Dear readers, like many historical romance aficionados, I couldn’t wait for the first season of “Bridgerton” to premiere. While not a huge fan of Julia Quinn’s novels, I still appreciated certain characters (I am looking at you Kate and Penelope!) and their witty rejoinders. Season One was a day-long binge during the Christmas season of 2020 when my blue velvet sofa was as far as I travelled because of COVID protocols.
Fast forward a year later, and anticipation is brewing for “Bridgerton” Season Two. Like the book series, the second season is focused on Lord Anthony Bridgerton, the eldest son of the clan, and his enemy-turned-lover Kate Sharma, neé Sheffield. The first season was awash in pastel colours, lavish gowns, textiles handmade in India and erotic imagery. While I would have much preferred seeing Mary Balogh’s more heartfelt “Slightly” series get the small screen treatment (who can’t adore honourable Wulfric, the Duke of Bewcastle?), I nevertheless enjoyed the diverse nature of Shondaland’s retelling of the “Bridgerton” books.
While we await the second season’s arrival, dear reader, you can live out your “Bridgerton” fantasy at these romantic locations (and yes, they’re all in the United Kingdom), some of which were filming locations for the series as well as other Regency-era dramas including the much-loved 1995 BBC adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice.”
Regency romances are often set in London, with the mansions of Mayfair playing centre stage. During the Napoleonic Era, Mayfair housed the upper echelons of society—nearly 70% of the first tenants were titled—far removed from the slums of St. Giles and Whitechapel. Today, Mayfair is still a tony address with verdant Hyde Park on one side and Grosvenor Square at its centre (St. Giles and Whitechapel have become much sought after zip codes as well).
While the glittering ton balls are no more, visitors can still expect aristocratic citizens strolling the streets in their finery. Head to Grosvenor Square, the second-largest garden oasis in London, which dates back to 1726. Landscape architect John Alston created the green space for the landed gentry who longed for their country estates when the season was in full swing.
While London is the primary setting of most regency tomes, Bath is often their second city, as it was a popular wellness resort for the elderly and infirm during the Prince Regent’s time.
The iconic Royal Crescent, a curving row of 30 connected Palladian homes built by John Wood in 1774, doubled as the Featherington manse in the series while the famous Bath assembly rooms, which were incomparable to Almacks, functioned as the Danbury mansion. Today, No. 1 Royal Crescent is a museum owned by the Bath Preservation Trust where you can see how residents lived during the Georgian era and No. 15 is the Royal Crescent Hotel, the perfect spot to lay your head and think of England.
One hour south of Bath lies the town of Salisbury, famous for its regal cathedral. But it’s at Wilton House, home of the Earls of Pembroke since the 16th century, that many a modern adaptation of a historical novel has been set. The residence appeared in 1995’s Sense and Sensibility, 2004’s Pride and Prejudice, Season Two of “Outlander,” 2019’s Emma and five seasons of “The Crown.”
In “Bridgerton,” the exterior was used in place of Hyde Park and St. George’s Cathedral, both London locations, and the interiors were used as Hastings House and Clyvedon Castle, amongst others. Guests can visit the estate starting in Easter with access to interiors such as the portrait gallery featuring Van Dykes and Rubens and 17th-century staterooms as well as the grounds, which comprise 14,500 acres of resplendent land.
“Bridgerton” is not the first regency romance to delight readers. That crown goes to “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen’s iconic tome about love, marriage and money during the Peninsular Wars. While many will debate which film version of the book is the best (my vote goes to the Jennifer Ehle/Colin Firth adaption), few will argue about Pemberley’s significance in prejudiced Elizabeth Bennet’s about-face towards proud Mr Darcy.
Austen describes the estate as “a large, handsome, stone building, standing well on rising ground, and backed by a ridge of high woody hills…Its banks were neither formal nor falsely adorned.” The estate at Lyme Park south of Disley can surely be described the same way. The Elizabethan mansion, operated by the United Kingdom’s National Trust, doubled as the expansive and ornate Pemberley in the 1995 adaptation.
With grounds that beckon and delight, and interiors, such as the Knight’s Bedroom boasting secret passageways, Lyme Park is a favourite among Regency fanatics. Tour the expansive estate and follow it up with an afternoon tea at the Salting Room. Don’t forget to don your favourite bonnet as you sip on delicious scones and wait for your Duke of Hastings to arrive.