Few places in the world are as rich in history and replete with beauty as the sleepy Wiltshire village of Castle Combe in southwestern England. Situated about 15 miles outside the city of Bath, Castle Combe is both ancient and awe-inspiring, with centuries-old cobbled streets and stone buildings.
Dating back to Roman times, Castle Combe was originally the site of a Roman villa. During the Middle Ages, a castle was built in the valley, giving rise to the name "Castle Combe" ("combe" is an Old English word for a deep, narrow valley). Though little is left of the castle today, the village remains a perfectly preserved tribute to times long gone.
With its stone tiled roofs, breathtaking views and authentic architecture, it's not surprising that filmmakers have selected Castle Combe as a location for many movie sets. Most recently, it was used for the village scenes in the 2011 Steven Spielberg drama "War Horse," starring Emily Watson and Jeremy Irvine. If you're planning on making the worthwhile trip to Castle Combe, here are a few sights you won't want to miss.
The Market Cross
Located in the center of the village at the town's only intersection, the Market Cross is a great starting point for exploring the area. Dating back to the 14th century, the monument was built when the village first gained permission to hold a weekly market. It's easily recognizable and is seen several times in the films "Stardust" (2007) and "The Wolfman" (2010).
Walking downhill from the Market Cross, Water Street is an unpaved lane that runs along the Bybrook River. In "Stardust," Tristan Thorn (played by "Boardwalk Empire" actor Charlie Cox) walks along Water Street to the house he shares with his father. The picturesque walkway and 18th-century bridge were also shown in the 1967 version of "Doctor Dolittle," and Benicio Del Toro rides past the lane and over the bridge in "The Wolfman."
The St. George
Now a private residence known as The Castle House, the building formerly known as The St. George served as an alehouse, bakery and bed and breakfast over the years. Not to be confused with the Castle Inn hotel, which is located next door, Castle House was built in 1672 by Nathanial Elver, and his initials and the date are still visible above the door. The picturesque home was used as the home of Sienna Miller's character in “Stardust,” and several memorable scenes took place outside.
The Malt House
Located just across the street from Castle House, the Malt House is easy to spot, thanks to the sign over the door. Also a private residence, it was used as the tavern in "The Wolfman" and can be seen in several shots from "Stardust." If you feel like stretching your legs, continue up the hill from Malt House and eventually you'll come to a small, stone pen on the side of the road. In medieval times, this was actually a pound where stray animals were confined until claimed by their owners.
St. Andrew's Church
Founded in the 13th century, the ancient church still holds services today. Inside, visitors can pay their respects at the tomb of a Norman-era Knight, Sir Walter de Dunstanville, who was the Baron of Castle Combe and a veteran of two Crusades. The church also houses one of few surviving medieval faceless clocks; it’s thought to be one of the oldest working timepieces in Great Britain.
Located next to the church on the town square, The Gates was used for both interior and exterior scenes of the shop in "Stardust." If you're thinking of extending your stay in Castle Combe, The Gates is available for rent, making it possible for you to spend the night on a (former) movie set! The cottage's website offers more details, as well as several on-set photographs from filming.
by Zoe Bauer
Top: Tourists cross a bridge in Castle Combe, a picturesque village in Wiltshire, England. (Photo by Martin Brent/VisitBritain)
Right: Narrow streets meander through Castle Combe. (Photo by Martin Brent/VisitBritain)