Scotland’s breathtaking scenery and historic cities have been used as a backdrop for movies since the dawn of cinema. We have put together a list of our favourite Scottish film scenes – all of which you can step into yourself on our award-winning self-drive holidays.
Skyfall is the 4th James Bond film to feature Scotland’s landscapes, and they couldn’t have chosen a more jaw-dropping backdrop than Glencoe. Starring Daniel Craig as 007, Skyfall sees the secret agent returning to his Scottish roots, with the main part of the action taking place at Bond’s family home of Skyfall Lodge.
The lodge itself was burnt down during the filming (and was actually located hundreds of miles away in Surrey), but the stunning road in which Bond drives his Aston Martin DB5 through is Glen Etive – the turn off for which is just a few miles after the Glencoe Mountain Resort in the direction of Fort William.
All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Whether you’re a muggle or a wizard, you can’t fail to be blown away by a magical trip across the Glenfinnan Viaduct. The filming of the Chamber of Secrets and the Prisoner of Azkaban both featured Glenfinnan and the stunning landscape which surrounds it.
The Jacobite Steam Train runs from Fort William to Mallaig, and includes a short stop at Glenfinnan after crossing the viaduct. You’ll need to book well in advance to secure a seat on the popular stream train, but you can also cross the viaduct on the regular Scotrail service between Glasgow and Mallaig.
Local Hero gave the tiny village of Pennan in north-east Scotland one of the best known red telephone boxes in the world. The 1983 film tells the story of an American oil company representative who is sent to Scotland to buy a village in order for an oil refinery to be built, with much of the business conducted on the red phone box which sits in the middle of the village.
Hundreds of Local Hero fans flocked to Pennan in the hope of catching a glimpse of the iconic red phone box – only to find there wasn’t one and a prop had been used in the movie. The village ended up installing one to please the film’s followers.
With a great deal of artistic license, Braveheart tells the tale of 13th-century Scottish hero William Wallace – played by Mel Gibson – who led a vastly outnumbered bunch of Scots against an English army in the Wars of Independence.
Although most of the movie was infamously shot in Ireland rather than Scotland, you can visit the scene of the wedding party at Glen Nevis. Park in the Braveheart Car Park, near Fort William, which was purpose-built to house the massive crew during filming.
The historic town of St Andrews stands in for Broadstairs in Kent in one of the best-known scenes in the classic film Chariots of Fire, where athletes run barefoot along West Sands as waves break close by. The action plays out to musician Vangelis’ famous orchestral score – I defy you to run along the beach without the music playing in your head!
The beach lies adjacent to the Old Course – one of the world’s oldest golf courses, where the sport has been played since the 15th century.
Though Brave is set in a fictional medieval Scotland, Pixar’s animators were deeply affected by the real country’s raw beauty and rich heritage, visiting Scotland both in the summer of 2006 and late 2007. The unique natural sights they witnessed during their tours dramatically influenced Brave’s startlingly beautiful animated landscapes.
Initially, Merida’s DunBroch family castle was going to be set against a loch in the Highlands. Yet after visiting Dunnottar Castle – a stunning structure set on jutting cliffside rocks – the Pixar team decided to imitate its staggering surrounds by making DunBroch an outpost by the sea.
The final scene of 1973 film The Wicker Man lives long in the mind of anybody who has seen it. Investigating the disappearance of a young girl, a policeman travels to the fictional Hebridean island of Summerisle where he encounters creepy locals and bizarre, pagan traditions. The film culminates with the villagers forcing the policeman into a giant ‘wicker man’ statue and setting it ablaze.
The Wicker Man was mostly filmed in Dumfries & Galloway in south-west Scotland, with the iconic finale shot at Burrowhead on the Isle of Whithorn. Until recently, two stumps of the legs of the Wicker Man remained visible, but these have been gradually eroded away by souvenir hunters.
There can be only one … most photographed castle in Scotland! The unbelievably photogenic Eilean Donan Castle featured prominently in 1986 movie Highlander as the home of the Clan MacLeod. The immortal ‘Highlander’ Connor MacLeod was portrayed by Christopher Lambert – making an even worse attempt at a Scottish accent than Mel Gibson.
The castle can be found on the A87 which runs from Invergarry to the Skye Road Bridge. A drive along this road is said to be worth the price of a ticket to Scotland in itself.
Released in 1996, Trainspotting rammed home a darker depiction of modern Scotland to a worldwide audience more familiar with a twee, ‘Brigadoon’ version of the country. Depicting drug addiction and crime in the Scottish capital – all mixed with quintessentially black Scottish humour – Trainspotting made global stars out of many of its cast, including Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Kelly Macdonald, and Director Danny Boyle.
The iconic opening scene – accompanied by Iggy Pop’s pulsating Lust for Life and the “choose life” monologue – sees Renton and Spud run away from a pair of security guards along Princes Street.
Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy is known for its epic battles and dramatic storyline, so it’s hardly surprising that film director Justin Kurzel chose the incredible Isle of Skye as the main filming location. This particularly dark version of ‘The Scottish Play’ stars Michael Fassbender as the fearless warrior Macbeth, and Marion Cotillard as the compelling Lady Macbeth.
Situated at the north end of the Trotternish Ridge is a weird and wonderful landscape called the Quiraing, and it is in this dramatic setting that Macbeth’s army returns home post-battle, and where Macbeth is awarded the title, Thane of Cawdor.
Scotland’s landscapes have wowed film audiences around the world for decades, with some of the most jaw-dropping scenery on the planet. Isn’t it time you stopped watching and stepped into your own story?
P.S. Absolute Escapes offer exceptional self-drive itineraries and self-guided walking holidays in Scotland. Please send us an enquiry if we can help you step into your own Scottish story.