Travel

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Lights, camera, travel!

Pol O Conghaile

Published 22/03/2014|02:30

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Game of Thrones
The Bridge
Kevin Spacey in House of Cards

In this golden age of TV drama, more and more fans are travelling to see locations from their favourite shows

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Copenhagen and Malmo: The Bridge

The Pitch

'The Bridge' is a Danish/Swedish co-production that kicks-off with the discovery of a body exactly halfway across the Oresund Bridge. It rocks.

What you will see

No prizes for guessing the big location in this Nordic Noir nail-biter. The Oresund Bridge (uk.oresundsbron.com) links Denmark and Sweden, combining with a tunnel and an artificial island to create the iconic 16km connection.

This sweeping piece of architecture is used to remarkable effect in the show – and not just as a cool visual.

When a body is discovered at its halfway point (with its trunk in Sweden and legs in Denmark) it unites Saga Noren (Sofia Helin) and Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia) for one of the best double-acts in detective drama.

Both series of 'The Bridge' (a third has been commissioned) are filmed in locations throughout Copenhagen and Malmo. Landmarks range from Copenhagen's central court to Rohde's house, but who are we kidding – all true fans need is a 1977 Porsche 911 and the open road. That, and a €38 toll pass.

What you won't see

You can drive across The Bridge. You can take the train. What you can't do is walk: any views of the spot where Saga, Martin and Jens played out series one's dramatic conclusion will be fleeting at best.

Take a tour

Peter and Ping (peter-og-ping.dk; 90DKK/€12) have several itineraries following in the footsteps of characters from 'The Bridge', 'The Killing' and 'Borgen' – the Holy Trinity of Danish TV drama. You could even pick up a Faroese sweater.

Travel tips

SAS (flysas.com) flies direct from Dublin to Copenhagen. Going to press, clickandgo.com had flights plus two nights at the four-star Grand Copenhagen from €277pp, based on April 27 departures from Dublin.

Northern Ireland: Game of Thrones

The Pitch

Season 4 of HBO's smash-hit reaches TV screens next month. Westeros isn't just a fantasy landscape, however. It's alive and thriving in Northern Ireland.

What you will see

While many Seven Kingdoms scenes were shot in Belfast's Titanic Studios, the production features its fair share of real-life landscapes too. Think of the 400-million-year-old caves at Cushendun, where Melisandre gave birth to the shadow baby in season two. Larrybane, aka Storm's End, is where Renly swears to Lady Stark that he will avenge Ned's death. It's located close to the Giant's Causeway.

In fact, the Causeway Coast crops up regularly in 'Game of Thrones' – Ballintoy Harbour doubles as Lordsport, for instance, and Downhill Beach (overlooked by Mussenden Temple) is a dead-ringer for Dragonstone.

One of the most evocative GoT locations is Kings' Road – better known to Ballycastle locals as the Dark Hedges. The swirling beech trees here could have been conjured up by Van Gogh, but were actually planted as an entrance avenue to Gracehill House some 200 years ago. And yes, there's a ghost – the hedges are said to be haunted by a mysterious Grey Lady.

What you won't see

Actual sets. As with Peter Jackson's 'Lord of the Rings' in New Zealand, many of the sets and effects are created in studios, with those built in the field tending to be temporary structures quickly dismantled after use. You'll have to use your imagination – but then, as a fantasy fan, you probably already have.

Take a tour

McComb's Tours (minicoachni.co.uk) transported the cast and crew to and from locations all over Northern Ireland. It plans to run 'Game of Thrones' tours from next month, with prices from £35/ €42.50pp. Private tours are also available.

Travel tips

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board posts regular special offers on its website (discovernorthernireland.com). Malone Lodge (malonelodgehotelbelfast.com) has B&B with dinner from £125/€152 for two.

Highclere Castle, England: Downton Abbey

The Pitch

'Downton Abbey' is the period drama to end all period dramas. And that jolly well makes Highclere Castle the TV location to end all TV locations.

What you will see

Julian Fellowes is a long-standing friend of the Carnarvon family, who have lived at Highclere Castle since 1697. Reportedly, he had the castle in mind as he wrote 'Downton Abbey'. Smart chap, Fellowes.

Remodelled and rebuilt from 1839 to 1842 by Sir Charles Barry, it is ensconced in 1,000 acres of parkland, crowned by a Gothic crenellated tower and crafted from Bath stone dragged 82 miles from the quarries by oxen.

The interiors aren't bad either. Highclere Castle was furnished over the centuries with international treasures including Napoleon's desk and a collection of Egyptian artefacts brought back by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who financed Harold Carter's discovery of Tutan-khamen's tomb. The vaulted ceiling over the saloon, a definitive backdrop for 'Downton Abbey' intrigue, is 30 metres tall.

Fact and fiction occasionally overlap too. Lady Almina, the fifth Countess, turned the house into a convalescent home during the First World War. Queen Elizabeth has even been known to take tea in the library.

What you won't see

Sadly, unless you have an aristocrat's Rolodex, the chances of visiting Highclere Castle in 2014 are limited at best. Tickets for this year's public tours are sold out. But don't be defeatist, dear. It's terribly middle-class.

Take a tour

Tours of Highclere Castle (highclere-castle.co.uk, £20/€24) run during Easter and summer holidays, but it also opens for special events. Keep a sharp eye on its website or Twitter account (@highclerecastle) for details.

Travel tips

Highclere is in West Berkshire, about an hour from London Heathrow. Between the two you'll find The Forbury in Reading, a boutique beauty recommended by Mr & Mrs Smith (mrandmrssmith.com; rooms from £114/€138 per night) for modern-day decadence. You're welcome, darlings.

Maryland, US: House of Cards

The Pitch

With its Machiavellian manoeuvrings and moody time-lapses of the US Capitol, 'House of Cards' could only have been filmed in Washington DC, right? Erm, wrong. The backdrop to this Netflix original is almost all Baltimore.

What you will see

'House of Cards' sees Kevin Spacey play US Vice-President Frank Underwood (Robin Wright plays his wife, Claire). The couple's 'Washington' townhouse is a fixture of the series, but its actual address is 1609 Park Avenue, Bolton Hill.

Elsewhere, Annapolis's State House doubles for the Capitol, the Baltimore Museum of Art sees a covert rendezvous between Zoe and Frank, and the fictional Washington Herald was hosted in unused office space at the real-life Baltimore Sun. Several restaurants feature in the series, including Tio Pepe's in Mount Vernon (10 East Franklin Street), where Doug finds Rachel. It opened in 1968.

What you won't see

Freddy's ribs are the only thing that can cause Frank Underwood to roll over and have his tummy tickled, but sadly Freddy's BBQ is fictitious.

"Fans of the show drive around DC looking for the barbecue," its location manager says.

Take a tour

Baltimore was also the setting for 'The Wire' (Hamsterdam was located near Broadway and Gay Streets, and Werner's on 231 E Redwood Street features as a politicians' bar in both shows). Although there aren't any local companies offering tours, online maps are available taking in 54 locations over 54 miles.

Travel Tips

Baltimore is 60km from Washington DC. American Holidays (americanholidays. com) has a May break in DC from €799pp, including direct flights with United and three nights at the Capitol Skyline Hotel.

NB: All prices correct going to press, but subject to availability.

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