Killing Eve: Is Barn Swallow a Real MI6 Pub?

‘Killing Eve’ Season 4 dives right into Villanelle and Eve’s separate quests to unmask The Twelve and eradicate the organization from its roots. As their plots progress, the women’s paths inevitably entangle again until they join forces to hunt down elusive men and women behind the intricate web of crime, mercenaries, and conspiracies. Meanwhile, Carolyn Martens— newly defected from the MI6— embarks on a similar venture of her own, hellbent on bringing down the people behind the death of her son, Kenny. As such, days of dangerous investigation across countries bring the three women to a small pub in London, Barn Swallow, known to be a frequent MI6 haunt.

Even though the narrative doesn’t end up lingering over the location, its association with MI6 and The Twelve invites easy curiosity, which might compel viewers to wonder about its basis in reality. SPOILERS AHEAD!

Barn Swallow: The Grosvenor and MI6 Pubs

Within the context of Barn Swallow’s recognizable reputation as an MI6 pub frequented by its agents and officials— the establishment holds nuanced relations to real life. Within the show, Barn Swallow’s close proximity to the MI6 headquarters highlights The Twelve’s audaciousness by employing the same pub as a frequent location for their regular meetings. Therefore, the establishment’s connection to the British Intelligence Agency remains a crucial aspect of its identity. Although there aren’t any reports of any clubs that are identical in real life, the secretive, MI6-exclusive bar provides a similar real-life alternative to the Barn Swallow.

In 2019, the now-former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service, Alex Younger, spoke about the MI6-exclusive club in Vauxhall and shared, “We [MI6 operative] can’t talk even to our closest friends about what we’re doing, and so, therefore, we need a culture within where we can do that with each other. And it’s why we have our own bar, for instance.” Younger naturally didn’t disclose any defining details about the bar, simply referring to it as “one of the most exclusive bars in London.”

As such, the concept of an MI6-centric pub that Barn Swallow introduced into the show’s narrative isn’t unrealistic and holds tangible connections to the culture of real-life British intelligence. Nonetheless, the exact depiction of the on-screen pub, open enough to the public to be frequented by an organization such as The Twelve, departs Barn Swallow from the bar Younger discussed. Consequently, the narrative renders Barn Swallow a fictional bar with mere inspirations in real life.

The Grosvenor Pub// Image Credit: The Grosvenor/ Facebook

Yet, despite The Barn Swallow Pub’s fictionality, fans can momentarily transport themselves to the pub featured in the fourth season of ‘Killing Eve’ by visiting the real-life filming location behind the establishment. London’s The Grosvenor Pub in Pimlico, the actual background for the show’s depiction of the Barn Swallow, presents a real-life alternative to the latter pub, sporting a similar interior and exterior as its on-screen counterpart.

Even so, where The Barn Swallow may base itself on The Grosvenor in terms of aesthetics, its narrative significance diverges notably from the real-life pub’s relevance. The Grosvenor Pub is known for its down-to-earth disposition, which prides itself on its tap cask ale, comfort meals, and roast dinners. As such, the pub holds no ties to the MI6 that the show’s Barn Swallow defines itself through. Thus, Barn Swallow ends up differing from both The Grosvenor and the real-life MI6 pub in separate ways, confirming its own fictionality.

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