When I moved to Scotland, the first season of the Outlander TV-series had just aired. Soon enough, Outlander souvenirs started popping up everywhere. As I might have mentioned earlier, Outlander books were pretty much all I knew about Scotland before I moved to Stirling, and I am fond of Jamie and Claire’s unusual Scottish adventures. So, it was time to book an Outlander tour with my mum.
The following text includes quotes, which might contain spoilers, from Diana Gabaldon’s book Outlander (1991).
I knew I would have to leave, yet surrounded by the peaceful house and grounds of Lallybroch and the cheerful company of Jenny, Ian and small Jamie, I felt as though I had come home at last.” Chapter 28
We start the day with the most distinguishable site of all: Midhope Castle. This familiar three-story home with wide chimneys is, of course, Jamie’s family home Lallybroch. Although the building looks sturdy from the outside, it cannot be entered. Despite that, there is a small fee to visit the grounds. Having said that, we don’t pay anything – perhaps because we are there so early.
As we moved on, I realise that this tour is merely a bus service sprinkled with some general information. The guide chats about the Scott monument, Kelpies and Mary Queen of Scots but only briefly explains in which scenes the sites we visit are used in the Outlander series.
‘Redcoats flogged me twice in the space of a week. They’d have done it twice the same day, I expect, were they not afraid of killing me. There’s no joy in flogging a dead man.’” Chapter 4
The second site is Blackness Castle, which acts as Fort William in the series. Our Outlander friends visit the place when Jamie is flogged (before the story begins) and when Claire is captured by Jack Randall. The guide says nothing more about the site, but luckily the gift shop has a folder with pictures and notes describing the busy days when the crew took over the castle.
Bending close to the floor, I checked for a strip of light at the base of each door. Prisoners might be left to rot in the darkness, but Randall would need to see what he was doing.” Chapter 35
The third stop is Linlithgow Palace. The prison cells and spiral staircases of Wentworth Prison were filmed here. Jamie is held captive in the prison by Jack Randall, who torture and rape him in the dark scenes of the first series. Indeed, the gloomy cellars are conveniently prison-like although they are not recognisable from the scenes. Because we are getting tired of examining empty stone walls, we sit down for some soup and scones in the nearby cafe.
When I had known it, Castle Leoch was a picturesque ruin some thirty miles north of Bargrennan. It was considerably more picturesque now, what with the sheep huddling under the walls of the keep and the pervasive smell of raw sewage.” Chapter 4
The most interesting site of the day has to be Doune Castle aka Castle Leoch. Although it looks like the other grand, old Scottish castles, its ability to offer more information makes it much more interesting. The audio tour is included in the entrance fee and is definitely worth taking along. It is narrated mostly by Terry Jones (who was best known from Monty Phyton and recently passed away), but also Sam Heughan (Jamie) and Caitriona Balfe (Claire) have a thing or two to say. The narrators recall the history of the castle as well their own memories from their time in the set.
It was on one of the fruit-picking expeditions to the orchard that I first met Geillis Duncan.” Chapter 9
The last stop is the charming 16th-century village called Culross which poses as Cranesmuir in Outlander. The town square and the herb garden are recognisable although the whole village was painted grey when Outlander was filmed. Afterwards, it got back its brilliant colourful coat. It is very picturesque indeed and worth a visit if you are just looking for a day trip destination from Edinburgh. While in the village, I recommend to stop by the Town Hall where a photographer Graham Harris Graham has a photo gallery full of beautiful pictures taken around Scotland.
Since the tour is advertised as a theme-tour, it should stick to the theme. I wish we were given more Outlander-related behind the scenes information and a way to engage with the story that the tour is exploiting. I know that copyright issues can be complicated, but perhaps the tour guide could quote the books when introducing the sites. I mean… I’m doing it. Visiting a castle after another is not very engaging without a context. It is missing something.
I keep comparing this to the Hobbiton-tour in New Zealand, which started with clips from the films and was all about the “making-of” anecdotes and facts. It would be foolish to expect this sort of Outlander tour to be quite as committed, yet I am disappointed.
- Silverscreen’s Outlander Adventure 1-Day Tour from Edinburgh, operated by Rabbie
- Tour starts at 9.15am and ends before 6pm.
- Locations: Midhope Castle, Castle Black, Linlithgow Palace, Doune Castle, Culross and Queens Ferry (quick photo stop by the bridge). Apparently visiting order may vary.
- The tour costs about £45/person but doesn’t include any entry fees to attractions.
- The entry fees are between £5 to £10.