From Father Ted to Bond in Basilicata: The Best Movie and TV Inspired Vacations Readers Pick

From Father Ted to Bond in Basilicata: The Best Movie and TV Inspired Vacations Readers Pick

License to Thrill, Matera, Italy

The scene of James Bond navigating a winding road towards the rock-cut city of Matera, southern Italy, at the start of No Time to Die, proved irresistible. While Bond was driving an Aston Martin, we got on the bus with a kid in bad weather. Like a Bond, we checked into a cave hotel, the elegant Corte San Pietro, and meandered through the city’s labyrinth of stairs and cave dwellings. Then, just as disaster struck the Pond in Cathedral Square, we had to give up sightseeing to take care of our four-year-old. At least we got a sample of gelato (an excellent medicine for a sore throat) at the famous I Vizi degli Angeli – a poor thing who had no time.

Under normal circumstances, Ireland

Streedagh Beach in County Sligo was one of the locations used for Normal People. Photo: TCD / Prod DB / Alamy

With young student lovers stuck in lockdown for two years now, my friend and I made a pact to follow the path of Marianne and Connell’s relationship from the TV show Normal People by visiting the inspiring locations where they were filmed as quickly as possible. We were not disappointed. Departing from the coast of Sligo, we wandered alongside the stunning Benbulben mountain as a backdrop. It could have been Cape Town! We then drove to Wicklow Mountains National Park to check out the picture-perfect Palladian villa that doubled as Marianne’s home on view. We culminated in our Dublin trip with a tour around the beautiful Trinity College: it’s a great game!

Adventure in Greater Budapest, Dresden

Indoor tiled dairy products
Pfunds Molkerei, Dresden, which doubles as Mendl’s bakery in the Grand Budapest Hotel. Photography: Sam Aldrisi-Williams

A trip to Dresden in search of filming locations for Wes Anderson’s masterpiece, The Grand Budapest Hotel, began in the luxurious Zwinger complex. Its baroque buildings provide the backdrop to the villainous Willem Dafoe who haunts Jeff Goldblum, who memorably ends up in Goldblum losing his fingers. But the highlight was Pfunds Molkerei, a luxury dairy with intricate hand-painted motifs that double as Mendl’s Bakery in the movie. It holds the title of “The Most Beautiful Dairy Store in the World” in the Guinness Book of Records. Its fresh milk is delicious, and who would have thought you could get Derby cheese in Saxony?

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Atonement found in White Cliffs, East Sussex

The cliffs of The Seven Sisters and Coast Guard shacks, East Sussex.
The cliffs of The Seven Sisters and Coast Guard shacks, East Sussex. Photography: Alami

Although penance is as beautiful as it is devastating, I immediately wanted to visit the site of Cecilia and Ruby’s gorgeous seaside cottage. After extensive research, I hooked up with my boyfriend for a weekend hiking in East Sussex. We started in Seaford and walked along the Seven Sisters Trail which eventually leads to Eastbourne. Along the trail, you pass through Cuckmere Haven, where you’ll find Coastguard Cottages. The scene absolutely blew me away. There is something quintessentially British about the landscape of chalk cliffs, stone beaches, and cottages. I immediately felt like I was back in the movie.
Abby Ramsey

Spiritual experience in western Ireland

A fan dressed as a bishop at the Father Ted Festival in the Aran Islands.
A fancy dress fan at the Father Ted Festival in the Aran Islands. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Head to County Clare in Ireland, and walk the steps of Father Ted, Mrs. Doyle, Father Jack, and Father Dougal. An array of celestial sights along this Atlantic coast formed the backdrop for the programme. From Doolin, take the ferry to Inisheer, the island of Aran disguised as Craggy Island in the opening credits. Visit the rugged landscapes of Burren where Father Paul collides playing mini golf, or the Eloy Caves where the Dougal chases Victor Mildrew. How about the majestic cliffs of Moher, where Father Jack takes his daily constitution? Or the sandy stretch of Lahinch Beach, where Bishop Brennan digs? At the many great bars in the area, you might run into some locals who have played extras.
Bernie J

Trip to the Promised Land, ód, Poland

The former Poznasky factory in ód.
The former Poznański factory in ód. Photography: Martin Charlesworth

Andrzej Wajda’s epic movie The Promised Land tempted me to visit ód, the Polish version of Manchester. Izrael Poznański, the “King of Cotton,” was the inspiration for the film in which the oppressive conditions of workers contrast with the lavish lifestyle of greedy owners. His former factory, a gothic cotton-weaving brick cathedral, has been reused to house a mix of trendy shops, cafes and cinemas – just like the Ancoats! The eclectic mix of Poles, Jews, and Germans before the war is no longer only museums and cemeteries, particularly the Poznaski Mausoleum, bearing witness to those prolific times of the Industrial and Social Revolution. Great place two hours from Warsaw.

The good, the bad and the amazing Spanish desert

Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Clint Eastwood in The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Photography: Alami

I did a double trip when the bus passed a familiar mountain outline. Unbeknownst to me, I entered Sergio Leone’s “Spaghetti Western” country, also known as the Tabernas Desert in Spanish Almeria – the backdrop to huge hits including The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Wanting to learn more, I returned with my son to visit Fort Bravo, a wild border town that is still hard-working in the West and the set of Mexican pueblo films. The hilarious and memorable day included cowboy shootings, mock saloon bar shootings, charging horses and a sand-clad Hall of Fame, where we discovered a signed photo of David Beckham (who filmed an ad on Sky TV there) hidden among several Mexican soap stars.
Kate Cotton

Two countries for the price of one, Sweden and Denmark

Investigators with the murder victim on the Øresund Bridge
Investigators with a murder victim on the Øresund Bridge in the TV series The Bridge. Photography: Alami

In the highly acclaimed Scandi noir The Bridge, UK viewers were amazed at the ease with which the characters crossed the Oresund Bridge, Europe’s longest rail road/bridge, to continue the chase in another country. Traffic may not be that fast (20 minutes by train), but the structure is a fine thing. The artificial island in the middle cannot be visited; It is a haven for migratory birds. Although nothing has been actively cultivated, some rare plants have found their way there (car windows or bird excrement?). For anyone so inclined, a visit to Øresund allows you to select two countries from your list, including one capital, with all it has to offer!
Asa Melander

Horror pilgrimage in tents, Wismar, Germany

Gothic arch built of bricks
Gothic arch in Wismar used in Nosferatu. Photography: Charlie

Nosferrato: Symphony of Terror was filmed in 1921 in Lübeck and Wismar. Count Orlock arrives at the fictional port of Weisburg in a coffin on a seemingly abandoned sailboat and begins his bloodthirsty business. Nearly 100 years later, I’ve wandered the backstreets of Wismar in search of the gothic arch leading to the sidewalks that were advertising for Max Schreck, who played the evil Count. I was suitably cool and humid – it was late September on the Baltic coast, but I found it. I shivered and went back by train to camp in a deserted field outside Schwerin, wishing I was staying in a hotel.

Winning tip: A galaxy far, far away… by train to Norway

Han with Luke in clowning
Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill on Hoth (aka Northern Norway) in The Empire Strikes Back. Photography: Alami

Leave global Norway behind and enter a different galaxy via Bergen Railway. The village of Finse is located at the highest point of the Norwegian railway network, known to many as Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back. I can see why they were chosen, with the frozen lakes and highland hikes with snow all year round on the stunning Hardangervidda plateau. What more could an intrepid adventurer want for an icy alien planet? And what could these stars, at the same height as Ben Nevis Peak, wish more than the elegant Finse 1222? Just be sure to wrap up your best Jedi robe.
Matthew Walsh

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