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Ancient Film Sets: Castles re-purposed for contemporary audiences

Alnwick Castle

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With their majestic designs and huge grounds, castles make for great backdrops in films and TV. Real-life locations and practical effects are much more captivating than CGI. There’s nothing quite like the authenticity, history and culture that these castles bring to film sets.

Look at the following castles and see if you can spot which classic films they have featured in.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Highly stylised and in a stunning location, Neuschwanstein Castle is among the most exceptional sights in the world. It’s one of Germany’s most popular castles, attracting over a million visitors every year. Completed in 1886, the castle consists of numerous balconies, towers, sculptures and ornament turrets. It was first commissioned by Ludwig II of Bavaria and has since become an iconic landmark. The castle has featured in several films, including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Great Escape.

Chateau Frontenac

Chateau Frontenac is a lavish castle and hotel resort, built in 1893. It was designed by American architect Bruce Price. It’s located in Quebec City, Canada and since its construction, it has remained true to its original purpose of providing accommodation to visitors of the city. It has become a historic building and a symbol of Canada’s national identity. It was used as a filming location for Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Confess.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh castle is Scotland’s most renowned landmark, dominating the skyline of the city. The origins of the castle are unclear, but the rock the castle stands on is estimated to have risen about 350 million years ago and it’s believed to be the remains of a volcanic pipe. The buildings were constructed in the memory of Queen Margaret, and legend has it she died of a broken heart when she received news of her husband’s death. The castle has existed on the site since at least the 12th century and throughout the ages, it has been used as a royal residence, a prison and a garrison. It’s an extremely important part of Scotland’s national heritage, as it has been involved in many historical conflicts, such as the Wars of Scottish Independence and the Jacobite risings. Edinburgh castle has been used as the backdrop for the annual Military Tattoo.

Alnwick Castle

These days, Alnwick Castle is better known as an ideal filming location, then being the home of the current Duke of Northumberland and his family. This castle has been used as a backdrop in film and TV more than any other castle in the world. Since the 1960s, it has featured in a vast number of productions, but most famously in the Harry Potter series. Despite having been remodelled and renovated many times, the castle’s overall layout has remained relatively unchanged since it was built in the 12th century. It consists of two main rings of buildings, with the whole structure at the centre of a large bailey. It is a substantial heritage site, combining medieval architecture with lavish Italianate style state rooms. It’s a castle brimming with culture and history.

The Palace of Versailles

When the Palace of Versailles was built in 1623, the city was only a small village. Since then, Versailles has evolved tremendously alongside the prosperity of its palace. It is a very well preserved palace and one of the greatest achievements of French art and architecture. This is not only due to its impressive façade, but because of the palace’s interior, which is made up of multiple apartments, chapels, a museum and a royal opera. The palace can be seen in an episode of Doctor Who and it was a filming location for the critically acclaimed Valmont, as well as Marie-Antoinette and many other French films throughout the decades.

Arundel Castle

Located in West Sussex, England, Arundel Castle was completed on Christmas Day in 1068. Since the 11th century, it has been the home of the Duke and Duchess of Norfolk. It is a restored castle and various restorations started in the late 18th century and continued for a number of years. Not only was it used in the award-winning The Madness of King George, but the castle has been involved in a number of important events, such as the marriage of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun.

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle has been a filming location since the 1920s. Notable appearances include 2015’s Macbeth and TV series The Last Kingdom. The castle has a rich history involving various raids from Scotland and it was the first castle in England to surrender to a military siege. Today, it’s an important archaeological site, as the landscape and the building is textured by several thousand years of human history. It was built by the Normans in the 11th century and later became the property of the British Monarch. It was then reconstructed in the 19th century.

Belvoir Castle

Like Bamburgh, Belvoir Castle is a Grade 1 listed building, so at present it cannot be altered or demolished without special permission from the local authority. It’s located in the county of Leicestershire and part of it houses the Duke of Rutland and his family. The castle has featured in a number of films since the 1980s. It was most famously used as a location for The Da Vinci Code.

Doune Castle

The Winterfell scenes of Game of Thrones imagine Doune Castle as much larger than it is in real-life. It’s a medieval castle in Scotland which was originally built in the 13th century, and likely damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence. It has a long history of fortification and appears to be missing its south and west ranges. The castle has also been used in TV series Outlander.

Dover Castle

Located in Kent, Dover Castle is a popular tourist attraction and it’s owned by English Heritage. It was founded in the 11th century and has been labelled the “Key to England” in reference to the castle’s defensive history. In modern times, it has appeared in films such as The Other Boleyn Girl, Johnny English and in an episode of the classic Doctor Who series.

All of these castles have survived the past centuries, each glistening with their own vibrant cultural history. Appearances in popular culture have further increased the notoriety and impact of these castles.

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