Craigh na Dun and other top Outlander locations

Outlander has and is doing wonders for the Scottish tourism industry. With four blockbuster seasons now under their belts, the works of Diana Gabaldon have gone down a storm, particularly with our friends from across the pond. Depicting the action-packed journey of Claire and Jamie, it’s a fantastic blend of time-travelling fantasy, an endlessly moving love story….and gory Jacobite historical reality. With visits to the show’s filming locations increasingly in demand, I’m often asked about how to experience your own little taste of the Outlander journey. From the Standing Stones at Craigh na Dun to the dreaded Fort William, Scotland has you covered.

Truth is, there are countless spots in Scotland that were used for filming throughout the show. CGI has been used on occasion but much of what you see on screen can be experienced with maximum authenticity. As a means of narrowing down the list somewhat, here is a selection of my personal stand-out picks.

 

Craigh na Dun – Where is it? Is it real? Can I visit?

Where else could I start? The mystical and enchanting spot where Claire and Frank first come across the mighty standing stones that soon after were to propel Claire back in time. They have been an ever-present since, including in Season 4 when everyone’s been getting in on the time travel game.

Bad news first! No standing stones actually exist as were depicted, but for me they are based on a combination of Callanish and Clava Cairns, both of which are outstanding Scottish tourist sites. The stones were simply added and removed as needed for filming. Even without the presence of the colossal pillars, this serene spot in Perthshire is a fantastic selection as Craigh na Dun. Hats off to the Outlander crew.

craigh na dun outlander location kinnloch rannoch

outlander blog craigh na dun location

Finding the exact spot of Craigh na Dun is not immediately clear but the site of filming is at Kinnloch Rannoch in Perthshire. On the south side of the Dunalastair Reservoir in Tay Forest Park under the watchful gaze of the spectacular and conical Schiehallion mountain, this is scenic Highland Perthshire at its best. You will recognise the mound from the roadside and it’s just a short walk out to the site. Kinnloch Rannoch was used in numerous other scenes and with good reason – it’s one of the most remote and beautiful areas in the country.

Please note that the Craigh na dun filming site is not an official tourist attraction, far from it. Don’t expect a gift shop, tour guides et al and the land belongs to the local farm. That said, access is seemingly open without restriction so just be a respectful traveller and leave the site as you find it. And don’t scare the sheep!

outlander craigh na dun location filming kinnloch rannoch

craigh na dun from outlander filming location

Castle Leoch

The Mackenzie base of operations is in fact the wonderful Doune Castle, located a short drive from the city of Stirling. Something of a ‘Hollywood’ castle, it has also appeared in Monty Python and, briefly, as Winterfell’s interior in Game of Thrones. Doune Castle is consistently on my lists of top Scottish castles and, as a hub between the Highlands and Central Scotland, has seen plenty of celebrity visitors. Bonnie Prince Charlie himself was one such famous face and the castle was used as a temporary prison for government prisoners in the Jacobite wars. Which makes for a nice and authentic Outlander connection.

castle leoch outlander doune filming

castle leoch filming location

Castle Leoch is a very prominent participant in the show as the seat of Clan Mackenzie and the list of visitors has shot up considerably as a result. Be sure to make your way around the atmospheric interior and out onto the roof for fabulous views north towards the Highlands. My tip would be to visit on weekdays at the beginning or end of the day to avoid some of the crowds.

doune castle hall outlander

castle leoch outlander doune castle

 

 

Devil’s Pulpit, Glen Finnich – A real-life Craigh na dun

Found within 30 minutes of the centre of our biggest city, this remote and haunting little spot has exploded onto tourist itineraries in recent years. This massive, insanely vibrant, gorge doubles as Liar’s Spring in Season 1 of Outlander when Claire and Dougal are having a bit of a barney. Upon drinking from the stream, Dougal is convinced of her trustworthiness. Outwith Outlander folklore, rumour has it that this was the spot where the Devil addressed his cronies or also was a meeting point for druids. All very mysterious.

outlander filming locations devil's pulpit

devil's pulpit outlander locations scotland

outlander craigh na dun liar devil's pulpit

You can get there by following the A809 away from Glasgow, headed to Drymen to the south east of Loch Lomond. You’ll want to park (if you can) as close to the turnoff to the B834 as you can get. Despite not being signed or really in any way kitted-out for tourism, this place can get very busy. Get to the Glen by walking (east side of the road) along the fairly obvious path until you see a very makeshift staircase heading steeply down into the gorge. Use the ropes to support you (not suitable for all) and once at the bottom you can either be happy with the views all around or wade a little to the Pulpit itself. It’s popular with canyoners now and you’ll be up to your knees in water if you do wade so keep that in mind in your preperation.

I would underline here that the site suffers from uncontrollable tourist numbers in summer. Parking is very limited and the Glen is in very real danger of becoming unrecognisable. Please take this into account and, where possible, visit outwith peak season and leave it exactly as you find it.

 

Culross

Culross is one of the prettiest and quaintest little towns you’re likely to find in the UK – a country that excels in this department. A 17th Century Scottish Royal Burgh, it is resplendent in whitewashed buildings that pull in photographers and artists en masse. It is the town where time has stood still. Particularly memorable are Culross Palace and Culross Abbey. The former is a magnificent example of wealthy living in the early 17th Century; the latter as a remarkably reflective church that delivers a deafening silence on entry. There are wonderful views over the Firth of Forth throughout the town.

culross palace outlander filming location

culross outlander

mercat cross culross outlander filming locations

In Outlander, Culross was used as the village of Cranesmuir. Most memorably the square was the site of local punishments. Remember the wee boy with his nailed ear? Or Geillis being hauled off to a grim demise for witchcraft? On a more suitably cheery note, Culross Palace Gardens doubled as the Castle Leoch gardens where Claire goes to pick herbs. You can also read about nearby Falkland – Inverness in the show – with my Top Things to do in Falkland post.

 

Blackness Castle

I vividly remember a school trip to Blackness Castle as a wee boy. The enduring memories of awe making it one of my favourite castles in Central Scotland. In truth, it’s a grim and chilling place that is exposed to the Firth of Forth’s oft-brutal breeze. What the 15th Century fortress lacks in romantic appeal though, it makes up for in moody character. Hence why it was another fantastic choice by Team Outlander to double as Fort William, the Highland headquarters for the government forces.

blackness castle gate outlander filming location

blackness castle courtyard outlander filming fort william

This was the location where Jamie was brutally flogged in Season 1 by a possessed Black Jack Randall. With strips of his back hanging loose, it was a mauling that would have killed most men. An early insight into the sadistic nature of the English officer. Jamie and the lads were also to stage their dramatic nick-of-time rescue of Claire here when she was captured in a later episode.

blackness castle filming location fort william

Blackness Castle is to be found in West Lothian, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth and has some memorable views over to Fife and of the distinctive Forth Bridges. Nearby Linlithgow is another top filming spot as is East Lothian‘s Preston Mill.

 

Lallybroch

Moving on full-spectrum from sullen Blackness, Lallybroch is an altogether different affair. It’s up there with the Craigh na Dun location for magical appeal. Actually Midhope Castle, this is the site of Jamie’s family seat. Jamie’s sister Jenny and her husband Ian look after the place while Jamie is away getting in trouble at every opportunity. When the happy couple do return to Lallybroch, it ensures a rare period of peaceful contentment. That typically lasts a day or two. The Castle archway was used in that harrowing scene when Jamie was flogged of course, trouble’s never far away!

lallybroch outlander filming location midhope castle

derelict midhope castle lallybroch outlander

Midhope Castle is on the extensive Hopetoun Estate and has in the past required a permit to visit. It is, in fact, derelict and inaccessible so visitors will have to content themselves with the exterior….and their imagination. On my last visits there has been a makeshift ticket office as the landowners have seen an opportunity to charge visitors an ever-increasing ‘entry’ fee. This fee only allows you to walk around the exterior of course so don’t expect much return for your investment.

midhope castle outlander lallybroch location

We are certain to have not seen the last of at least some of these great Outlander filming locations. Each has their own charm and, due largely to the limited access to the show in the UK, most are generally not inundated with visitors…..yet. With Season 5 filming on-going in Scotland, new Scottish locations are imminent. Glasgow has featured heavily, Highland allure has increased yet further and Fife has never known anything like it.

Long may it continue!

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13 Comments

  1. I think it’s wonderful that these places are receiving wide exposure. Superb photographs, Neil; and nice to see the kilt included! Thank you…

    1. Thanks John! Some great sights here and hopefully it’ll help Outlander focussed visitors get more from their trips. As for the kilt…that’s a given! 😉

  2. Just back from a long holiday n Scotland. I agree with how special Clava Cairns is and we thought it could well have inspired DG for the books. There are also some hills to ne side of the cairn which might fit the bill. Oddly enough, I took a photo of my hubby stooping into the split or double stones we found there and a trick of light has shown up as a sort of blue filter at the top of his head. This amused us and our friends greatly! Unfortunately he doesn’t want me to post it! And no he didn’t disappear!

    1. Glad you had fun at Clava Cairns Ingrid, definitely an enchanting spot and interesting to think that the defeated Jacobite soldiers may have fled straight through this area after Culloden. Another potential thought for the Outlander scriptwriters maybe?

  3. Roslin Glen (Rosslyn) was the site where the horses were watered after Jamie helped Claire escape Jack from Fort William. Episode 9 Season 1. It was filmed at the edge of the River North Esk, down beside the old gunpowder mill. Edinburgh is 7 miles north of Roslin where I live, and the village is also the site of Rosslyn Chapel, where the Da Vinci Code was filmed! Also, a lot of the Edinburgh scenes are filmed next to my office building, near Holyrood in Edinburgh. Bakehouse Close just off the Royal Mile was used in Series 2 and the recent filming of Series 3. I was lucky enough to see ‘Jamie’ when I was at work.

    1. Thanks for the info Jo, Rosslyn’s a favourite of mine as well! Lucky you getting in on the act for Season 3, sure there are more than a few readers who’d give a fair amount to get up close with Jamie 🙂

  4. Great views over Dunalistair Water and the hill for the standing stones in Outlander. We visit this area as much as possible and were fortunate to come across the hill when the stones were still up after filming. The really nice security man would not let us through the gate but we got some photo’s, with editing to get rid of the ropes holding them in place they came out okay.
    We have been visiting this week and i always slow down for a look as we go past. This area of Perthshire is so beautiful and though it is remote it is well worth a visit

    1. Brilliant, I’ve heard the ‘stones’ were up for a bit and would’ve been really cool to have seen them! Definitely agree that it’s a stunning part of the world too, looking forward to my next trip!

  5. I am totally ENGROSSED IN THE BOOKS AND THE VIDEO. AM INTERESTED IN TIME TRAVEL I WROTE TWO BOOKS, BUT DEALT WITH REINCARNATION. THERE IS A HINT OF THIS WITH SAME ACTOR TAKING PART OF FRANK AND CAPT RANDALL, I HAVE HEARD IT IS POSS TO LINK UP WITH AN ANCESTOR, BUT ALSO FEEL REINCARNATION CAN TAKE PLACE BETWEEN ANCESTORS. I FEEL SHE IS AN AMAZING WRITER ON FOUR LEVELS, THE HISTORY, DESCRIPTION, TIME TRAVEL ITSELF AND THE MOVING LOVE STORY, THE ACTORS GIVE IT DEPTH OF FEELING AND IS PORTRAYED SENSITIVELY AND BELIEVEABLY. I RECENTLY WENT TO SCOTLAND AND FELT SOME SPIRITUAL LINKS THEN PICKED UP ‘THE FIERY CROSS’ IN THE DRS. I HAVE NEBER BEEN THE SAME SINCE!!!!

  6. Hi, Neil!

    What a wonderful article!

    I’m very late to the game and just picked up Outlander a month ago. That said, I devoured every last episode in under a week! I was completely mesmerized.

    I’m so bummed to learn Craigh na Dun isn’t real ?lol. Ah well. I suppose time travel isn’t in our near future. Visiting Lallybroch or Castle Leoch must be incredibly haunting. I’d like to see it all someday.

    In the meantime, I’ll have to content myself with my upcoming stay on the Aran Islands next month. I wonder if any of those ancient ruins will take me back in time ?.

    Thanks for sharing your research on these sites with us, Neil! Happy travels to you!

    Kit Kittelstad

    1. Hi Kit, glad to hear you’re enjoying the show! It may not be quite ‘real’ but there’s still a strong impact from visiting the site – and the Machrie Moor Stones on Arran will have an effect on you I’m sure ;-). Have a great time in Scotland!

      1. To the Machrie Moor Stones then! I have some 7th century monastery ruins on my list, too.

        The third season of Outlander is so heartbreaking thus far. I can’t wait for some happy times to come everyone’s way.

        Looking forward to reading more from you 🙂

        Your pal,
        Kit

  7. Wow can’t wait to see all these amazing locations Heading to the UK IN set fromAustraliaI am an avid Outlander fan KERRY from OZ

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