Why Many Movie Buffs Are Suddenly Sneaking Peeks At This Breathtaking English Mansion

Sometimes a striking movie location can be a star of the show in its own right, and several U.K. stately homes have numerous screen credits to their illustrious names. Just take Hatfield House in Hertfordshire; the old pro has appeared in dozens of films and TV shows, notably playing both Croft Manor in "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" and Wayne Manor in "Batman." More recently, a lesser-known 13th-century country house made its screen debut in Emerald Fennell's "Saltburn," and fans of the movie can't wait to get a closer look for themselves.

In case you missed it, "Saltburn" received decent notices from critics and performed moderately well at the box office, but it became one of the most talked-about movies of 2023 through word-of-mouth and TikTok. A notorious nude dance scene even went viral, propelling Sophie Ellis-Bextor's "Murder on the Dancefloor" back into the charts 22 years after its first release. 

Barry Keoghan plays Oliver Quick, an awkward college student who befriends fabulously wealthy hunk Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Smitten with his new pal, Felix invites Oliver to his family pile for the summer holidays — the titular Saltburn estate. To reveal what happens there would veer into spoiler territory, but suffice it to say that the sumptuously shot black comedy puts a new spin on the phrase "Eat the rich." Although the cast and crew were sworn to secrecy it didn't take long for the mansion's identity to be revealed, making it a hot destination for film buffs.

Where is the real Saltburn mansion?

When scouting for a suitable stately home to play the key location in her divisive film, Emerald Fennell wanted to find a place that would be unfamiliar to the audience. Enter Drayton House, a privately owned 127-room mansion set in a sprawling 200-acre estate near Lowick village in Northamptonshire, U.K.

The site dates all the way back to 1066 but the present house was constructed around 1300, acquiring its castle-like crenellations in 1328 and its magnificent Baroque facade sometime in the 18th century. It has been passed down through the generations since its last purchase in 1361 and it is currently the residence of the Sackville family, whose ancestors have called the mansion home since the late 1700s.

Fennell and her crew were given free rein to decorate and alter the interior as they saw fit for the film, and they sought to make the house look lived in with touches like piles of dirty clothes and overflowing ashtrays. The combination of Drayton's characteristic splendor and detailed production design makes Saltburn feel so charmingly and realistically dog-eared — It may be a stately mansion to most regular folk, but it is simply home to the filthy-rich Cattons.

One major feature from the film that doesn't exist on the Drayton Estate is the hedge maze that plays a crucial role in the finale. That was designed by Adrian Fisher and added seamlessly to the finished picture with CGI.

How to visit Drayton House

Drayton House is a private home and isn't currently open to the general public, although occasionally the gates are unlocked for private visits and groups from historical societies. Yet the lack of access hasn't stopped "Saltburn" fans descending on the property's expansive grounds and the nearby village of Lowick since the film was released in November 2023. The movie blew up on TikTok with fans recreating Barry Keoghan's infamous butt-naked dance through the halls of Saltburn, and a video explaining how to reach the footpath that runs past the front gates of the real-life estate quickly racked up over 4 million views.

If you fancy checking out Drayton House for yourself, the first stop is Lowick around a two-hour drive north of the capital, making it a nice day trip if you're staying in London. It's a typically sleepy English village with thatched cottages and places to park. Find Drayton Road, which takes you on a pleasant country walk until you reach a barrier marked Drayton Estate. From here, a public footpath takes you past the house to the front gate. You can't get too close, but the mansion is big enough for you to get a good view and take some snaps. Once you've finished geeking out, the Snooty Fox back in the village is a traditional inn serving real ales, decent pub grub, and even lobster from their tank. There's a good chance that you'll meet some other "Saltburn" fans, too!