The star location in the film On Chesil Beach (as well as the novel by Ian McEwan on which it is based) is self-evident from the title. One of Britain’s most famous and unusual coastal features, Chesil Beach stretches for 29 miles between the base of the Isle of Portland and the eastern edge of West Bay, hemming in a lagoon known as The Fleet, home to the Abbotsbury Swannery. Filming began at the beach in October 2016, with the two main characters played by Saoirse Ronan and Billy Howle.
In the story a newly-married couple are spending their honeymoon at a hotel on Chesil Beach, but their wedding night is marred by the bride Florence’s antipathy towards the sexual act. She walks out on the groom, Edward, he follows and they have a row on the beach. The rest of the novel consists of Edward’s life in the decades that follow and his deliberations on what might have been.
The weather is overcast and moody for the beach scenes in the film, no doubt reflecting the mood of the couple. The hotel featured in the film is a fictional one, but there are a number of places to stay near the beach for those wanting to experience the locations from the film. As well as Chesil Beach, another famous Dorset landmark, Lulworth Cove, makes an appearance in the film’s trailer. Visitors to Chesil Beach should be aware that it is illegal to remove pebbles from the beach, incurring a hefty fine. When writing the novel, McEwan was allegedly unaware of this and took some pebbles to keep on his desk while writing, attracting the opprobrium of local conservationists. However, he returned the stones as soon as he realised his transgression.
Map of the area.
Chesil Beach from Portland Bill. Photo by StanWray, via Wikimedia Commons