The picturesque county with One Day and other filming location favourites

Better known for its commuter towns than tourism credentials, Hertfordshire flies under the radar as a travel destination. But with a dizzying number of credits as a filming location, its “set-jetting” profile is on the rise.

Thanks to a string of major studios being based in the county, it is a hive of filmmaking. Speaking of the Oscar-nominated Barbie film last month, UK culture secretary Lucy Frazer said: “Before it was exported to all corners of the world and became the biggest-selling film of 2023, Barbie was made and recorded in Hertfordshire – not Hollywood.”

The Warner Bros. Studios, which made the big pink sets of Barbieland and houses the Harry Potter Studio Tour, is based in Leavesden. And the original home of Star Wars, Elstree Film Studios in Borehamwood, has been producing television and cinema for almost a century.

The Crown, Game of Thrones prequel House of The Dragon, and the latest Fast & Furious films are all among the recent productions made on the county’s sound stages.

Beautiful reflections of autumn trees and blue sky in smooth waters at Brocket Hall Hertfordshire.
Period properties such as Brocket Hall help to make Hertfordshire a popular filming location (Photo: Paul Baggaley 2011/Getty)

Away from the studios, filming is often on location in Hertfordshire’s towns and villages, at period properties, and in pockets of countryside that audiences can track down and visit.

One Day, the Netflix adaptation of David Nicholls’ best-selling novel, triggered a surge in online searches for its filming locations when it was released this month, bringing viewers’ attention to one of Hertfordshire’s most-filmed backdrops.

Stately homes

The mini-series follows Emma (Ambika Mod) and Dexter (Leo Woodall) through 20 years of friendship. And when the pair are reunited at their friend Tilly’s wedding, the tapestry-lined Old Palace in Hatfield sets the scene for the reception.

The 16th-century venue is part of Hatfield House, a stately home with credits on more than 50 feature films, including Wonder Woman, Paddington, and Oscar-nominated The Favourite.

Hatfield House is closed for winter and reopens to the public at the end of March, when it is expecting a boost in interest from couples looking to get married in the Old Palace as a result of its appearance in One Day.

UNITED KINGDOM - DECEMBER 24: Knebworth house, the Tudor Gothic style house of the English writer Edward Bulwer Lytton (1803-1873), Knebworth, Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. (Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images)
Knebworth House has appeared in The Crown (Photo: Getty)

The property, along with Brocket Hall in Welwyn Garden City and Knebworth House in Stevenage, is among the authentic period homes in the county open both to the public and to film crews. All three have appeared in The Crown. And Knebworth House also stood in as Balmoral in the Oscar-winning film The King’s Speech and Wayne Manor in Batman.

Oliver Laurenson-Gore, a location manager and scout who has worked on shows for Sky, Apple, and Netflix, said: “Hertfordshire’s perfect [for filming] because it has the studios and it’s close to London, but it also the diversity of its locations; urban areas, rural tranquil countryside and listed, heritage properties.”

He also praised the Hertfordshire Film Office, which links production crews with local councils and businesses.

“You’re always looking to find somewhere that makes it easy to work there, the film office helps with that,” adds Laurenson-Gore.

The Crown

Research for Expedia found more than half of international travellers said television shows and films inspired their travel plans, and it’s a trend that Hertfordshire – with links to heavyweights such as The Crown and Harry Potter – is likely to benefit from.

The Crown in particular is supercharging an interest in tourism, notably among younger audiences. YouGov found half of Gen Z had been inspired to learn more about 20th-century British history after watching the show. It’s a fact not missed by Visit Herts, which expects the trend will encourage a younger demographic to seek out the Hertfordshire heritage locations they’ve seen on screen.

Deidre Wells, chief executive of Visit Herts, said: “We know visitors will travel to sites specifically because it has been featured on screen.

“Encouraging more and more tourists to experience our film experiences will remain a key priority for us as home to the UK’s very own Hollywood.”

Three other places to visit in Hertfordshire

St Albans

Fashion portrait and fine-art landscape photography by Przemek Czaicki a photographer based in London
St Albans is full of stories (Photo: Przemek Czaicki/Getty)

With ancient monuments, Roman ruins and an imposing Norman cathedral, St Albans is a city full of stories. A visit to the cathedral, which was used as Westminster Abbey in an episode of The Crown, can be followed by a stroll to Verulamium Park, the site of one of the largest Roman cities in Britain and, more recently, scenes for the 2023 movie Wonka. Here you’ll find a museum full of Roman treasures discovered when the park was excavated, and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, a cosy pub that can trace its history as far back as 793AD and claims to be the oldest in the country. For an overnight stay, check in to country house hotel Sopwell House and its five-star spa. Rooms, with breakfast, start at £249 per night,

Ashridge Estate

Ashridge is one of the best places in the country to see bluebells, with many people returning each year to enjoy the dense carpet of flowers each spring. Ashridge Estate is neat London, UK
Ashridge is one of the best places in the country to see bluebells (Photo: Getty)

Ashridge Estate, a 5,000-acre woodland, is home to hundreds of wild deer and, in April and May, a thick springtime carpets of bluebells. It became the enchanted forest in Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent, and a 400-year-old Queen Beech tree on the estate was the model for the “Whomping Willow” in the Harry Potter films.

Marked routes through the ancient woodland start at a family-friendly one-mile long and most lead to the Bridgewater Monument, where you can climb 172 winding steps for views over the Chiltern Hills. There’s a footpath to the estate from Tring railway station, around a mile and three quarters away. If you take the car, stop in nearby Berkhamsted, a market town with a high street of boutique shops and independent restaurants, including modern Turkish kitchen, Tabure, and the sustainability-focused The Five Bells by Lussmans.

Hemel Hempstead Old Town

An aerial shot of Hemel Hempstead Old Town, church and park. The church is famous for it's spire and is one of the tallest in Europe standing at 200ft. This image was shot 19/4/2019 over the easter bank holiday weekend.
Hemel Hempstead’s Old Town predates the new version by hundreds of years (Photo: Lee Charlton/Getty)

Central Hemel Hempstead is a town of two halves. The petite old town, with its cobbles and Grade-I-listed church, predates the nondescript 40s “new town” by hundreds of years and is all antique shops and ancient pubs. It’s a spot that’s charmed many a location scout and is a regular on the big and small screen, with parts in Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg’s World War II miniseries, Masters of the Air, and all three series of Ricky Gervais’s Netflix hit, After Life.

For a bite to eat, make a pitstop in one of the independent coffee shops or the tearoom. Stay overnight, as Henry VIII is reported to have done, in the 16th-century coaching inn, The Olde Kings Arms. Double rooms from £79 per night, Hemel Hempstead railway station is on the West Coast Mainline.