In the movie world, Scotland is most famous as the setting of Harry Potter, but recently the Outlander filming locations have become increasingly popular.
I love Scotland, and I’m a big believer in magic. Thus, how could I not love a series about using the magic of the standing stones found throughout the country? However, I do have a confession to make. I’ve only seen the first half the first season (albeit twice), and season five is just around the corner. Now that I’ve seen many of the Outlander filming locations around Scotland, I’m hungering to see the rest of the show.
While I’ll mention the locations on my Outlander tour, I won’t go into a lot of detail about them, as I don’t want to spoil the tour. You’ll just have to come to Scotland yourself for that.
Claire’s Herb Garden in Culross
With all the dozens of road trips I’ve made from Edinburgh, I’m always amazed at how many more locations there are for me to see. Less than an hour from Edinburgh, across the Firth of Forth (the arm of the North Sea that goes into eastern Scotland), is a little village called Culross. In 2011, it almost became famous as a setting in Captain America: First Avenger but unfortunately the scene was cut. Three years later, Outlander became filming, and one of the first locations used was an old house near the market square of Culross. The gorgeous Culross Palace, built at the turn of the 17th century, is the filming location of Claire’s herb garden.
With my Rabbies Outlander tour, the guide showed us the city center, gave us a bit of the history of the town, and then brought us up the hill to point out different landmarks. We had the option to visit Culross Palace and the gardens out back, but the admission fee for the palace is £10.50 ($12.65). Instead, I made a wander up around Culross Abbey (which is free). On the way back to the bus, I took the hill path that runs along the top of the gardens. From there, I was able to get some decent views of where Claire walked through the herbs and met Geillis Duncan.
The irony here is that in Outlander, the herb gardens are part of Castle Leoch. However, the castle used for the filming is 45 minutes away. That was the next stop on our tour.
Doune Castle is Castle Leoch
I’ve been to Doune Castle many, many times. In fact, it was one of the very first attractions I saw in the country way back on April 30th, 2015. At that time, I knew of Doune Castle as the primary filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The pilot episode for Game of Thrones was filmed there too, but that was never actually aired. Nowadays, Outlander is the rage which drives everyone to visit the castle.
We had over an hour at the castle, which was plenty of time to take the audio guide tour. There are two parts of the guide’s narrative, one in the voice of Terry Jones from Monty Python and the other specifically detailing the Outlander filming locations within the castle. Sadly, with the increase of tourism, ticket prices in the past couple years went from £5.50 to £9 ($10.90). As far as castles go, Doune is one of my favorites in Scotland, and I would definitely recommend taking the audio tour. Oh, and you get a 10% discount for being on the Rabbies Tour.
Outlander’s Infamy at Linlithgow Palace
Linlithgow Palace is one of the truly beautiful castles in Scotland, but in Outlander it’s a rather nefarious filming location. This is the setting of Wentworth prison where Captain “Black Jack” Randall whips and rapes Jamie. Aside from this, the palace is really interesting to explore. Although it’s now just a ruin after a fire in 1746, it was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, among several other kings and queens of Scotland. The fountain is also a key feature. Not long ago, they got the plumbing working again! If you visit on a Sunday in July or August, you can see the water flowing. As with Doune Castle, the admission fee rose significantly, but you can currently get a discounted ticket for £7.20 ($8.70) as a small part of the palace is closed for renovations.
The town of Linlithgow was also our lunch break for the tour, and we had a couple hours to grab a bite to eat before or after the palace (most of us ate beforehand as it was already late in the day). After checking out a few cafes, I ended up at the highly-rated Granary Cafe for some soup and homemade bread. It was delicious and surprisingly cheap.
Fort Williams Becomes Blackness Castle
Our next castle really surprised me, as I’d never heard of it but it’s such a unique and cool place to visit. It’s called Blackness Castle and it was built back in 1440 in the shape of a ship sliding into the Firth of Forth. It’s been used as a defensive fortification, a prison and an ammunition depot, and most recently it was an Outlander filming location. As with many filming locations, it’s certainly not what the show says it is. In Outlander, it’s the fort of Fort William where Captain Randall flogs Jamie (again). Since the city of Fort William doesn’t currently have a fort, Blackness was a good substitute.
The defenses of the castle are really interesting and advanced (well, they were in their time). The old entrance from the time of Mary Queen of Scots was filled in with rubble and an intricate network of kill passages and gates were installed. They’re rather narrow, and I was surprised to see how the production crew had to use a crane to lift larger set props over the castle wall into the central courtyard. You can tour the castle for £6 ($7.20). We had nearly an hour to explore, which is plenty of time to see everything there.
What Really is Lallybroch?!
Easily the most unusual Outlander filming location on our tour was Midhope Castle. The thing is, it’s not a castle. Not even close. It’s the shell of an old stone house, and by shell, I mean it has no floors inside. It’s on the land of the opulent Hopetoun House. The owner charges for cars to park in the lot at the base of the driveway, and then again asks for tips – something rather illogical for this derelict location. I mean, it’s a stone shell. That’s it. Sure, it’s a must-see for any Outlander fans out there, but don’t visit with high expectations.
One other interesting attraction at this location is just a few feet through the forest from the car park. It’s featured in a scene where Jamie and Claire lay together in a cave. Talk about altering a filming location – there’s no cave! It’s a couple of rocks on the side of the path and they hung up a couple of black sheets and pretended it was a cave.
Booking the New Outlander Tour with Rabbies
I took my Outlander filming locations tour with Rabbies as one of my first activities coming back to Scotland this year. It couldn’t have been a better way to gack back into my favorite country in the world. While I really liked all the locations we went to and I’m now hankering to finish watching Outlander, my tour had a special treat. Instead of one tour guide, we had two – Dougie and Dave. Dave was the driver and gave a few of the stories, but Doug did most of the talking. Out of the couple dozen guides I’ve had on various tours around Scotland, he was one-of-a-kind. Dressed like a young Scottish warrior with his partially shaved head, he kept us thoroughly entertained with his personal anecdotes, witty humor and fascinating stories. He was relating information every moment of the tour.
The tour leaves from the east end of Princess Street, seven days a week. Rabbies guarantees that your tour will never be canceled. All of their vans are 16 seats (which I far prefer over the 51-seat coaches of some companies). The clientele of Rabbies tends to be an older crowd, but my van was full of younger Outlander fans.
Please note that the tour does not include the entrance fee to any of the attractions. At the current rates and factoring in the discount at Linlithgow Palace, entrance to the four paid attractions is a total of £32.70 ($39.75), minus the 10% discount for being on the tour with Rabbies.
- Departure Location: 6 Waterloo Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3EG
- Departure Time: 9:15 a.m.
- Price: £45-£55 ($54.70-$66.85) depending on the month
- Tour days: 7 days a week
- Website: Rabbies Outlander Tour
- What to bring: Walking shoes, a poncho (since it’s almost guaranteed to rain), money for lunch and attractions, and your camera.
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If you’re visiting Scotland and looking for more adventures, here are some other activities you might enjoy.
- A Day of Adventures with Nevis Range in Fort William, Scotland
- Edinburgh Excursions: Spending an Afternoon at Go Ape Peebles
- 10 Activities for The Perfect Day Trip from Edinburgh
- Explore the Isle of Lewis and Harris to See Scotland’s Best
- A Cruise is the Best Way to Explore Loch Ness
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.