The city of Edinburgh. Visitors who come here usually just recognise it as the capital of Scotland and home of Edinburgh Castle (the country’s most-visited tourist attraction), but if you’re a savvy tourist you’ll also be aware that it sets the scene for some of the most exciting episodes of seasons 1 and 2 of Outlander.
Every medieval close, wynd and courtyard in the Old Town practically screams history, from the glowering heights of Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile to the imposing majesty of Holyrood Palace at the bottom.
Ironically, most of the more famous attractions in Edinburgh don’t actually appear in the show, and instead the producers have chosen to use tiny side streets and otherwise-missed buildings set back from the Royal Mile for their depictions of the city.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for you could easily miss these Outlander filming locations but I’ll show you a few that are easy to get to in the list below.
- Address: St Giles’ Cathedral, High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1RE
- Website: St. Giles Cathedral
If you walk past St. Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile you’ll more than likely walk across what was at one time the most hated building in the city – the Tolbooth.
This medieval structure was located near the statue of Walter Scott in Parliament Square and was used as a municipal building for over 400 years until it was finally demolished in 1817.
The reason it was so despised is due to its use as a place of execution and torture for Edinburgh’s convicted criminals, many of whom were merely guilty of being unable to repay their debts.
The building also contained a prison that had no running water or sewerage and smelled appallingly bad, even for Auld Reekie’s standards.
On top of the two-storey extension on the west side of the building was a gallows where the relatives of the prisoners could watch their loved ones being hanged or even watch decapitated heads being stuck on spikes on the Tolbooth’s gables.
Suffice to say the placed was not liked by Edinburgh’s residents of the time.
Today, the only remaining evidence that the Tolbooth ever existed is a brick emblem on the pathway outside the cathedral in the shape of a heart, and if you stop to watch the ‘Heart of Midlothian’ for any length of time you’ll more than likely see people spit on it as they walk past, not because they’ve just cleared their throats but because they’re showing their contempt for the old jail.
The TV show portrayed the former notorious jail as the place where Jamie’s men were locked up after deserting, and while that story is fictional at least you’ll now know the significance of the stone mural on the pavement the next time you wander down the Royal Mile.
- Address: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX
- Website: The Out About Scotland Guide to Holyrood Palace
The Jacobite uprising of 1745 centred around Prince Charles Edward Stuart and his fight to reclaim the British throne in the name of his father.
But in September, for five extremely lavish weeks, the ‘Bonnie Prince’ set up court in Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
It was the Scottish novelist Sir Walter Scott who described the great glittering balls that were staged at the palace during the time the prince stayed there and it might have been Scott’s novel Waverley that was the influence for Outlander’s scenes where Jamie Fraser joins the Royal Court.
The palace has a long history that dates back to the 12th-century, or at least the ruins of Holyrood Abbey which joins onto the palace on its northern side date back that far.
The actual palace saw construction start in the 16th-century with the gatehouse and royal apartments being built first, followed by the south-west tower and the Great Gallery several years later.
Today, modern visitors can explore the maze of rooms inside the palace on a self-guided tour, with each room getting progressively grander as they make their way around.
It’s a genuinely impressive place full of tapestry-clad walls, detailed carvings on the ceilings, priceless works of art, and the finest furniture you’re ever likely to see.
If you’re intending to visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse (as it’s officially known) make sure you get your ticket stamped as it’ll allow you free admission for one year after, which gives you more time to see other royal highlights like the 10-acre palace gardens and the Queens Gallery.
- Address: Craigmillar Castle Road, Edinburgh, EH16 4SY
- Website: Historic Environment Scotland
Sitting just outside Edinburgh is the ancient home of the once-powerful Preston family, Craigmillar Castle.
This castle featured in several Outlander scenes in the third season where it was used as the set of Ardsmuir – the prison where Jamie was held captive after the Jacobite defeat at Culloden.
Although Craigmillar Castle is now in ruins it’s worth a visit just to experience the views and atmosphere which feels a world away from Edinburgh, even though it’s located just 4 miles from the city centre.
The centre of the castle consists of a large L-plan tower house that was completed in 1425 along with an enclosed courtyard wall, while a separate outer courtyard was added in 1511, protected on all sides by more fortified walls.
Craigmillar Castle’s fortifications and location close to the city centre made it a natural bolt hole for Scottish nobility back in the day, so it’s not really surprising that Mary Queen of Scots took refuge there after the birth of her son James VI.
Although many of the walls are crumbling it remains one of the best-preserved medieval Scottish castles thanks to the Historic Environment Scotland trust who now maintain it on behalf of the nation.
The trust have restored some parts of the castle back to its (almost) former glory and visitors can explore the dovecot, inner courtyard, kitchen and basement complete with its gloomy prison and cellars.
Linlithgow and the surrounding area
Linlithgow is a historic town set between Glasgow and Edinburgh that was used extensively as an Outlander filming location.
The town is easy to get to thanks to major road networks that join both cities and you can get to Linlithgow from Edinburgh in 45 minutes via the M9 motorway, while Glasgow is a mere 40 minutes via the M80.
Although it’s a quiet rural community there’s a surprisingly large tourist industry both in Linlithgow and the surrounding area due to the fact there are so many historic attractions nearby.
Drive 6 miles northeast and you’ll find yourself at the Firth of Forth which is overlooked by the imposing Blackness Castle, while the stunning Hopetoun House is only 15 miles away to the east.
Both buildings feature heavily in the first season of Outlander so it’s lucky they’re so easy to get to from Edinburgh, but if you have to choose between them on a brief visit I suggest you make Hopetoun House your priority as it’s where you’ll also find Midhope Castle which portrayed the Fraser ancestral home of Lallybroch in the TV series.
- Address: Queensferry, South Queensferry, EH30 9RW
- Website: The Out About Scotland Guide to Hopetoun House
Hopetoun House near Edinburgh was the setting for several scenes in Outlander, most notably in season 1 where the Red Drawing Room became part of the Duke of Sandringham’s house.
In season 2 this magnificent stately home makes use of the courtyard outside the old stables to portray a Parisian street while various rooms were used as the film set for Claire and Jamie’s apartment in Paris.
Hopetoun House was built in the late 1600s for the Hope family who became wealthy from their ownership of lead mines, and it’s considered by many to be one of the finest houses of the period.
The present Lord Hopetoun still lives in the south wing of the building but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit it as luckily for Outlander fans it’s open for guided tours during the summer months.
There are events held throughout the year at Hopetoun House and there are often exhibitions being held there too, so I recommend checking their events page before departing to find out what’s on or upcoming.
But whatever time of year you visit you’ll always be able to walk around the 100-acre estate which comprises pastoral fields, grassland and woodland.
While you’re visiting the house try to grab a bite to eat in the Stables Tearoom which you’ll find inside one of the converted horse stables.
I can tell you hand on heart the food in there is delicious (plus it’s made from locally sourced ingredients so you’ll be helping the community), and you’ll find a variety of different dishes on the menu depending on the season.
- Address: Queensferry, South Queensferry, EH30 9RW
- Website: Hopetoun House
In the corner of the Hopetoun Estate is Midhope Castle, a 15th-century tower house that was used as the setting for Lallybroch (also known as Broch Turach) in Outlander seasons 1 and 2.
This historic building is located in Abercorn, a tiny hamlet situated on a corner of the Hopetoun estate, and viewers will no doubt recognise it as the family home of the Fraser clan where Jamie occasionally lived alongside his sister Jenny, her husband Ian, and their children.
In reality, the house was at one time owned by John Hope who rebuilt the simple tower and turrets of the earlier rectangular building to convert it into the castle that we recognise today.
There’s obviously a lot of history in those walls – especially as the castle later became one of the seats of the Earls of Hopetoun – but even so it was left to fall into decline by the early 1900s and was recorded as being completely derelict by the turn of the Great War.
While there are several shots of the interior of Lallybroch they weren’t actually filmed at Midhope as it’s too dangerous to go inside, which is a real shame because it would be fascinating to look inside it
Instead, only the outside shots of Lallybroch were filmed there thanks to the exterior walls and courtyard still looking pretty much as they would have in Jamie Fraser’s 18th-century Scotland.
As far as visiting it on an Outlander tour goes you might find it difficult, mainly because the castle is set on private grounds and isn’t designated as a tourist attraction.
That being said, the Hopetoun estate recognises that Outlander fans have got an interest in the place so for a small fee you can view the outside of the building, but only with prior permission.
Take a look at the Hopetoun House website for further details of visiting times and where to get your pre-booked ticket from.
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