The new television adaptation of James Herriot’s books called ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ is charming viewers around the world with its pastoral setting in the Yorkshire Dales. The episodes follow the gentle adventures of a newly qualified veterinarian in Yorkshire in the 1930s. The first season was a pandemic-era hit thanks partly to the pastoral escapism it offered shut-in viewers. It was easily the UK Channel 5’s most watched series in 2020. The second series has already been shown in the UK to similar viewing figures, and airs in the US early January 2022. A third series will soon be in production.
The real James Herriot (Alf Wight) worked in a veterinary practice in the town of Thirsk, which he called Darrowby in his books. Thirsk is set mid-way between the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors National Parks. Both have stunning scenery, but the dales were chosen for the series because they were considered a ‘little less harsh’ than the moors.
The pretty market town of Grassington was chosen for Darrowby. A key location within Grassington is Skeldale House (where Herriot lives and works). The front exterior faces onto the main square, but the rear of Skeldale is filmed in a village in Littondale called Arncliffe, previously used as the location for the ITV soap ‘Emmerdale’.
For James’ family home in Glasgow, the film crew used the Bradford Industrial Museum, which the public can visit, as they needed the right sort of period small tenement house found in Glasgow, and it was the nearest they could find. They also used parts of Little Germany in Bradford, and Keighley, to make up more of that Glasgow world, and show the contrast between the city and the Dales.
The local pub in All Creatures is called The Drovers Arms which is actually an amalgamation of two places. The exterior is The Devonshire pub in Grassington, but the interior is The Green Dragon Inn at Hardraw near Hawes, further north in Wensleydale. The interior of the Devonshire was too modern, so they needed to find a pub with an unaltered interior.
One of the first scenes in the first series was of James getting off the bus at a crossroads, which was filmed at Malham Rakes on the Malham Tarn Estate. The waterfall scene was filmed at Janet’s Foss near Malham. Also included are sweeping scenic shots in the Wharfe Valley, going up towards Kettlewell. It’s stunning and yet, quite imposing, with the hills either side.
The locations show both the beauty and the harsh reality of life for many people working in the Dales back then. Many visitors from both the UK and overseas are now planning their visits to Yorkshire to see for themselves where the scenes were shot.
Contributed by John Darby – Yorkshire Blue Badge Guide