A Castle For Christmas: Seven things the Netflix movie filmed in South Queensferry got right and wrong

We all know a puppy is not just for Christmas, but what about a castle? Hallmark Films' A Castle For Christmas has been making the headlines since it debuted on Netflix earlier this month, but not always for the right reasons. So, with notepad and pen in hand I settled down to watch the 99 minute TV movie to discover if it could really be as bad as some have claimed.

By Liam Rudden
Monday, 13th December 2021, 3:37 pm

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What it's all about

A Castle For Christmas is a modern day festive fairytale. It stars Brooke Shields and Cary Elwes as best selling-author Sophie Brown and Myles, 12th Duke of Dunbar, respectively.

A Castle for Christmas

Like all good fairy tales, at its heart lies a love story. To escape a scandal, the recently divorced writer heads to Scotland and to Dun Dunbar Castle where her father's family, the McGintys, were once groundskeepers. There, she quickly falls in love with the castle which, having fallen on hard times, is half derelict and up for sale.

Deciding to save the castle by buying it herself, it's not long before Sophie finds it is not just the historic pile that she is attracted too. But can she really soften the heart of the dour Duke who calls it home. Of course, as in all the best fairy tales, despite a few bumps along the way, love wins through.

Castle For Christmas is a light slice of seasonal fluffiness that does exactly what it says on the tin while bringing a smile to the face... although not always for the right reasons.

The accents

Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock feature briefly in A Castle for Christmas

Much has been made of the Scottish accents in the film, or to be exact, attempts at Scottish accents. To be honest, with only a couple of exceptions, most are passable, the elephant in the room being every utterance that comes from the mouth of London-born Elwes who shamelessly mangles his vowels in much the same way Bernard Hill did when he played the dad in Restless Natives. Perhaps they shared the same accent coach.

The only other time a guid Scots twang proves as issue is when subtitles pop up on screen as Scottish actor Antony Strachan, playing Eamon the taxi driver, introduces a bewildered Sophie to Scotland, his exaggerated brogue is surely played for comic effect.

Tartan tropes

Everything about A Castle for Christmas is couthy, an old Scottish word meaning 'warm and friendly' or 'cosy and comfortable' for those unfamiliar with the description, and in the film, there's even a brief crash course in Scots as the Duke explains the difference between an 'eejit', a 'dobber', 'a numpty' and 'a walloper' to his American love.

Harry, Lord Dalmeny, and Barnbougle Castle on the Rosebery Estate, South Queensferry

It's just one of numerous cliches embraced with gay abandon by the film's producers and depending on your personal taste, cliches that are either warm nods to the genre or tired tropes well past their sell by dates.

There's tartan, lots of tartan, even Eamon's taxi is tartan. There's a local inn with a roaring fire, peopled by an eccentric collection of locals (bizarrely they all belong to Dunbar's knitting club) and the odd fiddler and accordionist who, at the drop of a tartan tammy will brew up a wee hooley that has everyone in the establishment on their feet dancing in no time at all.

There's also a kilted tour guide/ghillie, a pet pooch called Hamish, talk of Americans tracing their roots, quaint pebbled streets, Scotland pronounced as two separate words, the dreaded pronunciation of the Capital as Edinboro’ and the utterance of 'Ooft' as a word you might hear outside of a John Shuttleworth gig.

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Cary Elwes as Myles and Brooke Shields as Sophie in A Castle For Christmas

East Lothian on camera

Two forays into the countryside provide scenic excursions through the East Lothian countryside with shots sure to warm the hearts of everyone at Visit Scotland, including spectacular drone shots of ruined mid-14th-century fortress, Tantallon Castle, which lies just outside North Berwick, looking out onto the Firth of Forth and the Bass Rock. It may just be a cameo, but it’s effective.

Welcome to Dalmeny House and Barnbougle Castle, South Queensferry

Doubling as Dun Dunbar Castle are two country piles overlooking the Forth, both Dalmeny House, the family estate of the 7th Earl of Rosebery and his heir apparent, Harry, Lord Dalmeny, and Barnbougle Castle feature in the movie.

A ​secret ​13th century castle​ ​locked away for almost a century​ ​Barnbougle Castle​ ​sits in 2000 acres of private parkland​ with dramatic private beaches framed by enchanting woodlands. With majestic reception rooms, antiquarian libraries and sweeping coastal views,​ the ​venue is just seven miles from the heart of Edinburgh.

Filmed during lockdown, filming on the private Rosebery Estate ensured that the shoot could go ahead in a Covid-secure environment.

On screen ​

Playing opposite the Hollywood stars producers cast some local talent, including John Stahl, at one time High Road's Inverdarroch and now better known as Game of Thrones' Rickard Karstark, and Edinburgh playwright and actor Tim Barrow, who pops up as the barkeep. It’s always good to see a familiar face or two.

Happy Ever After

A Castle for Christmas might not be in the running for any Oscars, but like so many of Christmas films a happy ever after ending saves the day, and what better way to do that with another massive cliche… Community ceilidh anyone?

A Castle For Christmas is now screening on Netflix

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