Historic Scotland sites are no stranger to the screen having featured as filming locations in a diverse array of productions from classic comedies to Bollywood blockbusters.
Read on to discover some of our biggest film and television stars.
With it’s volcanic crags and ancient hillforts, Edinburgh’s Holyrood Park is a city park like no other. It’s featured in many a story and show, including two recent big budget productions for Netflix.
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020) centres on a fictional version of everyone’s favourite singing competition, with Scotland as the host. Various Edinburgh landmarks appear in the film, but Holyrood Park actually stands in for Iceland!
The Icelandic entrants, Lars and Sigrit, are shown visiting magical elves who live in little wooden houses on the crags.
Filming of “The Story of Fire Saga” in Holyrood Park. The elves’ little houses can be made out at the foot of the crags!
Viewers were treated to incredible shots of sun-drenched Holyrood Park in the opening episode of the 2024 Netflix adaptation of David Nicholl’s novel One Day.
Lead characters Emma and Dexter mark the end of their time at the University of Edinburgh by climbing Arthur’s Seat and enjoying the wonderful views across the city.
Dexter and Emma make their way to the summit of Arthur’s Seat in “One Day” (image courtesy of Netflix)
A mile outside the old city walls, Craigmillar Castle acted as something of a country retreat from the political cauldron of Edinburgh. But it’s seen it’s fair share of drama: the infamous “Craigmillar Bond” resulted in the assassination of Lord Darnley.
More recently, it has played host to exciting film productions, including the epic Outlaw King, based on the life of Robert the Bruce.
Craigmillar can also be spotted in the 1997 TV production of Ivanhoe with James Cosmo and Christopher Lee. And in Outlander, you can seen it as Ardsmuir Prison, where Jamie is held after the Battle of Culloden.
Outlaw King: Behind the Scenes
Doune Castle is perhaps the most famous of our sites among Outlander fans. It plays a starring role in the time-travelling drama as Castle Leoch, the home of Clan MacKenzie.
It’s also loved by comedy fans, thanks to it popping up in Monty Python and The Holy Grail. When visiting, you can enjoy an audio tour from the late Terry Jones and practice your “horse riding” using coconuts!
Doune also has a place in the Game of Thrones universe. GoT fans will
recognise it as Winterfell from the pilot episode.
A “Winterfell” sign appeared outside Doune Castle to mark the final season of “Game of Thrones”
The mighty Tantallon Castle was home to the Red Douglas dynasty. Set high on a cliff edge, the castle’s dramatic position makes it a perfect filming location.
It appears in the critically-acclaimed film Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson. You can also get a small glimpse of it in the rather less critically-acclaimed festive romance A Castle for Christmas (2021).
Along with Inchmahome Priory and Crossraguel Abbey, the castle was exposed to a huge new audience in 1998 when it featured as one of several Scottish filming locations in the Bollywood smash hit Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
St Clement’s Church
“The grandest medieval building in the Western Isles” became one of our stars of the screen over Christmas 2019. St Clement’s in Rodel, Harris starred in a festive episode of Call the Midwife.
Swapping the East End of London for the Western Isles, the nuns of Nonnatus House set up a missionary headquarters in the 1500s church, built by the 8th chief of Clan MacLeod.
Stunning aerial shots show the church’s glorious location, surrounded by coastline and mountain. Keen-eyed viewers will be able to make out the amazing late medieval stonework, including the chief’s fine tomb.
Further up the coast, the atmospheric Calanais Standing Stones also made an appearance. Incidentally, the stones provided inspiration for the writers and artists of Disney’s animated feature film, Brave (2012).
We’ll finish our tour on the banks of the River Forth. Blackness Castle is an impressive ship-shaped fortress which has served as a lordly residence, a garrison and a prison. In recent years, it’s become a popular filming location.
Mary Queen of Scots (2019) starring Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie was shot here. Blackness also stands the Yorkshire Castle where Bruce’s wife Elizabeth (Florence Pugh) is imprisoned in Outlaw King.
Mel Gibson and Glen Close filmed the 1990 film Hamlet here. It also made an appearance in the 1996 film The Bruce, alongside Brian Blessed and Oliver Reed. Blackness stood in for Fort William in the first series of Outlander.
There’s many more filming locations to discover…
Whether it’s Caerlaverock Castle in The Decoy Bride or Fort Charlotte in BBC crime drama Shetland, there’s many more filming locations to discover. Download our ‘Historic Scotland on Screen’ map to see what’s near you.
Books more your bag? Elsewhere on the blog you can check out Historic Scotland sites that have appeared in books.
This blog was originally published in 2018 and has been updated to include more recent productions and locations.