Explore Scotland's most famous film and TV locations

Scotland’s bustling cities and dramatic landscapes are not only a rich source of inspiration for many fiction writers – JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh and Peter May, to name just a few – but the country has also provided stunning backdrop for a wealth of famous film and television productions.
Glenfinnan ViaductGlenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct

And there are plenty of sites where famous scenes were filmed for comedies and dramas dotted in and around Edinburgh for TV and movie fans to explore, while there are plenty of tour operators on hand to run excursions to those scene-stealing locations further afield.

Hidden away among the Capital’s historic winding closes, world-class visitor attractions and ancient landmarks are treasures that have been immortalised on both the silver and small screens.

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Edinburgh Castle perched high upon Castle Rock is – of course – one of the city’s most famous and popular attractions, drawing tourists from around the world.

Rosslyn ChapelRosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel

Despite its real-life fame, the fictional Albert from Ken Loach’s 2012 comedy-drama The Angel’s Share, in which four criminals plot to steal whisky, still asks: “Why’d they put it up there?” when first observing the castle.

More recently, comedian Jack Whitehall and his father, the irrepressible Michael, donned traditional Scottish attire and joined in with a pipe procession from the castle along the historic Royal Mile during the fifth and final series of Netflix’s Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father.

The duo took time out to reminisce about their family adventures down the years while admiring the unparalleled cityscape of the Capital as seen from the 12th-Century landmark.

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The birthplace of King James VI, witnessed another television production in progress when ITV’s talent show The Masked Singer swung into town earlier this year. Former tennis player Pat Cash appeared as the character Bagpipes, and the Australian delighted the viewing public with a spirited rendition of the Wheatus 1990s classic ‘Teenage Dirtbag’.

Mercat Tours take on OutlanderMercat Tours take on Outlander
Mercat Tours take on Outlander

Edinburgh Castle is open daily between 9.30am and 5pm, and tickets cost £17.50 for an adult, £14 for concession or £10.50 for children aged 5-15.

The ruined mediaeval Craigmillar Castle lies roughly three miles south-east of its big brother in the city centre, and is famous with TV streaming fans for featuring as Ardsmuir Prison in the epic fantasy series Outlander.

The castle site was also transformed into a mediaeval village scene for the filming of the 2018 Netflix original Outlaw King, which featured American superstar Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce.

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Craigmillar Castle’s original 17-metre-tall tower house was built in the 1400s and was one of the first of its type in Scotland.

Photo: Gordon Jack. The Da Vinci Code being filmed at Rosslyn Chapel.Photo: Gordon Jack. The Da Vinci Code being filmed at Rosslyn Chapel.
Photo: Gordon Jack. The Da Vinci Code being filmed at Rosslyn Chapel.

Queen Mary’s Room, on the tower house’s first floor, is said to be where the beleaguered Mary Queen of Scots stayed when she visited in 1566.

Visitors today can access the attraction daily between 10am and 4pm. Tickets are priced at £6 for adults, £4.80 for concessions and £3.60 for children.

Fans of Outlander may wish to explore the Jacobite Edinburgh Claire and Jamie encountered in the novels and TV series. The Capital’s Mercat Tours offers a themed walk which takes in various Old Town sights the two protagonists would recognise today. Go online to www.mercattours.com for more information.

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A short drive south of the Capital will take you to the Midlothian village of Roslin, home to the 15th-Century Rosslyn Chapel which is perhaps best known globally for its appearance alongside Hollywood A-lister Tom Hanks in the 2006 film of Dan Brown’s historical thriller The Da Vinci Code.

Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Ian Rutherford.Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Ian Rutherford.
Edinburgh Castle. Picture: Ian Rutherford.

The chapel, founded in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, is a magnificent piece of architecture.

The mysterious symbolism of the structure’s stonework has intrigued visitors throughout the centuries since and made it an excellent piece of location casting for the film.

One fine example of the mysteries within is the chapel’s carved depiction of maize, an artistic detail that raises many questions as the plant, which originates from North America, was not thought to have been discovered by Christopher Columbus’ expedition until 50 years after Rosslyn Chapel was built.

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Visitors can explore these carvings and more in and around the chapel, take in a talk, view the Sacristy and wander the grounds.

Rosslyn Chapel is open daily and tickets are priced at £9.50 for adults or £7.50 for concessions. Children go free when part of a family group.

In addition, informative talks are provided by chapel guides in early-morning and late-afternoon slots Mondays through Saturdays and in the afternoon on Sundays. Call 0131-440 2159 for more information.

To explore Scottish sites immortalised by film and TV makers situated further afield, head to Edinburgh-based Highland Explorer Tours who will be more than happy to take you location scouting around Scotland. The firm offers an extensive range of one to six-day excursions across the country.

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The one-day Outlander Explorer trip, priced at £44, takes in Midhope Castle, the real-life Lallybroch from Outlander, Doune Castle, used for the same series as well as Game of Thrones and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Linlithgow Palace, another star of Outlander and Outlaw King.

There is also the option to explore the impressive Glenfinnan Viaduct at the head of Loch Shiel in the Highlands, which was made world famous by the Harry Potter films.

Fans of the series can jump aboard the Jacobite Steam Train as it crosses the beautiful curved 1,000-ft span structure, offering the ideal experience for those potty for the fictional wizard.

The day trip starts at 7.30am at Inverness before travelling along the Loch Ness and among the stunning scenery, taking in Mallaig and Fort Augustus. Prices start at £139 for adults.

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There are also options to travel around Glencoe, at Ballachulish, which is close to Glen Etive, the film location used to high dramatic effect in the 23rd James Bond film, Skyfall.

To enquire about the vast offering from Highland Explorer Tours, head online and visit www.highlandexplorertours.com