Wednesday, 4 June 2014


Over the last few years a new genre of detective TV drama has crept onto our screens: the so-called 'Nordic noir' or 'scandi-noir', characterised by grisly murders set against moody backdrops, with characters speaking impenetrable nordic languages necessitating the addition of subtitles.  Earlier this year, however, the genre reached UK shores in the form of the excellent Hinterland, shot in the bleak landscapes around the mid-Wales seaside town of Aberystwyth.  There were even occasional subtitles, as some of the characters lapsed into Welsh.  In fact, the series was shot twice, once in English and once in Welsh, as it was to be shown on both BBC 4 and the Welsh channel S4C (with the name Y Gwyll).  The 'scandi-noir' credentials of the series are borne out by the fact that the Danish TV channel DR, which was responsible for the daddy of all such series, The Killing, decided to buy Hinterland for Danish consumption. 

Aside from the excellent actors, the other star of the series is the bleak but beautiful landscape which lies inland from Cardigan Bay.  The opening scene features the star of the show DCI Mathias (Richard Harrington) jogging along the clifftops to the static caravan where he is living following a broken marriage.  The location of the caravan, carefully chosen by the location scouts, is by the Blaenplwyf transmitting station south of Aberystwyth.  The focal point for the first murder of the series is a beauty spot 12 miles inland from the town called Devil's Bridge Falls.  The falls are reached via an entrance gate (admission charge) and a series of steps, and there are two walks to choose from taking in the surrounding woodlands.  The name of the falls stems from a legend involving the Devil, an old lady, a dog and an errant cow - the full story can be found on the Falls' website.

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Devil's Bridge. Photo by Richard Croft, via Wikimedia Commons

The Police Station where the detectives are based in the series is in Aberystwyth, with the County Hall acting as the exterior, and a disused building on the University campus serving as Mathias' office.  There are a number of shots of the seafront including glimpses of the 1920s shelter on the Promenade.  Sadly, the shelter was damaged during the vicious storms of last winter (the filming was done prior to all the mayhem), however it has been reported that the shelter will be rebuilt.  Aberystwyth is the liveliest seaside town along this coast due to its student population.  The pier is popular with bird enthusiasts, being a hotspot for starling 'murmurations' at certain times of the year.  As well as the University, the town houses the National Library of Wales.  Devil's Bridge Falls can be reached from Aberystwyth via the Vale of Rheidol Railway, a narrow-gauge heritage line.  To get a lovely view over the town, take the Cliff Railway up Constitution Hill.

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Aberystwyth seafront. Photo by David Stowell, via Wikimedia Commons
As well as Aberystwyth, the seaside community of Borth just up the coast features in the series, most notably in the fourth, and final, episode in which the marshes just inland provide a suitably empty and barren backdrop for the discovery of a body.  Borth railway station also gets a good airing, with its creepy station master keeping a constant eye on the goings on out in the marshes, and ending up on the suspect list.  In real life the railway station is an unmanned halt along the Cambrian Line.  Borth's long sand and pebble beach is backed by a sea wall and a straggle of houses.  The main attraction for visitors apart from the beach is the Animalarium, with creatures including lemurs and wallabies.

For those who enjoyed watching Hinterland and are missing it already, fear not.  Word has it that filming of a second series is due to start in September.     

Map of Aberystwyth.


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