There are signs that 2011 is set to be another blockbuster year for Peak District tourism, thanks to visitor numbers being swelled by the latest movies filmed here. Derbyshire’s Peak District and the surrounding area has long proved a magnet for filmmakers looking to take advantage of the rugged, natural beauty and historic locations the region has to offer - and despite many gloomy economic predictions, multi award-winning East Lodge Hotel and Restaurant in Rowsley is highlighting this ‘Hollywood Effect’ and the forthcoming release of films like Jane Eyre as heralding a welcome boost for the regional tourism industry.
As the closest hotel to Chatsworth House, East Lodge has proved a popular place for filmmakers to stay when preparing for their latest blockbuster, but the Rowsley hotel, itself the historic former hunting lodge of nearby Haddon Hall, also finds itself used these days by ‘film tourists’ wishing to follow in the footsteps of their favourite actors on location in the Peaks; this trend is expected to continue, providing a welcome shot in the arm for local business in 2011.
Wolfman starring Sir Anthony Hopkins was shot at Chatsworth last year, but this was just the latest in a long line of flicks filmed here, including the period dramas The Duchess, Pride and Prejudice and historical costume dramas for television including The Other Boleyn Girl. “People visit the Peak District for many reasons, but inevitably part of the allure for many is the big screen films and TV programmes that are made here,” said East Lodge director Iain Hardman. “The same things that draw the film crews – the stunning heritage buildings and picturesque locations - are the same things that draw our guests too.
“We are delighted with the growth of filming in the area, because film tourism is a valuable source of revenue and can only be good for the local economy. We are really looking forward to this trend continuing in throughout the year, and would encourage other regional tourism businesses to join us in promoting the film heritage of the area for the benefit of us all.”
Derbyshire and the Peak District have played host to some of the most celebrated British blockbuster films in recent times and East Lodge makes for an ideal base for exploring some of these locations in greater detail. The Other Boleyn Girl, charting Henry VIII’s relationship with not just the ill fated Anne (played by Natalie Portman) but her sister Mary (played by Scarlet Johansson) was partially set in the Peak District and featured Chatsworth House, North Lees Hall and Haddon Hall. The Duchess was filmed at Chatsworth and Kedleston Hall in 2007 and starred Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes. Jayne Eyre starring Dame Judi Dench is expected to be released in March and is sure to excite new interest in the region.
It is the period drama adaptations that are drawn to the region and with good reason. It is a little known fact that Jane Austen may have written Pride and Prejudice whilst staying in Bakewell3 and there are many instances in the book which are clearly based on local people and locations. The fictional village of Lambton is believed to be Lognor, near Buxton and the fictional Pemberley House is a thinly veiled Chatsworth House – a fitting place for the residence of Mr Darcy. Nearby Hardwick Hall has also not missed out on the limelight – used most recently as the sinister ‘Malfoy Manor’ in the latest ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’.
“What is clear is that film tourism is playing an increasingly important role in attracting visitors to the region which is good news for everyone,” added Iain. “It brings much needed income into the area and is another tool in raising the profile of Derbyshire to a wider national and global audience. While filmmakers continue to find the region such a rich source of locations, it can only serve to send more film buffs and tourists our way! It is always difficult to estimate how it affects business directly, but with 2011 expected to be a challenging year, the renewed interest in our region could not come at a better time.”
British tourism has enjoyed a huge boost from visitors to film and TV locations – the Harry Potter films led to a 120% rise in tourist numbers to Northumberland and settings like Alnwick Castle and it is clear that Derbyshire’s emerging status as a premier film location is having a similar effect on visitor numbers in the Peak District. The Harry Potter films are estimated to have brought over £9 million1 in tourism to Northumberland and it is hoped that the latest instalments in the Harry Potter Series, together with the latest period dramas filmed in Derbyshire will have a similar impact on the region.
East Lodge is a star performer in its own right and it is not difficult to see why. Situated in 10 acres of its own grounds and justly celebrated as one of the top hotels, not just in the region, but the country, East Lodge has always had star appeal. Owned by the Hardman family, this award winning venue has remained at the top by constantly improving its service and with a commitment to excellence that has led this former Hotel of the Year to be one of only 48 hotels in the country to be awarded a Visit England Gold Award and to have secured the Silver Award in the national finals of the Enjoy England Excellence Awards in 2011 (the tourism ‘Oscars’) for Outstanding Customer Service.