2015 was a great year for Star Wars fans. It was the year that Episode VII: The Force Awakens, was released, the first Star Wars movie since the release of The Revenge of the Sith in 2005, and heralded the first of the final trilogy for the franchise.
It certainly didn’t disappoint. A beautifully shot production, providing an emotional introduction to the next generation of protagonists and villains. It also gave us more stunning locations to admire, and two of these were shot right here in the UK: The Lake District (the second largest of the UK’s National Parks); and Puzzlewood (a quirky, and much smaller natural treasure located in the Forest of Dean). We visited both of these in the Summers of 2017 and 2018 respectively.
The Lake District, England a.k.a. Takodana
The Lake District is not a stranger to the silver screen, having been the setting for a number of movies in the past, including 28 Days Later, but it can now boast being part of the Star Wars universe standing in the forest planet Takodana, (which is located in the Western Reaches of the Empire, in the Mid-Rim). After legendary duo Han Solo and Chewbacca are re-united with the Millennium Falcon, they set off with Rey, Finn and BB-8 in search of the knowledgeable Maz Kanata, who will certainly help them return BB-8 safely to the Resistance.
FACTOID: Did you spot that Anakin Skywalker has a statue if Maz in his bedroom in Episode I: The Phantom Menace? Interesting, I hear you say, and likely a nod to Maz’s ancient connection with the Jedi and how she originally came to be in possession of Anakin’s lightsabre…).
The main setting for the planet, and specifically for Maz’s castle, is around Derwentwater and Thirlmere, two of the many large lakes that make up the Lake District. As the Millennium Falcon enters the atmosphere, the ship finds itself over Borrowdale and Derwentwater (which has been digitally enhanced to make the lake appear even larger than its original form), and we can see views of the large fell, Skiddaw in the background.
You can visit Colin Bell’s blog for more specific identification of the Takodano landscape as it is quite difficult to work out the precise locations due to the CGI modifications made to the original landscape.
The arrival above Maz’s Castle shows Walla Crag on the left hand side, with Maz’s Castle in the distance, opposite the spectacular fells of Catbells and Maiden Moor. From this direction, the scene has been modified to make it more “alien” but it is still very recognisable for those who frequent the area.
The main town attached to Derwentwater is Keswick, a lovely market town with its very own pencil factory (which is really cool)!!
To get the view from Maz’s Castle, we ventured out beyond Keswick, to the opposite side of Derwentwater, near Friars Crag, where you get the sense that you are near the ancient watering-hole.
Whilst we were unable to find any exact locations (which were quite possibly not even filmed here), we think this was near the vicinity where some of the shots comprising the Stormtroopers vs X-Wing showdown we’re supposed to have happened. It was truly stunning area of the lake to visit, and incredibly quiet compared with the hustle and bustle of Keswick. It is certainly worth the hike along the water’s edge if you have the time…
Even though finding the precise locations from the movie was difficult in practice, it is easy to see why the location scouts chose the Lake District to represent Takodana. We are looking forward to being able to return here after the lockdown craziness ends!
Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean a.k.a Takodana forest
After discovering Maz’s collection of mysterious artefacts deep within the castle, Rey finds herself in a strange woodland, adjacent to where the Millennium Falcon was parked up. Now this is no-where near the Lake District, but instead, was filmed at Puzzlewood, located in the Forest of Dean in Southern England.
Puzzlewood is as amazing and quirky as it sounds, and is one of the most unusual places I have ever been to within the UK. It was a real joy to explore this ancient woodland and to explore the unusual rock formations covered with moss and ferns. Lucasfilm could not have chosen a better location for the lightsabre spar between Rey and Kylo Ren, which culminated in Rey being captured by Ren for questioning over the map of Luke Skywalker’s whereabouts, as even without any added lighting or enhancements, there was something quite surreal about this place.
Get yourself to a UK spaceport
So if you want to visit Takodana, you will need to schedule two separate trips, one to the North, and one to the South of the United Kingdom. Both are very much worth the effort, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan.
Let’s explore the galaxy together
We would love to visit more Star Wars locations (particularly Endor (Redwood National Park), and so far we have visited Kashyyyk (Episode III), Phang Nga Bay, Thailand (also the location for Saramanga’s lair in James Bond), and Tatooine (Episode IV), Death Valley National Park, California.
MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU, ALWAYS!