As part of my trip to Edinburgh with a university friend, we decided to go on an Outlander tour. The show was part of the reason we were inspired to go to to Scotland and we love watching Outlander together so we figured it made perfect sense. We booked a tour before we headed off to Edinburgh but sadly the day before it was cancelled due to a lack of people. We were understandably pretty sad about that and started frantically calling other companies to see if any of them had a tour running the next day that would take us. Due to limited international tourism because of Covid-19 lots of the tours were cancelled, but luckily we managed to find one just in the nick of time!
The tour company we eventually ended going with was Slainte Scotland Tours and it was absolutely great! Whilst it hadn’t been our first choice I’m actually really glad our first tour was cancelled and this was the one we ended up going on. The tour was only me and my friend, a couple and the tour guide and it was so much fun. I’d 100% recommend checking them out and using them if you fancy an Outlander tour from Edinburgh or Glasgow.
Before I start I should give the disclaimer that I went on my tour during a period of time when it was both permitted and safe to travel but still many castles and attractions outside of the main cities were closed. This meant all the castles we visited were closed so we could only admire them from the outside and we had been warned about this before we booked the tour. We were both totally okay with this as obviously the insides of the castles aren’t used in filming and it is the exterior we could recognise from the show. Besides when you’re visiting multiple places in the space of a day there really isn’t much time to meaningfully spend time inside each castle.
Rather than meeting in the city centre of Edinburgh, which obviously adds a lot of driving time to the tour, we met our tour guide and fellow tourers at Dalmeny Station. This was no bother at all – it’s a 20 minute train journey from Edinburgh station and a return ticket wasn’t pricey at all. For people who drive, you can park in the Dalmeny station carpark all day for free so it’s really no hassle for anyone. After a quick rundown of how the tour was going to work and all the new COVID-19 precautions, we all put our masks and got in the minivan ready to go and explore.
The first stop of our tour was Midhope Castle, which serves as Lallybroch in all of the first four seasons of Outlander. We first encounter Lallybroch in Jamie’s flashback in the second episode of series 1. It then appears multiple times in the episodes and series to come as Jamie’s sister Jenny’s house.
Midhope Castle is private property so you can’t actually visit the castle but you can get all the way up to the gates to see it and it’s fairly distinctive from far away, with it’s signature archway where we see Jamie tied up and whipped by the Redcoats.
Next up on our tour was Blackness Castle – or as we know it from Outlander Fort William. It’s where we see Jamie whipped and his father die during his flashbacks and where Jamie rescues Claire from the hands of Black Jack Randall.
Blackness Castle is famously known as the ship that never sailed due to it’s narrow shape and position jutting out into the water. From the water it distinctively resembles a beached ship. One of my favourite stories our tour guide told us is how much the castles used for filming have benefitted since the release of Outlander. As these castles are a little distance from Edinburgh, they weren’t really receiving many visitors meaning they didn’t require much staff and were mainly run by volunteers. However since the castles became famous on TV, tourism to them has been boosted considerably and they’re now hiring so much stuff and really benefitting the local people and the local economy, as well as allowing a lot more tourists to explore these beautiful locations.
The third stop on the tour was the village of Falkland which doubles up as 1940s Inverness in Outlander. This is where we see Frank and Claire on their second honeymoon at the start of the first series. In my photos you can clearly see the Convenanter Hotel which is Mrs Baird’s B&B in the show. You can see the bathroom window where we see Claire standing as well as Bruce Fountain in the centre of the square, where we see Jamie’s ghost.
Before we wandered around the village and had a chance to take all our photos and visit a few shops we had lunch. We had lunch at a delightful cafe – The Hayloft Tearoom. It’s tucked slightly out of the way but well worth a visit! The food was delicious, with three different fresh soups being offered as well as a whole selection of sandwiches and toasties. I heartily recommend the cream of broccoli soup and the ham and cheese toastie! The staff were also all really lovely band had done every possible to make the place Covid-19 secure. They’d put up plastic shields between the tables and a member of staff cleaned the toilet between each person who used it.
Next up on our tour was Doune Castle. Doune Castle is obviously Castle Leoch, the home of the Mackenzie Clan. We see the castle first as ruins visited by Claire and Frank in the 1940s and then throughout the series after Claire is brought to Castle Leoch by the Mackenzies.
Sadly during a visit there was some scaffolding and some parts of the outside were fenced off so I haven’t got too many photos. Also as I mentioned earlier all the castles were closed so unfortunately it wasn’t possible to go inside and see the courtyard which is used as well as the exterior in the filming of Outlander.
This is also the part of the tour where our tour guide offered us a wee dram of whiskey because it’s not truly a trip to Scotland without a taste of their famous alcohol. I must confess to not being a fan at all since I’m used to drinking fruity cocktails, pink wines and gin and lemonades meaning whiskey was well out of my wheelhouse! Nevertheless it was an experience and travel is about trying new things, right?
After Doune Castle, we were on our way to our final location of the tour – Culross. Before we headed into the village itself, we first walked up to the West Kirk – the ruins of an old church. In the filming of Outlander, the West Kirk is the Black Kirk where Tammas Baxter is thought to have been possessed by the devil in season 1, episode 3 ‘The Way Out’.
The village of Culross doubles up as Cranesmuir in the world of Outlander during season 1. The Mercat Cross cross is the centre of Cranesmuir and where we see the boy nailed the post and of course Geillis Duncan’s house. Culross was also used in filming during season 4 for Laoghaire’s house. As well as being used for filming in Outlander, this was just a gorgeous little village with houses of all different colours and winding streets inaccessible by car.
In the village of Culross, before we headed back to Edinburgh, we stopped for a snack at Bessie’s Cafe. In my case, a can of pop and a delicious scone with jam and cream. There was lovely outside seating and I would also highly recommend this cafe. Even if you’re not an Outlander fan, I reckon the quaint village of Culross is definitely worth a visit!
After the village of Culross, it was time for us to head back to Edinburgh after a fabulous day of adventuring and exploring. I was worried the tour would feel like there was a lot of driving and obviously there is a fair bit of driving but it didn’t really feel like it all. The Scottish countryside is always gorgeous to admire out of a car (or mini van in this case) window and our tour guide regaled us with plenty of stories of Outlander filming, Scottish history and local landmarks as he drove. We met for our tour at 10am and finished back at Dalmeny train station about 6pm-ish so it was quite a busy day for us!
So was it worth it?
100%! I’d never been on a filming locations tour before this one and I wasn’t sure what to expect but I had a great day. It was so cool to be able to admire all the locations we’d seen on TV and have a knowledgeable and very friendly guide tell us all about the locations and their history as well as the filming of Outlander. There’s not denying it’s pricey, at £75 per person (or at least it is for me as a student) but their prices increased slightly due to reduced tour numbers as a Covid-19 precaution and I’d say it was well worth every penny! If you’re a fan of Outlander and you’re heading to either Edinburgh or Glasgow, you should treat yourself and go on a tour!
Are you an Outlander fan? Does this tour appeal to you?
If not, have you been on any other filming locations tours?