A new Line of Duty location tour gives fans of the hugely popular police drama the chance to view Belfast in a different light
A chance to walk in the footsteps of Ted ‘like the battle’ Hastings? I signed up to the first Line of Duty Experience faster than coming up the Lagan in a bubble.
Created by Hastings Hotels and McComb’s Coach Travel, the tour, the first of its kind, showcases 12 of the filming locations from the hit BBC drama.
After a two-course lunch in the Grand Central Hotel’s Grand Café – well, you need sustenance if you have a busy afternoon reminiscing about nicking bent coppers, it’s onto a McCoombs coach for the tour to begin, not forgetting to bring your special Hastings’ Line of Duty rubber duck, tattooed with several of Northern Ireland’s best known and much-loved sayings, along.
My Line of Duty loving companion – my mother, who would prove a wilful opponent if questioned by Ted Hastings – and me were on before you could say ‘OCG.’
The first stop is the lorry park where, in series six, bent copper Ryan Pilkington met his end after that particularly tense standoff with DI Kate Fleming.
“The wee scumbag,” said a lady beside us.
“I’m sure his mummy loved him,” said her companion amiably.
After viewing the venue of Kingsgate Printing Services – the organised crime group’s HQ in series five which Terry Boyle can view from his flat – the group headed to Pelbury House, aka Belfast’s Central Library.
The headquarters of the Central Police force, it’s best known for senior officers standing on its steps and swearing blindly that there’s absolutely no corruption within the organisation. A swathe of selfie sticks were used by tour guests to maximise this great photo opportunity.
Guide Paul was friendly and knowledgeable, sharing plenty of Line of Duty facts as we travelled to each location – Kate and Steve having the same radio call signs as The Professionals’ Bodie and Doyle, for example – which aided to the tour’s enjoyment, particularly for the superfans on board. Those with a soft spot for Matthew ‘Dot’ Cottan will be surprised at what he could have been called…
All the while, the show’s theme tune was piped through the coach, taking many attendees no doubt back to Sunday evenings and frequent ‘Mother of God’ moments.
Paul quizzed attendees on the show and someone (me) tried very hard not to shout out the answers… even if they were sometimes wrong (apologies to our Line of Duty expert, Maureen Coleman).
Passing through North Belfast, we saw the grey metal gates of the Dominican College, Fortwilliam, used as part of the location of Brentiss Prison, from which prisoner DCI Jo Davidson is escorted.
On to Sunningdale Park for the location for Hickey’s Bookmakers in the opening episode of series six. From the corner of her eye, Jo, while speeding past en route to an arrest, thought a robbery was taking place on the side street and forced her team to stop to investigate. Another picture-perfect moment.
Our next stop was under the M3 bridge in Corporation Street, the location of the ambush of the prison van transporting solicitor Jimmy Lakeland to witness protection.
A location I pass twice a day on the way to the Belfast Telegraph office has taken on a new, dramatic significance. Fans will remember the shoot-out that led to the death of an officer, and the sniper, positioned in a window above the van, targeting Steve, who was travelling with Lakeland, whenever he showed his face.
It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, a graffitied underpass would be where you would want to take a selfie but this iconic location, running under Victoria Street, is where Steve and Kate had secret rendezvous (even Ted turned up in series six) so a snap was vital. One for the album.
We learned that the BT Tower was used for interior AC12 scenes and of course, the importance of the Invest NI building for the anti-corruption department.
Then it’s back to the Grand Central, where from the Observatory – Ireland’s tallest cocktail bar – we enjoyed an AC12 cocktail or Wee Donkey mocktail (now we’re sucking diesel!), taking pride in conducting ourselves to the letter of the law at all times.
“Is this where Ted Hastings will join us?” asked one hopeful participant.
Alas no but looking out on the city from the 23rd floor, you could almost pretend you were Ted in AC12 HQ, looking down from on high as his next interviewee comes into reception, perhaps unused to Hastings’s unique line of questioning.
This is a Line of Duty location tour, but the added nuggets of information – and others created in Northern Ireland – enhanced the enjoyment of the approximate two-hour coach trip.
The tour costs £49 per person and can be booked online at www.mccombscoaches.com