Star Wars at Thirlmere / Derwentwater in the Lake District

23 Apr 2015, Posted by Colin Bell in Blog

See my latest project work at Holme Fell and Hodge Close Quarry

UPDATE 10TH December 2015

I think this will possibly be the last update prior to the film’s launch. Maybe I’ll try to do a full featured (and more structured) one when a digital version of the film is out next year.

Anyway, in this New Chinese Star Wars Trailer there’s a terrific aerial view from over Watendlath Tarn looking towards Keswick and Skiddaw. In a somewhat bizarre, and topical, twist, Keswick itself has been digitally flooded thus joining Derwent Water and Bassenthwaite. Not unlike scenes there this past weekend!

I’m grateful to Chris Chapmen for pointing this scene out to me.

watendlath skiddaw

A timely place to suggest that readers of this blog might consider a donation to the relief fund for the area.

For those readers not aware, news stories about the flooding can be found here:

News stories about the flooding:

Details of the appreal are here:

Cumbria Foundation

UPDATE 9TH December 2015

If you don’t fancy reading this blog (and who could blame you) Chris Chapman has helpfully put it all into a simple YouTube video! You can view that here: Star Wars in the Lake District – Youtube

UPDATE 9TH November 2015 to include location identification from the 3rd trailer and the TV Spot

I first wrote this blog because I noticed that one of the trailers contained scened from Thirlmere in the Lake District and, since it was an area that I knew well through my “Thirlmere: Paradise Lost?” project, I wanted to clear that up. However subsequent trailers have been released and so I’ve updated this blogpost to include a couple of more positive identifications of locations. It does mean that the blog post is not a little higgledy piggledy however be that as it may, I’m not rewriting the whole thing 🙂 Scroll down to see the original post.


First up the brand new TV Spot video, published 8th November contains a cracking view of Catbells & Maiden Moor from below Walla Crag!

For the sketched overlay I used although is also useful (I used that one in the Thirlmere ones below).

The distant fell not covered by the outline is Robinson I think, I hadn’t set the viewing point at the right altitude to get that into the sketched outline.

Secondly, a screenshot from the 3rd Official Trailer published on 19th October 2015. This has a couple of scenes from Derwentwater, the first is again showing Maiden Moor and Catbells however there is a lot of post production in this scene from what I can see. So I can only identify half of the scene. As an aside it does look like this was perhaps filmed from very close to Friars Crag.

SW MaidenMoor

Here’s a part overlay (I’ve made some of the text a little larger).

catbells maiden SW

From moments later in the same video this view of Barf,


I must confess that I hadn’t identified this scene however a blog reader Chris Chapman ( @trioptimum ) tipped me off. Again, here’s the overlay showing Barf, Lord’s Seat, Seat How and Dodd. There’s also a fair bit of post production additional mountains that I haven’t identified in the distance.


Original Blog below

Anyone that knows me will sense the irony that I would write any blog post about Star Wars, in fact most will be picking themselves up from the floor at the very thought of it. When the trailer for the latest Star Wars incarnation was released last week social media was awash with boyish excitement about the two minute trailer. I decided to tweet my excitement too! (read in reverse order obviously)sw

I tweeted this to the incredulous reaction of the masses who immediately denounced me with “you’re dead to me” responses. So I will try to make amends.

Fast forward a few days and I suddenly found myself studying the trailer like an obsessed fan. Constantly playing, pausing and rewinding looking for clues. Not clues as to the plot possibilities, although my youngest has already appraised me of the significance of the most minute details in the snippet. I was searching for clues of the location of one of the scenes. I saw a tweet last evening that one of the scenes was from the Lake District, a place obviously close to my heart. Furthermore this tweet stated that it was Thirlmere in the Lake District, which, as acquaintances will know, is a place I’m particularly familiar with given that I spent a large part of last year photographing there for my “Thirlmere – Paradise Lost?” project.

The scene is only a couple of seconds long and here are the best screenshots that show the view:

Screen shot 1

Screenshot 1


Which pans round to:


Screenshot 2

Screenshot 2


There seems to be some folks with a view that the scene was filmed at Derwentwater.

But as Terry Abraham, the maker of Life of a Mountain: Scafell Pike, pointed out on Twitter, it is in fact Thirlmere.

But something didn’t seem right to me. Birders might see a bird for a fleeting second and know whether or not a sighting was a particular rarity by its “jizz”. Honestly, that is nothing remotely rude at all. The “jizz” of a bird would probably be defined as being its overall impression, characteristics, shape, flying pattern, colouration and so on. The closest word would probably be ‘vibe’. When I looked at the shots above I certainly got the ‘jizz’ or ‘vibe’ of Thirlmere but something didn’t seem quite right.

The Twins of Thirlmere

There are two crags on Thirlmere which are incredibly similar. Wordsworth wrote in ‘The Waggoner’

” There doth she ken the awful form

Of Raven-crag–black as a storm–

Glimmering through the twilight pale;

And Ghimmer-crag, his tall twin brother,

Each peering forth to meet the other”

However there is no known hill called ‘Ghimmer crag’ and so the consensus is that this must have been another name for Fisher Crag.  William Green in his “The Tourist‘s New Guide to the Lake District” 1819 referred also to the same expression with regard to Raven Crag and Fisher Crag:

“The margin of the lake on the Dalehead side has its charms of wood
and water; and Fischer Crag, twin brother to Raven Crag, is no bad
object, when taken near the island called Buck’s Holm”

These were written before the creation of Thirlmere as we know it now but the references are still worthy, both Fisher crag and Raven crag have incredibly similar profiles from certain angles.

You may well ask, what is the point of these cultural references are? And you’d be right to ask. It is simply this, if the screenshots are verbatim of Thirlmere then the the scene must have been filmed looking south. Using the second image, Fisher crag in the background and Raven crag to the right with the viewpoint somewhere near to the dam.

SWClip 2 named

But this view doesn’t stack up, even taking into account the possible addition of CGI! Raven crag, as viewed from the dam has a mostly rocky face and there are no trees jutting out into the water in the shape of those at the tip of the largest X-Wing.

However, and finally here’s the point of the ‘twins’ reference, if we flip the image it makes much more sense. Raven crag and Fisher crag can swap places! Now we’re looking north towards Raven Crag, The Benn and with the distinctive (in my view) Lonscale fell in the background with its rounded tip.

SW Clip 1 original


This is the same photograph with a little bit of Linda Lyon’s photograph that includes Lonscale Fell superimposed. Since Linda wasn’t walking on water at the time there are of course some differences in the viewpoint. However the point is to show that the distant fell is Lonscale Fell and therefore the view is looking north.

SW Flipped with lonscale





So this is my view, I’m sure other views may differ but having spent over 55 sessions last year photographing this area with countless drives and walks along both sides of the water, I’m almost 100% certain that the above interpretation is correct.

In any case, I’ve written a blog post about Star Wars which, if nothing else, will make my son very happy!

The current “Thirlmere – Paradise Lost?” gallery can be found here.


A slight update to this with a couple of other points of clarity. I wouldn’t normally be interested in going into detail such as this but as I’ve been told that I’m fairly categorically wrong about this I thought I would at least try. As was suggested above, there is a view that the scene was shot from the dam end of Thirlmere. Indeed Terry Abraham has in fact been to the dam today and has provided the view from there with a fairly emphatic opinion that it shows the correct viewpoint of the snippet. With Terry’s permission, the view from the dam is here and it does show more than a passing resemblance to the screenshot (reproduced below it for ease of comparison. If the view was to be from or near to the dam, it would have to match up with the screenshot:

View from the dam. Terry Abraham

View from the dam. Terry Abraham


SWClip 2 named


The points of difference I would raise about this are (corresponding numbers to above):

  1. The shape of Raven Crag as viewed from the dam does not show anything like the steepness on its left side as per the screenshot 1.
  2. Where the horizon line juts out of Raven Crag is tree lined and not grass as per the video screenshot.
  3. The height of the trees in the foreground do not correspond to the screenshot 2
  4. Screenshot 1 shows a fell in the far distance. From the dam that fell would have to be Steel Fell which lies at the southern end of Thirlmere. Steel fell is, for want of a better description, a ‘hump’ when viewed from the north. It doesn’t appear to be visible in the view from the dam, or is at the very least, nowhere near as distinctive as in screenshot 1.

Of course these inconsistencies could be due to slightly differing viewpoints away from the dam but I don’t believe so.

I can’t reconstruct the viewpoint that I believe it to be for myself as it is from the water itself. However I would point to a couple of things supporting my view.

The shape of Lonscale Fell (as annotated above) is very distinctive when viewed from the south. You see it on the A591 and it has a tell tale bobble on the end of it just like the annotated version. I don’t have a photograph of it myself but have requested to include this photograph by Linda Lyon. Here’s a link to it whilst I await permission to include here. View of Thirlmere by Linda Lyon. Lonscale Fell is the snow-lined fell in the distance, the shape matches exactly with the annotated screenshot above.

The last things to point out are from this photograph of mine from the harvesting track across from Fisher Crag and Hawes How Island. It shows 3 things that correspond with the flipped screenshot below it. Obviously the viewpoint is from higher up so some perspective allowances need to be made.

  1. Unusual ‘trailing’ treeline at the top of Fisher crag
  2. Steepness of the drop on Fisher crag
  3. Grassy section just to the right of the steep drop (you would have to imagine this as viewed from lower down).






I wished I’d have remembered about this app before now! There are a couple of terrific websites that allow you to put in a location and it will sketch out the view from that location using height data. Furthermore it then overlays the names of the peaks. Its not a perfect tool but in my experience it is very good. I’ve used it in the past to help name distant fells in my photographs.

For this I used

So I put in the rough location on the water of Thirlmere that I believe to be the viewpoint using the map tool.


Then let it render the viewpoint from that location.

SW terrain profile

Then rotate and overlay onto the screen grab from the video:

SW Peakfinder Comp



The scene from the second trailer of Star Wars The Force Awakens is categorically shot at Thirlmere, looking north-ish from a position just south of Hawes How Island. The footage is then flipped for either artistic reasons (fighters flying left to right might be more pleasing to the eye) or in order to disguise the location of the shoot.



From the first teaser trailer there is a scene across Derwentwater looking towards Blencathra and Walla Crag from around Manesty Bay.

Overlaying the output from shows some post processing additional mountains (possibly from Skiddaw range) behind Blencathra.

Blencathra Walla Star Wars 2


See my latest project work at Holme Fell and Hodge Close Quarry

This post is adapted from…
  • linda lyon

    I have to agree with your findings , Colin. And worth all that effort !
    Either way their screen shot does no justice at all to Thirlmere!
    A photographer turned detective 🙂

    • Colin Bell

      Thanks Linda, and thanks also for the use of the photo featuring lonscale fell.

  • Paul Byrne

    Hi Colin, I think you are absolutely right! When Terry posted his photo yesterday the slope on Raven Crag concerned me also.Looking at your work Longscale Fell convinces me as it is so distinctive and nothing looking south along Thirlmere can possibly fit that view. Nice piece of detective work.

    • Colin Bell

      Cheer Paul, I agree those are the two key points. Love the peakfinder app, I’ve found it very useful in the past to identify some of the fells in photos. But in this case it allowed me to walk on water 🙂

  • Laure Latham

    Colin, I read about your blog this morning in Country Walking magazine and had to read all the details on your website. What an amazing landscape Sherlock Holmes you are! Loved reading this, a geek piece of nature love. Like you, can’t wait to see the movie but I also can’t wait to take my girls for a hike around Thirlmere to visualize the scene “in the flesh.” We should probably wear appropriate X fighter attire.

    • Colin Bell

      Thanks for commenting Laure. I wasn’t aware of any reference in the Country Walking magazine, I’ll have to take a look. As you will have seen from my website I’ve spent a lot of time around Thirlmere and have loved every minute of it. If I see any cosplay walkers around there I shall know who it is! 🙂

  • Daniel G

    Wow. Great work! I live in Cumbria, on the coast and often take my kids to Derwent Water and Thirlmere. If I can convince my 6-year-old that Storm Troopers were running around other than the usual ducks, he may show a little more interest.

  • Dave

    Great article Colin, thank you for settling much confusion in our family. After hearing about Derwentwater/Thirlmere locations we couldn’t match anything except Blencathra and that was tricky due to those post production hills added in! The kids will find those walks extra special now!

  • Paul

    Interesting blog which I enjoyed reading, Colin. Pretty conclusive stuff!

  • Ben Berry

    Awesome post. I’ve been googling trying to find out more info on the exact location and then got sent this.
    Thank you for your hard work. I am sure if you sent the Final Update, conclusion and P.S with the overlays to the press they would cover it.
    Thanks again,

    • Colin Bell

      Thanks Ben, I need to do an update re the latest trailer that features more views of Derwentwater!

  • Paul Scholefield

    Well done! Quite partial to a bit of Westmorland Tarkin or Blencathra Fodder. Not sure which 🙂

  • #starwars | The Force Awakens' Cumbria Connection - PHOTOFAYRE

    […] Check out Colin Bell’s brilliant article here.  Or check out this video: […]

    • Rufus Skelton

      My name is Rufus and I am 9 years old. I am using Star Wars as my year 4 project at school. I would like to know the grid reference for the viewing points you used over Derwent Water as I would like to walk to them for my project. Thank you.

      • Colin Bell

        Hi Rufus, I didn’t record the positions that I used to create the outline drawings however I’ll look to see if I can find the nearest points and send them to you. A couple of them were from the water but I’ll send the nearest ‘on land’ positions for you. I’ll try and get it done later today for you. It sounds a terrific project idea and I hope it goes well for you. Colin


    […] We probably should have realised this was being filmed here in 2014, but it was only when Colin Bell Photography released a blog about the background plates for the battle scenes being here … that we found out! You can also check out Chris Chapmans’ video which also shows the […]

  • Adrian

    Featured your brilliant post on our website! =)

    • Colin Bell

      thanks Adrian, I got the notification and was just checking it out. Much appreciated.

  • Nic Wharrier

    This is genius. I feel pretty fekkin fantastic that STAR WARS filmed scenes just a short drive from where I live.

  • SEAN

    Well researched piece … Very interesting read … Well done Colin, job well done !!!!

  • James T

    The unknown location at the end of Chris Chapman’s video MAY be Ullswater near Glenridding.

    • Colin Bell

      Thanks James, yes the general feeling is that it is Ullswater and probably Hallin Fell but I can’t find an exact match either on Google Street view or using the online tools. It is possible that the scene is modified and so will be hard to place for sure.

  • Naomi ST JOHN

    Hi Colin, thank you for such an interesting post. I am planning a star wars walk for my boys 8th birthday taking in all the sights of the film he is Sooo obsessed with. Its great to get them falling in love with walking in the lakes from a young age.

    Would u mind if I shared a link to your blog in my own published walk with others through the viewranger app?

    I am wondering if it would be legal to include other star wars imagery of the castle and x wing fighters from the stills that are on the web. Did you find this a problem?

    Thanks for your consideration,
    Naomi st john

    • Colin Bell

      Hi Naomi, thanks for the kind words. Sharing a link is fine, thank you very much. With regard to imagery I think its ok as part of a blog, you are not claiming ownership and it is allowed under the ‘fair use’ guidelines (just google “fair use copyright guidelines”).
      Have a great walk. Do you know the area? My only other advice is that the road between Grasmere and Keswick is closed until 13th May so make sure you factor that in if you need to. Thanks for the comment. Colin


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