War Horse – Movie Tourism

Stephen Spielberg has directed another great film, choosing some of the most beautiful settings in Devon, England for the story of Joey, the War Horse. In addition to the splendid natural beauty of the countryside, the quaint, picturesque small villages are just as appealing. Nominated for 6 Academy Awards, one for Best Picture, the movie features a European cast and follows young Albert and Joey from the family’s farm to the daring adventures of this courageous lad and his incredible War Horse in WWI.

Many of the scenes were filmed in the moors and Dartmoor National Park where Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Hound of the Baskervilles and Agatha Christie used as settings in her mystery novels. Visitors will find a number of attractions around Dartmoor including Ditsworthy Warren House (scenes of the family’s farmhouse) and at other film locations including Stratfield Saye, the estate of the Duke of Wellington for the cavalry charge scenes, Farnham, and Bourne Woods. This article focuses on Castle Combe, known as “the prettiest village in England,” where most of the village scenes for War Horse, as well as Doctor Dolittle, Stardust, and The Wolfman took place. Located 100 miles northeast from Dartmoor, 90 miles from London, near Bristol and about 15 miles from Bath, day trips are a popular option for visitors to the Cotswolds.

Things to See and Do

Tourists enjoy walking from the small, uncrowded village through the wooded By Brook valley into the hilly countryside to best appreciate the natural beauty of the area. This 5 ½ mile walk, about 2 ½ hours, crosses 10 stiles and includes some interesting attractions.

The 1-hour farm walk begins and ends in the village and includes the Colham Organic Farm. Along the trail through meadows and woodlands, you’ll see a variety of farm animals and cattle, beech trees, and rare flowers. Guided tours available (see Colham Farm for contact info).

(Note: There are a number of other public trail walks, and most shops in the village will have maps and information.)

The village center, Market Cross, is similar to other 14th century villages (depicted in Pillars of the Earth by Follett), where sheep and wool were brought to trade. Visitors will see the old cross and water pump, and St Andrews Church to view the tomb of a crusader and an ancient working clock. A war memorial honoring the villagers who died in WWI stands at a former church courtyard entrance. Across the bridge are the old weavers’ cottages and the Dower House (Dr Dolittle’s in the movie)

Visit the Castle Combe racing circuit, established in 1950 for all types of motor sports and considered the best in Britain. The events’ calendar includes car, motorcycle, and bicycle races, car boot (a flea market) sales, testing days, racing instruction, and a family cycling festival for all ages in August.

Prices: Testing – full day $334. Boot sales – charity donation 80 cents. Track days – cars, $280, motorcycles, $200. Action days – 15-minute passes, $6. Other driving experiences – e.g., 10-minutes in a Lotus, $63, 26 May – 4 laps in Lotus, $31. Spectator admission – Adults – $24, Children – $12. Café facilities onsite. Open year round, weather permitting.

Accommodations:

The luxurious and expensive Manor House Hotel & Golf Club on 365 acres is highly recommended, a perfect location for weddings, meetings, and other events. Guestrooms and suites feature 4-poster beds, Jacuzzi tubs and walk-in showers, stylish decor, and wonderful views from the Main House or the cottages. Two bedrooms set aside for you and your pet. Amenities include a fully stocked tea/coffee cart, in-room dining, and special items for children. Rates: Master Suite – $1,000 (incl breakfast & 7-course dinner), guestrooms with many extras – $1,500/dbl, B&B accommodation – $326. The Waterfall Lodge near the clubhouse offers four twin bedrooms, two showers, and lounge, for avid golfers or extra rooms for party guests. Breakfast and 3-course dinner, 36 holes of golf, and use of the driving range are included. Rates(p/p): $173 Sun-Thu, $190 Fri & Sat.

Also recommended is the refurbished 12th century Castle Inn in the village with eleven rooms and offering several different packages. The War Horse 2-night weekend special includes breakfast, champagne, and chocolates. Rates: $540/dbl executive room. Guests have access to the Lucknam Park Spa, 5 miles from the inn, open seven days a week, 7am-10pm, $71 p/p.

Other Rates: Regular – $135/single, $236/dbl. A romantic one-night stay with 2-crse dinner, Sun-Thurs, $302/couple.

The family-owned Old House at Home in nearby Chippenham has six boutique guestrooms in a quiet, cozy atmosphere. Adults only, minimum age 16. Rates: $152/dbl, incl brkfst.

Highly rated is the family-friendly Beechfield House near Chippenham, about 4 miles from Castle Combe and close to the racing circuit. There are 24 guestrooms – classic, family, and luxury. The Rosette restaurant has a long-standing reputation as one of the best in the area. Enjoy a cocktail in the bar/lounge or beauty and spa treatments in the Beauty Center of the hotel.

Rates: 1 Jan-30 Jun, Sun-Thurs, dbl w/ brkfst – $197-$245. 1 Jul-31 Aug, $213-$277.

Fri-Sat, $229-$277. B&B + dinner, $308-$372.

Where to Eat:

A favorite among travelers is the award winning By Brook restaurant at the Manor House for fine dining, a variety of cuisine, and a noteworthy wine list. Dinner menus (avg prices) – appetizers – $19, entrees – $24-$30, 3 crses – $95. Other dining options include 2-crse market menu, 3-crse Sun lunch, and casual dining in the garden pavilion, terrace, or a picnic on the grounds. Afternoon tea is served from 3-6pm, $34. Hours: 12:30-2pm, Tues-Sun (lunch), dinner hours, 7-9pm, Sun-Thu & 7-9:30 Fri & Sat

The four restaurants at the Castle Inn are also recommended for a variety of dining options. Sample menu prices: 2-crses, $26, 3-crses, $32, sandwiches and bar menu, $11-$14.

Enjoy delicious British cuisine at the restaurant in the Old House at Home. Menu selections include wild game, seafood, beef, and lamb, elegant desserts, and reasonable prices. Main courses – avg $23, desserts – $8.

Enjoy traditional food and ale, served daily from 11am-11pm at the 14th century White Hart pub near the Castle Combe racing circuit.

Visit the Old Rectory Tea Room for a light lunch or British cream tea and scones, explore the small gift shop, and view their portrait galley taken during the filming of War Horse. Reserve the Garden Room for a group (up to 6).

Hours: 10am-3pm, Mon-Fri, weekends for private parties, (castlecombetearooms.co.uk for contact info). Menu prices: $5-$8.

Getting there: Several options from London to Castle Combe. By train from Heathrow or Paddington Station to nearby towns (Chippenham is the closest), 1 ½ hours, runs every hour, $31. By coach, 3-4 hours, $27. By Rental Car, International Driver’s License required, about 2 hours, $95/day (the best choice if you intend to stay a few days). Most villages in the area are within an hour or two driving distance from Castle Combe.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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Comments (3)

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  1. Justin says:

    This is extensive! What a great idea too… I thought the movie was beautiful and it kind of captured the iconic early 1900 England we all know and love. I didn’t realize that it was almost all filmed in Dartmoor. My best friend and I are planning a trip to Europe next summer and this will be a place we will definitely look into going during our journey!

  2. Sharon says:

    Thank you Justin, glad you enjoyed the article. I loved the movie and wanted to write about the scenic locations and the small villages. Hope you and your friend have a great trip!

  3. […] some movie tourism while in Dartmoor National Park? They have tours that discuss the area and the filming of Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. Or you can grab one of the park’s publications and venture out on your own to find the […]

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