Filmmakers from all around the world have been drawn to Scotland, and it’s easy to see why. The country’s mountains and glens, deep lochs, castles, stately homes, and vibrant cities make it the perfect backdrop, and the country’s dramatic past lends itself to dramatic re-telling too. Here are just ten of the Scottish film and TV locations that you can visit where movie magic was made.
This medieval castle in Perthshire has starred both on the big and small screen. In the cult comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) the 14th-century building was the set for multiple locations, including Camelot and Castle Anthrax. More recently the castle has found fame on TV as the fictional Castle Leoch in the Outlander (2014), and was Winterfell in the pilot episode of Game of Thrones (2011). Top tip – pair a visit to Doune Castle with a tour of Deanston Distillery, just over a mile (1.6km) east. Both can be reached by bus from Stirling.
Although its storyline was not exactly 100 percent accurate, Braveheart, which was released in 1994, is perhaps the film which people associate most with Scotland. Extensive filming took place around Glen Nevis, especially for a scene in which William Wallace (Mel Gibson) runs across the ten peaks of the Mamores, high above Loch Leven. Follow one of the walks from Braveheart Car Park near Fort William, which was used by the film crew as a parking lot. Discover more about the real William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish freedom fighter, at the Wallace Monument in Stirling.
Four Bond films have included scenes filmed in Scotland, but by far the most iconic representation is in Skyfall. The secret agent’s Aston Martin DB5 even gets upstaged by the peak of the striking Buachaille Etive Mor at the head of Glen Etive in The Highlands. Fans can re-create the scene where Bond (Daniel Craig) and M (Judi Dench) stand in awe the mountain from the A82. Another Scottish location that features in a Bond film is Loch Craignish near Crinan in Argyll, which stood in for Turkey’s coast during a boat chase in From Russia With Love (1963).
Just a few miles south of Edinburgh lies Rosslyn Chapel, a key location in The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The international bestselling book, which was brought to the big screen in 2006, suggests that the 15th-century building is the final resting place of the Holy Grail. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou were filmed on location amid much security. Join a tour to get an in-depth insight into the chapel’s intricate carvings, and if you have time, stroll into the nearby Roslin Glen and admire Rosslyn Castle.
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan in Dornie was transformed into the castle and the village of Glenfinnan for Highlander (1986) which starred Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery. However, Eilean Donan Castle is perhaps best known for its cameo in The World is Not Enough (1999) when it serves as the Scottish headquarters of MI6. Romantic comedy fans may also recognise it from Made of Honour (2008), which sees Tom (Patrick Dempsey) become maid of honour to Hannah (Michelle Monaghan) and then attempt to win her over before she gets married in Scotland. Visit to discover the role it played during the Jacobite risings, see historic artefacts and spot wildlife from the castle walls.
Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was built in 1898, is the location of a dramatic scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002). As the Hogwarts Express passes over the viaduct Harry can be seen dangling above it from Ron’s flying Ford Anglia. Visitors to the region can get into the Harry Potter spirit by taking a ride on The Jacobite, a steam train that crosses the viaduct in the summer months. It’s just one of a number of Scottish locations used in the Harry Potter films.
Before creating Disney-Pixar’s animated fantasy Brave (2012), the animators visited Scotland for inspiration. They visited Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven, and princess Merida’s home of Dunbroch certainly appears to owe a great deal of its cinematic grandeur, not least its clifftop setting, to Dunnottar. The castle has also appeared in other films, including Victor Frankenstein (2015), in which Scottish actor James McAvoy joins Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe for a new spin on the Mary Shelley classic. For a dramatic approach to the castle, follow the along the 1.8 mile (2.89 km) cliff-top walk from Stonehaven.
Much of Trainspotting (1996) was filmed in Glasgow, but one Edinburgh location that stands out is Princes Street in the opening scene, when Renton (Ewan McGregor) and Spud (Ewen Bremner) escape security staff, accompanied by a soundtrack of Iggy Pop and Renton’s oft-parodied “choose life” monologue. Locations from the book and film can be explored on a tour, including those used in the sequel T2 Trainspotting (2017).
Inveraray Castle in Argyll played host to the Grantham family in a Christmas special of Downton Abbey. The episode saw the Granthams head north to the home of their cousins, the fictional Duneagle Castle. Scenes of the nearby lochs and glens, the Armoury Hall, the State Dining Room and Dhu Loch all showed Inveraray Castle at its finest. The neo-gothic castle, which is set in extensive grounds is still the family home of the Dukes of Argyll.
Culzean Castle in Ayrshire features as the exterior of Lord Summerisle’s mansion (Christopher Lee) when he first meets Howie (Edward Woodward) in the The Wicker Man (1973). The castle and country park are perfect for a day out, with beaches, gardens and a deer park to explore, as well as the grand building itself. Robin Hardy also shot the unsettling cult classic throughout the towns and villages of Dumfries & Galloway.