Last updated on January 19th, 2021
If you’re reading this you probably already know about Outlander, the historical TV drama series based on the popular books by American author Diana Gabaldon.
The story revolves around Claire Randall, a married WWII nurse who finds herself transported back in time to Scotland in the year 1743 where she encounters the fearless Highlander warrior Jamie Fraser.
Throughout the evolving love story the couple find themselves embroiled in the Jacobite uprising along with a cast of larger-than-life characters, while the ancestor of Claire’s husband – Black Jack Randall – becomes obsessed with torturing the unlikely lovers both mentally and physically.
Although later series see Claire and Jamie in France, the Caribbean, and America, the first season is firmly planted in Scotland. From the opening scenes in Falkland to the later locations of Doune Castle and Culross, Outlander transports viewers across the most beautiful parts of the country in each exciting episode.
For me, that’s one of the things that makes the show so good. Sure, there’s a bucket load of sex and violence to keep things interesting along with an accomplished cast of actors to bring to the story to life, but it’s the film sets that are the real stars of the show.
The beautifully rugged Highlands feature heavily in season one as do many of the top attractions in Southern Scotland, and viewers will find themselves transported into the wilds of Glencoe as well as the busy streets of Edinburgh as they follow Claire and Jamie’s story.
It’s no wonder then, that a new tourism industry has sprung up around Outlander with thousands of fans keen to explore the sites where Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan portrayed their roles. This has led to a slew of tour operators including Outlander tours in their itineraries and there are now dozens to choose from across the length and breadth of Scotland.
As die-hard fans will no doubt be aware, most of the later seasons are set overseas with the occasional flashback to Scotland, but even those scenes make use of locations in the UK, especially seasons four and five which feature several sites in Crieff, Glasgow, the Cairngorms and Pitlochry.
In this article, I’ll concentrate on the Scottish locations used in the filming of Outlander’s season one along with a detailed list of the best tours you can join to see the film sets, and I’ll only include operators that get good reviews on Tripadvisor and Get Your Guide.
If you want to explore Scotland as part of a small-group bus tour, take a look at the tour suggestions in this article: The Best Small Group Bus Tours in Scotland.
Map of Outlander filming locations in Scotland
Outlander filming locations featured in guided tours
Aberdour Castle (Abbey of St. Anne de Beaupre). This is where Claire helps Jamie recover from his injuries after that horrific torture scene in season one. Although the Benedictine monastery is set in France, the filming location was created inside the castle in the village of Easter Aberdour in Fife.
Built in the 12th-century, Aberdour Castle is one of the oldest still-intact fortifications in Scotland. You can read about it in my Complete Guide to Aberdour Castle.
Beauly Priory. The remains of this Benedictine abbey church are located on a bend of the River Beauly, 16 miles west of Inverness. The surviving church takes the form of a cross which is surrounded by burial monuments from the 1400s up to the 1800s with an enclosing stone wall separating it from the modern housing estate which it borders.
In Outlander, Beauly Priory was the burial site of the Fraser clan and the setting where Clair and Jamie meet the mystical seer Maisri, prior to the battle at Culloden.
Blackness Castle (Fort William). Also known as ‘the ship that never sailed’ due to its unusual bow-like front, Blackness Castle dominates the coastline of the Firth of Forth a few miles west of Edinburgh. The 15th-century fortress represented Fort William in the TV show, where Jamie was savagely whipped by Black Jack.
Read about this historic attraction in my Complete Guide to Blackness Castle.
Boness and Kinneil Railway station. This attraction near the Firth of Forth lies twenty miles west of Edinburgh. The Scottish railway museum was a popular tourist destination long before Outlander became popular thanks to the restored railway buildings and carriages that you can walk around and the diesel and steam locomotives that you can take trips on.
The station was used in the tear-jerking scene where Frank says goodbye to Claire as she heads off to war in episode three of season one.
Callendar House. Remember the scene where Murtagh kills the Duke of Sandringham in season two? It was supposedly set in the kitchen of the Duke’s home which was filmed in Hopetoun House for almost every other scene, but the crew moved to Callendar House to portray his kitchen.
You’ll find Callendar House in Callendar Park near Falkirk which is slightly north of, but midway between, Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Clava Cairns. These ancient stone circles and burial chambers date back to the Bronze Age which puts them at around 4,000 years old. Although they’re remarkably well preserved little is known of the people who built them, or why the stones were placed on the site a few miles north of what is now Inverness.
There are two sections of Clava Cairns – Balnuaran of Clava and Milton of Clava – and it’s the former which is said to have inspired the story of Craigh na Dun in the Outlander novels.
Culross (Cranesmuir). The village of Culross is pretty much unchanged since the 18th-century thanks to the care given to it by the National Trust for Scotland. Although the highlight is Culross Palace (a lovely yellow-painted townhouse from the 16th-century) the entire village is a living museum and it’s an incredibly atmospheric place.
The village was used to portray the fictional settlement of Cransemuir in season one. Discover Culross for yourself when you read my Guide to Culross.
Deanston Distillery. Although this whisky distillery was reimagined as a warehouse in France (as seen when Claire helps a sailor with smallpox in season two) I’m including it in this article because it’s close to Doune Castle so it’s usually included in Outlander tours.
Doune Castle (Castle Leoch). Castle Leoch is the seat of power for Clan Mackenzie which is where many of the main characters were introduced in the first few episodes. In real life you’ll find the castle in the village of Doune, about nine miles north-west of the city of Stirling. I cover the castle in my Complete Guide to Doune Castle.
Falkland (Inverness). Inverness is known as the capital of the Highlands and it’s quite a tourist destination in its own right thanks to its location on the northern tip of Loch Ness. For whatever reason though (probably because it’s closer to Edinburgh), the rural town of Falkland in Fife was used as Inverness’s filming location.
In Outlander Claire and her husband Frank spend their honeymoon at Mrs Baird’s B&B in Inverness, which is actually the Covenanter Hotel in Falkland.
Glencoe. This spectacular part of Scotland needs no introduction. Located mid-way between Bidean Nam Bian mountain and the village of Glencoe, this stunning glen sets centre stage in the opening credits of every episode in season one.
Highland Folk Museum (MacKenzie village). You’ll find the Highland Folk Museum around 45 miles south of Inverness. This attraction is designed to bring the old Highland traditions back to life and it manages to successfully balance the line between entertainment and education.
Because there are so many faithfully recreated cottages in the museum it was chosen to portray a typical Highland village of the era when Claire and Jamie help Clan Mackenzie collect taxes from the resident farmers.
Hopetoun House (Duke of Sandringham’s residence). Edinburgh and the surrounding area is the host of the majority of Outlander’s filming locations and this beautiful 17th-century country house located a few miles west of the capital is no exception.
Hopetoun House was used extensively in seasons one, two and three where it’s recognisable as the home of the cunning Duke of Sandringham. See my Guide to Hopetoun House for more information about it.
Kinloch Rannoch (Craigh na Dun). Craigh na Dun is a filming location that isn’t quite what you might think it is in real life. You’ll find the site a few miles north of Shiehallion mountain near Tay Forest Park in the middle of wild and windswept farmland that’s privately owned but is open to viewing by the public.
The hillock where Claire travelled through the stones overlooks Dunalastair Water and the River Tummel so you’ll get a lovely view from the top, but forget trying to touch the stones as they’re no longer there. The film crew used fake polystyrene models that have long-since been removed.
Linlithgow Palace (Wentworth Prison). At one time the 12th-century Linlithgow Palace was one of the most important royal fortresses in Scotland thanks to its position midway between Edinburgh and Stirling. Today it’s almost completely in ruin, but as it’s managed by Historic Environment Scotland you can visit it and explore almost every nook and cranny during a self-guided tour.
In the TV show, Linlithgow Palace represented Wentworth prison where Jamie was tortured by Black Jack. As it’s only 15 miles west of Edinburgh it can easily be combined with a visit to the city. If you want to learn more about it read my Guide to Linlithgow Palace.
Midhope Castle (Lallybroch). If you remember the scenes where Jamie stays with his sister Jenny and her husband Ian in the Fraser ancestral home, you’ll no doubt recognise Midhope Castle.
The 16th-century tower house featured heavily in season one and two which is why it’s become a favourite place to visit on an Outlander pilgrimage – even though it’s entirely in ruin and not open to the public due to the fact it’s so dilapidated inside.
Midhope Castle is actually a part of the Hopetoun House estate so it’s possible it will be opened up to tourists one day, but that isn’t being planned at the moment. If you want a visit outside of a guided tour see the Hopetoun House website for details.
Pollock Country Park and Pollock House is an enormous public park located a few miles south of Glasgow city centre. Because the park is so expansive it’s difficult to say exactly where scenes from Outlander were filmed but it’s known that the area around Pollock House was used as the Carolina Scottish festival in season four and the French countryside for the duel between Jamie and Black Jack in season two.
Preston Mill (Lallybroch) is another historic site near Edinburgh that was used during the filming of Outlander. The mill is managed by the National Trust for Scotland who have restored the water wheel and Dutch-style doocot (used to keep pigeons) back to their former glory and it’s now a popular attraction.
Preston Mill portrayed part of the Lallybroch estate in season one as well as a courtroom where Geillis Duncan and Claire were accused of witchcraft.
The Reaper Tall Ship (Cristabel). When Jamie and Claire board the Cristabel on their way to France the vessel they sail on is actually moored up in the small fishing village of Anstruther on the eastern coastline of the historic Kingdom of Fife.
The Reaper is a restored fishing vessel of the type that was used extensively in Scotland in the 19th-century but this particular model is one of the last, built in 1902.
Although Anstruther isn’t on any of the Outlander tours in the list below it’s definitely worth visiting because it’s a pretty wee place with lots of quaint shops, the Scottish Fisheries Museum, and a picturesque harbour. They sell a mean ice-cream as well.
Wardlaw Mausoleum. This graveyard was built in 1634 as the burial place for the Lovat Frasers and it’s the final resting place of the clan chief Lord Lovat. The mausoleum is located in the small village of Kirkhill a few miles east of Beauly Priory so it’s often included in Highlands Outlander tours.
There’s a mixture of reality and fiction at this historic site as the real Lord Lovat was one of the leaders of the Jacobite rebellion and he was also named as Jamie Fraser’s grandfather in the TV show.
There are several lead coffins in an underground chamber beneath the mausoleum which includes the headless 11th Lord Lovat who was executed in the Tower of London.
Outlander tours from Edinburgh
Outlander tours from Glasgow
Outlander tours in the Highlands
Reasons to take an Outlander guided tour
- Although some of Outlander’s filming locations are easy to find, many are located in the middle of nowhere in places that are extraordinarily difficult to get to. Letting someone else do all the driving is a good way to save wasted hours with a complicated map trying to follow unfamiliar roads.
- Scotland’s transport is great near the cities but is famously poor the further you head into the countryside. If you were hoping to see all of Outlander’s filming locations using public transport I’m afraid you’re going to find it pretty much impossible. An example of this is Hopetoun House which takes over an hour to walk from the nearest train station.
- Many of the filming locations used in Outlander have exploded in popularity, especially already-busy sites like Doune Castle which was also the setting for Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones (Doune Castle’s visitor number have increased 90% since Outlander was filmed there!). Most tours have pre-assigned visiting slots so you’ll be able to explore these sites without getting crushed by crowds of fellow tourists.
- Tour guides are always passionate about the topic they’re covering and as they’re so knowledgeable you’re guaranteed to leave having learned lots of new facts – no matter how much of a knowledgeable fan you might already be.
- You’ll be able to mix with like-minded travellers. Unlike roaming around on your own amongst random strangers, people on tours share a common interest which makes joining one a great way to make new friends.
- You might even save some money. Tour prices include the cost of travel by coach (saving on car hire), a guide (no need for paid audio tours) and entry tickets (often cheaper than paying at the gate as the tickets are pre-purchased in bulk).