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The Visitor Centre today is ... ITV's Emmerdale Village Studio Tour

I visit the Yorkshire Dales to go behind the scenes of one of British TV's longest running soap operas

Emmerdale TV sopa title in front a several cottages from the show, roadsigns and countryside

Brand visitor experiences come in all shapes and sizes. I headed for the Yorkshire Dales, just outside Leeds, in the UK, to see what broadcasting giant ITV would have install for me when I joined a tour of the set of their popular soap opera Emmerdale.

I might not be an avid soap fan, but even I've watched Emmerdale and know many of the characters and storylines over the years. Originally scheduled to run for just 13 weeks, the show has been running for over 50 years and nearly 10,000 episodes have covered life, love and death in this not so sleepy village.

I wanted to see what the brand's reach would be, who they would attract to the tour and what, if any, advocacy their experience created, especially in those of us that are more of a casual watcher rather than a super fan.

The brand history

ITV is one of the world's biggest independent producers, broadcasters and streamers, consisting of ITV Studios and Media & Entertainment (M&E). The brand owns, creates and distributes content both in the UK and globally, on advertising funded channels, covering a wide range of genres. ITV reported overall revenue in 2022 for the ITV Studios arm of the business as £2,096m, with £2,249m in combined revenue from the M&E division.

ITV have invested in Studio tours over the years. I remember visiting the Granada Studios Tour in Manchester, England which operated from 1988 to 1999, which attracted over 5 million visitors during that period. The brand offered a Coronation Street tour from 2014, attracting 420,000 visitors a year. This was reimagined and relaunched in 2023 as The Coronation Street Experience with a new visitor centre, exhibition and street tour.

“Having this kind of exhibition floor gives us the chance to constantly update and change things alongside the programme’s on air stories, once a storyline has played out on your TV screen.” (Neil Currie, Guest Experience Manager at Coronation Street: The Tour, speaking to The Manc, 2023)
Coronation Street Experience - Image Secret Manchester 2023


"Emmerdale," originally titled "Emmerdale Farm," is a British soap opera that has been broadcast on ITV since 1972. The show was created by Kevin Laffan and has become one of the longest-running and most beloved soap operas in the United Kingdom.

Original cast members of Emmerdale Farm- Image Telegraph & Argus 2021

Emmerdale has always been filmed at their Yorkshire Studios and has been shown in all regions of ITV and beyond.

Fun Fact - A soap opera is so called as early TV and radio dramas were sponsored by soap manufacturers.

Emmerdale Farm started out as a daytime serial, focusing on the lives of the farming community in the fictional village of Beckindale. The early years primarily revolved around the Sugden family, who were farmers at the centre of the storyline. Over time, the show expanded its focus to include other families and characters in the village. In 1978 the soap moved to a prime time evening slot and grew in popularity.

The famous plane crash episode - Image Entertainment Weekly

In 1989, the show underwent a significant change when it was rebranded as "Emmerdale" with producer Sir Phil Redmond at the helm. The 1990s saw various dramatic storylines, including the plane crash in 1993, which became one of the most memorable and iconic moments in the show's history, drawing over 18 million viewers.

Emmerdale set 1998 - Image BBC

Originally shot in the working village of Esholt, in amongst the local community, the show's popularity soared and bus loads of visitors descended on the village each week. From 1998 the show moved to a purpose built set with tours at weekends when filming is mostly not taking place.

The 2000s brought more modern and diverse storylines, addressing social issues and introducing new characters.

What started as a cosy, fireside daytime drama, is now filmed in high definition and has turned into a show filled with countless steamy affairs, multiple murders, a sprinkling of kidnappings, explosions, crashes, births, marriages, funerals and more. But the show's real strength is that it can tackle topics such as domestic violence, suicide, drug taking, depression, infertility, dementia, cancer, disability and more, yet still deliver humour and familiar characters that the viewing public invest in and take to their hearts.

The show has spawned various spin offs over the years including books, tv specials and merchandise. The show has global reach too. Emmerdale is the most-watched daytime non-news programme in Sweden and Finland, attracting up to 250,000 viewers per episode. Viewers can catch the soap in Australia and New Zealand and the US too, via broadcast and streaming services.

Emmerdale has received numerous awards for its storytelling, performances, and portrayals of social issue. It has won several British Soap Awards and National Television Awards over the years, including BAFTA TV awards for Best Soap.

Even royalty has praised the programme. For the show's 50th anniversary in October 2022, the then Prince of Wales (before he became King Charles III), recorded a special message, broadcast at the National Television Awards, congratulating the team on their anniversary and on their sustainability efforts both on and off screen. The King, as he is now, went on to reflect on the show's importance in showcasing issues of rural life and challenges to farming, the environment and personal wellbeing in rural communities.

As of 2024, Emmerdale generally attracts an average of 4.6 million viewers per episode and is the UK's second most watched soap opera after Coronation Street.

The Visitor Experience

The Emmerdale Village Tour takes visitors around the live working TV set, allowing guests to see the exteriors of buildings in dramatic Yorkshire countryside.

I was not expecting my tour to start in a pub car park. The Emmerdale Village Tour has guests arrive at the New Inn on Eccup Lane in Eccup, Leeds and buses them into a secure filming area. The village set, as it stands today, was purpose built in the grounds of the 18th century stately home Harewood House, after the programme’s former location became so clogged with visitors that filming scenes became impossible. Today, the interior scenes are mainly filmed in a studio in Leeds. Tours on site run from March to around Christmas on scheduled weekends.

a white bus in a car park ready to take guests on the emmerdale village tour

Just a small sign and a waiting coach signifies we are in the right spot. I am sure the pub benefits immensely from the added tourism. It was certainly packed on our visit and seemed to be doing a roaring trade, though we were definitely a captive market, as there is nothing else for miles. My other half spent over three hours inside while I was away on the tour. It was filled with locals and other tour guests.

black swing sign oustide a pub telling everyone that this is the emmerdale tour pick up point

This rather inauspicious beginning has guests welcomed by hosts with clipboards and the obligatory yellow high vis jackets. Once I am checked off their list, I board the bus and chat with fellow visitors, until a tour guide arrives to welcome us. We are whisked the ten minutes or so along country roads to the secure zone. My fellow tour mates were mainly couples and some knew even less about the show than me, with several others avid, older fans.

Once we disembark we are given half an hour to use the bathroom and visit the shop and wander round the guest entrance. There are no toilet facilities once you are down in the village, which for a tour lasting 90 minutes is tricky, especially for those that require bathrooms for medical reasons.

The toilets are in portakabins and the entrance consists of a marquee with a few cut outs of famous characters. Truly underwhelming, and such a missed opportunity. This is certainly not a great start and more money should be spent on providing better and more permanent facilities for the many guests the attraction receives.

Most guests head for the shop, which uses the interior of a building used in the show, the outward bound centre called Hawksford Outdoor Pursuits (HOP). Getting you to buy before you visit is always a slightly strange concept, as whatever you purchase you have to carry round the whole walking tour.

wooden lodge exterior of the HOP outward bound centre in TV show emmerdale, with a metal porch and duests milling around the gravel area outside

The shop is very small and got quite congested. On offer is the standard fayre, mugs, key rings, tea towels, coasters, books and jute tote bags branded for David's village shop, the on set store of popular long running character David Metcalfe, who left the series in December 2023.

I'll admit that even I succumbed to a bag, though I have no idea why!

Even in such a small space they have actual set props, which visitors bumped into.

The exterior sets here show the attention to detail in the filming. Everything has to look as authentic as possible.

We did pass some construction, which I assumed was a new visitor centre to cater for the increased guest numbers. Sadly I was told it is in fact for the crew. A real wasted opportunity to create a museum and exhibition space that would have enhanced the tour experience no end.

The rest of the tour is now fully guided and video is prohibited once we are in the village, a half mile walk away. This tour is definitely not suitable for those with mobility needs, as you will be on your feet for nearly 2 hours and there are cobbles, grass and steps to negotiate. I did see some guests with disability badges parking at the visitor centre entrance. They do offer signed tours but not for every tour and there is nothing to touch here, so those with sight loss will be at a disadvantage.

The village set, completed in 1998, took just five months to build and is the size of more than eight football pitches. You walk past fields along roads used in the show with our guides pointing out various places of interest before everyone gets their first real photo opportunity, the Emmerdale village sign. Our tour guide Chloe was excellent, a mix of information and fun. The crew film from Monday to Friday and we are all encouraged to stick to the path and not touch anything, so the set remains as it was for filming the following week. Chloe did point out that if guests did need a seat then she could direct them to a suitable bench. She told us about some of the biggest storylines, the standout characters and even explained how the crew maintain continuity and how the whole set was constructed.

Allowing everyone time to take selfies certainly eats into the experience. You have to be patient, though it does break up the walk.

The show films 6 weeks in advance. Attention to detail and continuity even extends a full time gardener ensuring the right flowers bloom for filming.

Exterior sets of the cottages in the fictional village of Emmerdale

The cottages and houses are constructed from Yorkshire stone, surrounded by mature gardens with traditional dry stone walls and are extremely pretty in their own right.

First stop is Mulberry Cottage, the current home of character Laurel Thomas, though many famous faces have resided there. The popular character, Ashley Thomas, a vicar, lived there for many years and his exit storyline saw the soap tackle the devastation of his early onset vascular dementia diagnosis, working with the Alzheimer’s Society to ensure the storyline was represented as accurately as possible.

Cameras ready for the original Emmerdale sign on the wall.

Next up is The Grange, the village Bed & Breakfast which has been run by many of the fictional village residents over the years.

Then we headed to the café, that has witnessed a fictional explosion as well as many an argument over a cup of coffee.

The small details that could go missed when watching the show are apparent here, such as the post box with its collection timings and the village news and posters displayed in front of the store.

Next we arrive at the legendary Woolpack pub, scene of many a disagreement and disaster. It was struck by fallen debris in the infamous plane crash in 1993, hit by lightning in a storm in 2003 and was the scene of a siege in 2013. More recently it was blown up as part of an insurance fraud in 2021.

Guests can pay extra to have a staff photographer take their photo outside the pub, which seemed a total waste of money, considering all but one of the tour guests took up the offer. The rest of us just swapped mobiles and took shots of each other.

ITV utilises integrated commercial revenue streams such as revenue from product placement and has deals with several big brands. For example, the fictional Woolpack now stocks Heineken 0.0 Draught (alcohol‑free beer) on tap.

Fun Fact - The beer you see cast members drinking at The Woolpack on TV is 100% real. 20 gallons is delivered to the set each week.

Even if you're not a fan of the show, the buildings themselves are rather pretty.

Next up is the Barton & Dingle garage currently owned by local hardman Cain Dingle, filled with automotive paraphernalia.

We pass what was David's shop before arriving at the village church, the only set we could actually walk through.

During the construction of the purpose-built set, part of a local cemetery was cleared to make room for apartments. The chairman of the borough council heard about the Emmerdale set and offered the team the headstones for free.

As the headstones were mixed in with fictional character headstones, it felt a little sacrilegious to see people taking selfies with them.

Two of the buildings have live sets inside, which was the only time we got to view any interiors, though as it was a live set, we could only peer inside.

And then we walked back up the hill to the pick up point and were eventually returned to the pub.


It is worth mentioning, and Chloe our guide did touch on this, that Emmerdale studios have installed a raft of sustainability initiatives.

Speaking to the press in 2022, Executive Producer Jane Hudson detailed the lengths the production company are going to, to protect the stunning Yorkshire landscape where the soap is filmed. Low Energy Lighting infrastructure and lights have yielded a 80‑90% energy efficiency improvement.

The show even features a character, Dr Liam, who set up an allotment to tackle his depression following his on screen daughter's death. But this is not a prop. The allotment is real, tended by Lisa Knite and Jo Walker, who met during a gardening course at the Royal Horticultural Society.

Gardeners Jo Walker, left, and Lisa Knite, right, with actor Jonny McPherson who plays Dr Liam in Emmerdale - Image-YorkshireEveningPost,July2022
"What's really key for us is that the one area you won't see destroyed is our allotment, which was part of our soap crossover environmental initiative. In that allotment, we grow produce and we donate the produce to charities in our area to use in their kitchens or to hand out to families. The produce is still growing and it's still going to be harvested!" (Jane Hudson, ITV, speaking to the Radio Times, 2022)

The Emmerdale allotment is part of a joint initiative with British TV shows Casualty, Coronation Street, Doctors, EastEnders, Holby City and Hollyoaks, who have all collaborated to highlight the issue of climate change.

On screen, background props include an electric van, recycling bins and they don't even use plastic straws in the pub or disposable cups in the café. Even their coffee grounds are collected and sent to a local allotment.

Phil Holdgate, Emmerdale’s Project Manager, who is part of the ITV ‘Green Team’ explained, "We still have a long way to go but we’re certainly moving in the right direction and the Emmerdale team are committed to sustainability and reducing our impact on the planet, as well hopefully setting an example to others who want to do the same."

Star Tours

Since I visited the brand have added exclusive Star Tours meet and greets, where guests can pay extra for the opportunity to meet a surprise member of the Emmerdale cast. This extra level of tour would give the fan a much needed added layer of experience.

Emmerdale's Jay Kontzle with Star Tours guest - Leeds Live 2023
“Our guests tell us they want to get as close to the shows as possible, they also say that meeting the cast is one of their all time bucket list wishes. It’s genuinely the best fun to see the surprise and excitement when our visitors come face to face with one of their favourite cast members on the actual set where they work.” (Neil Curry, guest experience manager, Continuum Attractions)

Emmerdale Studio Tour

From 2016 until 2019, the brand did operate the Emmerdale Studio Experience, a 1,300m² (14,000 sq ft) attraction housed inside ITV’s Burley Road Studios in Leeds city centre, where the soap was originally filmed. This 90 minute tour offered replicas of the original sets with interactive elements, a café and shop, plus behind the scenes activities to do with editing, costumes, make up, set design and stunts. Tours ran 7 days a week and the experience was developed by Continuum Attractions, the team behind the Emmerdale Village tour.

The Emmerdale Studio Tour in 2016 - Image Lets Go Out
Guests enjoying the Emmerdale Studio Tour in 2018 - Image Northern Soul

Visitor numbers were predicted to hit 150,000 guests a year, and the experience followed the success of the first Coronation Street Tour, which attracted more than 850,000 visitors and generated over £60m for Manchester’s economy.

Guests were encouraged, and even transported at times, from the Emmerdale Studio Tour to the Emmerdale Village Tour. With tickets for the studio tour around £21, and entrance to the Village at £38, that was quite an expensive day out.

In conclusion

This tour is really aimed at the Emmerdale fan and probably a complete waste for those not interested in the soap. At £35 per person (which has increased to £38 in 2024) for the standard tour and £55 for the Star Tours experience, this visitor experience is not cheap and I felt there were areas that were lacking in terms of value for money and parts that were a missed opportunity for added brand engagement. Considering the Warner Brothers Harry Potter Tour in Leavesden is £53.30 currently and offers a much deeper and longer immersive experience, then the ticket price for the Emmerdale Village Tour seems overpriced.

The tour guide Chloe was friendly and informative without overloading us with content. You never felt rushed and had plenty of photo opportunities. It did take nearly 3.5 hours to complete what was actually supposed to be a 90 minute tour, mostly due to waiting on the coach transport before and after the guided tour. The open countryside location would be a challenge in colder and wetter times, but that goes for the cast and crew, so I don't think guests should complain. The lack of bathrooms en route round the village could be a barrier to those that require these facilities for medical reasons.

There is enough interest and space to create a proper welcome centre, with an archive, a welcome film and some form of exhibition. This would enhance what is essentially a wander round some nice buildings, without really getting any sense that this is in fact a working TV set. Moving the retail experience to after the tour would also give guests more time to browse and purchase.

Considering the brand did offer a Studio Tour experience until the pandemic, maybe this could be revived, or even moved in some small part to the village location, to give visitors more bang for their buck.

In comparison, in 2023 ITV opened their Coronation Street tour, which, for £35, does include a café, cinema and visitor centre with the chance to see iconic props, costumes and sets from the history of the longest running soap opera in the world.

As for advocacy, I'm not really their target market, but many on the tour seemed genuinely thrilled to be there. I just wish there was a bit more for those visitors to interact with.

How long was the visit?

I was there for nearly 3.5 hours, though the guided walking tour lasted 90 minutes. Be warned if you, like some guests, arrange transport to collect you after your tour, they might have a long wait. We did see guests trying to rearrange taxis and ongoing journeys.

How much are tickets?

I paid for my own ticket and this was not part of any advertising.

Adult tickets are now £38 each Star Tour tickets are £55 each

Opening times

It's always worth checking with the venue for their current tour times, as they can vary.

When I visited the experience was only being held on designated weekends.


Where we stayed:

We were on a 3 day Easter weekend road trip through Yorkshire and the Dales and stayed in Harrogate at the Crowne Plaza Harrogate, IHG Hotel for one night only.

The Emmerdale Village Tour was only a 20 minute drive away.

Getting here:

The Emmerdale Village Tour currently starts at The New Inn in Eccup, Eccup Lane, Leeds LS16 8AU England. Parking is available in the pub grounds. The start of the tour is not served by local public transport.

What else is there to see close by:

Leeds has a wealth of attractions for all tastes.

The Royal Armouries in the city centre, houses the national collection of arms and armour in a huge museum, and entrance is free.

Harewood House, on whose land the Emmerdale Village set is located, is well worth a visit. Set in acres of lush Yorkshire countryside, the 18th Century mansion houses one of the finest art collections in Britain, and is also home to a flock of Humboldt penguins. 

The Leeds Corn Exchange is home to a wealth of independent retailers in a stunning Grade 1 listed Italianate style building from 1863.

And why not get out of the city and take a trip to the stunning Yorkshire Dales Country Park, home of castles, villages, pubs, walks, waterfalls, caves, and much more besides.

Visited: April 2023

Photographs: ©Julie White unless noted otherwise

Disclaimer - The views and opinions expressed are solely my own. I paid for the tours in full and any comments reflect my personal experiences on that day. Please visit and garner your own thoughts and feel free to research the brand and the visitor centre in question.

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