(First posted at outlandercast May 2018)
Did you know that Hopetoun House (the Duke of Sandringham’s home, plus more), Midhope Castle (Lallybroch), Abercorn Church (where Bree says goodbye to Frank), Blackness Castle (known to Outlander zealots as Fort William) and Bo’ness Railway (where Claire and Frank part company as Claire heads off to war) are all within a half hour drive of each other? And less than an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Glasgow.
So, let the tour begin.
The first to maps get you from your starting point (Edinburgh or Glasgow) to Hopetoun House. The third map shows the route to the rest of the locations from there.
let, the tour continue – about an hour of driving between the 5 locations
First stop – HOPETOUN HOUSE
Hopetoun House is a grand house and estate, used extensively as a location for Outlander filming in Seasons 1 to 3. The Hopetoun estate is still a family home, with the Earl and his family living in one wing. It has huge and magnificent grounds with lots of paths and walks around the estate. Set your GPS/SatNav for Hopetoun House, but in this case be very careful not to use the postcode on the Hopetoun House website as that takes you to the locked gate at the back of the estate. You can guess how I know that, right? Be careful that you are setting it for Hopetoun House in South Queensferry because the route is quite circuitous through a little village, under a big bridge and through a housing estate so it is easy to feel that you might be getting lost.
When Hopetoun House comes into view, you will instantly recognise it as the façade of the Duke of Sandringham’s residence in Season 1 of Outlander. Well, you think you recognise it until the guide tells you that they actually used the rear of the building for those scenes where Jamie and Murtagh arrive, and brush past the McDonalds coming down the stairs. At the rear is also the huge lawn where the duel takes place between the Duke and the chief of clan McDonald, and later, where Willie learns to ride a horse with Mac the groom.
Action on the back steps of Hopetoun House
The front façade was actually used as the front of the Dunsany residence in series 3, where we see the family racing to the aid of Geneva giving birth.
The guides are very knowledgeable about the Outlander filming, of course they are with so many Outlander devotees showing up there. On my first visit, in the visitors book where you say how you found out about the place, the four entries above my name said ‘Outlander.’ Three interior rooms were used for Season 1 – the Red Drawing Room where all the encounters with the Duke take place, and two bedrooms upstairs which were Mary Hawkins’ bedrooms in Season 2. In Season 3 when Jamie meets Lord Dunsany, they walk through that same red room, just from a different viewpoint.
Jamie encounters the Duke of Sandringham in the red room at Hopetoun House
The exterior scenes at Madame Elise’s Paris brothel were also shot at Hopetoun House. Also, in Season 3, the Helwater stable scenes (ahem, threats from a certain young woman) were shot in the same area at the outbuildings at the side of the house.
The heartwarming scene where Lord John agrees to raise William in Jamie’s stead, takes place in the expansive grounds and woodlands of Hopetoun House
Next – ABERCORN CHURCH
This churchyard was used for the brief scene where Bree kneels before her father’s grave in Episode 407, ‘Down The Rabbit Hole’. It is a very beautiful church/churchyard and it is part of the Hopetoun Estate – so it fits well with a visit to its close Outlander neighbours Midhope Castle (Lallybroch), Hopetoun House (used for many Outlander scenes in Seasons 1, 2 and 3) and Blackness Castle (Fort William).
Abercorn Church is next to the hamlet of Abercorn. The small museum contains burial stones and cross shafts from the early centuries of worship here. The church was refurbished to its current form in 1893.
Local Angela Gourlay who happens to run the Parkside B&B on the Hopetoun Estate, just happened to be on the spot when the church grounds were being prepared for the scene with Bree.
Then – MIDHOPE CASTLE / LALLYBROCH
Midhope Castle (aka Lallybroch) is only a five-minute drive from Hopetoun House. Follow your GPS/SatNav and the signs to Midhope, and there it is. You pay to park there these days. And you do need to be careful because it’s a working farm with people’s houses quite close – be mindful of their privacy and grateful that it still remains open to the public.
And note that Midhope Castle is basically a ruin and you cannot go inside it. The only reason it wouldn’t be open is if they are shooting Outlander, in which case you won’t get anywhere near it because the security post is way down the road from the house. Maybe phone the Hopetoun Farm Shop first to be sure it is open.
You may like to stop at the Hopetoun Farm Shop while you’re there. The shop is full of delicious goodies and local produce, and next door is a big garden centre with a café (and toilets) if you feel in need of some supplies and/or refreshments.
Getting ready to film the fiery hay scene in Outlander Season where Jamie teaches Macquarie’s men a thing or two.
‘Tell that trollop to keep her neb out of my business’ – the stormy first meeting between Jenny and Claire
The atmosphere there at Midhope is something else; it is such an iconic Outlander location, and you’ll usually find a couple of fellow Outlander fiends to have a good old chin wag with. Its common to meet people from other parts of the world on their Scottish/Outlandish adventure, and it’s a pleasure to make those connections with fellow fans.
Filming the washday scene – so many people involved!
Near Midhope, we came upon the place where they were building the Dunbonnet cave entrance. This pathway next to the burn is the place where various Dunbonnet scenes were shot, and perhaps where Fergus lost his hand?
Stop 4 – BLACKNESS CASTLE
Fifteen minutes down the road, you’ll arrive at the next stop, Blackness Castle, Outlander’s Fort William. This place is equally atmospheric but in a different way – remember Bree saying ‘this place gives me the chills’? Well, that’s what its like. A grim, foreboding structure, perched on the water’s edge. You’ll recognise the central yard where Jamie was flogged, as well as the parapets where they made Claire’s escape from the hands of Black Jack.
Blackness Castle has a visitor centre, toilets and a small shop with some Outlander merchandise. There is an entry fee for the castle.
Last stop – BO’NESS AND KINNEIL RAILWAY
By car, another 15 minutes down the road is the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, where Claire reminds Frank that that they are in the 20th century now. Whoa, if only she knew what lay ahead! It’s a heritage railway and museum, so you can just have a quick look to satisfy your Outlander thirst or spend more time, checking out the museum or even going for a ride.
I hope you’ll enjoy this tour as much as I did, all easily doable in a day from either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Have fun!