It is undeniable. Coined as the “Outlander Effect”, the famous book and TV series Outlander has taken Scotland by storm, with increasing numbers of visitors attracted to filming locations and sights featured in the massively popular Outlander stories.
Although the show largely takes place in the Highlands (and later in France, the Caribbean and North America), the majority of filming locations are actually in the central and south of Scotland. Are you keen to include some Outlander locations on your next trip to Scotland? To walk in Jamie and Claire’s footsteps, and to absorb the landscapes that inspired this romantic epic?
If so, have a look at some of our suggestions below that could work. These are various related sites in the Highlands worth visiting, whether it was a location featured in the book, referred to by name in the series or used for filming.
When you think of Outlander, you can’t help but think of standing stones. The stones are a key plot device in this saga that spans decades and centuries all in one. Unfortunately, Craigh Na Dun is not a real Outlander location that you can visit. Yet, if you really want to visit some standing stones in Scotland here are three destinations to consider.
The Clava Cairns has often been hailed as the inspiration for Outlander’s Craigh Na Dun. True or not, these stones share the fictitious stones’ location closely. You can find the Clava Cairns near Inverness, and although not perched on a hill, they are surrounded by trees and fields. The stones and cairns date back 4,000 years to the Bronze Age and were used for burials and religious ceremonies.
The fake stones used in the TV series are on top of a small hill in Kinloch Rannoch. Even without the stones, the setting and the views are breathtaking. Signposted by the same marker used in the TV series, the site is relatively easy to find. Be mindful that the filming location is on private land, and going to see it is not always possible depending on the landowner’s schedule.
For any Outlander fans, we recommend a visit to the Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis. These remarkable standing stones closely resemble the stones featured in Outlander, and breathtaking vistas surrounding them. Aside from being in the Outer Hebrides, the Callanish Stones are actually very easy to access; with a parking lot, good path and an excellent visitor centre.
Said to be around 5,000 years old, the purpose of the stones is not exactly known. Presumably, it was an area of prehistoric religious activity.
There is excellent hiking in the Outer Hebrides, and much history to get absorbed in. For those more interested in the Jacobite rebellion, there are various notable sites related to Bonnie Prince Charlie nearby.
Tulloch Ghru in the Cairngorms National Park is the heavily wooded area where Claire meets the clansmen for the first time. The woods provide the scenic backdrop for Claire and Jamie’s intimate ride to Castle Leoch. At Wilderness Scotland, we are very familiar with this particular Outlander location. Our previous office was on the same estate as Tulloch Ghru, and we even had a staff member get married here!
This is another filming location familiar to the Wilderness Scotland team. The Mackenzie village scenes were filmed at the Highland Folk Museum located near Newtonmore. It’s here that Dougal and his party visit to collect rent. Moreover, this is also where Claire participated in ‘waulking’ with the local female village folk. Fun fact – one of the village women in the waulking scene is actually a member of our finance team! She won a prime spot at the waulking table by responding to the local casting call for extras.
Visitors to the Highland Folk Museum get to enjoy what life was like in the Highlands between the 1700s and the 1900s. It’s an open-air museum, with live animals and costumed staff to make it as realistic as possible. A trip to the folk museum can get combined with multiple Highland activities like climbing a nearby Monadhliadth or Cairngorm peaks, forest walks, foraging, sporting, and excellent canoeing.
The Ruthven Barracks are a destination for the dedicated Outlander fans who are really into the historical side of the story. It also combines well with a trip to the Highland Folk Museum. Built by the government, the Ruthven Barracks are a result of the 1715 Jacobite uprising. The barracks gave the government a solid base in the Highlands. Subsequently, the barracks got taken over the Jacobites in 1746 and then burnt down.
The Ruthven Barracks are not featured in the storyline but are essential to real Jacobite history. Told to regroup, the survivors of the Battle of Culloden gathered at the remains of Ruthven Barracks. With Bonnie Prince Charlie already on the run, the remaining troops disbanded.
Culloden Moor is the site of the infamous Battle of Culloden in 1746. Culloden was the last battle in the Jacobite rising and it had long-lasting consequences on Scotland and Highland culture.
The battle features heavily in Outlander. The Jacobite rebellion plays a large part in the storyline in series 1 and 2, climaxing with the battle itself in the season 2 finale and the first episode of season 3.
Therefore, for any Outlander fan interested in history, the Culloden Visitor Centre is an excellent destination to include in a Highland itinerary. Leanach cottage is part of the remains of the Leanach farmstead. Referred to in the books, the farmhouse is the hiding place for the Jacobite survivors of the battle, before the execution.
Want to learn more? Read What Really Happened at the Battle of Culloden?
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We’re quick to admit that no filming took place in Inverness, but it’s a key location in the books and the TV series. Inverness is the destination of Claire and Frank’s second honeymoon. Similarly, as it was for Claire and Frank, Inverness is a great base from which to explore the rest of the Highlands.
Glencoe is a bit of cheat Outlander destination as it only features in the opening credits in the first seasons, but is consequently iconic to any Outlander fan. This atmospheric glen is hard to exclude from a Highland tour. Combine a visit to Glencoe with other Highland Outlander locations like Fort William and the Glenfinnan Monument.
Like Inverness, no filming took place in Fort William. Nonetheless, it’s a key location to the story and a good place to visit if interested in Jacobean history. The town was held by government troops during the uprisings of 1715 and 1745. In both the books and in the series, Fort William is where Jack Randall was in command of the garrison and where Jamie was brutally flogged.
Despite its bloody fictional and actual history, present-day Fort William is known as the outdoor capital of Scotland and attracts many visitors. It sits on Loch Linnhe with the majestic Ben Nevis, UK’s highest mountain, as its backdrop. Glenfinnan Monument is not far from Fort William. It’s here that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard and started the second Jacobite rising.
Sing me a song of a lass that is gone
Say, could that lass be I?
Merry of soul she sailed on a day
Over the sea to Skye
So go the lyrics to the Skye Boat Song which plays over the opening credits. Neither in the book nor in the series do the main characters actually ever travel to Skye. Due to this singular line, referring to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s escape to Skye after Culloden, the Isle of Skye has become a destination associated with Outlander. There are a couple of ways to go over to the sea to Skye. The easiest method (short of crossing a bridge) is the turntable ferry at Glenelg which takes a limited amount of vehicles to Kylerhea on Skye. There is also a ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye, which takes about 30 minutes.
Sitting on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park you’ll find Faskally Woods. This is where the Mohawk village scenes were filmed in the forest. The studio built a whole native American village for shooting, with First Nation actors flown in from Canada. Even without the village, the woods are a beautiful hiking destination.
Travellers can easily take in more of “North America” in this bit of Scotland. The scenes, where Claire and Jamie build their new home in North Carolina, were filmed at a nearby estate close to Dunkeld. As much as possible was filmed in Scotland, and Highland Perthshire has stood in fabulously for the New World.
Admittedly, Doune Castle is not quite in the Highlands. We’ve included the main filming location for Castle Leoch in this list anyway as it’s en-route to Loch Lomond from Edinburgh. It’s also not too much of a detour if travelling up to the Cairngorms National Park from Glasgow or Edinburgh. The castle at Doune is one of the most popular Outlander destinations and not to be missed. Interior sections of the castle are in excellent condition, with a big courtyard and many nooks and crannies to explore.
This relatively unknown castle in Strathpeffer is said to be the inspiration for Castle Leoch. The castle is the actual present-day seat to Clan Mackenzie. Castle Leod is not open to visitors year-round. Private tours are available upon special arrangement and can be conducted by John Mackenzie, the Mackenzie Clan Chief and Earl of Cromartie himself.