Scotland really loves the camera. And it’s safe to say that the camera loves Scotland – the jaw-dropping scenery features in dozens of iconic and cult films.
This article was written by Visit Scotland.
With Scotland’s landscapes being used as the setting for so many productions, you could actually plan a whole holiday around visiting awesome filming locations there’s even a word for doing just that – set-jetting. Get it?
Still not convinced? Scotland was recently voted as the best cinematic destination in the world by readers of national American newspaper USA TODAY and travel website 10Best.com. And it doesn’t look like Scotland will be willing to give up this title anytime soon, as future blockbusters in the making continue to be shot in captivating places across the country.
So whether you are a movie buff, keen to see some of the country’s finest landscapes, or you just want to have some fun recreating famous shots from films, it’s time to grab a camera and get exploring. You might think Scotland looks good on screen, but you’re guaranteed to fall in love with it when you actually get here!
1. The Quiraing, Isle of Skye
The Quiraing is really something else – landscapes don’t come more iconic than this. Set in the north end of the Isle of Skye, it’s an ancient landslip defined by unique and craggy rock formations. Filled with intrigue and mystery, the Quiraing is naturally a perfect backdrop for gloomy, brooding film scenes.
You might have noticed it in Macbeth (2015), starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, or Snow White and the Huntsmen (2012) with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron. Stretch your legs and follow the path for a good hill walk and as you go, take in incredible views along the Trotternish Ridge and over Staffin Bay.
2. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Lochaber, west Highlands
School commutes don’t get much more magical than this. Yes, in case you didn’t already guess, this famous arched bridge features in a number of the Harry Potter films. The adventures of Harry, Ron and Hermione regularly kick off with a journey on the Hogwarts Express (or in an ensorcelled Ford Anglia which comes perilously close to the charging steam train, as seen in 2002’s The Chamber of Secrets).
Want to experience it for yourself? Take a ride on the West Highland Railway Line with the Jacobite Steam Train. We don’t recommend taking a flying car, but you can visit by road – the viaduct overlooks the Glenfinnan Monument and the shore of Loch Shiel, and is an ideal spot to stop for a picnic or a snap.
3. Glencoe, west Highlands
We could say Scotland’s landscapes have a license to thrill, and perhaps none more so than Glencoe. This spectacular area of rugged beauty is home to a number of Munros, including the striking peaks of Buachaille Etive Mor and Buachaille Etive Beag, which make a starring appearance in the critically-acclaimed Bond film Skyfall (2012).
Daniel Craig’s James Bond, with Judi Dench as M in tow, drives through the bleak and atmospheric glen in a classic Aston Martin DB5 before the film’s explosive conclusion. Why not take a road trip on the A82 and take in the natural wonders of Glencoe?
4. Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin, Midlothian
It’s not only Scotland’s natural landscapes which feature in blockbuster movies – pivotal moments of the Dan Brown novel adaptation, The Da Vinci Code (2006), played out in the crypt of the exquisite Rosslyn Chapel. The film’s main characters, played by Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, uncover the biggest piece of the mystery within its ancient stone walls.
Founded in 1446, this remarkable place of worship is filled with just as much intrigue as the story of The Da Vinci Code itself. It’s adorned with intricate stone carvings inside and out, which include over 100 Green Men carvings and the death mask of Robert the Bruce, and is set within tranquil Roslin Glen.
5. Doune Castle, Doune, near Stirling
Of course there was going to be a castle included in this list somewhere! The medieval stronghold of Doune Castle has featured in British comedy classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) and, more recently, the Outlander drama series.
Although Outlander isn’t strictly a cinematic release, it’s become a worldwide phenomenon that’s not going to go away anytime soon. In the show, the fortress is the setting of fictional Castle Leoch, the seat of Clan Mackenzie, and features early in the enthralling story of time-travel, romance, and historical drama. Visit and roam this castle’s great hall, courtyard and cellar and imagine life in Scotland during the Jacobite era.
It might surprise you to hear that the handsome streets of Glasgow essentially played body double to Philadelphia in the 2013 apocalyptic horror flick World War Z. Yes, really!
Glasgow was transformed with the help of yellow taxis and US-style traffic lights, and one of the film’s most gripping scenes was filmed in George Square – remember Brad Pitt and thousands of people scrambling to escape a city centre zombie breakout? If you’re keen to follow in the footsteps of Brad, then explore the city on a walking tour, or spend a day simply wandering around.
7. West Sands, St Andrews, Fife
One of the most memorable opening scenes (barefoot athletes, dressed in white, running along the breaking waves, with that unforgettable theme tune playing – remember?) was filmed on a beautiful stretch of beach in St Andrews. Chariots of Fire (1981) was a multi-Oscar winning film which put this charming east coast university town on the map.
The beach itself has held its reputation for being a great running spot, with beach races taking place annually. You can also try the wind-powered activity of land-yachting, or have a go at stand-up paddle boarding or beach kayaking near the shoreline.
8. Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides
Okay, so this one might be a bit of a cheat since technically no filming took place, but the Neolithic standing stones of Calanais were cited as major inspiration for scenes in the Disney•Pixar hit of 2012, Brave. In the film, the standing stones are the setting for an important part of flame-haired Merida’s story.
Thought to have been erected around 5,000 years ago, these megaliths are as mystical in real life as they are in the animation and can be found on breathtaking moorland, surrounded by the grey waters of Loch Roag and the brown hillsides of Great Bernera. Once visited, you’ll never forget them.