The Witches Hotel

The Headland was the iconic location of the 1990 film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s ‘The Witches’, renamed ‘Hotel Excelsior’ for the film.

The Witches Book

The children's novel, The Witches, was originally written by Roald Dahl and published in 1983. It was illustrated by Quentin Blake who famously contributed to many of the author’s books. The story is partly set in Norway and partly in the United Kingdom, focusing on the experiences of a young boy and his Norwegian grandmother in a world where child-hating evil witches secretly exist.

The Witches Movie

In 1990, the film adaptation of The Witches was released. It was created by Jim Henson Productions and directed by Nicolas Roeg. Parts of it were filmed at The Headland in Newquay, Cornwall, and the cast and crew was in residence whilst filming.

Angelica Houston starred as the Grand High Witch, and at that time, her boyfriend was Jack Nicholson. Enormous bouquets of roses would be delivered for her, and the girls on the switchboard would become very excited when he telephoned to speak to her, as there were no mobiles then.

Rowan Atkinson played the hotel manager, and he is very like Mr Bean in real life – rather eccentric. On one occasion he ran a bath and went to bed without turning the taps off. The flood reached the ground floor from his second-floor bedroom and all the equipment (photocopier, electric typewriters etc) in the film’s production office in the first-floor bedroom was written off. When the porter first knocked on Mr Atkinson’s door he was told to “go away, I am asleep”.

The Grandma in the Witches movie (‘Helga’) was played by a Swedish actress called Mai Zetterling, and the little boy ‘Luke’ was Jasen Fisher, an American actor who also starred in Hook and Parenthood.

Rooms 223, 227 and 205 were used for some of the bedroom scenes. The pram pushed towards the cliff edge was the hotel owners’ own family pram which had been used for their children Veryan, Morwenna and George.

The ballroom scene was filmed in the studios, the special effects of the witch combusting were deemed a bit dangerous. The mice were about the size of Spaniel dogs; they had to be large to fit in all the electronic equipment to make them work, this was before the days of computer animation.

Thousands of guests from all around the world visit The Headland having seen the film, and many wide-eyed children still look around for the mice.

Although it was released 30 years ago, The Witches movie is still popular today. Despite a few spooky scenes, it’s rated PG and a movie for all the family. You can rent or buy it on Prime Video – keep your eyes peeled for The Headland!