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Wednesday April 17th 2024

Dragonheart| 1996

Dragonheart film location: Cachtice Castle, Cachtice, Slovakia
Dragonheart film location: Bowen teaches young Einon swordfighting: Cachtice Hrad, Slovakia | Photograph: iStockphoto / PHB

Rob Cohen’s period fantasy adventure about the last (apparently Scottish) dragon is set in 10th century England, but was filmed around Slovakia in central Europe, particularly to the east of the country in the the beautiful landscapes of the Slovak Paradise National Forest.

The castle ruins in which Bowen (Dennis Quaid) teaches swordsmanship to the young Einon (Lee Oakes) in the opening scenes, is Cachtice Hrad (Cachtice Castle), once home to the notorious Erzsebet Bathory. The legendary Bloody Countess, who supposedly bathed in the blood of virgins to preserve her youth, was played by Ingrid Pitt in Hammer's wildly mythologised 1971 Countess Dracula.

The crumbling towers can be found above the town of Cachtice, about 50 miles northeast of the capital, Bratislava.

Dragonheart film location: Strecno Castle, Slovakia
Dragonheart film location: Einon’s rebuilt castle: Strecno Castle, Slovakia | Photograph: flickr / TJ Suresh

The rebuilt stronghold of the grown King Einon (David Thewlis), with its wooden entrance bridge, can be found a further 60 miles northeast. It’s Hrad Strecno (Strecno Castle), towering over the River Vah.

The other locations can be found in the east, in the Slovak Paradise National Forest, where the medieval village set was built near the medieval town of Levoca.

Don’t try to find the waterfall behind which Draco’s cave is found. This was built purely for the film, with an impressive 800,000 gallons of water constantly recycled by 16 industrial pumps.

Among the sights you can find is the clifftop atop which Draco’s fiery breath helps Bowen roast the alfresco feast, which is one of the park’s most famous landmarks. Tomasovsky Vyhlad is a spectacular overlook, which you can reach by way of a tourist trail from the village of Spisske Tomasovce.

About ten miles east is Dreveník, a National Natural Reserve just west of the village of Hodkovce, which provided the jagged cliffs overlooking the village, where Draco puts on a bit of a fire-breathing show as part of the scam to terrorise the locals into employing Bowen as a dragonslayer.

Dragonheart film location: Spis Castle, Slovakia
Dragonheart film location: ‘Avalon’: Spis Castle, Slovakia | Photograph: iStockphoto / Visual Communications

And immediately to the north of the cliffs stands Spissky Hrad (Spis Castle), one of the largest castles in Europe, overlooking the protected ancient town of Spisska Podhradie, and set against the backdrop of the Tatra Mountains. This was transformed in ‘Avalon’, where Bowen gets encouragement from the spirit of King Arthur.

The voice of the legendary king unmistakably belongs to John Gielgud, who previously worked with director Rob Cohen on the bizarro – but little seen – 1984 comedy Scandalous.