Best children’s films set in the British countryside

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It’s great to take the kids outside – but sometimes the weather keeps them locked in, or they need inspiration to embark on adventures. What better way to entertain and excite children about the great outdoors than showing them magical cinematic adventures set in the British countryside? For rainy days or reluctant explorers, we’ve rounded up our favorite films set in the countryside.

And once the kids have had their imaginations fired, why not visit the landscapes in question, whether it’s the rolling hills of Yorkshire and the thrilling steam trains of Railway children or the Highlands beach setting of What we did on our vacation.

From the wacky animated comedy of Curse of the Were-Rabbit to the heartbreaking drama of Keshere are the best children’s films set in the countryside…


Swallows and Amazons (2016)

Director: Philippa Lowthorpe

Bobby McCulloch, Teddie Malleson-Allen, Orla Hill, Dane Hughes in Swallows and Amazons / Credit: Alamy

Arthur Ransome’s classic Lakeland adventure story was brilliantly reimagined for the screen in 2016. Set in 1935, the story follows the Walker children’s vacation – the swallows – and their plans to camp on an island , which has already been landed by two other children – the Amazons. The Lake District in summer looks idyllic, and history is rhythmic and spiced with peril. A great cast includes Andrew Scott, Rafe Spall, Kelly Macdonald, Jessica Hynes and Harry Enfield, and the kids are great too – including Orla Hill, Dane Hughes and Teddie-Rose Malleson-Allen.


What We Did on Our Vacation (2014)

Directors: Andy Hamilton and Guy Jenkin

Billy Connolly and Emilia Jones on the beach

Billy Connolly and Emilia Jones in What We Did On Our Vacation There / Credit: Alamy

This overlooked release is a bit of a gem, with stunning Highland shots, great cast turns, and a really funny and thoughtful storyline. The plot follows recently separated Doug (David Tennant) and Abi McCloud (Rosamund Pike) and their three children as they travel to the Highlands to celebrate 75e birthday of Doug’s father, Gordie (Billy Connolly). Family reunions are rarely straightforward and that’s true here, as the characters navigate death, divorce and depression with remarkable levity, all set to beautiful beaches and Viking tales. Filming locations include Gairloch and Drymne, near Loch Lomond.


Railway Children (1970)

Director: Lionel Jeffries

Children wave handkerchiefs

Gary Warren, Jenny Agutter and Sally Thomsett in The Railway Children, 1970 / Credit: Alamy

Based on the classic story by E Nesbitt, Railway children won hearts with its story of the Waterbury children, who left London for West Yorkshire after their father was arrested for spying. The children are fascinated by the workings of nearby Oakworth station, befriend the porter and a regular passenger. Thanks to their heroic deeds, they have earned the name of “children of the railroad”. This 1970 movie classic remains highly regarded to this day.

Jenny Agutter as Bobby Waterbury at Oakworth Station

Jenny Agutter as Roberta Waterbury at Oakworth Station in The Railway Children Return

Return of the Railway Children (2022)

Director: Morgan Matthews

Jenny Agutter reprises her role as Bobby Waterbury, who is now a grandmother. Set during World War II, The Return of the Railway Children follows three children evacuated to Yorkshire from Manchester, who find solace in the countryside – and also discover a US serviceman sheltering in the railway sidings. Both films feature the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, and it’s wonderful to watch the steam trains travel in their glory through the stunning West Yorkshire countryside.

Don’t miss our podcast with Jenny Agutter on October 18.


Millie Bobby Brown and Helena Bonham Carter out at Enola Holmes

Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes and Helena Bonham Carter as Eudoria Holmes/ Credit: Alamy

Enola Holmes (2020)

Director: Harry Bradbeer

This crazy adventure will entertain the whole family, as the intrepid Enola tackles the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. Although young Enola (Mille Bobby Brown) was neglected by her older brothers, Sherlock and Mycroft, she was nonetheless carefully trained by her mother Eudoria (Helena Bonham-Carter) in the skills needed to solve a complex puzzle. As Enola travels the country to solve the case, striking locations include Arley Station, Kidderminster Town Station and Victoria Bridge in Worcestershire, Ashridge Estate and Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, Benthall Hall in Shropshire , West Horsley Place, Surrey and Minley Manor in Hampshire.


Gromit waters the vegetables in Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Gromit waters the vegetables in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit /Credit: Alamy

Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005)

Directors: Steve Box and Nick Park

Aardman has a knack for lovingly ridiculing stereotypes in their delightful animations and Curse of the Were-Rabbit is no exception. The scatty lady of the manor, the country gentleman, the village fete, the local bobby, and the anxious vicar all appear in this charming and crazy tale, in which inventor Wallace accidentally swaps brains with a rabbit. With the Tottington Hall Vegetable Contest fast approaching, Wallace and Gromit must stop a giant beast from raiding the village’s vegetables while hunter Victor tracks down the creature with murderous intent.

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Wallace Shawn holds a dagger under the chin of a blindfolded Robin Wright

Wallace Shawn as Vizzini and Robin Wright as Buttercup in The Princess Bride

The Princess Bride (1987)

Director: Rob Reiner

Filmed in England and Ireland, this enchanting fairy tale blends adventure, comedy, fantasy and romance to glorious effect. Beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright) falls in love with dashing farmer Westley (Cary Elwes), but is heartbroken when Westley goes missing, presumed killed by the Dread Pirate Roberts. Five years later, newly engaged Buttercup is kidnapped by outlaws, but a man in black is in pursuit. Told by a grandfather (the late great Peter Faulks) to his increasingly delighted grandson (Fred Savage), the story features swamps of fire, howling eels, dizzying swordplay, castles and magic, making it perfect family viewing. Viewers can spot several stunning sites in the Peak District, such as Cave Dale, Robin Hood’s Stride and Lathkill Dale, as well as the magnificent Haddon Hall as Humperdink’s Palace. Other notable locations include Buckinghamshire’s Black Park Lake and Burnham Beeches as a fire marsh. With guest roles from comic icons Billy Crystal, Peter Sellers and Christopher Guest, this swashbuckling adventure is hilarious, to boot.


Kes (1969)

Director: Ken Loach

David Bradley with a Kestrel

Billy Caspar (played by David Bradley) holds a kestrel in Kes, 1969

Billy Caspar is an outcast, bullied at school and at home, and left to fend for himself. His only friend is Kes, a kestrel whom he assiduously trains in the art of falconry. Based on the 1968 novel A kestrel for a valet by Barry Hines, Kes is a tough but compelling watch, thanks to the performance of David Bradley in the lead role, and offers powerful insight into the tough education system of the time and the hardships of poverty in a South Yorkshire mining town. Be ready to shed tears.


Harry Potter series (2001-2011)

Directors: Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, David Yates

Daniel Radcliff as Harry at the train station

Daniel Radcliff as Harry in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone e / Credit: Alamy

This spellbinding series features our hero and sees him inducted into Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, where he makes friends, encounters enemies, and masters his magical powers, before heading into a climactic showdown with his nemesis. , Lord Voldemort. The films capture the enchantment of the books, transporting children to fantastical places as spellbinding as their imaginations can conjure up – no small feat. Delighted young viewers can be enticed to follow in Harry’s footsteps at various filming locations across Britain, such as Durham Cathedral, Alnwick Castle, Lacock Abbey, Goathland Station, the Loch Etive, Glen Coe, Glenfinnan Viaduct, Jacobite Steam Railway, Ashridge Wood, Seven Sisters Country Park, Virginia Water and Malham Cove. Little witches and wizards can have fun adapting the decor to the scene.

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