Even before Outlander first hit our screens back in 2014, one thing was crystal clear: Scotland is magical.
Okay, the likelihood of travelling back in time through standing stones or meeting an entrantress in the pub is slim, but you just have to look at our country to be enthralled by its landscapes, history, castles and culture. Outlander has simply helped spread the word!
During a surprisingly dry weekend in August, we Scotlanders bloggers chose to celebrate the imminent season three by bagging all 28 Outlander sites in less than two days. Using VisitScotland’s site map, we split into couples and Patricia (@madaboutravel) and I hit the road together. Here’s where we ticked off, and why each location is a marvel that’s worth a visit in itself.
Stop 1: Midhope Castle (aka Lallybroch!)
Ain’t no better way to kick off an Outlander road trip than at Jamie’s ancestral home, Lallybroch. The exterior filming — including the harrowing whipping redcoat Randall inflicts in the archway — were all shot just outside Edinburgh here at Midhope. Part of the Hopetoun Estate (which we stopped at later!) the castle is a decaying fifteenth-century tower house, decorated with a doocot, at the end of a leafy lane. You’ll pay £5 to wander around the crumbling courtyard thanks to the Outlander connection, but if recreating a return to Lallybroch is on your to-do list you won’t miss this!
Stop 2: Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway
Stepping onto the platform at Bo’ness, a cloud exhaling from the steam engine on the tracks, is the closest I’ve come to rewinding time in a while. This heritage railway museum — Scotland’s largest — is a short journey from Edinburgh and is the setting for Frank and Claire’s wartime departure scenes in season one of Outlander. I’ll definitely be making a return visit here — I found the whole place fascinating (a real life model railway, essentially!) and the volunteers were welcoming and truly passionate about what they do.
Stop 3: Blackness Castle
A short journey further down the Forth, Blackness Castle reigns, its walls impenetrable on the edge of the water. Termed the ‘ship that never sailed’ due to its formidable fortifications, this fifteenth-century castle was used as the backdrop to the horrendous flogging Randall subjects Jamie to in ‘Fort William’ of season one. From the ramparts there are magnificent views over the Forth, where you’ll spot Scotland’s newest engineering feat — Queensferry Crossing — on the horizon.
Stop 4: Hopetoun House
Back inland, surrounded by pruned lawns and ranks of trees, is the sprawling Hopetoun Estate with a stately home at its heart. This beautiful building and its grounds are an ideal escape from the bustle of Edinburgh, with thousands of acres of gardens, wildlife and activities to keep you occupied. But if you’re an Outlander fan, you’ll be intrigued to hear that Hopetoun House has been the background not just for Scottish scenes, but for interior and exterior sets from Claire and Jamie’s time in the French capital in season two. But it’s not just the silverware and priceless artwork that’s an attraction — the gardens are pretty wonderful as well.
Stop 5: Drumlanrig Castle
Breaking from the central belt and heading south through rolling hills and the white dots of sheep, we finally arrived at Saturday’s last stop: Drumlanrig. Another huge estate (totalling 90,000 acres!), Dumfries and Galloway’s finest castle predictably took its star turn in Jacobean Outlander. In the show it was renamed as Bellhurst Manor, where Bonnie Prince Charlie paused on the road north.
Stop 6: Troon Beach
After an evening pizza at Dough, frantic photo editing and a super-quick snooze in the Marine Hotel, the second day of our tour blew us to the seafront. A walk along the sandy stretch of beach at Troon — a small town in Ayrshire — was a pretty perfect way to kickstart our morning before the next marathon of filming sites. The Troon coast washed Jamie and Claire away to France during the season one finale.
Stop 7: Dean Castle
Nestled to the north of Kilmarnock, within a leafy country park, is the fourteenth-century Dean Castle. During our visit the leaves were beginning to turn gold, falling from branches like confetti as we approached the archway to the castle. It’s currently closed for redevelopment but previously doubled as Lord Lovat’s Beauly château in Outlander season two. Don’t let the locked doors put you off visiting, though. We were equally as enthralled noticing the tiny details of autumn appearing… And watching feeding time with the adorable herd of resident deer!
Stop 8: Pollok Country Park
With its boxed hedges and quaint lodge cottages, Pollok Country Park feels like a true flashback to the heady centuries of rich families, flamboyantly-dressed females and parasoled strolls through the garden. No surprises then that the park doubled as the grounds of Castle Leoch in season one, and French countryside in season two. As Glasgow’s only country park the grounds are expectedly stunning, yet Pollok also boasts a Georgian mansion maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, as well as the Burrell Collection.
Stop 9: Glasgow Cathedral
A stone’s throw from the twirl of traffic leaving the M8 — Glasgow’s chief thoroughfare — the gothic, medieval architecture of the cathedral is truly a gem in Scotland’s biggest city. Inside it is even more impressive with huge vaults, kaleidoscopic windows and shadowed crypts. Underground, with dappled light coming through yellowed glass between columns, is where the Outlander crew filmed scenes of the Hôpital des Anges where Claire volunteers in Paris.
Stop 10: George Square
A little further west from the cathedral, we hit upon our penultimate pitstop of the day: George Square. Frequently a gathering place or festival space for locals, the little lanes nearby were used to spotlight the spontaneous proposal by Frank to Claire early in season one. Although Edinburgh is more famed for its architecture, George Square highlights some of Glasgow’s best Georgian buildings — it’s a city which shouldn’t be overlooked!
Stop 11: Doune Castle (aka Castle Leoch!)
Finally we zoomed north, past the pinprick of Stirling’s Wallace Monument, through flat fields and twee townships to the iconic Doune Castle. Instantly recognisable from its parts in Monty Python and Game of Thrones, Doune similarly took a starring role in season one of Outlander as Castle Leoch, seat of the fictional Clan MacKenzie. Thanks to its cameos, Doune is a bustling tourist hotspot but, if you cross the threshold just before it closes, you can wander the castle and lawns in relative quiet.
We Scotlanders bloggers were met at the finish line by Severine from Outlandish Bakers (and oh my goodness, were her peanut and nougat cookies the perfect antidote to two days on the road!) Between the six of us, we’d clocked up over 700 miles and all 28 of the Outlander filming locations. Not only was it special to see the real-life sites that I’d seen so many times on TV, but it’s always amazing to explore new corners of this magical wee country I live in!
So, Outlander fans… Where’s on YOUR list to visit next?
This post was written in collaboration with VisitScotland.