- Jamie’s Ghost
- Outlander – A Very Brief Synopsis
- Culloden Battlefield
- Clava Cairns
- Craigh na Dun
- Finnich Glen – St Ninnian’s Spring
- A. Malcom Print Shop
- Midhope Castle – Lallybroch
A few months prior to our visit to Scotland in November 2019, we stumbled upon the fact that our Amazon Prime membership gave us access to much more than just free shipping. We discovered that on our Smart TV, we have access to many movies and TV shows of which we were not aware.
Some of the programming on Amazon Prime is made especially for Amazon Studios, such as the Bosch TV series that we enjoy, and which I have posted about on my blog.
However, the Starz cable network also allows broadcast of prior seasons of most of their shows. That included the very popular Outlander TV series, which will begin its 5th season in February 2020.
Outlander caught our attention because it dealt with both Scottish history and also time travel, which is my favorite genre. After watching the first few episodes of Season 1, both Deborah and I were hooked. Given our upcoming trip to Scotland, we were also anxious to learn about some Scottish locations that we might visit during our trip. The result was that we binge watched Seasons 1 thru 4 in preparation for our trip.
If you have had the opportunity to view any of my recent posts on our Scotland trip, you know that the search for Outlander filming locations played a significant role in some of our destinations.
This will consolidate those Outlander experiences into a single post. I will include many pictures also found in my other posts, as well as some new ones. I will also mix in some actual pictures from the TV series that inspired our search.
We found our very first location along our drive from the Edinburgh airport to St Andrews, where we spent our first evening. We stopped in the small village of Falkland. In the very first episode of Season 1, Claire and Frank stopped here as part of their second honeymoon after being reunited at the end of World War II. The exteriors of Falkland substituted for their supposedly being in Inverness in the story.
One of the more memorable scenes from this brief stay was when Frank was returning to the hotel on a rainy evening. Standing next to Bruce Fountain, in the middle of the square outside the hotel, is a man looking up at the window of the hotel room in which Claire is seen brushing her hair. As Frank approaches, the man turns around and vanishes. This is often referred to as Jamie’s ghost.
Fans raised questions about that scene, including was that in fact Jamie and, if so, how and when (in his time) was Jamie able to time travel to that point in his future?
Here is a You Tube link to this scene …
Gabalon did finally confirm that it was indeed the ghost of Jamie, and she promises to reveal the secret in the 10th and final book in the series. Gabaldon is currently researching and writing the 9th Outlander novel. The 8th book in the series, Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, was published in June of 2014.
Outlander – A Very Brief Synopsis
As a brief synopsis of the plot of Outlander, it involves an English woman named Claire who visits a site in the Scottish Highlands just after the end of World War II. As mentioned earlier, she is on a second honeymoon with her husband Frank. She goes off on her own and discovers a hill with standing stones not far from Inverness where she is staying with Frank. She also sees that there is ritual dancing and ancient rites being performed. Claire returns to this location alone. When Claire approaches the stones and then touches one, she is transported from 1945 back to 1743 in that same area of the Scottish Highlands near Inverness.
Here is a You Tube link to the scene in which Claire first travels back in time.
Claire finds herself in a time when the Scottish clans are fighting with the English to retain their way of life. Claire soon meets and eventually falls in love with Jamie Fraser. The story then continues to explore their relationship amongst a bloody history of which Claire is only too aware, and Claire and Jamie’s efforts to shape a different future.
While staying in Inverness, we made a point to visit the Colloden Battlefield. It is located just east of Inverness. The Battle of Colloden in 1746 marked the tragic end to the traditional Scottish way of life, and the end to what came to be known as the Jacobite Rebellion. It was a pivotal moment in the book as well since Claire was well aware that almost all the Scots who fought in that battle would die. Both she and Jamie thought that he would die as well and, try as they might, they could not change events that led to that fatal battle.
The battlefield itself is really just a large, open field. There is a modern museum and tourist center on site. One of the two, main areas of the battlefield also has markers for many of the clans who fought and died on that field, including the real clan Fraser.
I found the museum particularly interesting since it really tells two, very separate stories. As you walk through the exhibits, on one side you find the history of the Jacobites leading up to the battle, as told from the Scottish/Jacobite point of view. Directly opposite you find that exact same history and timeline, but told from the English point of view.
We spoke with one of the docents at the museum and she told us that in general, Gabaldon got most of her history spot on, and that the books had most certainly been a boon to Scottish tourism. However, she also said that the mistaken impression you get from the books (and one that I had as well) was that the rebellion was between the Scottish clans on one side and the English invaders on the other, and that it was all about the Scots trying to retain their way of life.
The truth was much more of a mixed bag. People of the time fought for many different reasons, of which clan life was certainly one. But many fought for political, religious and economic reasons as well which often had little to do with clan life. Because of that, the docent also told us that the two sides were very much a mix, often with Scots fighting alongside the English, and sometimes even with English fighting alongside the clans.
Here is a link to an interesting article that addresses the things which Gabaldon got both right and wrong about the Jacobite Rebellion.
I was aware that there was a stone circle fairly close to Colloden but I was not aware just how close it actually was. As we left the battlefield, we almost immediately saw a sign for Clava Cairns and that it was just a few miles away. That was one of the very few times we were able to find signs for things we looked for, before we essentially were right on top of them.
Clava Cairns proved to be one of the highlights of our entire trip. The area it was in was fairly large, containing five separate stone circles of varying sizes. We had it completely to ourselves when we first arrived and that certainly added to the special feeling. The area itself just seemed kind of mystical, especially since it was so quiet.
What I learned afterwards is that the connection to Outlander are the large standing stones around the first of the stone circles as we entered from the parking lot. It is widely believed that these stones may have been the inspiration for the magical, time travelling stones on Craigh na Dun that took Claire back into the past.
Craigh na Dun
We, or rather I, did not find this next Outlander location until quite a bit later in the trip. The hill on which the fictional Criagh na Dun is located in the Outlander books and TV series actually does exist in Scotland. It is in the central Highlands just east of the village of Kinloch Rannoch. However, the mystical stones quite obviously did not exist … that is until the set designers got to work and created them.
We were staying near the village of Crianlarich when I made my attempt to find the filming location for Craigh na Dun. That morning, Deborah and I had both visited the truly beautiful village of Killin. I have a description and pictures of that village in Part 4 of my Scotland driving trip posts.
After I took Deborah back to the home in which we were staying, I headed back out in the afternoon on my own to try and find three locations, one of which was the site of Craigh na Dun. As I also explained in my Part 4 post, I probably spent too much time on finding the first two locations. When I finally started driving to the area in which I thought Craigh na Dun was located, I had about 40 miles to drive and only about an hour and half left of daylight.
I drove as fast as was safely possible on some very narrow roads, all the while watching the time pass, and my daylight wane. As I came close to what I thought might be the correct location, just as I drove over a rise in the road, I immediately recognized the hill where the Outlander scenes had been filmed. I parked and got out my tripod to take some pics from many angles as it got darker and darker. My best pic is still quite a bit dark and I could kick myself for not at least trying to insert myself into the foreground since I was using my tripod.
Just before it got completely dark, another couple arrived who also had been searching for this Outlander site. I left soon after and safely made the dark drive back to join Deborah.
Finnich Glen – St Ninnian’s Spring
The next site with Outlander connections at which we stopped was not until we were driving from Glasgow to our final stop in Edinburgh. In Outlander, Season 1, Episode 6 – The Garrison Commander, Dougal MacKenzie takes Claire to St. Ninnian’s Spring which the Scot’s also call Liar’s Spring. Dougal believes that if you drink from the water, you must tell the truth or the water will kill you.
Dougal is about to suggest that Claire marry his nephew Jamie in order to avoid arrest by the English. But before he does that, he wants to be certain that she is not an English spy. So he takes Claire down to this spring and, when she drinks from it, she doesn’t die. So Dougal now is certain that she is not a spy.
These are scenes from the St Ninnian’s Spring Outlander episode.
The spring and surrounding gorge where they go in the TV show was actually filmed at a place named Finnich Glen. That is located about 15 miles northwest of Glasgow near the village of Craighat and on the Carnock Burn.
We found the general location and parked the car but it looked to be a bit of a walk to get to the Glen and also likely involved some muddy trekking through some woods, so I once again headed out on my own. The path that I initially took led me along the top of a cliff looking down on a narrow gorge probably 80 feet below. I kept on following the path and eventually came upon some treacherous looking stone steps leading quite vertically down toward what looked to be a narrow crevice. I started down very slowly but then decided not to venture into the crevice.
Had I continued down not too much further, I would have come to a pretty special location, and I regret now that I did not continue down. Here is a You Tube video taken by some folks who did make their way all the way down.
I returned to the top and continued on the path which eventually took me down to the level of the stream that snaked through the gorge. What I saw, however, was that there was no room on either side of the stream for a path. The sides of the gorge went right up to the water. So it would have been necessary to either have waders on or to take off my shoes and roll up my pants, which I was not willing to do.
I decided to return to the car. On my way back, I saw a young couple exiting those rock stairs I had started to go down. They told me that just beneath that narrow crevice, it opened onto the stream and provided a view of what sounded like what I had seen on the internet. I once again reluctantly decided not to try, but I asked the couple to at least take a picture of me at the top of those stairs.
Here are some pictures of Finnich Glen that I seen on the internet prior to our visit.
A. Malcolm Print Shop
The last two Outlander locations we visited on our trip were both seen during the final stop on our trip in Edinburgh. When I booked our place to stay in downtown Edinburgh, I had noticed that it was very near the filming location for the exterior of the A. Malcolm Print Shop, as seen in Outlander Season 3, Episodes 5 and 6. These episodes included the long awaited reunion of Claire and Jamie after twenty years apart.
Jamie was working under the alias of A. Malcolm in the city of Edinburgh. Claire’s first husband Frank had died and Claire then found out that Jamie was still alive and living in Edinburgh. She surprises him at the end of Episode 5 and their reunion is explored in Episode 6.
The real life “Close” (a Close is a small alleyway leading off of the Royal Mile) in which this scene was filmed is called Bakehouse Close which is right off of the Royal Mile leading up to Edinburgh Castle. It was also only a block or so from where we were staying on Old Tolbooth Wynd Close.
After initially finding, and dismissing, another Close as the filming site, we did find Bakehouse Close not far from the incorrect one. Obviously, the set decorators added a lot during pre-production, including the extensive woodwork on the stairs leading up to the entrance, but this was undeniably the location used for the scene exteriors.
Midhope Castle – Lallybroch
We drove to and found the final Outlander filming location on the second last day of our trip. We had passed by the site on our way into Edinburgh because of the fading daylight. But on this day we got an early start which enabled us to once again do a bit of driving and backtracking before we were finally able to find the site.
The site is located about 15 miles west of Edinburgh city centre, off of the A904. It is just west of the Hopetoun Farm Shop. The turnoff is not marked by any sign for Midhope Castle. Turn north at the corner with signs for the “Fireworks Store”.
We had the location to ourselves when we arrived but some other folks arrived not long afterwards. However, I can imagine that this site can get pretty overrun during the height of tourist season.
The castle (just a house, really) is locked but since it was not used for interior filming, that was quite alright. The main thing was the very recognizable path leading up to the archway that fronts the house. This visit proved to be a nice bookend to our Outlander site visits during our trip.
We did actually stop at one other nearby castle which did have an Outlander connection – Blackness Castle. But with the exception of Jamie climbing the wall to rescue Claire from Blackjack Randall in one early scene, there was nothing much recognizable from the TV series. Blackness Castle was actually the stand-in location for Blackjack Randall’s main post at Fort William.
As I finish writing this, Deborah and I are waiting for the February 2020 debut of Season 5 of Outlander. We will be getting a temporary subscription to the Starz cable network in order to be able to watch these new episodes when they are first broadcast.
To view Part 1 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …
To view Part 2 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …
To view Part 3 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …
To view Part 4 of my 4 Part series on all of the Scotland locations we visited …