Scotland has been inspiring filmmakers for about as long as the moving image has been captured. Historical figures such as Sir William Wallace, Rob Roy and Macbeth have been the subjects of many cinematic classics since the arrival of popular cinema. Modern classics such as Highlander, Trainspotting, James Bond in Skyfall, and The Wicker Man have all featured Scottish locales as a character rather than just a pretty backdrop.
Here’s a selection of film locations across Scotland that you can visit on your next holiday.
Eilean Donan Castle
This fabulous castle is arguably one of the most recognised of all Scottish castle and it’s featured in quite a few famous films. Restored and reopened to the public in 1932 it’s now a popular tourist attraction. It was showcased in the 2008 chick flick Made of Honour with Hollywood heartthrob Patrick Dempsey, made an impression in the ‘80s sci-fi classic Highlander, starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery, and James Bond in The World is Not Enough. If you’re planning a visit to the Highlands and Islands, why not stop in for a visit? It’s a regal sight guaranteed to leave you less shaken, and more stirred.
The immensely popular series of films and books about the boy wizard Harry Potter by JK Rowling. You can ride the Jacobite Steam Train that doubled as the Hogwarts Express between Mallaig and Inverness for grand views. Why not book your own holiday cottage and enjoy a Hagrid-style escape (we’re sorry, but owls like Hedwig are not allowed)?
The sleepy former fishing village of Plockton on the Applecross Peninsula is one of several locations across the Scottish Highlands used in the 1960s horror classic The Wicker Man, starring Christopher Lee and Edward Woodward. Other locations include Gatehouse of Fleet, Newton Stewart, Kirkcudbright and a few scenes in the village of Creetown in Dumfries and Galloway. The climax was shot at Hoseasons Caravan Park in Burrow Head. Don’t worry the locals are really friendly.
Kevin McDonald’s tale of the legendary Eagle of the Ninth Legion that went missing without trace in Roman Times behind Hadrian’s Wall. Called The Eagle, the movie was partially filmed just outside Glasgow at Finnich Glen. The film starred Channing Tatum and Donald Sutherland and is a great opportunity to see Scotland at its wildest. Finnich Glen is a great secret spot full of crevices and water-filled gullies. It’s easy to get to if you know where it is, but the isolation is one of its best features. Wear walking shoes and good outdoor gear.
Doune Castle is the setting for the notorious, ‘English pig dogs’ scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Bringing life full circle, Terry Jones of Monty Python narrates the interactive tour, quite fitting, we thought. Doune Castle is remarkably close to Stirling, so two castles in one day could make for a fabulous cultural day out in Scotland.
Home to ancient warring clans who fought and died in this wilderness, it was also the chosen spot for Spud, Sickboy, Renton and Tommy of Trainspotting when they decided on an impromptu day out of the city. Quiet a schlep from Edinburgh, Corrour Station is in the middle of nowhere, its nearest town is Fort William. If you don’t fancy spending the day alone in the wilderness, go to nearby Bridge of Orchy. There’s a pleasant restaurant by the station, and lovely flat walks.
The classic ‘fish out of water’ comedy Local Hero, starring Peter Riegert and Burt Lancaster was predominantly set in the coastal village of Pennan. The iconic red public phone box that featured strongly in many scenes is still in situ close to the sea shore. A firm favourite from the 1980s, it really put the remote highland coast on the film map.
The Cuillins in Skye are more than a little dramatic, this is why they were chosen as the backdrop for the opening scenes in Ridley Scott’s Alien prequel Prometheus, starring Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba and Charlize Theron. At their base, lies the pretty town of Portree, home to a colourful harbour and fabulous local bakeries.
Lying at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK’s highest mountain, Glen Nevis is the valley where much of Braveheart, Mel Gibson’s famous yet historically coy biopic of Sir William Wallace. There’s a rocky path to follow to reach the glen which is hidden from sight by the craggy foothills. Ruins of stone cottages await, so explore, wire river crossings to challenge yourself with, and lofty peaks to climb if you’re up for the challenge. One thing we’re sure of, if you’re looking for a holiday in Scotland with ‘freedom’ in mind, this is the place to holiday (painting your face is optional).
The centre of Glasgow, including Argyle Street, Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street are amongst the settings for the wonderfully strange Under the Skin starring Scarlett Johanssen. The tale of an alien finding her in modern Scotland is a brilliant ‘fish out of water’ tale. The film also had important scenes shot in Auchmithie Beach, Tantallon Castle, Port of Glasgow and Rowchoish Bothy.
Quiraing, Isle of Skye
Quiraing was used as the backdrop in many scenes in the most recent big screen adaptation of ‘the Scottish play’, Macbeth. Directed by Justin Kurzel and starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. The dramatic landscapes of Skye are brilliant for the bleakest of William Shakespeare’s plays. The stark beauty here will take your breath away and it’s easy to see why the filmmakers picked Quiraing for this latest and maybe truest adaptation of Macbeth.
Other films and locations in Scotland are Glencoe (James Bond in Skyfall), Iona (Iona), Sweet Sixteen (Ayr), Ae Fond Kiss (Glasgow), Gregory’s Girl (Abronhill), Shell (Badcall), Rob Roy (1995) (Castle Tioram and Loch Morar), Neds (Glasgow), Small Faces (Glasgow), Red Road (Glasgow), Shallow Grave (Glasgow and Edinburgh), and that’s just a few.