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Where was Persuasion filmed? The Netflix Locations in the Henry Golding Film You Can Visit

Persuasion. (L to R) Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

Netflix’s new production of Persuasion which includes Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding in its ensemble cast, has had Jane Austen purists reaching for the smelling salts. Austen’s final completed novel follows the travails of heartbroken heroine Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) who had previously been “persuaded” to reject the marriage proposal of Captain Frederick Wentworth as he had no status or fortune. 

When Wentworth re appears several years later Anne is also been wooed by the charming and handsome William Elliot (Henry Golding) who as her distant cousin is heir to her family home, Kellynch Hall in Somerset, south west England. Netflix’s version has been criticised for gauchely including modern day language and breaking the fourth wall with knowing quips direct to the camera à la Fleabag. 

But although the adaptation has sparked controversy over its inauthenticity, what Netflix has stayed true to is the locations. Austen’s novel was partly set in the south west England settings of Lyme Regis in Dorset and Bath in Somerset – one of the rare instances the author referenced real life places in her fiction. And both were used as filming locations for the Netflix production.

Persuasion. (L to R) Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

The streaming company has found that the settings of its dramas are a key part of their appeal to viewers. In a press release last month a spokesperson announced that the location of a Netflix series or film frequently becomes the destination that viewers most want to visit. The release goes on to say that viewers also have an increased interest in the well known landmarks, history and food and drink of said locations as a result and “Now we want to find new ways to connect members to the stories, and the places, that they love.”

So Netflix recently partnered with SANDEMANs New Europe Tours for a series of free guided walking tours of Paris, Madrid and London that not only shared the history of the cities but highlighted locations from Netflix shows such as Emily in Paris and Bridgerton and revealed behind the scenes insights. 

Time will tell if the tours will be extended and if Persuasion will be added to the roster. In the meantime, a number of locations in the production are open to the public. Kellynch Hall, which Anne’s vain and feckless father Sir Walter (Richard E Grant) has to rent to Admiral Croft in order to make money, is alas a private house (Trafalgar Park in Wiltshire). But here are the locations you can visit.

Lyme Regis, Dorset

Persuasion. Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

Jane Austen was apparently a fan of “Lyme”, a picturesque and historic seaside town on the south coast of England, and its surrounding countryside. The author stayed there at least twice with her family – as her letters record – and included the location in Persuasion. 

In the novel she wrote “ the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season, is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.”

The town features in several key scenes including where Anne first encounters William. Lyme Cobb – a distinctive harbour wall built to protect the town – is also central. Notably when the party are out for a stroll and Anne’s friend Louisa Musgrove falls. The exact location is thought to be the precarious “granny’s teeth” stone steps that link the upper and low levels of the Cobb.

Lyme Regis has several sand and pebble beaches and cliff top walks which also feature in the film. The scenic South West Coast Path National Trail passes through the town and takes in the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast with stunning views over Lyme Bay.

The area is also known for its dramatic Jurassic Coastline – one of the most important sites in the world for fossil hunters. 

Lyme Regis Museum, built on the site of 19th century fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning’s home, also includes several Austen artifacts loaned by the author’s descendants.

Austen is said to have stayed on Broad Street and a plaque on Pyne House there reads “This is the most likely lodging of Jane Austen”. No doubt it will now become an Instagram hotspot for Netflix Persuasion fans despite the brutal reviews.

Chenies Manor, Buckinghamshire

For the Musgrove family’s Uppercross estate two locations were used. The scenes for “the great house” were filmed at Brympton House, Somerset which is only accessible via private hire. The interiors of Uppercross Cottage – home to Anne’s sister Mary and her husband, Charles Musgrove – were filmed at the sprawling tudor manor house, Chenies, in Rickmansworth.

Guided tours detailing the house’s colourful history – described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “a fascinating puzzle” – are available, bookable in advance. And the pretty gardens play host to plant and flower festivals in the summer months. 

West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire

Persuasion. (L to R) Lydia Rose Bewley as Penelope Clay, Richard E. Grant as Sir Walter Elliot, Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Yolanda Kettle as Elizabeth Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

This beautiful Palladian style house stands in for the grand residence of Lady Dalrymple and her daughter – relations of the Elliots. The bucolic parkland was also the filming location for Uppercross’s woods and meadows – setting for Anne and her friends’ frequent walks.

The house was commissioned in the 18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Hell Fire Club. Not the high school Dungeons and Dragons group from Stranger Things Season Four but the louche club for upper class rakes otherwise known as the Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe.

The house is open to the public from June to August and the grounds from April to August.

Osterley Park and House, Greater London

Persuasion. Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

Standing in for Bath’s assembly rooms is this Georgian country estate on the far reaches of  West London (you can reach it on the Picadilly tube line en route to Heathrow). The house was originally built in the 1570s but transformed in the 1760s and is preserved as it would have been in the 1780s. Its Entrance Hall and Long Gallery (above) is the setting for Bath society gatherings in the Netflix production. Check before visiting as the property is closed for filming (rumoured to be Bridgerton season three) on some dates this summer.

Bath

Persuasion. (L to R) Nikki Amuka-Bird as Lady Russell, Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot in Persuasion. Cr. Nick Wall/Netflix © 2022

The city renowned for its honey stone Georgian architecture and highly fashionable during Austen’s time makes several appearances in the film. The striking façade of Royal Crescent features in a scene of Anne and Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird) walking together in intense discussion. The two were also filmed on the colonnaded Bath Street (above) – the high street store windows propped with Regency finery and renamed Madame LeFroy Haberdasher and Milliner. Bath Street is also where you’ll find the entrance to the Thermae Spa – a modern incarnation of the ancient hot springs that drew visitor’s to the town in Austen’s day.

Gravel Walk, a footpath which links Royal Crescent with Queen’s Square, appears both in the book and the film location as the backdrop for – without giving anything away – the most important scene of all.

You Can Rent the French Riviera Villa from Downton Abbey – and Other Exclusive Private Homes Complete with Staff

You can rent the French Riviera villa on Downton Abbey: A New Era
Villa Rocabella from Downton Abbey A New Era is available to rent through Homanie

“I’ve come into possession of a villa in the South of France,” announces the Dowager Countess of Grantham in the upcoming Downton Abbey film. And you can too – complete with a butler and other staff – at least for a few nights or several weeks. The Côte d’Azur villa featured in the movie is just one of the exclusive private homes available to rent through Homanie, a new breed of luxury holiday leases providing equally luxurious hotel level service.

Launched in March 2021, the company’s remit is dream homes with incredible views in exceptional locations with some fifty properties across France, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Added to this Homanie offers “five star service by The Homanists – women and men who are selected for their expertise.” Think chefs, housekeepers, gym trainers and yoga instructors. The whole package is yours from an average of 50 to 60 000€ (around US$53,000 to US$63,000) a week in summer, depending on the property, with some reaching 180 000E (about US$190,000) a week.

Luxury holiday rentals already exist of course but there’s a growing trend for combining the privacy and space of a unique holiday lease with the service and amenities of a deluxe hotel. “Up until now, renting a property has been synonymous with ‘self catering’ – a quick handover of the keys and service which is often cursory. Homanie is now changing all of this by offering an innovative, five star hotel service,” says a spokeswoman for the company.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – Ca’n Miquelet villa

Similarly from this summer fans of Mandarin Oriental will have the chance to experience the hotel brand in a new way. In a collaboration with StayOne, specialists in “the finest one per cent of holiday homes”, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has launched a collection of exclusive private houses to rent. Each of which comes with “service provided by a team who have been meticulously trained by Mandarin Oriental”.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – from a Spanish private island to an English country estate – include a 24 hour concierge service, in house private chef and daily housekeeping, right down to MO robes and bathroom amenities. 

“The luxury home rental market is a fast-growing segment of leisure travel,” says Luca Finardi, Area Vice President & Head of Operations at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group which became a minority investor in StayOne in late 2020. “We saw the opportunity to introduce luxury experiences that combine the best of both brands. StayOne have the perfect homes, and Mandarin Oriental has the brand reputation to deliver unique personalised service in a luxury environment.”

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – Cirencester Estate

The inaugural selection of eight properties are based in the South of France, the Balearic islands Ibiza and Mallorca and the Cotswolds in England. “Destinations were selected based on customer demand among our Fan base in the most popular leisure destinations,” says Finardi. “Looking forward, Mandarin Oriental and StayOne will collaborate to identify seasonal collections; diversifying the portfolio and handpicking villas in other key destinations around the world.” 

Other hotel brands also have affinities with luxury rentals around the world including North America and Asia. Marriott International launched Homes & Villas in 2019 and prior to that Accor hotel group bought upscale holiday rental company onefinestay. 

“While no formal crossover programming or services exist between Accor hotel brands and onefinestay, we are capable of addressing needs or requests our guests or clients may have. This could take the shape of a hotel chef preparing a bespoke, private dinner at a onefinestay property,” says Garth Simmons, CEO Accor Southeast Asia, Japan & South Korea.

Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes – Tagomago villa

Members of the Fans of MO loyalty scheme will be offered further benefits and experiences while staying at the Exclusive Homes. And both Accor and Marriott allow guests to earn and redeem reward points at the onefinestay and Homes & Villas properties respectively. 

On a smaller scale ÀNI Private Resorts offers four private homes for rent with full service in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Anguilla and the Dominican Republic. And in London only, Domus Stay has privately owned high end apartments to exclusive townhouses on its books for short stay rentals with the opportunity to arrange guest services such as personal trainers, VIP gallery tours, private wine tastings and art classes. 

Multi-generational holidays and landmark occasions are ideally suited for the larger properties. “Customers of luxury villas usually choose them for different reasons to choosing luxury hotels and we wanted to develop this for our clients,” says Finardi. “We saw an opportunity of being able to offer private, stand-alone accommodation options in destinations we have yet to have opened a hotel. Ideally for the coming together of family and friends to celebrate key events.”

Exclusive Mediterranean villa available to rent through Homanie

And companies have seen increased interest as the world opens up again. “We have noticed since the pandemic a real increase in demand for holidays in private mansions as travellers now favour more intimate places where they feel more secured against the risk of Covid,” says the Homanie spokeswoman. 

Where Malaysian Rom-Com Autumn in Wales was Filmed

Eyka Farhana and Jaa Suzuran sitting on bench beside river while filming Autumn in Wales
Eyka Farhana and Jaa Suzuran filming Autumn in Wales in Beddgelert

From Sleepless in Seattle to Notting Hill, there’s a long tradition of romantic comedies referencing the locations they are set in in their titles. The latest is Autumn in Wales, a Malaysian film starring Eyka Farhana, Jaa Suzuran, Keith Foo and Wanna Ali and currently streaming on Astro First and Astro Go in Malaysia.

The film, directed by Rahila Ali, follows pampered Aira (Eyka Farhana) deciding to surprise her suave fiancé, Darwish (Keith Foo) by travelling from Malaysia to Wales, United Kingdom after he suddenly breaks off their engagement. 

On arriving in Wales, Aira finds Darwish smitten with the sophisticated Marissa (Wanna Ali). Aira subsequently teams up with the quirky Jaka (Jaa Suzuran), working in a local café, to find out why Darwish has dumped her, seemingly falling in love with him in the process. The Philipino café owner, Mickey Bosstos, played by Amirul Haswendy who also wrote the script, adds another comic twist. 

Ex lovers Keith Foo and Eyka Farhana in a sombre discussion in Autumn in Wales
Keith Foo and Eyka Farhana, Autumn in Wales

In typical rom com style nothing runs smoothly or as Suzuran puts it, “everything goes wrong”. The plot unfolds against a backdrop of bucolic riversides, stone walled cottages, colourful seaside houses and ruined castles. 

Writer Amirul Haswendy told me over email, “The idea of setting the film in Wales came from the director, Rahila Ali, who used to study in the UK and fell in love with certain parts of it especially Wales. She likes to travel and the places that we shot in Wales were some of the places she’d been to.”

Ali previously filmed two movies in Wales one of which, Aku Bukan Gila, (meaning I’m Not Crazy) was also written by Haswendy. It was set and shot in Llandudno, a seaside resort in North Wales, most recently made famous for the goats overrunning the town during the pandemic lockdown. 

Wanna Ali in front of a stone arched bridge in the film Autumn in Wales
Wanna Ali, Autumn in Wales

For Autumn in Wales Haswendy says, “[Ali] asked me to write a rom com so we sat down and shared some ideas. We went to Wales for a recce and found so many beautiful places for the movie.” 

These beautiful places include Aberaeron and Aberystwyth on the coast of Mid Wales and Beddgelert in North Wales. The latter is a picture perfect village of stone buildings with a river (in actuality the confluence of two) running through it, crossed by a double arched, stone bridge. 

Much of the drama takes place in this small village in Snowdonia National Park where Jaka works as a waiter at a café, the real life Caffi Colwyn with its pretty riverside tea garden. 

The cast and crew of the film Autumn in Wales pose in front of the Caffi Colwyn
Cast and crew of Autumn in Wales

Legend has it that the name of the village, which means Gelert’s Grave, derives from a faithful hound, Gelert, that belonged to Prince Llewelyn the Great in the thirteenth century. There is even a “grave” for the dog which even though most probably mythical is a pretty spot, reached along a riverside path. The village also has a “Rupert Bear Garden” in honour of the cartoon ursine as the illustrator who created him, Alfred Bestall, lived here. 

There are a number of guesthouses and B&Bs in the village and nearby is Llyn Gwynant campsite. Based beside a lake and a river, the campsite is at the foot of mount Snowdon (Yr Wddfa in Welsh) – you can climb the mountain, the highest in Wales, directly from there. This serene setting was a location for Tomb Raider 2, starring Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft, transformed into a Chinese village (with the help of some CGI).

It was not the first time the area was been depicted as China by the film industry. Back in 1958, The Inn of the Sixth Happiness starring Ingrid Bergman was partly filmed in the environs near Beddgelert. Bergman played the real life Gladys Aylward, a missionary and an inn keeper in Yangcheng, China. When the second world war breaks out Aylward volunteers to lead a group of a 100 orphans to safety across the mountains, helped by Chinese officer, Lin Nan. 

Jaa Suzuran takes a selfie with Wanna Ali in Autumn in Wales film
Wanna Ali and Jaa Suzuran, Autumn in Wales

A little further south in the county of Cardigan are Aberaeron and Aberystwyth. Both are on the Wales Coast Path, a scenic 870 mile (1,400 km) walking trail running the entire coastline of Wales. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Path, one of a few continuous walking routes along a country’s coastline in the world. For the energetic, the distance between Aberaeron and Aberystwyth is 18 miles with some of the terrain designated “moderate to hard”. 

Cardigan Bay, which Aberaeron and Aberystwyth overlook, is one of only two spots in Britain that have a resident bottle nose dolphin population. The dolphins may be spotted all year round with peak viewing opportunities from June to October. 

The fishing village Aberaeron is a cinematography dream of brightly coloured cottages and Regency houses based around a small harbour. It’s here that Wanni Ali says she filmed her favourite scene (no spoilers) on the harbour bridge. The largest of the houses is the Harbourmaster boutique hotel, painted a vivid blue. Inside, the interiors combine traditional coastal wainscotting with contemporary furniture and Welsh textiles and the inviting restaurant serves locally sourced food. 

Up the coast the larger Aberystwyth, known locally as Aber, is a university town – glimpses of the Old College can be seen in the film. In another movie link, the town is where Taron Egerton star of Kingsman and Rocketman was brought up. The British actor’s earliest performances were at Aberystwyth Arts Centre, a thriving theatre, concert hall and gallery space which also houses cafes, bars and shops. 

Eyka Farhana and Jaa Suzuran in castle ruins in Autumn in Wales movie
Eyka Farhana and Jaa Suzuran, Autumn in Wales

Aber’s sweeping promenade flanked by pastel painted Victorian town houses, many of which are now guest houses, feature in the film. During autumn and winter the spectacular sight of starling murmurations can be seen over the pier. Thousands of the birds gather at dusk, flying in a remarkable shape-shifting mass.

Close by, and also in the movie, are the ruins of Aberystwyth Castle, dating back to the thirteenth century. Originally commissioned by King Edward 1st, it switched hands between the English and Welsh many times over the centuries as war between the two raged and fell into disrepair in the early 1400s after peace was brokered.

Aberystwyth is also home to the Michelin Guides’ UK Opening of the Year 2022 – a restaurant named SY23 (the town’s post code). The Guide notes that chef Nathan Davies and his team have “created a fun, lively spot in this quaint Welsh seaside town.”

The tasting menu revolves around charcoal grill cooking and locally sourced produce that’s “foraged, farmed or fished from the sea shore to the rolling mountains”. The restaurant is based just off Great Darkgate, a shopping street where many of the Autumn in Wales scenes were filmed. 

Eyka Farhana and Jaa Suzuran run through the streets of Aberystwyth while filming Autumn in Wales
Eyka Farhana and Jaa Suzuran, Autumn in Wales

Producer Dato’ Normashayu Puteh says she hopes the movie will give viewers “respite from their daily stresses.” Puteh adds, “The enchanting cinematography showcases the beauty of Wales that is rarely captured in local Malaysian films. We believe that this film will be able to inject audiences with a sense of wanderlust and the thrill of travelling overseas during this ‘new normal’”. 

The Bridgerton locations you can actually visit

Dearest Readers, As we countdown to Bridgerton season 2, here’s a look back at the filming locations from the first season that you can visit in real life…

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Regency period drama must be shot on location in the English city of Bath. And so in opulent new Netflix series, Bridgerton (the name of a family not a place), Bath’s picturesque Georgian architecture stands in for London in 1813. All the exterior shots of “Mayfair” were actually filmed against the honey stone facades of Alfred, Bath and Great Pulteney Streets as well as Beauford Square and Royal Crescent.

Based on the popular romance novels by Julia Quinn, the television series centres around two high society families, the sophisticated Bridgertons and the gauche Featheringtons, as their daughters aim to find eligible husbands during the London Season. Described as Jane Austen meets Gossip Girl, the show is an over the top extravaganza of ultra bright colours, sumptuous costumes, steamy sex scenes and stunning locations.

As well as Bath, various historic buildings around England, many designed by England’s first starchitect Inigo Jones, were used as locations. The interiors are 50 per cent real, 50 per cent set design, Bridgerton’s production designer Will Hughes-Jones told me via email. Some of the real life locations are not open to the public, for instance *that* staircase scene with the anti-hero, Simon, the Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton was filmed is a private house on Queen Anne’s Gate, London. Below though are the locations you can visit when the lockdown is lifted. 

Bath, Somerset

Bridgerton, Netflix, Royal Crescent Bath

The grand exterior of No 1 Royal Crescent, a Georgian era museum, is the Featherington’s Grosvenor Square house (the interiors are set designs). Holburne Museum of Art at the end of Great Pulteney is the exterior of the Duke’s godmother Lady Danbury’s mansion while the Bath Assembly Rooms, the scene of many real life Georgian balls, was the setting for Danbury House’s ballroom. Double bay windowed Pickled Greens café on Abbey Green is the location of Modiste couture dress maker while 12 Trim Street (in reality a hair salon) is Gunter’s Tea Shop, both featured throughout the series.

Ranger’s House, London

The exterior of Bridgerton House, also supposedly in Grosvenor Square, is this eye catching building in Greenwich, south east London (the interiors were shot at RAF Halton House, not open to the public). This Palladian style villa which the production team bedecked with wisteria now houses The Wernher Collection, an impressive range of artworks collected by Sir Julius Wernher in the 19thcentury. 

Wilton House, Wiltshire

Bridgerton, Netflix, Wilton House
Bridgerton Netflix

When the debutantes including Daphne and the Featherington sisters are presented to Queen Charlotte at St James’s Palace it’s in Wilton House’s stunning Single Cube Room, so called because of its dimensions of 30 ft long by 30 ft wide and 30 ft high. And when the displeased Queen confronts her nephew Prince Friedrich of Prussia at her home, Buckingham House, it’s in the even more splendid Double Cube Room. 

The house multi tasks as the exterior and interiors of the Duke’s London residence, Hastings House, too. The Cloisters features in several corridor stomping scenes and that fabulous ariel shot of “Hastings House” with is courtyard garden in the series finale of Bridgerton is Wilton. 

The Queen’s House, London

Also in Greenwich, this impressive Classical building – the first of its style in the UK – stands in for Somerset House where the debutantes flock around Prince Friedrich. The house was originally built for King James 1’s bride in the early 1600s and now houses an art gallery (though not the one seen in Bridgerton which was filmed inside Somerley House, a private events venue).

Painshill, Surrey

BRIDGERTON (L to R) NICOLA COUGHLAN as PENELOPE FEATHERINGTON, POLLY WALKER as PORTIA FEATHERINGTON, HARRIET CAINS as PHILLIPA FEATHERINGTON, BEN MILLER as LORD FEATHERINGTON and BESSIE CARTER as PRUDENCE FEATHERINGTON in episode 102 of BRIDGERTON Cr. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020

The 18th century landscaped gardens in Cobham appear in the “Botanical Gardens” scenes where London society meets to picnic and promenade. The lake and both the Chinese and Five Arch bridges feature prominently – with the Netflix design additions of gazebos and a profusion of flowers. 

Syon House, London

While several of the Buckingham House interiors were shot at Lancaster house (owned by the British Government and not open to the public), some were also filmed inside this 16th century house in west London. The neo classical gem also serves as the location of the Duke’s Hastings House study and dressing room. And the distinctive neo classical Great Hall is where the Duke’s belongings are packed up before he intends to leave England. Syon House’s garden courtyard inspired the set design for the London Season’s final ball.

Hatfield House, Hertfordshire

Bridgerton Netflix, Hatfield House

Lady Trowbridge’s Ball, featuring pivotal scenes for all the major Bridgerton characters, was filmed at this country house just north of London. As well as shots of the Jacobean exteriors and the ornamental East Garden, the Marble Hall with its black and white checked floor and wood carved walls features as the ballroom. The house has links with Queen Elizabeth 1 and a portrait of her circa 1600 hangs in the Marble Hall. 

Castle Howard, Yorkshire 

Bridgerton, Netflix at Castle Howard

Both the magnificent exterior and interiors, including the centrepiece dome, of Castle Howard were shot for the Duke’s country seat, Clyvedon Castle. The Temple of the Four Winds in the grounds is the setting for another passionate scene between Simon and Daphne. Clyvedon’s dining room was actually filmed at Wilton House though and if you’re looking for the library – setting of yet another steamy encounter – you’ll need an invite to The Reform Club in London.

This article was originally published in January 2021

The Egyptian Locations that inspired Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile

Armie Hammer as Simon Doyle and Gal Gadot as Linnet Ridgeway in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

“When I read it now I feel myself back again on the steamer from Assuan to Wadi Halfa,” Agatha Christie wrote of her novel Death on the Nile published in 1937. Christie was inspired by a holiday in Egypt, escaping the British winter, and observed that the resulting book “is one of the best of my ‘foreign travel’ ones… the reader can escape to sunny skies and blue water in the confines of an armchair.” Kenneth Branagh’s lavish new film version of the murder mystery will likely also have viewers vicariously visiting Egypt. 

Like Agatha Christie and her Death on the Nile characters, I stayed in Aswan and travelled by boat to Abu Simbel several winters ago. And like them I checked into the Old Cataract Hotel which felt like stepping into an Agatha Christie novel. The writer not only stayed at the grand hotel, she partly set Death on the Nile there. At the “Cataract Hotel at Assuan” her fictional detective Hercule Poirot first met heiress Linnet Ridgeway on honeymoon with her husband Simon Doyle, the pair being stalked by Simon’s jilted fiancée, Jacqueline de Bellefort. Along with a cast of other intriguing guests they subsequently took an ill-fated Nile cruise on the SS Karnak.

Branagh shot most of his film at a studio in England (even recreating the Karnak steamer and Abu Simbel temple there) but the equally star studded 1978 movie included extensive shots of the Old Cataract. Though refurbished and renamed the Sofitel Legend Old Cataract Aswan, the cocoa powder coloured exteriors adorned with terraces and balconies were kept intact (there’s also now an Agatha Christie Suite).

Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

It was easy to enjoy Aswan without leaving the hotel, dozing on a sun lounger by the pool or sitting on the cool, canopied terrace where there was a bird’s eye view of the Nile, Elephantine Island, and the desert beyond. Like Poirot however I did venture into town to visit the souk (a frenzied experience involving the world’s most persistent salesmen) and took a felucca straight from the hotel’s dock to Elephantine Island. 

Following in Christie and her characters’ footsteps I boarded a boat at Aswan that would take me to the magnificent Abu Simbel temples. In Christie’s day the temple complex was on the Nile but the Aswan High Dam built across the Nile in the 1960s created Lake Nasser and the temples were moved and rebuilt on higher ground. Abu Simbel was the scene of a pivotal part of the plot in Death on the Nile, indicated by the fact that the original UK book dust jacket featured an illustration of a graceful steamer moored in front of the temple. Although the boat I travelled on was not a steamer like SS Karnak it was designed to look like one on the exterior. And the luggage brought up the gangway at Aswan consisted of roll on aluminium suitcases rather than vintage leather trunks.

Ali Fazal as Andrew Katchadourian, Letitia Wright as Rosalie Otterbourne and Sophie Okonedo as Salome Otterbourne in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Our trip had its share of intriguing Christie-esque characters: the eccentric couple in the presidential suite who never mixed with the rest of the passengers, the lone man who bombarded the guide with questions at every temple and tomb and the tall, pale woman permanently dressed in clothes more suited to The African Queen.

We would be taking a gentle jaunt around Lake Nasser, visiting lesser-known temples and tombs rescued from the area flooded by the creation of the High Dam and culminating in a stop at the the massive temple dedicated to Ramses II and the slightly smaller, but no less impressive, one to his wife, Nefertari. 

Annette Bening as Euphemia Bouc and Tom Bateman as Bouc in 20th Century Studios’ DEATH ON THE NILE, a mystery-thriller directed by Kenneth Branagh based on Agatha Christie’s 1937 novel. Photo by Rob Youngson. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Nasser had far fewer boats than the popular stretch of the Nile between Aswan and Luxor. Admittedly, there was a lot less to see than on the river but as Christie said through the caddish Simon Doyle, “It feels, somehow, so much less touristy – as though we were really going into the heart of Egypt.”

Most visitors take a day-trip from Aswan to Abu Simbel by plane but by taking a four night cruise we were truly able to appreciate the temples. We had been told to start looking out for Abu Simbel half an hour before we were due to reach it. Once I spotted the grey hulk on the horizon I looked through binoculars to see four colossal figures hewn from a mountain of rock that marks the main temple’s entrance. I was hooked, keeping my focus on them until we disembarked to see them up close.

Staying overnight we visited the temples in both daylight and darkness, the latter including a light and sound show. And by staying aboard a boat rather than at a hotel, we were treated to dinner on deck with the floodlit temples as a back drop. Just as Christie had done in the 1930s, it felt wonderful to escape the winter weather back home.

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