If you’re the kind of travelling film and TV buff who can’t resist shouting, ‘I’ve been there!’ at the TV, this new experience in Wales might be just what The Doctor ordered.
Doctor Who has been a staple of British television for decades. After a 16-year hiatus, the show was rebooted in 2005 and filming moved to Cardiff, Wales. The Welsh capital, famous for its many castles and palaces, welcomes thousands of visitors every year, many of them on the lookout for filming locations, Daleks, sonic screwdrivers and the TARDIS.
It’s the show’s popularity – as well as requests to start Doctor Who-themed tours – that inspired Eugene Fogarty, founder of Fogo’s Free Tours, to showcase Cardiff through the extraterrestrial lens of the long-running show.
‘There was some major filming going on in two prominent locations in July and August, so that’s been part of the tour in recent weeks. There’s a bit of a buzz around town when you realise what they’re doing,’ Eugene says.
Since devising the excursion three years ago when he watched the entire revamped series again during lockdown, he has run more than 1000 tours in Cardiff and Swansea, another Welsh city about an hour away.
‘There are too many locations to fit into one tour, so I’ve mapped out a route of the most important places and took it from there,’ explains Eugene. To ensure the tours are up to date, the guide keeps an eye out for new filming locations.
The tour, which attracts fans worldwide, starts in Alexandra Gardens at the heart of Cardiff’s Civic Centre. It then winds through the city past the Temple of Peace, the Senedd Welsh Parliament building and Principality Stadium before concluding at the city’s waterfront.
‘Everywhere that’s relevant in the city – historically, culturally and architecturally – features in the show,’ Eugene explains. ‘On the streets, in the suburbs, in the city centre, in the major buildings around town and in the Cardiff Bay area.’
Occasionally, tours coincide with ongoing film shoots, so there’s a chance travellers will catch a glimpse of renowned actors in action. ‘I tell visitors to look out for certain locations that will feature in the next series, and we try to get clues of what they’re filming based on what the actors are wearing. It’s always exciting for avid fans to get a glimpse of things before the episodes are aired.’
People on the tour also visit locations they didn’t even know existed in real life, including the entrance to the iconic hidden trap and go searching for the Doctor Who prop concealed in the second oldest building in the city.
Intrepid explorers can travel through time and take the niche tour for themselves as part of the new Best of Britain trip, exploring landmarks, cities and culture, including the legacy of the Doctor halfway through the twelve-day experience.
Eugene says this tour is not just for fans. By connecting travellers to this experience, he hopes to reveal a new side to a much-loved city and franchise. This tour combines the show’s fascinating roots in Cardiff and the city’s historical background, making it ideal for groups with both Whovians and non-Whovians, who can bond over immersing themselves in this distinctive experience.
‘People who don’t dabble or watch every episode gain insight into how a TV show is made and learn about Cardiff in a slightly different context. We walk past all the major landmarks of the city, so there’s a good balance for everybody, regardless of their knowledge of the show.’
‘[Travellers] often leave saying they have to watch the whole series again with a different perspective on the filming locations, and it’s made their trips to Wales even better, and that’s very rewarding.’