Outlander – the TV phenomenon, and series of popular novels which has caused visitors to flock to Scotland, creating what is known as the ‘Outlander Effect’. Despite Outlander’s popularity, Jamie Fraser and co haven’t made an appearance in my blog yet. How can I call myself a Scottish blogger, when every other Scottish blogger (and their granny) published an Outlander themed blog long ago? Am I (shock, horror) an Outlander ignoramus, or worse still – a hater!? Far from it – I LOVE Outlander, and have been avidly watching since finding out what all the fuss was about as Season One of the TV series drew to a close. When Claire and Jamie were reunited in Season Three after spending 20 years apart, I was greetin’ like a big bairn (crying like a big baby, for those of you not fluent in the Scots tongue). So, I’m finally putting pen to paper to take you on a tour of some of my favourite Outlander filming locations in Scotland.
Lallybroch aka Midhope Castle
Jamie’s ancestral home Lallybroch, or Midhope Castle as it’s actually known is located near the lovely village of Abercorn, 10 miles west of Edinburgh. That’s right, Lallybroch is nowhere near the Highlands!
Despite the use of period props and CGI wizardry in the TV series, Midhope Castle looks exactly as Lallybroch should.
It sits in the Hopetoun Estate, where the 18th century stately home, Hopetoun House is the jewel in the crown. Sadly, the 16th century tower house that is Jamie Fraser’s ancestral pile, is in a terrible state of repair and the interior is derelict. Yet, since Lallybroch started attracting visitors the Hopetoun Estate appear to have been milking it as a cash cow by installing a man in a shed outside to collect £5 from every car that arrives. For £5 you can spend a few minutes snapping some exterior shots before leaving – bargain!
Let’s hope they decide to put the money to good use soon, and restore Midhope Castle to its former glory, before it’s lost forever.
Despite my disdain for the way the site is managed and maintained, it’s a pretty spot and a must see Outlander filming location for fans visiting the area.
Fort William aka Blackness Castle
Next, a fascinating historic site where you’ll be able to linger far longer than a few minutes. The formidable courtyard of Blackness Castle will be instantly recognisable to Outlander fans as Fort William from Season One. Unlike the real Fort William this site is a short hop from Edinburgh, and like Lallybroch it’s nowhere near the Scottish Highlands.
Blackness is a dog friendly castle, and The Wee White Dug had a great time exploring when he visited. I’ve always been a wee bit spooked by it myself, as it looks brooding and formidable.
The 15th century fortress was built by the powerful Crichton family, and they called it home until it was seized by King James II. It later became a state prison, and will have witnessed real life deeds every bit as brutal as the beating Jamie received from arch-villain Randall.
Blackness also boasts the obligatory castle ghost. A family who visited in the 1990s claim to have been chased from the castle tower by the ghost of an angry knight. If you do visit, make sure you’re wearing a pair of good running shoes just in case! Outlander filming location AND a resident ghost, what more reason do you need to visit?
Culloden Battlefield or Drummossie Moor as it was known in 1746, lies 12 miles west of Mr G’s Highland hometown of Nairn. Nairn gets a mention in Outlander Season Two, as it’s where Cumberland The Butcher (The Duke of Cumberland) spent the eve of the battle, celebrating his 25th birthday.
The next afternoon (16th April 1746) after less than an hour of fighting, around 1,500 Jacobite troops lay dead on the moor. Tired, hungry and ill-equipped they stood little chance against the larger, well-fed and well-equipped Government army. Not surprisingly Government casualties were light, with official figures reporting only 50 losses on the battlefield. The true figure was probably slightly higher.
I’ve visited Culloden many times over the years – repeatedly drawn back to pay homage to the brave men who followed and fell. I find it a place of incredible sadness, but it also has a still, haunting beauty. The scattered stones marking the graves of the fallen Jacobites are a heartbreaking sight to see, and sometimes when I walk there a fat tear escapes and rolls down my cheek.
With the gift of hindsight I know that what followed was every bit as brutal and devastating for the Highlanders as the battle itself.
The real Craigh na Dun
Although not used in filming, the ancient stone circles at Clava Cairns nearby are thought to have been the inspiration for Outlander author Diana Gabaldon’s, Craigh na Dun. Like Clava Cairns, the fictitious stone circle, Craigh na Dun is located near Inverness and contains a split stone.
Clava Cairns have a real air of magic, and they’re definitely worth making a short detour to see if you plan on visiting Culloden Battlefield.
If your heart’s desire is to meet a handsome Highlander like Jamie, touch the split stone and see what happens. And me, have I tried my luck with the stones? No need – 10 years ago this month I bagged a handsome Highlander at a Christmas night out in Edinburgh. I always have one in tow on my travels, or two if you count The Wee White Dug.
And what of the most famous Outlander filming location of all – the ‘real’ Craigh na Dun? Well, you’ll find that on a farm in a remote corner of Perthshire, minus the time portal monoliths which you may be disappointed to learn were props.
Castle Leoch aka Doune Castle
We pass Doune Castle frequently when we’re road-tripping, but rarely stop. Outlander fans will know it as the Clan MacKenzie stronghold, Castle Leoch which features frequently in Season One.
Outlander isn’t this medieval castle’s only brush with fame – it also appears in the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail and in the popular TV series Game of Thrones.
Just like the filming locations for Lallybroch and Fort William, you won’t find Castle Leoch in the Highlands either. It’s located 8 miles west of Stirling. The real life MacKenzie Clan call Castle Leod near the Highland village of Strathpeffer home.
Where they filmed ‘that’ ahem scene!
Preston Mill on the outskirts of the picturesque East Lothian village of East Linton featured in a memorable scene from Outlander Season One! Pulses Worldwide were set racing, when a naked Jamie was seen bathing in a stream by the mill, before having to hide from passing Government troops.
You won’t find Jamie in the stream if you visit the historic mill, but you will find a beautiful village with some nice walks and great food.
Also in East Lothian, you’ll find the actual battlefield where Charles Edward Stuart’s Jacobite army inflicted a surprise defeat on Sir John Cope’s Government forces in the Battle of Prestonpans.
The Liar’s Spring aka The Devil’s Pulpit
This site, which is reputed to have druid links, is one of the most eerie and strange places I’ve visited in Scotland. It’s probably also one of the most dangerous. The Liar’s Spring, which features in Outlander Season One is off the beaten-track, and you really need to know what you’re looking for to find it. There are two ways into this jaw-dropping gorge – both of them hair-raising.
Several years ago I scrambled my way into the gorge with Mr G and the Wee White Dug. It’s possibly the closest I’ve ever come to breaking my neck for the sake of a photo. Slip sliding on mud, steep gradients and wading through freezing cold water are all required if you want to explore the place properly. Decent outdoor clothing and skills are absolutely essential. Was it worth it – hell yeah, it looked like something out of Jurassic Park and completely blew me away! Would I recommend a visit? No, it’s a dangerous place and not really suitable for visitors. Since Outlander fans started visiting the Liar’s Spring there has been a big increase in calls to the emergency services – people are getting into real difficulty in the gorge. So, unless it’s made safe for visitors, it’s best you avoid this Outlander filming location and visit some safer ones instead.
There are many other Outlander filming locations I could have featured in this blog. Places I love to visit like Craigmillar Castle (Ardsmuir Prison, Season Three), the pretty Fife village of Culross (The village of Cranesmuir, home to Geillis Duncan, Season One) or Aberdour Castle (Sainte Anne de Beaupré’s monastery, Season One).
I’m going to close with my absolute, favourite Outlander filming location though – my gorgeous, historic hometown of Edinburgh.
Alexander Malcolm’s Edinburgh
When Outlander came to town to film Season Three, I wished that droughtlander (the period of time between two series) would hurry up and end. I was desperate to see my city on-screen. It was worth the wait. I may be a little biased, but I’d say that Edinburgh stole the show.
Edinburgh’s beautiful Old Town has been my favourite part of the city for as long as I can remember. I adore wandering up and down the old closes, following in the footsteps of Edinburghers of old.
Last week Mr G and I were enjoying a potter around the Old Town with the Wee White Dug (who was wowing tourists in a natty tartan waistcoat and bow tie combo) when I thought – wait a minute. I have a braw Highland dug here and he’s dressed to the nines. Hmmm, let’s head to Carfax Close (Bakehouse Close) and call on Mr Alexander Malcolm, Printer & Bookseller.
Bakehouse Close is one of Edinburgh’s best preserved closes, and travelling down the dark, narrow passageway that leads from the High Street you emerge – slap, bang in the middle of Alexander Malcolm’s 18th century Edinburgh.
The boy posed for photos and waited patiently on the steps, but Mr Malcolm didn’t appear – maybe next time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of some of my favourite Outlander filming locations in Scotland. I may be back with more, as filming for Season Four is underway and locations in Crieff, East Lothian and West Lothian have already been used.
Until next time ………..