If you live in North America you’ll probably need no introduction to Outlander. This epic TV series is already massive on the western side of the Atlantic and has finally hit UK TV screens courtesy of Amazon Prime. For the uninitiated, think of Outlander as a cross between Game of Thrones and the movie Braveheart.
The show is based on American author Diana Gabaldon’s series of historical novels, which sees nurse Claire Beauchamp Randell mysteriously swept back from 1945 to 1743 Highland Scotland, where rebellion and romance are afoot. And it’s shot in Auld Reekie too, a country of which Executive Producer Ron Moore has commented: “The landscape itself is a character in the show. There’s a particular quality to the light in Scotland, even to the grass and the trees.” Here is our guide to some of the most dramatic Outlander locations and what you can see and do there (other than admire the grass and trees).
Doune Castle near Stirling lies in Scotland’s historic heartlands – both Robert the Bruce and William “Braveheart” Wallace made a name for themselves here – and plays a starring role in Outlander. This rugged fortress stands in for the fictional Castle Leoch, home to Colum MacKenzie and his clan in the episodes set in the eighteenth century.
What’s there for me? You can ramble around the fourteenth-century castle and gawp at its 100ft-high gatehouse. Doune itself, meanwhile, is a trim wee village with a sprinkling of little cafés and shops, and the city of Stirling is a short drive away. Stirling has an even more impressive castle, ripe for exploration, and is home to the excellent Hermann’s Restaurant, which sits in the heart of the cobbled old town. Screenheads note: scenes from Monty Python and the Game of Thrones pilot were also filmed here.
Deeply historic Culross in Fife is the perfect setting for Outlander’s fictional village of Cranesmuir. Its Mercat area is transformed on screen into the homes of Geillis Duncan and her husband Arthur. You can wander through the old alleys and discover the herb garden that Claire works at in the grounds of the fictional Castle Leoch behind the impressive Culross Palace.
What’s there for me? The fun in Culross is in simply taking a stroll around this royal burgh’s charming cobbled alleyways and feeling the centuries peel back, though Culross Palace itself is a standout attraction (when you visit, be sure to look out for the Scots Dumpy hens who supply eggs for the Palace’s Bessie Bar Tearoom). Afterwards enjoy a stroll along the banks of the River Forth and dream of the Viking longships who once ploughed this historic waterway.
The Highland Folk Museum by Newtonmore houses replicas of eighteenth-century, turf-roofed Highland crofts, which made it an ideal choice for the shoots, serving as Outlander’s MacKenzie village. It provides the backdrop for the scene where Claire, Jamie and his clansmen shelter in the first episode and appears again later on when Dougal collects the rent.
What’s there for me? Swish around the living museum first off, to discover more about Highland agriculture, textiles, art and industry. Then head to the Highland resort of Aviemore, just a little further north, where you can set up a hiking or mountain-biking trip, as well as a variety of winter sports. More sedentary types can take the Cairngorm Mountain Railway up into the UK’s most expansive mountain range. The Mountain Café, meanwhile, is the ideal place for a proper burger made with local beef; enjoy it on the terrace, gazing out at the epic scenery that has helped make Outlander so popular.
The National Trust for Scotland’s Preston Mills & Phantassie Doocot in East Linton near Edinburgh provides the backdrop for various scenes when the action fast-forwards to the 1940s.
What’s there for me? After checking out this unusual historic mill and doocot (which used to house up to five hundred pigeons), the rest of East Lothian awaits. The trim market town of Haddington is just a few miles away, but push further afield and the grand old seaside resort of North Berwick has beautiful sandy beaches. You can savour local lobster and chips from a shack right on the harbour as the seagulls squawk overhead.
One of Outlander’s first scenes was filmed in the picturesque town of Falkland, which substitutes gamely for 1940s Inverness. Wandering around Falkland, familiar sights appear such as the so-called Mrs Baird’s Guesthouses (actually the Covenanter Hotel), the Bruce Fountain where Claire comes across the ghost of Jamie, and the building that doubles as Farrell’s Hardware and Furniture Store.
What’s there for me? Falkland is a charming village in its own right and rewards a bit of aimless wandering, but its star attraction is the majestic Falkland Palace, from where Scotland’s kings once ruled the land. The Lomond Hills on the edge of Falkland are excellent for hikers, and on the other side of them hills lies Loch Leven’s Larder, an acclaimed farm shop, café and restaurant.
Top image: Great Moor Of Rannoch, Scotland highlands © Jaroslav Sekeres/Shutterstock