The history, beauty and majesty of Scotland has always called to me. It’s the only country I’ve now visited three times in my life. My most recent quest came on the heels of the Outlander Season 1 Part 1 finale – the Starz original show based on the novel by Diana Gabaldon. I am not embarrassed to admit I ventured halfway across the globe to walk in Claire’s and Jamie’s footsteps. And I’m happy to report – I had a blast!
However, I wasn’t alone on this adventure. My good friend Mandy Tidwell and I visited as many locations as we possibly could in the short time we had. We even squeezed in a few non-Outlander related historical sites which were no less fascinating.
As October 20th is Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser’s 96th birthday, I can think of no better way than to celebrate by walking in her footsteps. The following are some of my favorite moments of the trip, standing where she, and sometimes Jamie, stood in several of the episodes.
I’m sure you all remember this location . . . Claire emerges from the hospital covered in blood to the joyous celebration of VE-Day. Unfortunately, I did not have a bottle of champagne to commemorate the occasion.
The above location from Ep101: SASSENACH was one of my favorites in which to tromp around. As I am an explorer, I love to run up & down every staircase, open every door, crawl into every nook & cranny, scale every wall and even climb through a few windows – which I did not have to do here but did anyway. Eventually, I found a safe set of stairs leading back up to ground level.
Even though the site is in a state of ruin, you can’t help but feel it’s sense of one-time grandeur. The multiple levels and corridors are never-ending and architecturally spectacular. Explore this magnificent Georgian manor through the beautiful views in the gallery below. You’ll notice I have a particular fascination with doors and windows.
Next on the trip was a visit to 20th Century Inverness, shot on location in Falkland, Fife – a charming village dating back to the 14th Century. A quaint hotel & coffee shop was used as the front of Mrs. Baird’s Bed & Breakfast as seen in the photos below. And I’m sure you’ll recognize the tall fountain in the middle of the street also from Ep101: SASSENACH.
Of course, I couldn’t resist looking through the shop window where Claire admires a number of lovely blue vases – not available in this century.
And how could I not stand where Jamie’s ghost appears, longingly staring up at Claire in Mrs. Baird’s Bed & Breakfast? Yes, my hand rested on the same corner Jamie’s ghost touched!
Speaking of Jamie, we searched Cumbernauld Glen high and low, trying to find the shooting locations for the scenes done along the woodsy path. We analyzed trees, bushes, rocks – the entire terrain, but we were unable to pinpoint definitively where the sneaky production crew set up their cameras. We did come to unanimous agreement where we think the set ups may have been.
Regardless, we had a pleasant time hiking through the woods along the stream where Jamie offers to throw Claire over his shoulder, where Claire tends to Jamie’s gunshot wound, and where Black Jack Randall may have dipped his kerchief!
In Ep102: CASTLE LEOCH, Claire is taken to the MacKenzie stronghold under less favorable conditions than her visit with Frank. Despite the soft falling rain, our spirits were not dampened as we approached the castle’s main entrance sans Highlander escort.
After exploring the several storerooms, halls, and bedrooms of the lower levels, I dashed up to the roof to capture the view from bird’s eye level. I have to note the condition of the castle is remarkable given its age and history.
Claire visits Crainesmuir for the first time in Ep103: THE WAY OUT. So, Mandy and I made our way to the location used for Geillis Duncan’s neighborhood. A preserved group of buildings and houses in the Royal Burgh of Culross, a port city on the Firth of Forth, was used as the 18th Century village situated outside Castle Leoch. When we arrived, some of the buildings were in the process of being restored to their former pre-Outlander appearance, thus obstructing part of our views.
The bountiful gardens behind Culross Palace were used during filming as the castle gardens for Leoch where Claire and Geillis often meet. The layout was quite stunning and included the prettiest chicken coop I’ve ever seen.
After saving the boy nailed to the pillory, Jamie and Claire head to the mysterious Black Kirk. Mandy and I continued in their footsteps and made our way to the same church. This was one of the locations I most wanted to visit, being part of the famous “Lily of the Valley” scene between Claire and Jamie.
Needless to say, I was quite giddy to stand at the window where Jamie tries to make Claire forget she caught him kissing Leechy Leery. And I couldn’t wait to stand on the broken wall where he talks about pissing on the kirk. Such a romantic!
Ep105: RENT takes the MacKenzies on the road, and thus led us to the Highland Folk Museum where Claire gets her hands dirty wool waulking, argues with Rupert over a goat, argues with Angus over everything, argues with Dougal over ripping Jamie’s shirt off (don’t really see the problem there), and meets Lt. Jeremy Foster for the first time.
Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find any of the pictures I took that day. In lieu of my own, I’m sharing a few of Mandy’s photos and the two fun videos we made, completely spur of the moment – no rehearsal. Visiting this domestic 18th Century village was one of the funnest days we had and even included a Chris Hemsworth doppelgänger sighting. Sorry, no picture of him.
We hit a bit of bad luck trying to visit Blackness Castle, aka Fort William. I was very much looking forward to donning my Black Jack Randall cap for a scary re-enactment. Alas, something to strive for on the next visit to Scotland. Onto Lallybroch . . .
Lallybroch is perhaps one of the most sought after sites to visit. We see it briefly in Ep102: CASTLE LEOCH but won’t get a good look at the entire farm and the luscious interiors until Ep113 or thereabouts. Our good friend, Ess, was kind enough to join us for the day as we ventured to the Fraser homestead.
Our next stop was the mill mentioned in Outlander Chapter 28: Kisses and Drawers. The location used, Preston Mill, was simply delightful and is a fully-functional 18th Century mill, though no longer in commercial service. Visiting the site out of season allowed us to roam about freely, not that I scrambled over any walls which weren’t completely safe.
We all know where Jamie ends up after returning to Lallybroch. While we believe much of the Wentworth Prison scenes were shot on stage, we were able to sniff out one location where some other bad things happen to our poor Jamie.
The final stop on our Outlander tour took us to Saint Anne de Beaupre monastery in France via Aberdour Castle in Scotland. This was an impressive location, and I easily envisioned the dramatic scenes between Jamie and Claire being filmed here.
That’s the end of my Outlander experience. I hope you enjoyed following me along the trail of Claire and Jamie’s footsteps. Mandy Tidwell posted a steady log of her solo and our joint adventures on her Great Scot! blog. Below are links to all the exciting days in much more detail than I provided above.
In addition to all the Outlander shooting locations Mandy and I visited, we explored several other historical sites, including Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns, Caerlaverock Castle, Sorbie Tower, Pollok Park and Linlinthgow Palace. All are fantastic places not to be missed, especially Linlithgow – a true palatial playground. And the expanded visitor’s center at Culloden was heart-wrenching and informative.
The absolute best part of the trip was meeting fellow Outlander fans. From Glasgow to Wigtown to Pitlochry to Inverness we came together, talking and laughing as if we’d known each other for years. This was by far my favorite trip to Scotland, and I look forward to reuniting with my sisters again in the near future.
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland this year or next, you can’t go wrong contacting Susan Brown of Outlander Tours and Debra Firth of Hillcrest House. They are two of the nicest lasses you’ll ever meet – open-hearted and knowledgable about Scotland and all things Outlander.