at restored courtyard house Tretower Court near Crickhowell, which has origins in the 14th century.

Where: Tretower, Crickhowell, NP8 1RD.

13. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Image 8 for 'As Wales's newest film studio opens, we take a look and remember a few iconic Welsh films.' gallery
Angelina Jolie is Lara Croft

Another fan of Snowdonia National Park was the Angelina Jolie-starring Lara Croft.

The producers chose Snowdonia as a location after they were denied permission to shoot the $100m move in China, where the story is set.

A mock Chinese village was created at Llyn Gwynant, near Beddgelert, and Chinese extras were hired to play farm labourers.

Where: Snowdonia National Park, Nant Gwynant, Caernarfon, LL55 4NW.

14. The Killer Elite

Jason Statham filming the Killer Elite in Cardiff
Jason Statham filming the Killer Elite in Cardiff (Image: Media Wales)

 

Hollywood hardman Jason Statham and Robert De Niro were in Cardiff during the summer of July 2010 to film the 1980s-set film, which is based on explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ novel The Feather Men.

The Windsor Place area of the city was cordoned off to film a scene involving a robbery at a travel agent.

Where: Windsor Place, Cardiff.

15. Captain America: The First Avenger

 

Back in 2010 the Ministry of Defence training camp at Caerwent was used for the majority of the war scenes in the first of Marvel’s Captain America reboots.

During October 2010 movie makers shot most of the war scenes that feature in the film around the site. Filming coincided with Newport hosting the Ryder Cup, which actors Samuel L Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones were seen attending.

Where: Dinham Road, Caerwent, Caldicot, NP26 5XL.

16. Stardust

Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons
Llyn y Fan Fach, Brecon Beacons (Image: Carmarthenshire County Council)

This mystical film deserves a mystical setting and that’s exactly what it got at one of the Brecon Beacon’s most beautiful lakes, Llyn Fan y Fach.

The film follows Tristan, a young man from the fictional town of Wall who enters the magical world to collect a fallen star to give to his girlfriend Victoria in return for her hand in marriage. It stars Michelle Pfeiffer as an ancient witch who is hunting for the fallen star to replenish her youthful powers.

The 20,000 year-old glacial lake was chosen due to its mythical connections, shrouded as it is in Celtic legend and purported to be the location where the lady of the lake handed the sword Excalibur to King Arthur.

 

Where: Park at the Llanddeusant Youth Hostel (SA19 9UL) and there’s a walking path suitable for all up to the lake.

17. Restoration

Robert Downey Jr pictured at Caerphilly Castle
Robert Downey Jr pictured at Caerphilly Castle (Image: Media Wales)

 

He’s now superhero Iron Man but back in the 90s Robert Downey Jr was a fresh-faced actor who played a physician in the reign of Charles II who falls in love with a poor woman.

Scenes were shot at both Caerphilly Castle and Tretower Court in Crickhowell.

Where: Castle Street, Caerphilly, CF83 1JD, and Tretower, Crickhowell, NP8 1RD.

18. Wrath of the Titans

The quarry near Trefil
The quarry near Trefil

The sequel to the Clash of the Titans (featured above) was partially shot at the Trefil quarry in Blaenau Gwent. The quarry was transformed into a barren rocky landscape and derelict temple for the filming.

The quarry was also used in the Martin Freeman movie The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Where: Trefil Quarry is currently in operation as a quarry.

19. Die Another Day

 

Penbryn beach is another stunning location in which Wales shows its natural beauty. Despite this, Penbryn doubles for North Korea!

Where: Find the nearest car park at SA44 6QL.

20. American Werewolf in London

The building featured in American Werewolf in London as The Slaughtered Lamb

The groundbreaking werewolf horror, directed by John Landis, really showed off lots of the UK – though maybe not in the most tourist-enticing way!

The famous pub, The Slaughtered Lamb, where Griffin Dunne and David Naughton meet a lot of unfriendly locals – who, to be fair, they should have listened to – is actually a Welsh pub in the village of Crickadarn.

In the film it is meant to be in Yorkshire.

Don’t go onto the moors at night…oops

The pub is no longer there but the building is and it’s very pretty.

Where: Get to Crickadarn using the postcode LD2 3PJ.

21. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

(Image: Daily Mirror)

The hilarious Monty Python film opens at the Cadw-owned Kidwelly castle which overlooks the River Gwendraeth in Carmarthenshire.

After the titles King Arthur and Patsy (Graham Chapman and Terry Gilliam) are shown to be at a very misty Kidwelly. The scene is a long establishing shot as the following close-up was filmed at Doune Castle in Scotland. Not a Hollywood film, technically, but the Pythons are popular the world over.

Kidwelly Castle

Where: Kidwelly Castle is on Castle Road, SA17 5BQ. It can be reached by road, rail, and bus. It is open year-round but times vary. Click here for more details.

22. Half Light

Demi Moore, recently filming A Brave New World in Rhondda Cynon Taf with Amblin Television, spent some time on Ynys Llanddwyn making the creepy Half Light back in 2006.

Llanddwyn doubles for Scotland, mind, as Moore’s crime novelist escapes to the coast to get over the death of her son.

Where: Wander around the lovely beach (the nearest postcode for which is  LL61 6SG) but check the local tide times.

23. The Legend of Tarzan

Alexander Skarsgard in The Legend of Tarzan
Alexander Skarsgard in The Legend of Tarzan (Image: Jonathan Olley)

Alexander Skarsgard swung into Snowdonia in 2014 as Tarzan for a week’s worth of filming on the big-budget movie, which also starred Margot Robbie, Christophe Waltz, and Samuel L Jackson.

The production set up camp at the former Dinorwig slate quarry where there are public footpaths for you to follow in the King of Jungle’s footsteps. You might want to wear a top, though, and a waterproof jacket.

It’s no surprise as the location has stunning views from the top, interesting old buildings, machinery, and rail tracks to explore. There is a car park and the National Slate Museum is nearby too.

Dinorwig (Image: Geoff Moore)

Also filmed at the quarry was Clash of the Titans and Tomb Raider.

Where: Find the former quarry in the Llanberis area of Snowdonia National Park, LL55 4TY.

24. Willow

This 80s fantasy classic was also filmed, like Tarzan, at Dinorwig Quarry, which was unused at the time.

It starred Val Kilmer and Warwick Davies and was directed by Ron Howard. Willow was created by George Lucas and has become a cult fantasy classic.

Where: As above it’s in the Llanberis area of Snowdonia National Park, LL55 4TY.

25. First Knight

The 1995 Camelot film starred Richard Gere and Sean Connery as Lancelot and King Arthur.

A bit of a critical flop the film was, like Guy Ritchie’s attempt at the story 20 years later, filmed in the north of Wales.

Filming took place at Llanfair slate mines in Harlech, Trawsfynydd, and Gloddfa Ganol in Blaenau Ffestiniog.

Where: You can visit the slate caverns here.

26. Arabesque

Italian film star Sophia Loren walks along the catwalk on the Crumlin Viaduct in August 1965
Italian film star Sophia Loren walks along the catwalk on the Crumlin Viaduct in August 1965 (Image: Mirrorpix)

The Crumlin Viaduct (demolished in 1967) was the scene of an exciting helicopter chase in the film, which starred screen icon Sophia Loren alongside Gregory Peck.

Perhaps the first time a helicopter had ventured up that valley for such a glamorous cause, Loren was a hit when she visited the location back when the film was made in the mid-60s.

Where: Some of the bridge can still be seen from the A467 as you head towards Crumlin, which is now situated in the Caerphilly borough – or the Ebbw Valley, if you’d like.

27. Tiger Bay

 

One of the most famous films made about one of the areas most synonymous with Cardiff, Tiger Bay – most of which is now Butetown and Cardiff Bay.

The scene above was filmed in Loudoun Square back in 1959 in the area which now has the tower blocks built on it. We recently wrote about Butetown and how its community is fighting against the perception of deprivation, poverty, and how its brightest and ambitious are fighting to be represented.

The film, starring father and daughter actors Hayley and John Mills, captures a Tiger Bay of its time and deals with dockers, a murder, and an angelic street urchin (Hayley Mills).

For a long time the Tiger Bay movie was the only Welsh reference point for many film-goers the world over, such was the stature of John Mills who proved a major audience draw.

(Image: Peter Bolter)

Where: You’ll find a very different-looking Tiger Bay in Butetown but just down the road there are still imposing listed buildings which hark back to a busier time when Cardiff’s docks were one of the busiest in the world.

Some of Tiger Bay was also filmed at Newport’s Transporter Bridge. You can visit that but it is currently closed until April 2020.

28. Transformers: the Last Knight

Sir Anthony Hopkins starred opposite Mark Wahlberg in this 2017 Transformers sequel which shot battle scenes at Ystrad Quarry in Blaenau Gwent.

Luckily for Sir Anthony he didn’t have to hang around in a quarry as his scenes were shot in Northumberland.

The blockbuster, which had a budget of $215m, was directed by action supremo Michael Bay.

Where: Ystrad Quarry can be found near Trefil, which is three miles northwest of Tredegar.

29. Infinite

A number of vehicles including New York police cars and army trucks were involved in the filming (Image: Olivia Poppy Thomas)

Another Mark Wahlberg project which recently shut down a major road in the centre of Cardiff. 

A science fiction film which is also produced by Wahlberg, it is directed by Antoine Fuqua – who helmed the Oscar-winning Training Day.

Newport Road in the capital was overrun by NYPD cars and armed units for the scene shot there and the film is due to be released in the summer of 2020.

The Mercure Holland House Hotel appeared to double as a police station, too.

Where: 24-26 Newport Road, Cardiff, CF24 0DD.

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