How to visit this year's most talked-about TV locations

Fallen for the rugged backdrop of Sligo in BBC Three’s Normal People or the rolling hills of the Wye Valley in Netflix’s Sex Education? While we wait for travel restrictions to lift, here’s what you need to know to plan an entertainment-inspired getaway.

Saturday, June 6, 2020,
By Maria Pieri
Normal People's Marianne and Connell

BBC Three's spring hit, Normal People, based on the 2018 novel by Sally Rooney, is primarily shot on location in County Sligo and Dublin, Ireland. 

Photograph by Enda Bowe for BBC, Element Pictures & Hulu

Normal People

Shot in Ireland (plus Italy and Sweden)

County Sligo, in north west Ireland, is having its moment in the spotlight as the windswept backdrop to much of Sally Rooney’s Normal People, the novel-turned-BBC-series that’s garnering rave reviews.

The love affair between Connell (Paul Mescal) and Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) kicks off in the fictional town of Carricklea. The Sligo town of Tubbercurry was picked to double as Carricklea for filming, and it’s here that you’ll find Brennan's Bar — most memorably seen in the final episode’s New Year’s Eve scene. A 45-minute drive to the north is Streedagh Beach, a stunning stretch of sand recognisable as the setting for a windy walk the leading pair take in the series.

Dublin, on the east coast, is another star of the show, with the grand neo-classical architecture of Trinity College featuring frequently and the university’s Robert Emmet Theatre and cricket pitch making notable appearances.

The show also heads further afield, with scenes set in Sweden and Italy: the episode focusing on a summer at an Italian villa — including the tensest al-fresco lunch party ever committed to celluloid — takes place in the Tenuta di Verzano villa, to the north of Rome, while Luleå, in Sweden, is the setting for Marianne’s studies abroad. 

How to do it: Read more about visiting Country Sligo here, and check out our neighbourhood guide to Dublin here. A list of tours of the Irish capital can be found at visitdublin.com. Should you wish to go further afield, the Italian villa of Tenuta di Verzano is available to hire on Airbnb, from £36 per night.

A view over Symonds Yat, a popular tourist town in the Wye Valley and the location of the home of Sex Education's lead character, Otis (Asa Butterfield). 

Photograph by Ross Photographic Society

Sex Education

Shot in Wales and England

It’s a rare Netflix-viewer who hasn’t yet fallen in love with Sex Education and the students of Moordale Secondary School. While the school’s location remains unspecified in the series itself, anyone with an eye for British landscape will recognise the rolling landscape as that of the Welsh/English border.

The second series, released at the start of 2020, heralded a welcome return to our screens of beauty spots such as the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley. Key filming locations include the grand, redbrick frontage of Moordale Secondary School, on the University of South Wales’ former Caerleon campus; the hilltop house of lead character Otis (Asa Butterfield), with its sun-trap terrace, in Symonds Yat; the lido in Lydney; and Dean Forest Railway’s pretty Parkend station.

How to do it: The Forest of Dean and Wye Valley has played host to a number of television and film productions, including the Harry Potter, Dr Who and Star Wars franchises. For more information on Sex Education’s shooting locations and how to visit them, visit wyedeantourism.co.uk

Mural of the hit Channel 4 series Derry Girls, painted on the wall of Badger’s Bar, Orchard Street, in Derry.

Photograph by Tourism Ireland

Derry Girls

Shot in Northern Ireland

With series three of Channel 4’s hit comedy Derry Girls originally due for release this spring but now on hold due to the pandemic, what’s a fan to do? Well, you can get your fix by making plans to head to the Northern Irish city of Derry to seek out the real-life inspiration behind the show. 

Explore the city’s sights, soak up the history and get your fill of Derry Girls trivia with Hastings Hotels’ Derry Girls Tour Package, which includes a special guided walking tour by Martin McCrossan City Tours. The route takes in attractions such as the Bogside and The People's Gallery of Murals and offers an insight into life in the 1990s — the final decade of The Troubles, and the era in which the show is set. Key filming locations are also covered on the tour, including Dennis’s Wee Shop and St Columba’s Church, where the show’s ‘Miracle of Our Lady’ occurred. The tour finishes at the famous Derry Girls Mural, where guests can take a selfie and pledge themselves to be a Derry girl (or boy).

How to do it: Read more about the thriving arts scene and recent regeneration of Derry here. The Derry Girls Tour Package includes an overnight stay at the Everglades Hotel, a themed afternoon tea and cocktail and a walking tour, from £95 per person. For more information, visit visitderry.com

His Dark Materials

Shot in Oxford and Wales

An eight-episode adaptation of the first in Phillip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy was aired on BBC One in 2019, with filming spots including Oxford, the Brecon Beacons, the River Severn and the site of a former ironworks in Blaenavon. This coming-of-age series sees the lead character, Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen), wander through a series of parallel universes as she tries to save the world. The fictional Jordan College, where Lyra resides in the novels, is brought to life on screen in the form of Oxford University’s 14th-century New College. Other locations in Oxford include the Bodleian Library, the Covered Market and Pitt Rivers Museum.

How to do it: See the sights on a Phillip Pullman’s Oxford Official Walking tour, a two-hour outing led by professional guides. Tours are expected to resume pending government advice. For more information, visit visitoxford.org

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