Missing Wales?

There is a word that Welsh people use to describe that exact feeling when they are away from their homeland or, even if they are just not in the town or place they grew up in. That word is ‘hiraeth’.

Now, ‘hiraeth’ is an old word, with no direct translation, but Wikipedia describes it as ‘an earnest longing or desire, or a sense of regret.’ Other words that could describe the feeling of ‘hiraeth’ are ‘belonging’ or ‘yearning’. Whatever it is, as a Welsh person, you knows it when you feel it.

So, it’s entirely possible that those who live away, and who make yearly pilgrimages to Welsh shores, coves and nooks for their holidays are feeling their own sense of ‘hiraeth’ at not being able to visit during the COVID-19 lockdown.

Another heightened trend that this Coronavirus-caused stay-at-home experience has given us is the ability to burn through box sets on Netflix or other streaming platforms. So, why not take the time to combine these two activities, so that one may help lessen the impact of the other.

There are plenty of Films and TV shows on a variety of streaming services that allow you to visit the magic and beauty of Wales; to view it through magical scenes captured on celluloid. Here are some of our favourite offerings that will allow you to see Wales in all its splendour without having to even leave your sofa.

Now that’s a Coronavirus-bustin’ idea, right there!

In this blog, we focus on the TV Shows

Hinterland

The first and only place to start is Hinterland.

Hinterland is not simply shot in Wales, but it is actually set in Wales too, in and around Aberystwyth and the small towns and villages that surround it in mid-Wales, Hinterland – or Y Gwyll, to give it it’s Welsh name) is an eerie, dark and brooding 4 series detective drama that more than hints at a ‘nordic noir’ theme. 

The story is intense and slightly unsettling throughout the entire span of the title but leaves you feeling that you can’t look away from the screen, demanding to see how it all plays out, amidst the stunning and stark backdrop of the mid-Welsh coast and rural countryside.

‘Hinterland’ can be viewed on-demand on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/70305043 (Hinterland)

The Crown

More one for the history buffs, here, but the most recent third series of the popular global show ‘The Crown’, its third season, and its first with Oscar-winning Olivia Coleman playing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, focuses two of the 10-episode season on parts of Welsh history; namely the Aberfan disaster, as well as Prince Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales.

Where many productions have so often faltered or merely glazed over events of the past, the American-owned Netflix actually do a stunningly good job in its portrayal of both slices of Welsh history, firstly, capturing the emotion and devastation of the 1966 Aberfan mining disaster, where 116 children and 28 adults were tragically killed when the local colliery tip collapsed causing a landslide to engulf the village and with it, the local school where many of the young victims never returned home from.

Secondly, in the episode entitled ‘Tywysog Cymru’ or ‘Prince of Wales’, Netflix go into grand detail of the politics and undertones, as well as the culture and language of Wales in an episode that shows a younger Prince Charles struggle not only to learn Welsh as part of his investiture requirements to take on the title of the Prince of Wales, but also to find his place in the royal family.

Both episodes can be found as part of season 3 of ‘The Crown’ which can be viewed on-demand on Netflix:  https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80025678 (The Crown)

Gavin and Stacey

Whether you like Gavin and Stacey as a show or not, you’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard of the colossal BBC show, which spans the lives of the two aforementioned protagonists, and the weaving of their separate lives, one from Billericay in Essex, and the other from Barry in South Wales, under one shotgun marriage. It’s a comedy-fest from many different angles, with enough balance from both sides of the Severn to keep the laughs flowing and the intrigue light, without dispensing with the occasional emotional turn. It launched the star fortunes of many of the cast, not to mention co-writer James Corden’s walk to the global star that he now finds himself on.

Plenty of Welsh references and scenery to behold here, and the colloquialisms will have you in stitches.

Originally on the BBC, all 3 series and their Christmas special episodes, apart from the most recent 2019 Christmas special – can be found and viewed on-demand on Netflix: (https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/70157420)

Doctor Who

Travels through time and space with the Doctor are not new, in fact, Doctor Who has been running now for over 50 years.

In 2005, the Timelord series was regenerated by Russell T Davies, a writer hailing from Swansea, and so the show, it’s cast and central filming was relocated to the Welsh capital of Cardiff. Billie Piper and Christopher Ecclelstone were enlisted to jumpstart the long ailing franchise, which they surely did, before Ecclestone gave way to David Tennant, who in turn passed the baton onto Matt Smith (who you will also see in ‘The Crown’, seasons 1 & 2).

The storylines are far-fetched. That’s not a bad thing – they’re supposed to be! But the backdrop is irrefutably Cardiff, and as such, you get to see the capital and parts of Wales as a backdrop to many different settings.

See how many you can spot.

The new series of Doctor Who can be found here, on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/70142441 

Torchwood

And following on from Doctor Who, Russell T Davies also created Torchwood (an anagram of ‘Doctor Who’) that he would weave in and out of the ongoing Doctor storylines and sagas. Now whereas Doctor Who was simply filmed in Cardiff, Torchwood was set in the Welsh capital, taking time to make basecamp down ‘the Bay’.

Torchwood was more ‘The Rolling Stones’ to the new Doctor Who’s ‘Beatles’. A much darker and adult type of series, and really not one for the kids. Whereas Doctor Who had always had a reputation for sending kids diving behind the sofa at the mention of Daleks or Cybermen, even post-2005 Doctor Who sometimes pushed the boundaries of child-friendly TV, but Torchwood, was entirely set up to be a grown-up companion series, based in the same universe as the Doctor, but focused on much more heavy-duty themes.

Torchwood fizzled out as Russel T Davies left the Doctor Who project after a few years, and the series moved to feature-length specials, which were mixed in their review. However, by this time, the show had already gained a cult following, and had by the end, left a physical mark on the heart of Cardiff.

SPOILER ALERT: The entrance to the ‘tourist office’ under Roald Dahl pass on Cardiff’s boardwalk – the official ‘entrance’ to Torchwood Three headquarters in the series – was turned into an actual shrine for Ianto Jones’, a central character in the Torchwood series, who met his maker midway through series 3.

Read more about Ianto’s shrine here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/iantos-shrine

Torchwood is available for viewing or purchase from Amazon Prime: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00EU7ZOQ4

Keeping Faith

Keeping up the Eve Myles theme, following on from Torchwood, Keeping Faith has in the last few years picked up the mantle left by Hinterland for Welsh Noir. Set in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, originally broadcast on Welsh language channel S4C, as Un Bore Mercher which translates as “One Wednesday morning”.

And like Hinterland, it was filmed concurrently in Welsh and English. And whilst set in a fictional town of Abercorran, the backdrop of Laugharne, Carmarthen and even Swansea sets the scenes for this most modern of Welsh thrillers.

You can buy and stream Keeping Faith on Amazon Prime here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Keeping-Faith-Season-1/dp/B07FDXTN2N

Sherlock

Having taken over the mantle of writer-in-chief of the new Doctor Who franchise after the departure of both Russell T Davies, and the show’s 10th Doctor, depicted by David Tennant, Steven Moffatt sought to take a break from the relentless writing schedule of the series and weight it carried by… taking on another huge reboot of another loved and prolific series, in that of the Sherlock Holmes novels.

Securing two of the most sought-after actors to fill the roles of the protagonist’s, in Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, who play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson respectively, the show’s success quickly began to outstrip that of the stuttering, heavy writing that Doctor Who had left in its wake. In fact, that whilst there was source material aplenty, derived from volumes of Sir Arthur Conon Doyle’s original texts, Moffatt found freedom to completely jumpstart, or in some cases, modernise and masterfully retell these stories with much more of ease, that it became a source of conflict for ‘Whovians’, who believed they had been let down by Moffatt, whose attentions seemed to be diverted away from the Doctor, the T.A.R.D.I.S. and the world he was in charge of.

Still, no matter what your allegiance, the undeniably popular Sherlock series continued for 4 seasons with no end – just hiatus – stopping it from returning. But it was in June 2016, that a location and production team took over Tenby’s Castle Beach for a day to film St. Catherine’s Island and use the fort as ‘Sherrinford’, an island fortress/prison, said to contain the sister Sherlock, Eurus. Though portrayed as an actual off-shore island in the series finale, ‘The Final Problem‘, once you see it, you know it immediately. The wonders and trickery of the cameras!

Take a look at the entire Sherlock series on Netflix, with ‘The Final Problem‘ coming at the end of the fourth series: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/70202589

Sex Education

Not one for families, this one, but in the last few years, Sex Education has been a runaway success story for the US-based streaming service.

Based in an ambiguous town, and in a school that bridges ‘All-American Highschools’ with a quintessentially English cast, all of whom seem to suffer from a severe lack of experience with the birds-and-the-bees.

But there is a very ‘Welsh’ backdrop to the entire series, with on-location shots being filmed in Penarth, Caerleon and the Wye Valley, as well as in parts of Gloucesteshire. Amongst many scenes the scenes, Moordale high school is shot in a former University of Wales campus, which has been closed since 2016.

Aside from getting hooked on the program itself, you can immerse yourself in beautiful scenery that Wales lends to the series. Put the kids to bed, and take a look for yourself, after the watershed.

You can watch this series (once you’ve put the kids to bed) on Netflix: https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80197526

St. David’s: Britain’s Smallest City (Docuseries)

Aside from the top ‘big’ shows on large streaming services, there are also some great shows out on terrestrial TV at the moment. The one we want to highlight the most, would be ITC’s current 6-episode series, St. David’s: Britain’s Smallest City.

The documentary series focuses on the town of St. David’s which is now officially Britain’s smallest city with a population of just 1,841. Despite its size, the city of St Davids has a large character and a very deep history in and amongst the breathtaking coastline.

And finally, it also features our very own founder, Mr. Leonard Rees – who runs the gauntlet with the local traffic warden!

To view the limited series, you can watch online at ITV Hub if you have a free account, here: https://www.itv.com/hub/st-davids-britains-smallest-city/2a5897

This should be enough to keep you going. Happy viewing!