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.
Very close to Midhope Castle is Abercorn Church which is a really fascinating site and although the church was closed on my visit, the historic gravestones and carved crosses were worth the trip. If you're wondering what the filming connection is, the cemetery featured in Outlander as Frank's final resting place.
The church was founded in the 11th century and probably occupies the site of a 7th-century monastery founded by Lindisfarne Priory. A number of sculptured stones recovered from the site, including fragments of carved crosses dating back as early as the 7th century, and Viking Hog Back stones dating from the 12th century, are on display.
The surrounding graveyard has a large number of ornate headstones, many of which feature carved objects giving a clue to the deceased's occupation.
This is a place I definitely want to return to as I didn't have the time to really soak it all in and I'd love to see inside the church when it is open.
Some of the scenes from Wentworth Prison might be among those 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.
The Palace also starred in the Outlaw King, including the crowning scenes of Robert the Bruce, while nearby St Michael's Church was the setting for Robert the Bruce's wedding.
Linlithgow itself is a lovely historical wee town and one that I love pottering around in. When you're finished at the Palace, I highly recommend a trip to the Linlithgow Canal Centre, spend a few hours exploring the bijou museum, enjoying refreshments in the cute tearoom and joining one of their canal boat trips. They even have a self-hire option so you can explore the water at your own pace.
Beecraigs Country Park
Not all filming takes place in historical settings, the timeless Scottish landscape has provided many a backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters and TV dramas. Beecraigs Country Park is a great example of a filming location that also offers a nature fix.
The park has featured more than once in Outlander, first appearing in the final episode of Season 1, then a couple of times in Season 4, including episode 3 when Claire gets lost in the woods while riding her horse during a storm.
This was my first visit here but it won't be my last as it is exactly the kind of place that I love to go when I need to immerse myself in some greenery and surround myself with wildlife. There are multiple walking trails, a mountain bike area and visitor centre. I opted for the path around the loch where I was joined by ducks and swans as I strolled along the water's edge.
As much as I love visiting historical attractions, all the information I learn along the way can get a bit overwhelming for my wee brain so I like to intersperse fact-learning with periods of switching off and chilling out which is exactly what Beecraigs Country Park is all about.
Filming Locations around Falkirk
From theKelpies to the Falkirk Wheel, there are plenty of impressive attractions in this part of the country so be sure to add a few of them to your itinerary.
Appearing in both Season 1 and 2 of Outlander, I'm sure no fan can forget the scenes of poor Jamie being flogged in the courtyard of this 15th Century castle when it stood in as Fort William. This isn't the only on-screen appearance by Blackness Castle as it also features in the Mary Queen of Scots and Outlaw King movies.
Before it was transformed into a film star and popular tourist attraction, the castle was built as a residence and stronghold for the Crichtons, one of Scotland's most powerful families. Over its lifetime it has been used as royal castle, a garrison fortress, a state prison and an ammunition depot.
Often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’, the design looks very much like a boat ready to float down the Forth. If, like me, you enjoy walking around gloomy and foreboding historic buildings, Blackness Castle ticks those boxes.
Callendar House has a fantastic exhibition detailing the history of Falkirk from medieval beginnings to Roman invasion and industrial expansion. There is so much to see that one visit won't be enough and I could easily have spent half a day there.
If you're an Outlander fan then you will appreciate the chance to visit the Georgian kitchen which was used as the Duke of Sandringham's kitchen in Season 2. The episode was named 'Vengeance is Mine', and spoiler alert if you haven't watched it yet, it doesn't end well for the Duke.
The 14th century mansion house has hosted a few notable guests during its lifetime including Mary Queen of Scots, Oliver Cromwell and Queen Victoria. Today it welcomes members of the public to view the exhibition, dine in the tearoom, pick up souvenirs in the shop or wander around the surrounding parkland which contains a section of the Roman Antonine Wall, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Bo'ness & Kinneil Railway
Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway is a lovely wee heritage railway that runs steam train trips adjacent to the Firth of Forth. I've wanted to join one of the train journeys from here for a long time but so far it is still on the bucket-list.
However, I have been lucky enough to take a tour of the station buildings and the salvaged materials add to the feeling of a bygone railway age. Although it has never appeared in Harry Potter, the piles of old luggage and private steam train compartments definitely give off a 'journey to Hogwarts' vibe.
Not surprisingly, it is a popular backdrop for film crews and has featured in many productions. Transformed into a 1940s London railway and renamed Milford Station for episode 1 of Outlander, this is where Claire and Frank bid each other farewell. Other TV and film appearance include 39 Steps, Cloud Atlas and The Railway Man.
Next to Bo'ness Station is the Museum of Scottish Railways which is still under construction as I write this and due to open in 2022 which will give me another reason to return and one of these days I'll manage to ride the scenic 10-mile return journey on one of their classic steam trains.
Muiravonside Country Park
A bit like Beecraigs Country Park, Muiravonside Country Park provides a wee respite from exploring historic attractions although it still ticks the 'filming location' box as it was the setting for Selkirk Forest in the film Outlaw King about Robert the Bruce and the backdrop featured twice in Outlander, first in Season 2 during The Battle of Prestonpans and again in Season 5 as North Carolina.
Although there are 170 acres of woodland and parkland to explore, I opted to spend my time there at Newpark Farm because I just couldn't resist starting my morning in the company of a bunch of cute animals - I mean, who could? Follow the path around fields with hairy Heilan' Coos, woolly sheep, pint-sized Shetland ponies, considerably larger Clydesdale horses, cheeky goats, snuffling hairy pigs, rescue donkeys and more.
If you have some extra time you could pop over the Forth toFife and visit the village of Culross which has also featured in Outlander multiple times.
OTHER PLACES IN THE AREA WORTH A VISIT
WHERE TO EAT AND STAY
A HANDY MAP OF ALL THE PLACES MENTIONED
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