In celebration of the fact that Outlander season 5 will be premiered soon, and to help you through the remaining days of Droughtlander (the time in-between series – yes, this period of time has a name!), we have made another round up of filming locations and inspirations from the first season.
We are big fans of the TV phenomenon Outlander and we enjoy watching the trials and tribulations of the two main characters Claire and Jamie. For us, however, there is a third main character on the show, one that does not appear in the credits, and that is the stunning location of Scotland itself. Whether it is the amazing landscapes, imposing castles or historic towns, the beauty of Scotland is never off the screen while watching Outlander. We hope that you enjoy our selection of stunning locations from the first series.
Falkland is a village and former royal burgh in Fife, at the foot of the Lomond Hills, with a population of just over 1,000. The filming of ‘Inverness’ in episode 1 was actually shot here in Falkland. This quaint village grew up around Falkland Castle during the medieval period, and continued to grow when the castle was replaced by Falkland Palace and became a residence of royalty. After a fire at the palace in 1654, caused by Cromwell's troops, the royal court was to never return to Falkland and the village went through a period of decline. However, during the late 19th century, when John, Marquis of Bute inherited these lands, the village received a well overdue restoration make-over.
Thanks to this village revival, this beautifully preserved village offered a perfect stand-in for ‘Inverness’. The Bruce Fountain sits magnificently in the middle of the village square, and it was here that the mysterious Highlander is seen looking up at Claire in one of the bedroom windows of Mrs Baird’s B&B. You can even visit Mrs Baird’s, although it is, in reality, called the Covenanter Hotel. We had a lovely coffee and fine piece at the hotel. Pamela even had the chance to be Claire – the hotel had thoughtfully provided Claire masks for its patrons! Perhaps unsurprisingly, there were no Jamie masks to be found, as they had all been stolen!
Doune Castle was originally built in the thirteenth century, then probably damaged in the Scottish Wars of Independence, before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c. 1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scots, and Regent of Scotland from 1388 until his death. Duke Robert's stronghold has survived relatively unchanged and complete, and has starred in a number of high-profile films and tv series other than Outlander. Famously, Doune Castle was a prominent filming location for Monty Python & The Holy Grail, and you may even hear some visitors to the castle shout from the walls the eternal words "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!". Game of Thrones fans will also recognise Doune as depicting Winterfell in the pilot episode.
However, it seems that Doune Castle will now be forever linked with Outlander, having taken the starring role as Castle Leoch, the home of the MacKenzie Clan. There are even sections of the historical audio tour narrated by Sam Heughan, where he describes what it was like to film Outlander at Doune.
Aberdour Castle has seen 500 years of noble living, serving as a residence to the powerful Mortimer, Randolph and Douglas families. Today, its ruined structures and roofed buildings show clearly how impressive a medieval castle this would have been. Aberdour is among the oldest masonry castles still standing in Scotland. Hidden in the complex are the remains of a two-storey hall-house, which may date to the early to mid-1100s. Its walls are built from ashlar (square-cut stone) and look remarkably like those of the nearby St Fillan’s parish church, which dates to the mid-1100s. Fine walled and terraced gardens and parkland are found to the east and south of the castle buildings, which includes an attractive beehive-shaped dovecot.
Aberdour’s moment of televisual fame comes during the final episode of season 1 when it becomes the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupre. It is here that the tender scenes where Claire nurses Jamie’s injuries at the hands of “Black Jack” were shot.
One of the most iconic moments of season one, at least according to Pamela, my wife, is when Jamie returns to Lallybroch and mends the mill wheel. Forced to duck under the water when Redcoats suddenly arrive, Jamie then emerges from the mill pond, almost Venus like. Not sure what the attraction was there, but I was more taken with Preston Mill itself and its unusual Dutch-style conical roof. Surprisingly, Preston Mill was used commercially until 1959 and was the region’s last working watermill. The mill was used for a second time in Outlander, although less recognisably, when the mill’s exhibition room was utilised as the court ante-room, when Geillis and Claire attended the preliminary hearing where they were accused of witchcraft.
Balgonie Castle is a fine 13th- or 14th-century tower of five storeys standing in a courtyard, which appeared as the home of MacRannoch, near Wentworth Prison, during episode 15. Specifically, the hall and courtyard, which encloses a range of buildings dating from the 14th to 18th centuries, were captured in the filming.
The castle, which is a private residence and not normally open to the public, was built by the Sibbalds, who held the property from before 1246, but passed to different families over the years. James IV visited the castle in 1496, as did Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1565. Balgonie was captured and plundered by Rob Roy MacGregor and 200 clansmen in 1716. Balgonie is believed to be haunted, and ghostly voices and apparitions have been witnessed in the Great Hall. A skeleton was found buried under the floor in 1912! A ‘Green Lady’, Green Jeanie, has been seen in recent times, and there are also stories of a spectral 17th-century soldier, the sounds of a ghostly dog, a hooded figure and a medieval apparition!
Culross West Kirk
Did the Black Kirk in “The Way Out” episode give you the creeps? Well we managed to avoid eating any Lily of the Valley like Tammas Baxter and found the church to be a quiet little haven in the sun. Not threatening at all! The Black Kirk is actually the ruined Culross West Kirk. It was the former parish church of Culross, but was replaced by the Abbey Parish Church in 1633. However, it appears that the church had been out of use for some time before this, as the Act records that it was already in a ruinous condition. Sadly, the church is now roofless, and a large tree grows inside the western end of the building and much ivy on the walls. Also of interest, there is a large variety of headstones and table stones within the graveyard dating from the seventeenth -nineteenth centuries. The earlier monuments display symbols of death and mortality and a number of trades are also depicted, such as farmer, mariner and miner.
Bo’Ness & Kinneil Railway
Episode 3 has quite a touching scene as Frank says goodbye to Claire as she heads off to war from the platform of a railway station. You can actually visit this vintage station at the Bo’Ness & Kinneil Railway and recreate the farewell. The Scottish Railway Preservation Society (SRPS) has done a great job saving various classic railway buildings from demolition and bringing them to Bo’Ness. Over 5 miles of track (between Bo'ness and Manuel Junction, via Kinneil and Birkhill) are run and the station has a Booking Office, Station Buffet, a shop and a Visitor Information Point. The station also offers the chance to board a vintage steam or diesel-hauled train throughout the year. There are even regular visits by Thomas the Tank Engine! As well as Outlander, the Railway has also been used as a film location in a number of films and TV series including "The Railway Man", "39 Steps" and "Cloud Atlas".
Dunmore Park House
Dunmore Park House was the grand mansion of George Murray, the 5th Earl of Dunmore. Built between 1820 and 1825, this grand country mansion was designed by William Wilkins. The Murray family continued to live at Dunmore Park until 1911, and it remained in use as a private home until 1961. It was then taken over by a girls' school for a short time before being abandoned in 1964. Partial demolition took place in 1972 that removed the rear, or north-easterly, range and parts of the side ranges, plus roofs and many of the floors throughout the building. The house may be in a sad state of repair nowadays, but it did make an excellent location to be the field hospital where Claire was stationed while nursing wounded soldiers during World War 2. The house is off the beaten track, but it is well worth hunting down and is only a fifteen-minute walk from the famous Pineapple building.
Although not appearing in Outlander (so far!), Castle Fraser has been home to the Fraser family for more than 400 years and must have inspired Diana Gabaldon in some way to name her lead character after this noble clan. The castle is filled with family portraits, ornaments and mementos. The long history even includes a few ghost stories! With a core that possibly dates back to the 1450s, Castle Fraser grew into a huge fortified structure, one of the largest tower houses in the country. The traditional walled garden includes specimen trees, herbaceous borders, a medicinal border and organically grown fruit and vegetables.
Old Fort at Fort William (Blackness Castle)
The impressive Blackness Castle was used as the filming location for Fort William, where Jamie receives a whipping from Black Jack Randall. We have covered Blackness in our previous Outlander post, so this time we thought we’d let you see the original Old Fort of Fort William. Unfortunately, what is left of the fort is not as impressive as the castle, but the Old Fort still has a beautiful view over Loch Linnhe. You can imagine the tall wooden citadel that was built here in 1654 by Cromwell's forces. By 1690 the wooden defenses were replaced by stone walls up to 20ft in height. Fort William continued to serve as a garrison for the army until 1855. In 1864 it was sold by the War Office to the local laird, Mrs Christina Cameron Campbell. She converted the buildings into housing and the surrounding ditches into gardens. In 1889 the fort was acquired by the North British Railway Company under the terms of a compulsory purchase order.
Join us next time when our family adventures take us to some of Scotland's most popular whisky distilleries.
Until then, happy reading and safe travels.