Sail into the silver screen with the 10 best TV and film locations to cruise in the UK and Ireland, as chosen by Yachting Monthly experts
TV and film locations to sail to: 10 of the best places in the UK and Ireland
From box office blockbusters like Star Wars: The Last Jedi to popular television dramas such as the historic saga Poldark, the coastline of Great Britain and Ireland has captivated audiences around the world with its beaches, dramatic cliffs, unique geology and pretty seaside towns.
Sail right into the silver screen and discover these destinations for yourself with our pick of 10 television and film locations to cruise to.
Take time to explore the cinematic inspiration for Lordsport in the Iron Islands from the fantasy Game of Thrones, the quaint Cornish home of Doc Martin, and the nightmarish dystopia of The Prisoner in Portmeirion’s colourful village.
Whether you want a long weekend or a stop off on a longer trip, start planning today to sail to some of television and film locations in the UK and Ireland!
Trotternish Peninsula, Skye
Recommended by Sarah Brown
The Old Man of Storr and the accompanying remarkable landscapes of Skye have formed the backdrop for many Hollywood blockbusters including Stardust, Prometheus and even Flash Gordon!
Whether you are into fantasy, sci-fi or drama, the spectacular Quiraing area is equally stunning when viewed from the sea and includes the largest landslide in the UK.
Some 30km long and 2km wide, the slide is currently stable but occured when the underlying Jurassic sediments collapsed under the weight of new lava laid down about 55 million years ago when the area was geologically active.
Heading around the point you arrive at Duntulm Castle where the anchorage gives access to the Duntulm platform where you can see fossilised dinosaur footprints at low tide.
The small island of Eilean Trodday, which lies to the north of Skye, is worth closer inspection for the birdlife in particular.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to the Trotternish Peninsula
The Trotternish Peninsula itself doesn’t offer any safe anchorages, however it is accessible from Portree on Skye’s east coast, and even Stornoway in the west.
Locally, South Rona provides the best anchorage in Acairseid Mhòr with lovely surroundings, although the pubs of Portree and Badachro, south of Gairloch offer more in the way of nightlife.
Fog can be an issue around the Trotternish Peninsula as the cooler air meets the warmer sea, but by standing off you can often get free again.
Plockton, Scottish Highlands
Recommended by Jonty Pearce
Occupying an enviable east-facing location in a sheltered bay of Loch Carron, Plockton’s climate is boosted by the Gulf Stream, its orientation away from the prevailing winds also encouraging the incongruous palm trees along the seafront of picturesque houses; a true chocolate box sub-tropical picture frontage.
A National Trust for Scotland conservation village, its choice as the fictional Lochdubh for BBC’s Hamish Macbeth must have been an easy one.
While Plockton was the main base for all three series, other locations included Kyle of Lochalsh and Toscaig; the Crowlin Islands doubled as Lochdubh Island.
A gentle plot featuring Robert Carlyle as a backwater police officer keeping the peace in a small community made for a popular series.
Plockton has also been used for scenes in the film The Wicker Man and the Inspector Alleyn Mysteries television series.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Plockton
The Inner Sound separates northern Skye from the mainland, and to its south Loch Carron branches northeastwards.
The loch pilotage is straightforward until approaching Plockton’s headland when care needs to be taken to line up Sgeir Golach’s beacon on Eilean na Beinne before passing midway between High Stone and Cat Island. Keep clear of Hawk Rock, leaving both perches guarding Plockton Rocks to port.
There are visitors’ moorings both west of and beyond Plockton Rocks, and between these areas is an anchorage.
The 45m pontoon with 2m depth at the pier should only be used for temporary berthing.
Ballintoy, Northern Ireland
Recommended by Norman Kean
The little harbour of Ballintoy, on the Causeway Coast of Northern Ireland gained fame when it became Lordsport in the second series of Game of Thrones.
This is where Theon Greyjoy returned to the Iron Islands and where he first met his sister Yara. Filming at Ballintoy took place in August 2011.
Many locations in Northern Ireland were used.
The nearby Larrybane Quarry was where Brienne of Tarth fought Ser Loras Tyrell, and Carnlough, on the east Antrim coast, was where Arya jumped into the harbour to escape the Waif after the assassination attempt.
Today there is a Game of Thrones tourist trail, which in 2019 attracted 350,000 people, one-sixth of all visitors to Northern Ireland.
Ballintoy is a charming place steeped in real history, and the village’s Fullerton Arms pub has one of ten beautifully carved doors made from fallen timber from the Dark Hedges (on the road between here and Ballymoney).
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Ballintoy
This part of the coast is 53 miles by sea from Belfast Lough and five miles from Ballycastle or Rathlin.
The outer part of Ballintoy harbour offers an alongside berth for a small yacht, with sufficient rise of tide, and there is temporary anchorage, sheltered from south through west to north-west, in the approach.
The nearest all-weather harbour is the marina at Ballycastle, and there are regular buses along the Causeway Coast road, passing through Ballintoy village.
A steep winding road connects the village to the harbour.
Portmeirion, North Wales
Recommended by Jonty Pearce
Mention the word Portmeirion and those of a certain age will instantly think of the avant-garde 1967 cult spy British television series The Prisoner starring Patrick McGoohan as a never-to-escape inmate of an eccentric neo-Italianate jail.
His character, Number Six, is an unnamed British intelligence agent who has been abducted; he awakes confined in the mysterious seaside institution known to ‘residents’ as The Village.
Escape is near impossible with CCTV security, guards, and a weird white balloon named Rover who attacks and asphyxiates victims as required.
Numbers rather than names are used for identification, and the adopted uniform is made up of piped blazers, striped sweaters, plimsolls, and headwear such as straw boaters.
In reality, Clough Williams-Ellis started to build the beautiful Portmeirion village in 1925.
With a strong Mediterranean influence, his surreal architecture features bespoke accommodation and a famous pottery as well as being a busy tourist destination.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Portmeirion
The approach to the River Glaslyn Estuary leading to Porthmadog and Portmeirion starts at the red and white fairway buoy in Tremadoc Bay, before following the buoyed channel up to Porthmadog Harbour.
The approach should be made in the last couple of hours of the flood; the sandbanks shift so charts are less reliable than the route shown by the buoys.
For intrepid explorers wishing to anchor off Portmeirion itself take an easterly turn before the harbour; off the hotel, boats can anchor amongst the sandbanks.
Most will contact Madoc Yacht Club (www.madocyc.co.uk) for a safe berth in Porthmadog Harbour.
Lower Fishguard, Pembrokeshire
Recommended by Jonty Pearce
Tucked into a deep valley where the River Gwaun meets the sea below the hilltop main town, Lower Fishguard is the original hamlet from which modern Fishguard grew.
The old harbour makes an exceptionally pretty village frontispiece; indeed, the picture postcard streets and quayside might have been lifted straight out of Dylan Thomas’ imagination when he scribed his most famous play, Under Milk Wood.
The first film of this work was shot in 1972 when Lower Fishguard was transformed into Dylan’s fictional Llareggub (famously not spelt backwards).
Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole starred as the main characters, while local people and even farm animals were used as extras.
Scenes were filmed in the front rooms and kitchens of the houses along the quayside.
This tidal inner harbour had also been previously used as a location for the 1955 film Moby Dick, starring Gregory Peck; the whale itself was constructed by local shipwrights.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Lower Fishguard
A useful all-weather haven and anchorage without depth limitations, Fishguard Harbour’s approach is free of hazards, though it is wise to keep a lookout for ferry movements.
The entrance is straightforward and possible in rough weather and at all states of the tide.
Once past the Northern Breakwater two options are possible: the main expanse of Goodwick to the west or Lower Fishguard Harbour to the south.
My preference is for the latter, though rather than entering and drying out in the crowded inner harbour, I prefer to anchor off the entrance under Fishguard Fort, though careful depth calculations are essential.
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Skellig Michael, west Ireland
Recommended by Norman Kean
St Michael has given his name to several rocky crags, but this one, seven miles off the coast of Kerry, is undoubtedly the most remarkable.
It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site based on the astonishing and almost intact remains of a religious settlement perched near the summit of its 186m eastern peak, and the unique extent to which these demonstrate the extremes of Christian monasticism.
The monastery was occupied year-round from the 6th to the 13th centuries. In 2015 and 2017 the island was used as a location for two Star Wars films – The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
It was Luke Skywalker’s island sanctuary on the planet Ahch-To, and as a film set it was described as ‘real yet otherworldly’.
The director J.J.Abrams said: ‘It’s sort of a miracle, this place’.
Permission to use the island was met with widespread protest, while the two movies grossed $3.4 billion worldwide.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Skellig Michael
The daily footfall is limited to 180, with 15 boats making one daily trip with 12 passengers each.
Typically, they sail at capacity because of the demand generated by Star Wars.
You could leave a yacht in Portmagee and take a ferry, but availability is not certain and this is an expensive trip – the fares range from €90 to €120.
But simply sailing close around the island and its smaller cousin the Little Skellig (Ireland’s largest gannet colony) is an awe-inspiring experience, never to be forgotten.
Meanwhile the Irish Cruising Club is attempting to have access provided for leisure craft.
Port Isaac, Cornwall
Recommended by Jane Cumberlidge
Entering Port Isaac will feel very familiar to anyone who has ever seen an episode of Doc Martin or the film of Fisherman’s Friends.
Up on Roscarrock Hill, on the west side, is Fern Cottage, used as Doc Martin’s home and surgery and across the harbour, above the east breakwater, the steep roof and white gables of the school stand out.
Louise no longer teaches ‘times tables’ here as it is now a hotel and restaurant. In the centre of the harbour is the Platt, where the Fisherman’s Friends originally sang their sea shanties.
You can walk along the narrow one-way street where Danny and Alwyn first meet, almost head-on, and through Squeeze Belly Alley.
The low ceilinged Golden Lion pub and white-washed cottages are all in the village.
Fishing boats still come in and out between the breakwaters and the lifeboat station is at the top of the Platt.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Port Isaac
Lying about five miles SSW of Tintagel Head, Port Isaac faces due north with little protection from onshore winds.
Head towards the end of the east breakwater, just east of south, and St Endellion church tower, a little way inland.
Keep towards the Lobber Point side to be sure to give a clear berth to Kenewal and Warrant rocks on the east side of the entrance.
Entry to Port Isaac should definitely not be attempted at night as there are no lights along this stretch of coast.
The Lizard & Charlestown, South Cornwall
Recommended by Jane Cumberlidge
Charlestown harbour was built by Charles Rashleigh in the 1790s to export copper from local mines, but when the copper ran out it was used for china clay.
In the Poldark series, Charlestown represented Truro and was the location for Verity Poldark and Captain Andrew Blamey’s elopement.
The breakwater was also used, with characters meeting along it and often gazing out to sea moodily.
The high cliffs of the Lizard often saw scenes of horses and riders galloping enigmatically with wind in their hair and unexpected encounters with friend or foe.
The charming coves west of the Lizard are ideal settings for swashbuckling wrecks and rescues. Church Cove, Gunwalloe, was the location of a night-time shipwreck scene and fight.
Kynance Cove was used as Poldark’s beloved Nampara, and where Ross rescues a pregnant Demelza.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to The Lizard & Charlestown
In calm conditions you can anchor off the beach. The overfalls off The Lizard stretch up to five miles.
West of the Lizard is Kynance Cove which offers a good anchorage in anything from north to just south of east.
Recommended by Katy Stickland
A tombolo – Chesil Beach – connects Portland to the mainland, so the isle has always been somewhat on the fringes.
It made it the ideal location to shoot the 2009 Richard Curtis comedy, The Boat That Rocked, which tells the story of the fictional pirate radio station, Radio Rock and the lives of its unconventional DJs in 1966.
The former Dutch hospital ship, Timor Challenge, was chartered by producers as the Radio Rock ship, while the ex-Trinity House Light vessel, LV 18, was the rival station.
Scenes were shot in Portland Harbour and Osprey Quay.
Chesil Beach has also had its time in the limelight, with On Chesil Beach, the 2017 film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel of the same name, shot on the shingle barrier.
Just around the corner at Weymouth, Hollywood director Christopher Nolan used Customs House Quay as the location for the start of the civilian fleet’s departure to rescue British and French troops in the Oscar-winning Dunkirk.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Portland
Depending on your direction of travel, passage-planning to Portland should take into account Lulworth Firing Ranges, the Shambles and Portland Tide Race, the latter needing meticulous passage planning, with overfalls extending out seven miles during strong winds.
Contact Portland Harbour Radio (VHF Ch. 74) before entering Portland Harbour.
Use the buoyed fairway via the North Ship Channel.
Visiting yachts can make use of swinging moorings from the Royal Dorset Yacht Club (www.royal-dorset.com), Castle Cove Sailing Club (www.ccsc.org.uk) or Ferrybridge Marine Services (01305 777350), or book a berth at Portland Marina (www.boatfolk.co.uk), which offers the best shelter.
Recommended by Janet Harber
Old Hall and Tollesbury Wick salt marshes, adjacent to the village Tollesbury on the River Blackwater, are managed wetland reserves visited by thousands of wildfowl during the winter.
This atmospheric corner of Essex also attracts filmmakers.
The opening scenes of the 2011 BBC adaptation of Great Expectations were shot on Tollesbury Wick Marshes. In the saltings is a line of flooded dead trees.
They made a fantastic backdrop for Pip’s iconic encounter with escaped convict Magwitch as he emerges muddy and wet from out of the mist.
More recently some stunning aerial film of Old Hall Marshes was used in the opening sequence for the first series of ITV’s Liar in 2017.
The solitary kayak in this footage was paddled through the fleets by leading character Laura.
TV and film locations to sail to: Getting to Tollesbury
Tollesbury is approached from the Blackwater via the Nass Beacon and Mersea Quarters. The South Channel is buoyed.
Tollesbury Marina has a sill with 2m of water at HWS and about 1.5m at neaps.
Woodrolfe Creek, leading to the marina, dries out but you can lie afloat near its entrance, where a tide gauge shows the depth.
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Best sailing films and documentaries as chosen by the Yachting Monthly team
The Yachting Monthly editorial team reveal their pick of the best sailing films and documentaries
Cross 1980s America’s Cup sailing with Top Gun, and you get an idea of what Wind is about.
Cheesy it may be, but fast boats, high drama, preening egos and the obligatory love interest match genuinely well-filmed sailing sequences for one of the most quotable sailing films of all time.
Wind follows one sailor’s dream to reclaim the greatest sailing trophy of them all – the America’s Cup.
What is more inspiring than watching Tracy Edwards and her ground-breaking all-female crew in the 1989-90 Whitbread Round the World Race?
The onboard footage is fascinating to watch, especially their second leg through the Southern Ocean which they won, and is beautifully spliced with interviews with the crew.
You celebrate their Leg 2 and 3 wins and feel their pain when gear failure leaves them third in Leg 5 to Fort Lauderdale.
The Mercy (2017)
Donald Crowhurst’s tragic 1968 Golden Globe Race aboard Teignmouth Electron brought to the big screen.
The sailing is authentic for a Hollywood film. Colin Firth gives a standout performance as Crowhurst, who almost sleepwalks to his fate.
Morning Light (2008)
Fifteen inexperienced sailors, aged between 18-23, embark on six months of training with the aim to race the TP52, Morning Light across the Pacific Ocean in the TRANSPAC.
It was funded by Roy Disney and remains a stunning testament to the rigours of racing and sailing offshore, and how much can be achieved by young sailors.
The Real Deal (2021)
The late Larry Pardey and his wife Lin inspired thousands of sailors to cruise, proving you don’t need money or a big boat to have a sailing adventure.
Made by Larry’s friend, Mike Anderson, The Read Deal focuses on the Pardey’s voyage to and around Cape Horn, against the prevailing winds and currents, in their 24ft engineless cutter, Seraffyn.
Along with unseen at-sea footage, the film features interviews with friends and associates, with archival film clips and photographs providing insight into one of cruising’s most influential couples. www.thesailingchannel.tv
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