When you think of King Arthur, you think of a roundtable, the sword in the stone, Merlin and lots of magic. Well, forget all that, because The Winter King is a far more grounded and gritty take on the Arthurian legend. The historical fiction TV series, based on Bernard Cornwell’s The Warlord Chronicles novels, is set in post-Roman Britain, where Arthur is a warlord and Saxons are invading the country.
The Winter King premieres today (December 21) on ITVX. But what’s any of this got to do with Bristol? Outside of the fact that many of the legends are set in the West Country, of course. It’s because this revisionist take on the well-loved Arthurian story was filmed across Wales and the South West of England. In particular, Blaise Castle Estate was used as the legendary land of Avalon – showing up in Episode 2.
In The Winter King, Avalon is just a simple medieval village, but the surrounding area of the Grade II-listed Blaise Castle Estate in Henbury still makes it a stunning spot. A large section of the Echo Gate area of parkland was transformed into Avalon, complete with a large central tower (Merlin’s Tower) and authentic period thatched dwellings constructed from wood, wattle and daub.
“The Film Office assisted the production to transform a quiet corner of the parkland into a bustling medieval village, a central setting within the series, with minimal disruption,” said Laura Aviles, Head of Film, Bristol City Council. “Blaise Castle Estate looks stunning on screen as Avalon and really demonstrates the potential that Bristol’s green spaces offer as filmmaking locations.”
Blaise Castle Estate wasn’t even the only Bristol location used, as the TV series also used the creepy and iconic Redcliffe Caves for several scenes. While, the areas surrounding Bristol (which are breathtaking, aren’t they?) were also utilised for production – such as Cheddar Gorge and the Quantocks. Viewers should be able to spot several South West locations if they keep their eyes peeled.
Producer Catrin Lewis Defis added: “I’m excited for people to see the beauty of the Welsh coast and the South West and areas around Bristol. The Quantock Hills. Cheddar Gorge. We’ve found all these wonderfully beautiful locations that haven’t been touched because they’re quite remote and I’m looking forward to people seeing the beauty of where we’ve been.”
The 10-part drama follows Arthur Pendragon, played by Iain De Caestecker (The Control Room, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as he evolves from outcast to legendary warrior and leader. Set in the 5th century long before Britain was united, The Winter King explores a land of warring factions and tribes when the world was brutal and lives were often fleeting.
You can watch the first five episodes of The Winter King on ITVX now, with the other five added on Wednesday, December 27.