(First posted at outlandercast July 2018)
For those who have been following my recent posts, you know that I’ve been on a quest to see as many Outlander filming locations as I can before my Scottish “gap year” ends. So, I was fortunate to have an opportunity to visit and tour the Hunterston House, located in Ayrshire, southwest of Glasgow. While I knew it was used as the filming location for Reverend Wakefield’s house, when I finally got there I found it was so much more than that.
The Hunterston House website didn’t give too many Outlander clues, but I could see that, not only was it used to film Outlander, but many other films and TV series as well. I sent an email enquiry and was contacted by Angus Cochran-Patrick, the brother of the chief of the Hunter Clan. Although they do not currently open their home to Outlander fans, he was happy to show me around and to talk about the filming that has taken place there over the past three seasons. My luck was in!
Angus is the manager for all the filming that takes place at Hunterston. The house is in high demand because it has so many different types of rooms and interior spaces, and it has very good access for film crews and complete privacy from the public. Over the last year, Hunterston has hosted three big filming productions, Long Night at Blackstone (a horror parody TV show featuring well-known British comedians), a film adaptation of one of David Walliams’ children’s books and Outlander. He said that each time the Outlander crew arrives, they have more people and more gear.
They typically stay for a week or so, use various rooms and spaces, and film many scenes during that time. All the film crews that work there make the best of their time by using multiple interiors. Hunterston House may also be on “weather standby,” meaning that if the weather is too bad for an outdoor location, crews may change the plan and switch to filming some interior scenes.
Angus said that many film crews use various furnishings in the house. As we know, Outlanderhas very detailed and specific interiors, so they may only utilise some of the existing furnishings. The set will be designed and dressed well ahead of the filming. Angus enjoys the set designs and was pleased to be invited to see the studio sets (at Cumbernauld, near Glasgow) for the French interiors in Season 2. He said they were amazing — kudos to Jon Gary Steele and his team.
Angus was personable and charming and gave me a grand tour with an Outlander focus, including a coffee-and-biscuits stop, as well as telling me his family story, including their past and present activities. I was there for about two hours, and toured the house, grounds and the castle. The tower house was built in the 16th century and the building was altered and added to by successive generations. Family members come and go from there and other people live in cottages on the estate.
Although none of the rooms were “dressed” for Outlander,they were nonetheless very familiar. Walking in was like walking straight into the Reverend Wakefield’s sitting room, the room where Frank and Claire discuss Frank’s ancestry with the Reverend, Frank and the Reverend discuss Frank’s possible “fatherhood” of Claire’s unborn child, and the Reverend’s memorial service takes place. It was also the scene for the confrontation between Bree and Claire when Claire first tells Bree the story of Jamie Fraser.
The adjoining hallway/entrance was used for the meeting between Claire, Brianna and the adult Roger. And our glimpses of the biscuit-loving wee Roger.
The library next door was used for Claire, Bree and Roger to research the timelines to locate Jamie Fraser. It was the place where Roger stood behind the children watching an episode of The Avengers in Season 2, and where Frank and the Reverend discussed Claire’s return.
An upstairs bedroom was the location for Frank and Claire’s bedroom at Mrs Baird’s guest house in Season 1. And those of you who know your deleted scenes would recognise the landing/hall where Mrs. Baird was showing Frank and Claire to their room in episode 1. That scene did not make it to the show.
I saw another room that served as the setting for the scene where Frank and Claire talked through the night, and where they agreed to raise Bree together, after her return in Season 2.
The kitchen was significantly adapted to be Mrs Graham’s kitchen, where Claire has her tea leaves read in Season 1.
The tiles were covered in wallpaper and various fittings and furnishings were changed.
As we strolled across the field from the house to Hunterston Castle, Angus talked about other aspects of running a house where filming takes place. Because they have extensive and well-established gardens, they often supply Outlander with greenery for use on set. It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement as they get some pruning done and Outlander gets plant material for their other locations.
The castle is set up for tours, as there are many descendants of the Hunters of Hunterston who visit from all over the world. It is furnished as it would have been by its last inhabitants, and the view from the parapet of the surrounding countryside is impressive. In the attached buildings and outbuildings, I found more unexpected Outlander locations. There is an attic room with an unusual L-Shape, which Angus said is favoured by film crews because they can film from different angles. This room was used as the bedroom where Claire comforted Fergus when he awoke with his nightmare about BJR. And it was also the room where Murtagh indulged in some daytime shenanigans with Claire’s Parisian maid, Suzette.
And where Roger composed his rat satire …..
A short walk from the buildings through the garden and we came upon an outbuilding that was used for the scene where Frank went berserk in a garden shed after he heard the news that Claire was pregnant. That was a pretty incredible performance by Tobias Menzies where he smashed the place in his anguish and torment.
So, who knew that so many Outlanderscenes were shot at Hunterston House? I certainly didn’t! And although Angus wasn’t at liberty to discuss any details, we might see Hunterston again in Season 4 — something I very much look forward to! I was very appreciative of Angus’ generosity with his time to show me around his ancient and fabulous family castle and house.
Have you been to any of the other grand houses or castles where Outlander was filmed?
But before you do, I’ll leave you with some more views of Hunterston House and grounds – just magnificent!