Jacobite steam train, Glenfinnan Viaduct - DR VisitScotland - Kenny Lam

Stories from Scotland


For a long time ghosts made Scotland famous on the strange side. Between Nessie, the monster of Loch Ness, and the Green or White Ladies, the Orkney Selkies and the headless musicians, the rich local and Celtic folklore offers so many places to discover.

From the underworld of the capital, Edinburgh, with poor ‘Wee Annie’, to the beautiful nature around the village of Gairloch in the West Highlands with the elf Ghillie Dhu to the impressive Glamis Castle in the Angus with his monster… We can recommend a varied tour around many myths. Just check out the ‘ghost route’ on the website of VisitScotland ! Even the sculptures of the Kelpies in Falkirk can be an opportunity to learn more about the legendary water horses.

From stories to movies

The mysterious atmosphere that can envelop the Scottish nature in foggy weather has fueled the imagination of many writers. Starting with the illustrious British author Shakespeare whose Macbeth crosses paths with three witches. The Scottish Robert Louis Stevenson dedicated novels less known to the French than “Treasure Island” to his native land. Closer to home, JK Rowling places Hogwarts, the wizarding school where Harry Potter learns magic, in … Scotland! And unsurprisingly, the locations where the adventures of the young wizard were filmed are a great route to explore the country. Be careful, the steam train ride over the Glenfinnan viaduct is a must!
In a completely different style, Peter May’s detective trilogy takes you through the archipelago of the Outer Hebrides, northwest of Scotland. Nature swept by strong waves and a strong wind are not the least charm of Fin McLeod’s investigations.

As with the “Shetlands” to the northeast, where Detective Jimmy Perez searches for clues and assassins in the mist. The policeman created by Ann Cleeves continues his mission to Fair Isle Bird Observatory, an island confetti between Orkney and Shetlands. The transposition of these stories to the screen, for film or television, has the merit of highlighting the Scottish natural settings. What to give ideas to go and see these landscapes of the north of Scotland.

Outlander and The Crown, two series, two eras

Netflix’s hit series, “Outlander” isn’t just a story of diving into Scotland’s revolutionary past. Claire Beauchamp Fraser, the heroine, takes the viewer through the Highlands. Certainly the towns and castles mentioned in the story are replaced for the purposes of filming by other Scottish towns and castles: Falkland for Inverness, Blackness Castle near Linlithgow for Fort William, etc. But no problem ! Again, the VisitScotland website has a list of places to visit and a handy interactive map.
Another popular series, “The Crown” chronicles the life of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, from her marriage to the present day. The creators used the same process: it’s hard to imagine a film crew in the middle of the royal castle of Balmoral. However, an itinerary can be constructed either with alternative locations, such as the Ardverikie Estate in place of the Queen’s favorite royal residence and summer resort, or with actual locations. In September, for example, we can try to attend the Highlands Games in Braemar. Bagpipes, folk dancing, sporting events – in this Aberdeenshire village, the most important of the ‘Highland Games’ takes place. In kilt, the champions of trunk throwing or tug of war compete surrounded by their families. And the queen participates in it – as a spectator! We can also compose a mixed itinerary mixing reality and fiction, in the same way as the series tells of both public and private events. This is how in Edinburgh, the castle and the palace of Holyroodhouse intimately linked to royalty can be visited, like the castle and the gardens of Mey in Caithness.

Discovering historical figures

Queen Elisabeth is not the only crowned head to have inspired directors. The life of Marie Stuart, Queen of Scots, has been screened twice. As for the Scottish king Robert The Bruce, he is the hero of the film “Outlaw King” with Chris Pine in 2018 and of the eponymous film of 2019 with Angus Mcfadyen. He is also played by the same Scottish actor in 1995 in “Braveheart”, a film about William Wallace, the famous knight of the Scottish wars of independence in the 13th century.

If you want to build a thematic itinerary, you can easily use the interactive maps on the Visit Scotland website. Otherwise, of course, the traveler to Scotland will discover, across the country, symbolic places often cited in these historical films. It could be the ruins of Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders where the king’s heart was buried, or Loch Leven Castle in Perthshire where the Catholic queen was imprisoned. But also the National Wallace Monument just outside the town of Stirling to the glory of William Wallace and of course, next to it, the battlefield of Bannockburn which saw the victory of the Scots over the English in 1314.

More stories for 2022

The year 2022 will be marked by the stories of Scotland. This tourism theme will provide another opportunity to highlight the country’s wide range of histories. They can now be found assembled and presented in the Scottish Storytelling Center in Edinburgh.

Through the different regions, it is also possible to get acquainted with local tales and legends or the works of the great Scottish writers. Like the texts of the poet Robert Burns in Dumfries & Galloway or the novels of Sir Walter Scott in the Scottish Borders. Even by making a small detour through the town of Dumfries for JM Barrie. The Moat Brae House, where he lived as a child, is now a museum dedicated to the universe of his fabulous “Peter Pan”. But that’s not all. It seems that oral traditions can still be found in the various communities of Scotland …