Outlander Action in Scotland – Finding Filming Locations for Seasons 1 to 3

(First posted at outlandercast January 2017)
You might recall that I had the great opportunity to travel back in time to the 1940s, all thanks to the magic of Outlander season 3 filming.  If you missed my first post detailing my day on the set in Glasgow last September, you can catch up here before continuing on my Outlandish adventure with me.

All caught up? Wonderful! Now where were we?  After that great day in Glasgow, we finished up just a little cold, damp and tired, but hungry for more. Naomi flew back to England that night and Ren, Dora and Morag went back to their daily lives in Glasgow and Edinburgh. But Sabrina and I were still on vacation, and up for as many Outlander adventures as we could cram in to those next couple of weeks. It excitedly felt a bit like Thelma & Louise, except minus all the violence and the unhappy ending. We knew our calling was to hit the road for an Outlander road trip, and so we did just that. So while you won’t be traveling back in time to the 1940s, travel back in time to last September with me as we wind our way through the World of Outlander…

We already had some commitments in place and accommodations arranged, but we decided to meet up again on many occasions over that next two weeks, keeping in touch by Twitter and using all the social media platforms and clues we could muster. Sabrina seemed to be a natural-born detective, with extra special Outlander radar, so my luck was soaring to have found the best road trip buddy for this adventure. In my mind, was I already thinking of her as Thelma? I was most certainly the older one (!) and I could see Sabrina was an adventurous, independent young woman who followed her passions.

We’d heard that the next day’s shoot was going to be at a college building in the Glasgow area that as no longer in use, so we agreed to meet there in the morning. After driving around in circles and asking for help at a petrol station, I found the place. Too bad, though – we could immediately see that this was an indoor location. The security guys and gals remembered us from the day before and gave us some tragic looks (virtual pats on the head) and assured us that we would see nothing there today.

Not one to admit defeat so early into our trip, we quickly devised a plan B. Sabrina abandoned her car, which she had driven all the way from Germany, and we hopped into my zippy little rental car. Side note – Sabrina was bravely driving not only on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, but her driver’s seat was on the ‘wrong’ side of the car too – intrepid gal! We figured we could do all these sites in one day – Doune Castle (our Castle Leoch), in the Stirling District; the Outlander Studios, at Cumbernauld, near Glasgow; and Drummond Castle Gardens (the gardens of Versailles), in Perthsire, near Crieff.

We had the most beautiful day to explore Doune Castle and its grounds

Doune Castle was immediately recognizable as the 18th century Castle Leoch.  They used CGI to create the ruined Leoch when Frank and Claire first went there in the 1940s. One thing we didn’t know was that Doune was also the filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And who told us that? None other than Sam Heughan, who is the voice of the recorded tour at Doune – nice! It was fun to learn that the cast had played around with re-enacting Monty Python scenes in their down time. Who could forget, “Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries!”

Next stop – Outlander Studios in Cumbernauld. Unfortunately, there was not much to see at the studios except a sign and a security gate… But, we had to have a little something to show for being there, right?!

Well, at least we saw the sign!

On to the next place…

The drive to Drummond Castle was very beautiful, through narrow country lanes and farmlands with beautiful rural scenery. Occasionally, some pesky sheep got in the way, and by this stage we were in a bit of a hurry as the place was about to close!

The country lanes had a few obstacles!

The drive was worth it because those gardens are absolutely stunning! You could believe you had been transported to France in the time of Louis XIV. We wandered around enthralled.

The gardens were amazingly beautiful – you could spend the whole day there
Claire, Jamie and Black Jack in the Drummond Castle (Versailles) Gardens
Photos courtesy of STARZ
Next on our agenda was ‘The Highlanders Fling,’ a fundraiser organized by Scott Kyle (Outlander’s Ross) to raise funds for his beloved Regal Community Theatre in Bathgate. It took a bit of coordinating (and coercing) to get us there!

After all the hesitation, we were so glad we went to that event! Aside from the good feels of supporting that lovely theatre, we had fun, we danced (sort of!) and we met lots of interesting (not to mention famous) people.

Highland dancer Kayleigh Boardman was a special treat.
Scott Kyle with Susan Boyle

Upon arrival, we boldly introduced ourselves to Scott who was very smartly dressed in his kilt. He was super welcoming, friendly and encouraged us to have a good time. We settled ourselves in at a table near the front with a very sociable mother and daughter who took us under their wing and made us feel right at home. They were big Outlander fans and thought it was fun that we had come all the way from Australia and Germany for this!

When the dancing started they coaxed us up onto the dance floor, insisting that we would pick up the steps in no time. Unfortunately, between us, I think Sabrina and I had four left feet, but we tried… and it was pretty good exercise! They hauled us around the dance floor to the wild Scottish music and I think that by the very last round, I had figured out the steps. We sat the next one (and the one after that!) out – party poopers!

There were some big names there helping Scott to raise funds. Susan Boyle was there as was Àdhamh Ó Broin, that well known Gaelic language expert and tutor for Outlander actors. I cracked a compliment from him when he said I was the first non-Gael to pronounce his name properly (brownie points!). And we also met Stephen Walters, who of course plays our beloved rascal Angus. These guys were super friendly, chatty and happy to pose for pics with us fans.

The next day, we arranged to meet up in the Kingdom on Fife. Two places were on our Outlander radar – the town of Culross (pronounced Coo-ross) and Aberdour Castle.

The lovely little town of Culross was the location for many scenes in both seasons of Outlander. The town square is the scene for Geillis Duncan’s house and the pillory (one ear nailed – eeek!) scene, and many interior and exterior scenes are shot at Culross Palace. Remember Claire pulling teeth ahead of the battle of Culloden.

‘Just a wee jouk of the heid.’
Battlefield dentistry, a la Claire Fraser
Geillis Duncan’s House

Sabrina had done her research and was going to take me to ‘the Black Kirk,’ just above the town. It was a beautiful walk up through country lanes to the West Kirk Church Yard, and it was so familiar to us for those charming scenes with Claire and Jamie, where Claire discovers the cause of Tammas Baxter’s illness.


‘I’m an educated man, mistress’
   Beware the wood garlic
Next stop – Aberdour Castle, the setting of the Abbey where Jamie’s friends take him to recover after his torture at the hands of Black Jack Randall in Wentworth Prison. Again, the place felt so familiar. Such beautiful grounds, and the hallways and rooms are exactly as we see them in those harrowing scenes from “To Ransom a Man’s Soul.” It gave us the chills.
The corridor scenes where Claire faints and is saved by Murtagh


The rooms which become Jamie’s hospital…


… and where Claire finally brings him back from the brink
Sabrina’s excellent detective work and Outlander radar took us somewhere very special the next day – Tibbermore Church, the church where the witch trials were held in ‘The Devil’s Mark.’

Near Perthshire, the church is only open to the public one weekend a year… and guess what, we were there on that weekend! We couldn’t resist posing as Claire and Geillis and asking someone to take our picture. The photo quality is poor, but we really were there and we saw the inside of that fascinating place.


‘The first man forward is the first man down!’
Success! Where to next? Things were heating up on social media and we were starting to hear that they were filming on the Ayrshire coast. There were hints and little pictures of shells and coastlines on Instagram. We knew that earlier scenes had been shot in the seaside town of Troon, and also heard the name Dunure mentioned.


I whipped down to Troon (a mere two and a half hours drive!) while Sabrina made her way down from the north. I wandered around that town asking embarrassing questions of café owners and people in the street – have you see Outlander filming here? No such luck, so we then decided to converge on Dunure. Right away, I saw the trucks in a camping ground (yay!) and kept on driving until I saw the filming action at the ruined castle on the coast.

The ruins of Dunure Castle on the coast in South Ayrshire

The weather was grim! Luckily, I still had all my girl-guide gear in the car – Gore-Tex coat, waterproof pants and shoes, umbrella, first aid kit (kidding again), you name it. I jumped out and started chatting with another couple of full-on fans, locals who had been there since morning. They were just about to head off, but the arrival of new fans renewed their enthusiasm and they decided to stick around. Sabrina arrived soon after that. Chris and Lillian said that the assistant director had told them that Sam Heughan would come over to meet them after the filming. Ooooh, that sounded promising!

We were in good spirits, despite the rain, cold temperatures and gusty winds that almost knocked us over at times! It was fun to meet Lillian and Chris and experience more of that great Outlander fan camaraderie. They had been to many filming locations and a fun couple with lots of Outlander stories to tell. Turns out Chris is a talented photographer, as you can clearly see from his images here. They filled us in on all the action that had occurred so far that day, and where scenes on the waterfront were filmed with Sam and Caitriona Balfe.

We watched them film scenes with Sam over and over, in and around the old ruin. Again, what impressed me is the sheer stamina of the actors, having to do scenes repeatedly, until the director is satisfied. In all the action, we spotted Anne Kenney, Outlander executive producer and writer. She was rugged up against the cold.

Anne Kenney was on set
Sadly, we did end our time there with disappointment because Sam Heughan didn’t come over to meet us. He was whisked away by his driver. But you can’t win ‘em all, eh? Even from a distance we could see that he looked wrung out after what was probably a long and gruelling day in extremely adverse conditions. He probably didn’t feel up to chit chat. Fair enough, we thought, and went our separate ways feeling pleased that we had made the effort to go there.

Sabrina and I had already said goodbyes… but wait, another opportunity popped up! We knew Midhope Castle (Lallybroch) was closed to the public for filming, but Sabrina saw that someone had posted a picture on Instagram saying they had just been there. Maybe there was a chance it was open again? We decided to give it a go.

When we got to Midhope, we found that it was indeed closed to the public (disappointment!). But by that time, the weather had cleared so we decided on a walk through the Hopetoun Estate. There are many forest paths that take you out into a gorgeous rural setting with expansive hayfields. It was very beautiful, so we decided to stretch our legs.

An idyllic walk in the countryside


We were walking along happily, just chatting away, when we came across a man in the middle of the path struggling to get reception on his mobile phone. We asked him if it was okay for us to keep going and he waved us on with a smile.  Hmm, we were intrigued so kept on going. We were walking alongside an idyllic place, a little creek (stream, brook or more correctly, a burn in the local parlance, right?), when we spotted some action ahead – a couple of workmen building “something.” We asked them if they were building a cave and they said, no – they were making a tree house (wink, wink).

They were more than happy for us to keep walking, which we did, until we came out onto the road near Midhope… surprise, surprise! The friendly security folks said it was no-go from here, so we turned back onto the woodland path to return to our car. We had a beautiful walk back through the forest. It had been a good day, a verra good day indeed.

Arriving at Lallybroch – photo by Dora


Photo courtesy of STARZ


Claire returns to Lallybroch – photo by Dora


Photo courtesy of STARZ

Sabrina and I said our goodbyes (again), but that wasn’t the end for us. We stayed in regular contact with our newfound friends from that first day in Glasgow, keeping in touch and making plans. Sabrina had shared her great personal achievements from participating in Sam Heughan’s My Peak Challenge, and that got us thinking about forming an international team to participate in 2017. That evolved into the newglasgowgirls, and we’ve gone on to share lots of adventures together, even though we are now spread out all over the world. A chance meeting with strangers who formed an instant bond over a shared passion – Outlander.

Or, as Geillis Duncan once said…

It seems that so many groups form around the theme of Outlander. Have you found yourself on an unexpected path? Did it lead you to a bonny place? Would love to hear of your experiences.

(*title image by Chris Saint-Martin)



Andrée Poppleton

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