All Creatures Great and Small filming locations: Herriot Country

    all creatures great and small filming locations
    The sweeping Swaledale valley. Credit: Tom Mackie/Awl Images

    Tina Walsh takes us on a gentle journey through Herriot Country in Yorkshire, and the All Creatures Great and Small filming locations, TV’s most heart-warming drama

    Words by Tina Walsh

    Herriot Country

    James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot, the beloved Yorkshire vet and best-selling author known to millions around the world, was born in Sunderland in northeast England in 1916. 

    He studied veterinary surgery in Glasgow, Scotland, before accepting a position in 1940 at a practice in the market town of Thirsk in North Yorkshire and so his future was set. 

    Barring a few stints in the Royal Air Force (he was discharged in 1943 after an operation), he would live in the Yorkshire town for the next 50 years, becoming a full partner in the veterinary surgery in 1949 and retiring at the end of the 1980s. In 1941, he married a local girl, Joan Catherine Anderson Danbury, and the couple had two children, James, who also became a vet, and Rosemary, who became a physician in general practice.

    all creatures great and small filming locations
    James and Helen Herriot in season 4 of the series. Photo credit: Entertainment and MASTERPIECE/Helen Williams

    Wight’s first book, If Only They Could Talk, published in 1970, was an instant hit. A humorous look at the trials and tribulations of a country vet, it was set in the 1930s in the fictional town of Darrowby. 

    He went on to write five more books, the foundation for which became known as Herriot Country, an informal descriptor for a huge expanse of rural North Yorkshire that encompasses some of the region’s most beautiful countryside and picturesque towns and villages. 

    herriot country
    Cleveland Way in the North York Moors. Credit: Colin Ward / Alamy

    The books sold more than 60 million copies worldwide. In 1978, James Herriot was catapulted to greater international fame when the BBC serialisation All Creatures Great and Small (there were also two cinema movies in 1975 and 1976) hit TV screens. 

    As a child, watching en famille every Sunday evening, I remember being enraptured by the cosy, rural scenes, and the friendly bickering between James and the two brothers he lived and worked with – his professional partner Siegfried Farnon and the errant Tristan. 

    all creatures great and small filming locations
    Vets James Herriot, Siegfried Farnon, and Richard Carmody in series 4. Photo credit: Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE/Helen Williams

    Three decades after the BBC series ended in 1990, Channel 5 recreated the format. The fourth series has recently aired, with plans for a fifth being floated. Thankfully, this latest adaptation has retained the warmth and gentleness of the original.

    Here, are some of the places in real-life Herriot Country that are used as All Creatures Great and Small filming locations and should stir some memories.

    All Creatures Great and Small filming locations

    All Creatures Great and Small filming locations
    A still from series 4 of All Creatures. Credit: Playground Entertainment and MASTERPIECE/Helen Williams

    Thirsk and Sutton Bank

    When Wight was asked about the origins of Darrowby,
    he said it was a mixture of Thirsk, Richmond, Leyburn, Middleham and “a chunk of imagination”. 

    A lively market town on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, Thirsk is known for its racecourse, which dates to the 1850s, its pretty cobbled market square and the Thirsk Museum – birthplace, in 1755, of Thomas Lord, founder of Lord’s Cricket Ground in London. 

    Thirsk is also where you’ll find the World of James Herriot: Wight’s former home and surgery turned award-winning visitor attraction, at 23 Kirkgate – the real-life Skeldale House. 

    all creatures great and small filming locations
    The World of James Herriot visitor attraction in Thirsk

    Here you can see the fully restored 1940s interiors, the car Herriot drove in the original series and a reproduction TV studio. Sutton Bank, a 1,000ft escarpment five miles east, was one of Wight’s favourite places. He described the views over the vales of York and Mowbray as the “finest in England”.


    One of the most famous All Creatures Great and Small filming locations, Grassington is used as the setting for Darrowby in the Channel 5 production. Grassington, in Wharfedale, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is a pretty, little market town with quaint cottages and meandering alleyways. The Devonshire Pub, now a boutique B&B and pub serving home-made food, was used as The Drovers Arms, the fictional watering hole where Tristan could be found regularly sinking a pint or five. 

    all creatures great and small filming locations
    The pretty village of Grassington doubles as the fictional town of Darrowby in the latest adaptation. Credit: Stephen Garnett

    Other local businesses that were used as All Creatures Great and Small filming locations include The Stripey Badger bookshop, which became G F Endleby grocers; and The Rustic Rabbit gift shop, transformed into Higgins Bakery. In spring, The Grass Woods Nature Reserve, a mile-and-a-half north of Grassington, has a wonderful show of bluebells and is the site of a fortress built by ancient Britons who fought against the Romans.

    Askrigg and Wensleydale

    Askrigg, a linear village in Wensleydale in Herriot Country with an ancient market cross and lovely Georgian and Victorian houses, was used as an All Creatures Great and Small filming location as the fictional Darrowby in the BBC production. One handsome house became Skeldale House and the King’s Arms pub the Drovers Arms. 

    The King’s Arms pub in Askrigg took on the role of The Drovers Arms in the BBC series. Credit: Peter J Hatcher/Alamy

    Wensleydale is famous for its cheese, first made by French Cistercian monks from the Roquefort region of France who had settled here. Crumbly and creamy, with a nutty aftertaste, it’s now made by commercial dairies throughout the UK but can only be called “Yorkshire Wensleydale” if it’s made here. You can buy it at the Wensleydale Creamery in the nearby village of Hawes.

    Herriot Country
    The spectacular road to the village of Boltby, through the North York Moors. Credit: K7 Photography / Alamy

    A must-see while you’re in the area is Aysgarth Falls, a triple-flight waterfall surrounded by woodland that cascades over a series of broad limestone steps. 

    Richmond and Swaledale

    Richmond, just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park in Herriot Country, is sometimes called the ‘Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales’ and is one of Britain’s most beautiful market towns, with fine Georgian architecture, riverside vistas and one of the country’s best preserved Norman castles, built from 1071 onwards. 

    herriot country
    View of Richmond, with its Norman castle towering over the town. Credit: Mike Kipling Photography/Alamy Stock Photo

    At the Richmondshire Museum on Ryders Wynd there’s a room containing one of the James Herriot sets from the BBC series. 

    Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal, built in 1788, is the UK’s oldest (and possibly smallest) working theatre in its original form and has been beautifully restored. Swaledale, one of the Yorkshire Dales’ most northerly dales, is just a short drive from the town. 

    Wild and dramatic, it has some of the national park’s most unspoiled scenery, while many of its villages and hamlets still carry the names given to them by Viking farmers who settled here more than a thousand years ago. Marrick, for example, is a corruption of Marr – rigg, meaning ‘horse ridge’.

    To find out more about Herriot Country, visit

    Read the full feature in our April/May 2024 issue of Discover Britain, available to buy from 1 March here. 

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