- Earlier this year, my sister gushed about a show that I just had to watch: “Outlander.”
- We decided to book a one-day small van tour highlighting “Outlander” filming locations. Each stop provided behind-the-scenes information as well as historical context.
- There were 16 passengers on our tour, all of whom were fans of the show — or had been dragged along by a fan of the show.
- The first stop was Midhope Castle, which serves as Jamie’s family home, Lallybroch, in the series.
- According to our tour guide, filming for the new season of “Outlander” had actually taken place at Midhope Castle the day before our tour.
- Moving on, I thought the grandest stop of the tour came next, Blackness Castle. This is where some of the series’ most intense moments occur.
- An energetic tour guide at the castle was incredibly knowledgeable about the show, and even reenacted scenes from episodes that were filmed at Blackness.
- Linlithgow Palace was our next stop, which stands in for the sinister Wentworth Prison on “Outlander.”
- I thought Doune Castle, the next stop on the tour, was the most fun because of the wealth of information it provided about various film and television appearances.
- Doune Castle embraced its on-screen fame throughout the tour, with displays about filming, and audio guides voiced by Sam Heughan and Monty Python founder, Terry Jones.
- Learning the extent to which “Outlander” film crews worked to preserve historical locations was shocking.
- The audio tour described how an almost exact replica of the kitchen at Doune Castle was built at the film studios, which I found surprising.
- Wrapping up the tour, our last stop was in the coastal village of Culross, which our guide told us poses as Cranesmuir in the series.
- To me, the most mind-blowing element of the whole tour was how close to each other all the stops were.
- I recently went on an “Outlander” themed tour around Edinburgh, Scotland.
- The small van tour included visits to several filming locations around the area for $80 per person.
- As a fan, I enjoyed learning about Scottish history and seeing places from the series in real life.
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Earlier this year, my sister gushed about a show that I just had to watch: “Outlander.”
The historical fiction drama is an adaptation of the popular book series written by Diana Gabaldon. It follows Claire Randall, a former WWII military nurse who, while on a trip to Scotland in 1945, finds herself transported back in time to 1743.
In the past, she meets and falls in love with Jamie Fraser, a dashing Highland warrior. The Starz series follows the pair’s adventures throughout many years, moving between the present and the past.
As a fan of historical fiction, I quickly became enamored with the show. When a family trip to the UK came around, we couldn’t resist adding a stop in Scotland to visit some filming locations.
Nine books and six seasons of the Starz series have drawn visitors like me from around the world to see where their favorite characters would have lived.
I visited Scotland once before as a child, but I was excited to see the country anew both through the lens of history and a show I love.
We decided to book a one-day small van tour highlighting “Outlander” filming locations. Each stop provided behind-the-scenes information as well as historical context.
Entitled “Outlander Adventure,” our tour was operated by Rabbie’s, who specialize in small group tours of the UK and Europe.
The tickets we bought were $80 per person, though that price didn’t cover entrance tickets at all of the stops, so the total for our day was closer to $100 per person for everything.
There were 16 passengers on our tour, all of whom were fans of the show — or had been dragged along by a fan of the show.
As we boarded the van, our tour guide played the show’s main theme song over the speaker system, which continued a few times throughout our journey. I thought it was a fun added touch.
The seats were comfy, which I appreciated for a full-day tour, and I thought being in a smaller group made it easier to see out the large windows to admire the passing Scottish landscape.
At each stop, our guide gave us details about the filming process and historical facts. By the end of the tour, I ended up learning as much about the making of the show as I did about Scottish history.
The first stop was Midhope Castle, which serves as Jamie’s family home, Lallybroch, in the series.
This is one of the most iconic — and probably, my favorite — locations of the series as central characters are often stopped by the show’s antagonists from returning here.
I instantly recognized the archway gate of Midhope Castle as it frames many emotional moments throughout the series. It was shocking to see how identical the real building looked to what I had seen on screen. We weren’t able to go inside, but just being in the courtyard felt like I was immersed within the world of the series.
According to our tour guide, filming for the new season of “Outlander” had actually taken place at Midhope Castle the day before our tour.
Actor Sam Heughan, who plays Jamie Fraser, shared a photo from the “Outlander” set in early April, so I already knew that filming for season seven had begun before our trip to Scotland.
However, it was still a surprise to find out they were filming on location in Scotland, as the past two seasons of the series were set in America during the Revolutionary War.
While it was somewhat disappointing to just miss out on seeing a filming session, I thought that we likely would not have been able to visit the castle at all had the set still been live.
Much of Midhope Castle looked almost identical to what I had seen on screen, but I noticed a few things that were different, including some details that hinted at events in the upcoming season.
I noticed that a pair of modern-looking windows had been installed in the castle. They stuck out to me due to their anachronism with the rest of the building. Since “Outlander” characters regularly travel through time, I wondered if these modern additions were a clue for a potential future plotline at Lallybroch in the upcoming seventh season.
Walking through the courtyard at Midhope Castle, I also thought that it felt much smaller than it appears on the show. Our tour guide told us that when filming, the crew puts up a large blue covering just outside the building to function as a green screen to make the courtyard appear larger.
While the current surroundings of the Midhope Castle grounds were fairly bare, our tour guide told us there are plans to expand the attraction to make it a fully-fledged tourist stop.
Our tour guide said there have even been talks of potentially adding in a whiskey distillery for visiting tourists. I asked if the future distillery might sell Sassenach Whiskey, which was created by actor Sam Heughan, though our guide couldn’t confirm that.
Moving on, I thought the grandest stop of the tour came next, Blackness Castle. This is where some of the series’ most intense moments occur.
The castle stands in for Fort William in the show, which is a real historical location that our guide said wasn’t chosen for filming because it was largely in ruins.
Looking around, I recognized scenes shot at this location from several seasons, including Jamie being flogged and a daring rescue of Claire from the evil Captain Jack Randall.
An energetic tour guide at the castle was incredibly knowledgeable about the show, and even reenacted scenes from episodes that were filmed at Blackness.
He told us that many of the shots in these episodes don’t follow the actual layout of the building.
For example, during “The Reckoning” (Season 1, Episode 9), Jamie infiltrates the castle through a gate along the water and then turns a corner into an arched entryway.
In reality, the gate is all the way on the other side of the castle from the entryway, our guide said.
I thought that proportions looked different to what I had seen on screen, including the window Jamie scales down to bust in and save Claire. In reality, I thought it was much too small for a person to fit through.
All of the interior scenes set at Fort William were actually shot in a studio, our castle tour guide said, but I still felt like being inside Blackness was akin to stepping onto a film set as it was incredibly atmospheric.
I almost tripped down a narrow spiral staircase between rooms at the castle, which I thought was perhaps another reason why interior scenes were not filmed at this location.
Linlithgow Palace was our next stop, which stands in for the sinister Wentworth Prison on “Outlander.”
The palace was under construction, so we could only walk around the outside.
Our tour guide reminded us that most of the scenes that occur at Wentworth take place indoors, and as such, weren’t filmed at this location.
Linlithgow Palace didn’t provide many “Outlander” secrets, but holds importance in Scottish history, I learned. Placards I observed around the palace informed us that it was the place where Mary, Queen of Scots was born in 1542.
I thought Doune Castle, the next stop on the tour, was the most fun because of the wealth of information it provided about various film and television appearances.
Walking through Doune Castle, I saw several placards that showcased still photos from the various films and television shows that utilized the castle during filming, including “Outlander,” “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and “Game of Thrones.”
In “Outlander,” Doune Castle is the surrogate Castle Leoch, where the Mackenzie clan resides.
Doune Castle embraced its on-screen fame throughout the tour, with displays about filming, and audio guides voiced by Sam Heughan and Monty Python founder, Terry Jones.
The informative audio guides made this my favorite stop of the tour. Hearing behind-the-scenes information from the actors and creatives who filmed here was fascinating.
I also enjoyed the additional audio clips from the series and movies that were incorporated into the tour so I could listen to the scenes as I stood in the places they were filmed.
Learning the extent to which “Outlander” film crews worked to preserve historical locations was shocking.
Our tour guide explained before we arrived at Doune Castle that several stunt-heavy scenes in “Outlander” were filmed at Doune Castle, including a brutal game of shinty, which is similar to field hockey.
Walking through the yard surrounding the castle, I incorrectly assumed the actors just played it on the existing ground. This was far from the truth. The audio guide detailed to me how the production team hauled in sand, sod, and stones to create a new layer of ground in order to protect the medieval cobblestones.
The audio tour described how an almost exact replica of the kitchen at Doune Castle was built at the film studios, which I found surprising.
When I walked into the empty kitchen at Doune Castle, I didn’t really recognize it from “Outlander.”
But listening to the audio tour, I learned how every detail I was looking at in person was mapped out to rebuild the same kitchen on a soundstage at Wardpark Studios near Glasgow for the first season.
The audio tour continued to explain that creating a replica gave the “Outlander” crew more control over the set, but also prevented potential damage to the castle from filming.
Wrapping up the tour, our last stop was in the coastal village of Culross, which our guide told us poses as Cranesmuir in the series.
Reading some of the historical signs posted around the town, I learned that Culross was built in the 16th-century. Today, centuries-old buildings are contrasted with modern cars and coffee shops.
The original cobblestone streets all around Culross added to my feeling of being transported back in time. However, it was raining when we arrived, so walking along these ancient streets felt a bit treacherous with how slippery the stones became.
We stopped in a square in Culross that our tour guide said was used in “Outlander” for a market scene, as well as the exterior for the home of the character Geillis Duncan.
The location wasn’t immediately recognizable to me because in “Outlander,” the buildings are colored blue, but in person, they were painted white.
Our tour guide told us that when filming took place here, the production crew actually painted the entire block of houses blue to better fit the time period.
To me, the most mind-blowing element of the whole tour was how close to each other all the stops were.
The tour was about nine hours in total, but the maximum time we spent in the van between locations was under an hour. It was incredible to be able to get out of the van to see a massive castle, hop back in to drive 20 minutes, and then arrive at another beautiful palace.
Seeing so many sites also further showcased to me how much care is poured into preserving history in Scotland. Practically every town we went to during our trip had multiple well-maintained historical sites and locals who were enthusiastic to tell you about them.
For around $100, I thought this themed tour was a worthwhile experience for any “Outlander” fans who are visiting Scotland and want to learn behind-the-scenes secrets of the show, as well as a hefty dose of Scottish history.
The combination of historical facts and filming information made this tour feel very unique to me, and worth the price.
It felt like I got to know things about “Outlander” that only those involved in its production are privy to, and I thought that everyone on the tour had a good time, even the few who got dragged along by their partners.
This tour is certainly a better fit for super fans like myself who will greatly appreciate seeing filming locations in real life, but I think it was a fun way for anyone to learn about history while also getting an inside peek of the film industry.