From Emmerdale to Coronation Street, soap operas or serial dramas have been a staple of British television since the genre first made its début in the 1950s. Today, long running dramas capture the imaginations of audiences around the country; we all have our favourite programmes and characters and tune in to see their lives unfold each week.
The next time you’re planning a long weekend getaway or a short break closer to home, why not make it special with a visit to the iconic locations from your favourite soap? A set tour is a great way to delve into the world of soap operas and see your favourite programmes come to life and offers the rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain and see how shows are made.
Visiting the set
Most productions do a combination of filming on set and on location; exterior shots like bars, houses and cityscapes are often real-life places that are filmed at a couple of times over the course of the series. The rest of the filming will take place on a closed set that’s been specifically designed to make it easy for crews to film each scene.
Indoor sets typically only open to the public sporadically – if at all – and don’t always look as you expect them to. As a result, location tours are often easier to organise and more exciting for travellers – they give you the chance to see the spots that inspired the drama on all your favourite soaps.
As the longest running soap on British television, it’s no surprise that Coronation Street is also one of the most popular. Set in the fictional area of Weatherfield in Salford, this drama has been captivating viewers since it first aired in 1960. Today the series is filmed on a closed set, but location tours like the Coronation Street Taxi Tour and Coronation Street day tour share insights about the show and its creator as well as visit spots like St. Mary’s church, Castlefield and Chimney pot park, which features in the opening credits.
Set in the fictional village of Emmerdale in the Yorkshire Dales, Emmerdale is the UK’s second oldest soap opera next to Coronation Street and has been broadcast for more than 4 decades. Today the show is filmed on a closed set but still features a handful of real locations on the modern program. The Emmerdale Bus Tour runs each Saturday and along the way you can get a photo at Home Farm and see the famous countryside featured in the show’s opening sequence. The itinerary also includes a stop at Otley and the village of Esholt, where you can even stop in for a drink at the real Woolpack pub. The tour begins and ends at the Leeds Visitor Centre and lasts about 4 hours – so it’s the perfect afternoon activity if you’re spending a weekend exploring in the city and staying at our Radisson Blu Hotel in Leeds.
One of the most exciting serial dramas to début on television in Britain this decade, after only a few short years Downton Abbey has earned its place along with the greats. Its interesting plot lines, gorgeous costumes and stunning sets all help make this period drama a cut above the rest. On the Downton Abbey Tour you’ll visit the Oxfordshire locations that make up Downtown Village, including Downton hospital, the village pub and the home of Matthew Crawley. The last stop is a visit to the magnificent Highclere Castle – the main Downton Abbey set – where you can walk the grounds and browse the rooms that feature in the popular programme.
Strictly speaking it’s not a soap, but Dr Who is still one of the best loved serial dramas on television. The Time Lord and his TARDIS first made an appearance in 1963 and have been a cult favourite with viewers ever since. Today, the series is filmed on a closed set in Cardiff, but fans can still get a piece of the action – there is a Dr Who Experience beside the studio that features replica set pieces and artefacts from the programme, as well as a Walking Tour that will take you past outdoor locations that have been used to represent everything from 1970s New York to Pompeii, London and Paris.
Have you ever been to visit the set of your favourite soap opera?