When researching accommodation for my recent Outlander blog trip to Fife I firstly needed to find somewhere in a convenient place for visiting all the filming locations on my list. I also decided on self catering as I wanted somewhere that felt like a home from home to really immerse myself in the area and get a feel for living as a local in one of the historical towns I was going to write about. I also needed somewhere quiet, with all mod cons so I could do my research and blogging in comfort and without disturbance.
Whilst browsing TripAdvisor I came across The Tanhouse Studio Holiday Apartment in Culross which looked perfect as it was situated in one of the villages used for filming, was very reasonably priced at £55 per night, I only needed to stay a minimum of 2 nights and as it had excellent reviews it seemed to tick all the boxes.
The little studio apartment is situated above a double garage next the owners' house which is one of the large, old properties in the heart of the village. My first impression of the flat was 'WOW' as it is totally my style in bright fresh white with simple contrasting blue coastal decor. Although small it feels surprisingly spacious and the three windows provide plenty of light and amazing views over Culross and the Firth of Forth and you can even see the Forth bridges in the distance.
The owners, Gail and Douglas, were very welcoming and although they live in the adjacent house the flat felt very private but they are close enough should you have any problems (which I didn't).
The finish on the apartment is to a very high standard and everything provided was of excellent quality, John Lewis mugs no less! After a long drive the little welcome basket was indeed very much appreciated as it meant I could enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit before heading out to the supermarket for proper supplies.
There is a small kitchen with all the cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery you need, a micro/oven, dishwasher fridge/freezer, kettle and toaster. There is also a handy seating area with table and chairs.
The Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon has taken on a whole new lease of popularity and growing international fandom since the TV series began broadcasting this year.
Much of the story takes place in the 18th century Highlands of Scotland and surrounds the adventures and romance of the two main characters, Jamie and Claire.
The filming of the show took place at multiple locations around Scotland with many scenes shot in the historical towns and castles of Fife. It may not have the mountains of the Highlands or Skye but Fife is one of the most important royal historical regions of Scotland and is still often referred to as the Kingdom of Fife.
From a Pictish Kingdom to Scotland's ancient capital, from the home of golf to the resting place of King Robert the Bruce, this area of the country is steeped in history. If you add in some colourful fishing villages, the only award-winning blue flag beaches in Scotland, the highest number of national attractions in the country and the fact it has been voted 'No 1 outdoor destination' by Scottish Natural Heritage for seven years in a row and you might wonder why this area is often overlooked in favour of a Highland roadtrip.
If you are a fan of Outlander you now have even more reason to visit (six more in fact) and explore some of the filming locations of the show.
Thanks to a contact from TayScreen I managed to get a list of the Fife locations where the filming of Outlander took place and decided to book myself a few days in the area to explore them all and compile a blog post with the details. My list included the towns of Falkland, Culross and Limekilns, and the castles of Balgonie and Aberdour. Quite by chance I also found some standing stones nearby Culross which I have included in my guide just as a point of interest and in case anyone fancies testing them out! So here is my guide to 6 places you must visit in Fife if you are a fan of Outlander.
Many fans will already be aware that Falkland was used for filming a 1940s Inverness which is quite ironic as many of the houses are preserved from the 17th and 18th century, some even older. With traditional pubs, shops and 28 listed buildings it is certainly a glimpse of times gone by (if you can block out the cars!).
The town is dominated by Falkland Palace which is well worth visiting so make sure you set aside an extra 1- 2 hours to explore the former country residence of the Stuart monarchs and it's unusual gardens. The guides in the Palace are very helpful and will provide you with lots of interesting stories about it's original use as a royal getaway to it's restoration and sometimes dark and turbulent past.
Outlander fans can recreate one of the first scenes of the show by standing at the Bruce fountain in the town centre and looking up to the window of Mrs Baird's B&B just as the ghost of Jamie did in the first episode. Mrs Baird's is in fact The Covenanter Hotel so you can go inside and enjoy a drink if you need a refreshment to quell all the excitement! Just along from the hotel you will find Fayre Earth which was used as Farrell's in the show, although it does look quite different on the outside in it's 21st century colours. Campbell's Coffee House in the show was previously a pharmacy. however after filming it has remained a coffee house and is situated just opposite the fountain.
If you are visiting the town make the most of your time here, take a walk around and look out for all the little details on the buildings including marriage lintels, stone carvings and original signs and get a real sense of historical Scotland.
I recommend half a day here if you want to explore the town, palace and enjoy a meal or drink without feeling rushed.
This week I visited the Royal Burgh of Culross which is full of the most characterful streets and cottages. It is situated in the south west of Fife on the edge of the Firth of Forth and is the most complete example in Scotland today of a Burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries.
I visited as part of my research for a blog on locations in Fife where the Outlander TV show was filmed and it easy to see why this quaint little town was chosen as a location from the 1740s.
I ended up taking so many photographs of the buildings, windows, doorways, plaques and scenery that I have decided to dedicate a photo blog to this scenic part of Scotland.
It is certainly a unique place to visit and if you can ignore the cars and wheelie bins it really does feel like you have been transported back in time without the need to even touch a standing stone, although there are some nearby if you still feel the need...
As we weave our way through the Glasgow city centre traffic towards the motorway, Graham, our driver/guide has managed to point out historic buildings of note, cover Glasgow's history from medieval times to shipbuilding in the 70s and even managed a few laughs. This is quite a feat and the sign of an experienced guide, a promising start to my first Scottish tour bus trip.
I had chosen to join a Rabbie's small group day tour exploring Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond National Park & Glengoyne Whisky Distillery. Tales of romantic Scottish figures including Rob Roy, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace while travelling through some stunning scenery sounded amazing enough, the promise of a wee dram at the end was all the convincing I needed that this was the tour for me! I was not alone as eight other sightseers of various ages and nationalities from countries as diverse as Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada and Sweden had joined me for this mini Scottish adventure.
Our first stop of the day was Stirling Castle and as we arrived the cloudy sky opened up and the rain began to fall. I felt a bit disappointed as the views from the Castle are some of my favourite and it was hard to make out the landscape beyond the drizzle. Graham reminded us that Scotland needs rain to keep it looking so lush and beautiful and while this is true I was still secretly hoping the sun would suddenly appear along with the views.
The Cowal Highland Gathering is billed as one of the biggest and most spectacular Highland Games in the world. Staged in the west coast Scottish town of Dunoon, flanked by elevated green hillsides and the busy waters of the Firth of Clyde, the setting is certainly a picturesque one.
As I joined the meandering crowd heading to the stadium we were met with 'greeters' high fiving people with giant foam hands. This reminded me of my time at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games when I was welcomed by cheery volunteers at every venue and was certainly a first for any Highland Games I've attended. Once in the stadium I made my way around the various stands selling food, gifts and clothing although I was a little disappointed that there wasn't a wider choice of Scottish products available.
Being a Highland Games pro I whisked out my trusty picnic blanket and joined the many spectators on the hillside overlooking the main arena. Thankfully the weather was kind and this was a perfectly pleasant place to enjoy the action. Many people even more prepared than me (or maybe just more pessimistic than me!) had brought tents to keep sheltered from any rain which thankfully never materialised.
Highland dancers, pipe bands, heavy athletics and wrestling were the main activities taking place in the arena below. Personally heavy athletics is my favourite element of any Highland Games and there were some impressive competitors taking part.
For fans of Highland dancing the world championships with the best competitors from around the globe was a real highlight and the Cowal Hill Race is another draw with runners taking part in one of the toughest 5k races in the country.
Many people travel to Scotland to view the beautiful scenery and there is no denying that it has some of the most stunning landscapes in the world. However, Scotland has much more to offer those looking for a memorable adventure, there are some things that you can't do anywhere else in the world. Here is my list of 10 things that you can only do in Scotland, just in case you need another reason or ten to visit...
1. Take the world's shortest commercial flight - The flight between the two Orkney Islands, Westray and Papa Westray takes a mere 47 seconds!
2. Bag a Munro - A Munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft. Climbing to the peak is known as 'Munro-bagging', the aim is to 'bag' them all (282 at last count).
3. Play at the world's oldest golf course - St Andrew's Old Course is the oldest golf course in the world with the game first played here as long ago as 1400.
4. Enjoy the view from the tallest, fully rotating free-standing structure in the world - at 127 metres high, The Glasgow Science Centre Tower provides panoramic views of up to 20 miles across the city of Glasgow.
If there is one area of Scotland renowned for it's love of country pursuits it is Perthshire. It is therefore no surprise that Scotland's leading equestrian event is held here. The Blair Castle International Horse Trials take place over several days with the lush green grounds of the Atholl Estate and the pretty white castle providing a very picturesque backdrop.
The Trials test the ability of the horses and riders in dressage, cross country and show jumping and those competing must be highly skilled in all three disciplines. The three part event has been compared to an equine triathlon and has evolved from a military event which required the horse and rider to parade with elegance, gallop cross country in battle and have the stamina to continue on demanding days. I attended for the first time this weekend which marked the 26th year of the event at Blair Castle.
I should make clear that I am in no way an expert in the techniques required to score points and win awards at an equine event like this, although I did learn that the winner is determined by the horse and rider combination with the lowest score. Even a novice like myself could still appreciate the dexterity of the riders and their steeds with participants ranging from Olympic medalists to amateurs competing for the first time, all keen to show off their skills in the sport.
With several arenas there was plenty going on and I enjoyed watching everything from a jousting demonstration to show jumping. The show jumping in particular was compelling to view and as each horse and rider approached a fence I found myself willing them over and joined in with the crowd clapping each successful jump.
Guest Post by Glen Moyer
Many thanks to Glen Moyer from the USA for providing this guest post about Monarch of the Glen Country. Glen was inspired to visit earlier this year after watching the TV show and went on to write a travel blog about his time exploring many beautiful parts of Scotland. I was lucky enough to meet Glen on his travels and I'm delighted that he has written this blog about the place that originally awakened his passion for Scotland. Even if you have never watched the show, this area is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the country and Glen has included many suggestions for making the most of your time here.
For fans of the BBC drama “Monarch of the Glen”, like me, no tour of Scotland is complete without a visit to “Glenbogle” and the surrounding “Monarch Country” in the Scottish Highlands. Of course Glenbogle is fictional, but Ardverikie, the house and estate where the drama was filmed on location for 7 ‘seasons’ from 2000 to 2005, is very real.
Ardverikie is the historical home of the Clan Macpherson but through various circumstances ownership passed to Sir John William Ramsden in 1867. A family company of his heirs continues to run the estate today.
This present day version of the house is the 3rd, begun in 1870 and completed in 1877 after fires destroyed the first two. Long before it served as a television studio and fictional home to the MacDonald clan, it very nearly became a royal residence. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited here in August 1847 and fancied the house but not the Highland weather (or the pesky midgies) and so later purchased Balmoral as a royal Scottish residence instead.
“Glenbogle” was originally created by Sir Compton Mackenzie in his 1941 novel “Monarch of the Glen”, on which the TV drama was loosely based. It was the show’s creator Michael Chaplin who selected Ardverikie Estate and the region around it to serve as Glenbogle House and the village of Glenbogle for the BBC.
While the TV drama concluded filming and last aired (excepting reruns) nearly a decade ago, the hit series still enjoys a loyal worldwide fan base so Ardeverike draws visitors year round. Unlike many stately homes in England, Ardverikie - the house and the whole of the estate – remains private and as such is not open for public tours. This will no doubt surprise some fans should they arrive unawares. Still there are ways for fans (“Boglies” as they call themselves) and non-fans alike to gain access…
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