Every so often I like a crazy road trip around Scotland and after accidentally stumbling across a completely free day in my schedule I made up my mind that one was long overdue. I am slightly obsessed with Outlander at the moment (you may have noticed), and have had Doune Castle on my to-do list for months as it was used in the filming so I decided to head there. I made a spur of the moment decision 10 minutes before I left the house to also head to Blackness Castle afterwards and by the time I was halfway to Stirling I had added on Culross too.
Having left the house at 7.30am, all on my lonesome, I pack the car with a picnic, put Homer Simpson on the Satnav and headed up to Doune via the B996 motorway and the A9. The route I took leaving the motorway at Kinross had some stunning snow capped mountains and some of the most gorgeous valleys and rivers you could find in Scotland. Unfortunately I couldn’t find anywhere to stop so didn’t get any photos but it was an amazing drive. I arrived at 9.00am to an already quite busy castle in the sleepy little village of Doune. Doune Castle’s exterior was used as the outside of Castle Leoch and I spotted in Episode 9 the river beside the castle was used when Laoghaire was propositioning Jamie! This is the location I spent most time at, about 1 hour. It’s a castle with a good vibe and I really enjoyed walking around listening to the history on the headphones (update, Sam Heughan has added his voice to this, telling stories about the filming). There is an entrance fee (Adult £5.50, child £3.30) or if you just want some photos of “Castle Leoch” it doesn’t cost anything to wander around outside. Monty Python and the Holy Grail was also filmed here and you can find some info about it in one of the old rooms off the courtyard.
Blackness Castle was next on my list, nestled on the south banks of the Firth of Forth. I left Doune at 10am and was at Blackness by 10.45 taking the motorway the majority of the way to save time. Blackness Castle, like Doune Castle, is an Historic Scotland property with the same entrance fee as before, but while Doune had a lovely atmosphere this one wasn’t quite the same. Having been used as a garrison fortress and a state prison this dark and eerie castle was used as Black Jack Randall’s Fort William stronghold. Big well done to the the location scouts because this castle has exactly the right kind of vibe. It perhaps didn’t help that the skies has darkened and the wind was whipping the waves up against the walls of the castle. I was also the only person there so I decided to only get the photos of the Outlander scenes and not bother exploring the towers. Hopefully I can go back in the summer when its busier and the sun is out because there is a long wooden walkway out into the water which would give amazing views of the Forth Bridges and over to Fife. The courtyard here is where Randall whipped Jamie and, with a bit of altering, the outside was used to film the ride into Fort William.
My plan to visit Culross next was delayed a bit when I remembered that Bo’ness Railway is nearby. A ten minute drive back along the same road and past the entrance to the main road takes you into Bo’ness and to the old fashioned steam railway that was used when Claire waved Frank off at the station to go to war. The station was closed when i visited but you can still walk right up to the platform to get the required photos. Another place I will be heading back to in the summer as there is a museum and I want a ride of the train!
I found a gorgeous little park along this road and stopped for a sandwich and while I was chilling out I searched the internet for anywhere else nearby that might have been used in the filming. It was then I remembered a rumour that I heard a while back that Lallybrook was in fact in the estate of Hopetoun. By this time it was around 12.30pm so I figured I had time so with the postcode in the satnav and my lunch done it was in the car again for the 20 min drive to Hopetoun. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was looking for and as it is a private estate I knew I wouldn’t be able to drive around willy nilly so I went into the farm shop on the off chance someone would know what I was talking about. Ive never been here before but what a gorgeous little farm shop! Luckily the woman serving had had a tour lady in the week before and was all organised. I had to fill out a permit so I could drive on their land, I was given some directions and was warned not to stray as there was a shoot on (!) and off I went. After driving back onto the main road and turning right I took the first right and headed along a small dirt road for about two minutes before I found it. Midhope Castle is actually a ruin and is privately owned so nobody is allowed inside but how lovely to see Jamie’s home.
The next stop is actually cheating slightly because I never actually went. But I drove right past it and it wasn’t until I got home and watched the next episode “By the pricking of my thumbs” that I spotted the stunning Hopetoun House had been used as the Duke of Sandringham’s home. As it is in the same estate as Midhope Castle I could easily have squeezed this in but again, I will go back!
The next stop and the village with the last two of my locations was Culross. I have been here before on the Outlander trail but didn’t quite have enough information of where exactly they filmed so this time I was prepared. Parking the car in the large (and free) car park on the shore I was struck again by just how gorgeous this village is. It’s like a time capsule and the location scouts again did a brilliant job sourcing this little gem. The market cross is through the centre and up one of the cobbled lanes to the left. Each of the lanes take you to the same place so take your pick and you will spot straight away where you are when you reach the cross. This is where Cranesmuir was filmed. The houses were painted a grey colour to fit in more with the times, lots of the houses were used and the square is where that poor kid has his ear nailed to the post. The entrance to Geillis Duncan’s house is here as well as Mrs Fitzgibbons house where her nephew was ill.
After almost filling the memory card on my camera taking tonnes of photos of these gorgeous, multi-coloured houses I made my way along to the palace and more specifically the Palace gardens. This authentic Jacobite garden doubles up as Claire’s herb Garden and I was seriously impressed by how well is was designed. With it being early spring it was beginning to come to life and I spent a good half an hour just wandering around in the peace and quiet reading all the little hand written tags. There is a huge selection of veg, herbs and flowers which I’m almost positive they sell in the little hut. There was a small selection of broccoli and things along with an honesty box which i think is a fab idea.
This was the last of my stops and I got home to Kirkcaldy, Fife at around 3pm. I was completely knackered but isn’t it amazing how much you an fit into a day? I left from Fife but you could just as easily leave from Edinburgh. If you did I would suggest heading over the bridges to Culross first then up to Doune Castle then back down to Blackness, Midhope and Hopetoun.
If you happen to have two free days there is a lot more you can squeeze in. Leaving from Fife and doing this route, instead of coming to Fife to visit Culross head to Linlithgow Palace in Linlithgow which was used as the prison Jamie was thrown into. This is another of Historic Scotland’s properties so this is a small entrance fee but it is worth it for the views if you climb right up to the top.
Next you can head past Edinburgh to visit Preston Mill. Preston Mill, in East Linton, was used in some of the 1940’s scenes and also where the Redcoats almost find Jamie and he has to hid under water. An old water mill it has a funky Dutch conical roof that is a photographers dream.
After getting your head down for the night you can visit Culross then stop off along the road at Aberdour Castle which was used as a monastery in Episode 16, before exploring Falkland which doubles up as 1940’s Inverness in Outlander. Balgonie Castle is nearby also, which is used in the upcoming 18th episode and is a day out in itself. I would recommend phoning beforehand so the Laird can give you a quick tour and let you admire the creative handywork on the ceilings and walls of the castle.
How are you enjoying the Outlander series? For more Outlander blogs keep an eye on the this section of my site where I’m always adding more.