Famous Locations from “The Crown” — And How To Visit Their Filming Stand-Ins
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If you’ve been captivated by the Netflix original series The Crown, a historical drama chronicling the life of Queen Elizabeth II, you’ve caught glimpses of breathtaking palaces, gardens, cathedrals, and landscapes. The majestic building exteriors and ornate interiors play as much a role in the story as the actors. However, even Netflix can’t gain access to film inside many of the British monarchy’s private palaces and homes. The Crown’s location scouting team used the real location whenever possible, but found suitable substitutes when they couldn’t gain access. Here are 12 famous locations used in The Crown — and the actual filming locations you can visit instead, either in-person or virtually.
Since Buckingham Palace is Queen Elizabeth II’s primary residence, many of the series’ scenes take place in and around the iconic palace. Unsurprisingly, the film crew found excellent substitutions around London and surrounding areas. Many of Buckingham Palace’s interior scenes featured in the series were filmed at Wilton House, Goldsmith’s Hall, Waddesdon House, and Lancaster House.
The elaborately decorated Lancaster House isn’t often open to the public, but occasionally guests can visit for government-sponsored hospitality events. However, you can tour the 16th-century Wilton House, the 18th Earl and Countess of Pembroke’s current home. Wilton House has been welcoming film crews for decades, so you may recognize it from scenes in Emma, Tomb Raider (2019), Pride and Prejudice, The End of the Affair, and Sense & Sensibility. Fans can also tour Waddesdon House and its grounds, which has also been featured in many films. Goldsmith’s Hall served as the palace substitute during some pivotal moments in The Crown, including the season-four scene of a young Lady Diana roller skating in the palace’s long corridors and when King George undergoes surgery in the first season. The Hall is open to visitors during the annual Goldsmith’s Fair and on a few days throughout the year.
For outdoor shots, the crew headed to the Old Royal Naval College, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can tour this 500-year-old riverside estate, including its Painted Hall, which is nicknamed “the U.K.’s Sistine Chapel.”
The film crew used three primary locations —Brocket Hall, Harefield Grove, and Somerset Boarding School at Wellington College — to film scenes set in Kensington Palace, Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s London home. Brocket Hall, a luxurious sprawling estate dating back to 1239, is now a hotel with two golf courses and an upscale restaurant offering afternoon tea. It is also the only film setting of the three that’s open to visitors.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Both Winston Churchill’s funeral and the legendary wedding of Charles and Diana took place in St. Paul’s Cathedral, but Winchester Cathedral served as the stand-in for filming these historic scenes. One of Europe’s finest and largest medieval cathedrals, this magnificent building has been welcoming worshippers and visitors since 1093. Novelist Jane Austen is buried here, and visitors to the grounds can view her grave and memorials.Geography4ptsTest Your Knowledge!What country’s Indigenous name translates to “Land of the Long White Cloud”?PLAY!
The Queen’s coronation and marriage to Prince Philip took place in Westminster Abbey, so the film crew used the monumental Ely Cathedral as the stand-in. This stunning Romanesque-style structure dates to 673, and its Lady Chapel is England’s largest. Visitors can attend services and tour the building and grounds.
The Queen’s preferred weekend home, Windsor Castle, frequently shows up in the series, but was off-limits to film crews. The crew substituted Belvoir Castle and Burghley House for many shots. You can choose to stay overnight in one of several locations on Belvoir Estate, tour the 11th-century Regency architecture castle and grounds, or partake in afternoon tea in the Castle Tea Room. Burghley House is a grand 16th-century Elizabethan “prodigy” house. Parts of the magnificent home and gardens are open to visitors.
Located in Scotland and a favorite of the Queen’s many residences, Balmoral Castle appears repeatedly throughout the series. Fans will remember the famous scenes where Margaret Thatcher and Lady Diana meet the Royal Family for the first time and must “pass the test” in order to be accepted. Ardverikie House served as the backdrop for the exterior castle scenes and Knebworth House for the interior. Visitors are welcome to walk around Ardverikie Estate’s grounds, and book overnight stays in one of its six cottages. The romantic Knebworth House is also open to visitors, and offers both guided and unguided tours.
Overseas Locales: Kenya, Australia, Tonga, and Bermuda
The Crown’s film crew spent quite a bit of time in South Africa, using multiple locations as backdrops for the Queen and Philip’s tour of Kenya — which is also where she learned of her father’s death, making her the queen. Much of Philip’s world tour when he sailed the royal yacht Britannia to Bermuda, Tonga, and Melbourne was also filmed here. The town of Hermanus became the King’s Wharf in Bermuda, and the Arabella Hotel doubled as the Port Royal Golf Course. The town also stood in for Corfu, Greece, during the scene when the Royal Navy rescued baby Philip, his sisters, and their mother. South Africa’s Cape Town represented Melbourne.
Highgrove House (Charles and Diana’s country estate) is where Prince Charles and his second wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, still reside today. The film crew turned to the elegant Somerley House to film Highgrove House scenes. While Somerley can be rented for weddings, corporate events, festivals, family getaways, the location is unfortunately not open to the general public.
Castle of Mey
The Queen Mother purchased the Castle of Mey in Caithness, Scotland, in one early episode, and it eventually became one of her favorite homes. The film crew shot the exterior castle scenes at Scotland’s 16th-century Slains Castle, which overlooks the North Sea from a clifftop. The massive castle is in ruins, but visitors are welcome to stroll around and admire the coastline’s breathtaking views. There are no fees or official tours, but you can tour the real Castle of Mey if you ever find yourself in Scotland.
This 600-acre estate is where the Queen and her close family usually spend Christmas, so the film crew needed an equally grand estate. They found one in Somerleyton Hall, an impressive Jacobean Manor house with a clocktower set in the midst of 12 acres of luscious gardens. Enjoy morning coffee, a light lunch, or afternoon tea service in its light, airy Tea Room or dinner in the Duke’s Head gastropub. You can also tour the hall, gardens, and a maze.
Prince Charles’s 1969 investiture ceremony (when he was officially crowned Prince of Wales) took place at Caernarfon Castle. But in this case, the film crew didn’t have to scramble to find a replacement — many of the scenes depicting the ceremony were filmed at Caernarfon, a fortress-like medieval palace on the River Seiont banks in Wales. Open to the public, the massive facility is part of a larger UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes three other castles and the fortified towns of Conwy and Caernarfon.
Mustique and Northern Australia
Mustique, a spectacular private Caribbean island, has long been a playground for the wealthy and famous, and the Royal Family is no exception. The Queen’s sister Princess Margaret often escaped to her villa here, and one of those getaways made it into the series. Given the extreme lockdown to ensure the elite guests’ privacy, the film crew didn’t stand a chance of actually filming on Mustique, so they turned to southern Spain. When season four’s episodes needed to show Charles and Diana on their 1983 Australian and New Zealand tour, Spain filled in once again. Atlanterra, Almería, Algeciras, and Málaga are beautiful coastal towns along Spain’s Mediterranean coast that have also served as backdrops.
Written by Lee Ridley