The best open air cinema this summer

See classic films in amazing locations, from Bletchley Park to Blenheim Palace or Lulworth Castle this summer

The cult of open air cinema has taken the UK by storm, with regular summertime showings (come rain or shine) of new and classic films available for your picnic viewing pleasure.

Occasionally in the most outrageous of locations—cemetery, rooftop, hot-tub, beachside and disused-factory theatres are now the norm, especially in our city centres—cinema in the open is here to stay. But when it comes to film showings in the British countryside—the greats outdoors—Country Life has chosen the very best open air cinema locations in the country.

Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshireopen air cinema bletchley park
Where better than the top-secret HQ of Britain’s crack team of code-breakers, who made mincemeat of the German Enigma, for a showing of Oscar-winning biopic The Imitation Game? Pivotal scenes were filmed in the iconic Victorian mansion and an accompanying exhibition offers a look behind the scenes of the movie, with props, costumes and demonstrations on the famous Enigma machine. ‘Cumberbitches’, 1940s vintage buffs and everyone else (including Germans) welcome. September 2 and 3, adults £14.50, children £8 (

Muncaster Castle, Cumbria, and Lytham Hall, Lancashire
Picnic Cinema likes a bit of fancy dress with its films. Unfortunately, it’s back-by-popular-demand showing of Withnail and I at the remote Cumbrian cottage where it was filmed is sold out, but The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Labyrinth, at both spooky Lake District Muncaster Castle and gorgeous Georgian Lytham Hall, promise to be equally entertaining. Time Warp moves and Goblin King adoration (respectively) all but mandatory.
August 1–6, adults £16.50, camping and food on site (

Various historic-house locationsOpen air cinema Blickling Hall
Heritage is the order of the day (or night) for the Summer Nights festival, which boasts a flurry of open air cinema locations right out of the pages of Pevsner: RHS Garden Wisley, Surrey; Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire; Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire; Nostell Priory, Yorkshire; Calke Abbey, Hardwick Hall and Eyam Hall, Derbyshire; Sheffield Park, Sussex; Dunham Massey, Cheshire; Wallington, Northumberland; Belton House, Lincolnshire; Attingham Park, Shropshire; and The Blickling estate, Norfolk (above). Films range from Grease and The Great Gatsby to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Lady in the Van.
July 15 to September 17 (

Country houses and castles across the UKopen air cinema cardiff castle
Another giant of the UK outdoor-film industry, The Luna Cinema has the likes of Alnwick Castle, Blenheim Palace, Lulworth Castle, Holkham and Waddesdon Manor in its books. The various, fabulous locations are too numerous to mention—trust us, they’re worth a trip. Open air cinema Lulworth Castle

Films this summer include The Breakfast Club, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Love Actually, Dirty Dancing and The Goonies. July and August, various dates (

Burghley House, LincolnshireOpen air cinema Burghley House
A perfect one for all the family, the five-day open air cinema Film Festival at Burghley House features viewings day and night which, this year, include WALL-E, Spectre, Hairspray, Ratatouille, The Dark Knight, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 and 2. Rent a deckchair (£5), picnic in Elizabethan splendour and, if you can, squeeze in a visit to the house itself—its Old Master collection is one of the finest in private hands.
July 27–31, adults £12, children £7 (

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