This post is part of a paid partnership with Film on Forth, to try out their filming location itineraries and write about my experience.
I vividly remember sitting in the cinema watching Braveheart and leaving with the overwhelming urge to learn more of my country's history and explore the many places mentioned that were still a mystery to me. Before you start shouting about its gross historical inaccuracies and Irish backdrops, I'm well aware, but to this day I still love that movie and I'm not ashamed to admit it!
In more recent years I've joined the swelling rank of Outlander fans inspired to track down some of the atmospheric filming locations in Scotland that starred in the TV show. From Harry Potter to James Bond, the dramatic and characterful Scottish landscape has not only attracted countless film crews, but also fans, creating a growing industry centred around film tourism.
From my personal experience I know that destinations on screen can ignite a powerful desire to not only visit a place but also to find out more about it. Featured attractions are almost always even more interesting in real life than their fictional alter egos.
When I was invited to visit some of the Scottish filming locations less than an hour from Edinburgh and Glasgow, I jumped at the chance, especially as there were a few places that I had never been before.
Film on Forth is a project that encourages visitors to explore filming locations across West Lothian and neighbouring Falkirk through a range of self-guided itineraries. Many of the places have featured in Outlander, along with some other well known Scottish films.
You don't have to be a TV or movie buff to enjoy these places as they are all attractions in their own right, but if you are a fan, you'll definitely love seeing these screen stars for yourself.
Filming Locations in West Lothian
Taking in the historic town of Linlithgow and views of the famous Forth Bridges, spend a day or two exploring the old and the new attractions of West Lothian.
Midhope Castle aka Lallybroch or Broch Tuarach is instantly recognisable to any fan of the Outlander TV series and is the holy grail among Scottish Outlander filming locations. You can't go into the castle but it is a 'must photograph' spot for any fan and an astute entrepreneur has designed these Lallybroch keys which make for a brilliant photo prop. You can buy them for £1 in an honesty box next to the castle and they make a fun souvenir to take home too, so you know I just had to have one!
Midhope Castle dates back to the 15th century but has been derelict since the 20th century. However, thanks to its TV fame and funds raised from the entrance fee, it is due to get a new lease of life with plans to restore the building, adding visitor accommodation and a new whisky distillery in the grounds.
The castle is located on the sprawling Hopetoun Estate and close to Hopetoun House which has also made several Outlander appearances so you might want to add a tour of the house to your itinerary if you have the time.
Drumlanrig Castle is not exactly a hidden gem; it is the Dumfriesshire seat of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and sits in the Queensberry Estate which covers over 90,000 acres of southern Scotland after all! However, you could easily travel around this scenic part of Dumfries and Galloway completely unaware of its existence.
Although I have been to Dumfries and Galloway many times, I had never actually visited Drumlanrig Castle until I was recently invited to go on a tour. It was already on my radar for visiting this summer as it was used as an Outlander filming location, however the invite brought forward my visit and I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the castle before it opened to the public for the summer. I also had one of the best afternoons in a long time going on a Land Rover tour of the estate and soon discovered that the castle and surrounding area have so much to offer that I wanted to share 5 reasons why I think you should visit Drumlanrig Castle for yourself.
1. Take the Drumlanrig Castle tour
120 rooms, 17 turrets and 4 towers - Drumlanrig Castle is seriously impressive inside and out. The best way to learn about its colourful history and to admire its lavish interior is on a guided tour. Unfortunately the castle tour season is a pretty short one, only running through July and August with a few other select days through the year, but it is worth timing your visit to coincide with the opening dates in my opinion.
Drumlanrig Castle is considered one of the finest examples of 17th Century Renaissance architecture in Scotland and has been the seat of the Douglas Family for generations. In 1684, William 3rd Earl of Queensberry, was made 1st Duke of Queensberry in recognition for his loyalty to Charles II. The castle which stands today was built to reflect his new status, incorporating some of the 14th century castle which had previously occupied the site. However, after spending only 1 night, the Duke decided he didn't like his new abode and moved back to Sanquhar Castle, he was obviously hard to please!
During the guided tour you can view Drumlanrig Castle's renowned art, furniture and silver collections and learn about life at the castle through the centuries. You will also discover more about some of the colourful characters that have visited Drumlanrig Castle over the years and view the bed that Bonnie Prince Charlie and Neil Armstrong slept in, not at the same time obviously!
My guide was hugely knowledgeable and although the tour only covers a fraction of the castle, it gave me a real insight into one of Scotland's most powerful families.
2. Go on a Land Rover safari
I am really not exaggerating when I say that the Land Rover tour from Drumlanrig Castle is seriously one of the best things I've done in ages. I'll be honest and say that I was a little apprehensive that 3 hours might be a bit too long. 'What if I get bored?', 'What if it's too shoogly and I feel sick?' or worst of all 'What if I'm in the middle of nowhere and need to visit the little girl's room?!' Thankfully none of these worries transpired as I was having way too much fun and by the time my 3 hours was up and we arrived back at the castle I was pretty sad it was all over, time really did fly by.
My guide, Brian, has worked on the estate for 50 years and what he doesn't know is very likely not worth knowing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that there is nothing that he doesn't know about Queensberry Estate. For the entire tour he had me engrossed with stories from history, facts about land management and wildlife, all punctuated with some humorous anecdotes.
We rumbled through woods, across fields (literally!), stopped at points of interest and took to the hills, thanks to our off road mode of transport, normally inaccessible areas were no longer off limits. The hilltop drive really was a highlight and the views were just superb. Travelling by Land Rover really does mean anyone can access the stunning scenery, even those who wouldn't normally have the ability or time to reach the hill tops.
We saw so much wildlife, covered diverse landscapes and stopped at historical sites. This really was a unique experience and one that I'll not forget, it definitely ranks as one of my favourite things that I've done in Scotland.
Lots of you have been in touch to say how useful my Outlander filming location blog posts have been in planning your Outlander inspired vacation to Scotland. I have been meaning to add more guides for a while but wanted to wait until Season 2 was well under way to prevent any spoilers! Also there are now so many filming locations in Scotland that it is hard to keep up but I'm trying my best and as I never want to write a blog post giving advice about a place I haven't personally visited it takes that bit longer to catch up...:-)
There will be more to come but in the meantime here are 7 more Outlander filming locations to add to your list.
1. Doune Castle
Doune Castle is one of the most visited Outlander filming locations in Scotland, with visitor numbers up a third since it was featured in the show as Castle Leoch, the seat of the Clan MacKenzie. Outlander is not this castle's only claim to fame as it was also featured as Camelot in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and starred in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones.
Doune Castle is a great place to visit with lots of nooks and crannies to get lost in and I highly recommend taking the audio guide to make the most of your visit to this 14th Century fortification. The audio tour is narrated by Monty Python's Terry Jones and thanks to the interest in Outlander it now also features Sam Heughan, bonus! Once you have explored the interior, make sure you find your way to the battlements as the views over the River Teith and towards the Menteith Hills and Ben Lomond are worth the effort.
The nearest city to Doune Castle is Stirling which is a 20 minute drive away. You could easily spend a couple of hours here and if you are being selective about which Outlander filming locations to include in your trip to Scotland I would definitely recommend fitting in a visit here. It can easily be combined with a trip to Deanston Distillery which is a 5 minute drive away, see details below.
Doune Castle belongs to Historic Scotland and there is an admission charge to visit. If you are going to a few of their sites the costs can add up and I recommend investigating whether a membership would work out cheaper.
2. Deanston Distillery
Handily located a 5 minute drive from Doune Castle is Deanston Distillery and if you are in need of some whisky after your tour then you need to head here. I should add that it is also an Outlander filming location so a visit here for a dram or two is totally allowed and indeed encouraged!
The distillery warehouse was featured in Episode 1, Season 2 of Outlander as the warehouse in the French port of Le Havre where the Comte St Germain stores his wine shipment.
There are several tours available of this former cotton mill and if you would like to know more about the Scotch whisky making process, taking a tour and sampling the goods is an enjoyable education.
The distillery also features in a Scottish film called The Angel's Share (give it a watch!) and in the warehouse look out for a whisky cask signed by the cast of the movie.
The distillery shop is well stocked with whisky related gifts from scented candles to flavoured chocolates to bottles of the real thing. There is also a little coffee shop if you need a caffeine boost after all that touring and whisky!
3. Linlithgow Palace
Some of the scenes from Wentworth Prison might be ones that most Outlander fans would rather forget but the filming location of Linlithgow Palace is not the grim place that you might envisage. Yes, there are a few atmospherically dark rooms and corridors which were used in the prison scenes, but overall it is a rather majestic ruin that strongly alludes to its former status as a great Royal Palace and the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Climb the steps to the top of the building for superb views over Linlithgow Loch and towards the Forth bridges.
Again this is a location that I think should be included on any Outlander filming location itinerary. Linlithgow is a 40 minute drive from either Edinburgh or Glasgow and can easily be reached by train from either city making it an ideal day out if you don't have a car. Like Doune Castle, this is another Historic Scotland property site and I recommend investigating membership which can be cheaper than paying individually if you plan on visiting a few of their properties.
I've written a few guides to Outlander filming locations in Scotland and if you're a fan you might be pleased to know more are on the way. I know many of you are travelling to Scotland to visit some of these locations for yourself and have created special boards on Pinterest to help with your itinerary. To make your planning that bit easier I have created some Outlander location images in optimal Pinterest size, ready to be shared with a quick click. If this proves a popular way to gather up that all important Outlander information I will create a few more so please let me know if this helps with your vacation planning or just satisfies your Outlander lust ;-)
Incidentally I'll be creating my own Outlander board on Pinterest very shortly so you might want to join me at https://uk.pinterest.com/scotadventures/. Happy Pinning!
Outlander fans can recreate one of the first scenes of the show by standing at the Bruce fountain in Falkland 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!
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