"It's not good enough for anything Scottish to be just an option that pupils or teachers can choose if they like or if they have time. In what other country of Europe would you find such a state of affairs?" #ScotsLanguagehttps://t.co/8MgV9cbA3g
— Àdhamh Ó Broin (@Gaeliconsultant) November 27, 2017
Featured image: Three Sisters of Glen Coe. Credit: STARZ/Sony Pictures Television
So Let’s Review, Sassenach
Welcome back for this final installment in my comprehensive, now six-part series “An Outlander Tourist in Scotland.” We’ve had a hiatus from roughly monthly postings, which began in December 2016 with Part 1, proceeded through to Part 4 by mid-March, and left off in April 2017 with the muckle “Review: Slainte Scotland Outlander Tour + Outlander Tourism Resources,” in effect part 5. Thus, the numbering gap.
Between taking our trip and writing this series, I also published posts focusing on the aesthetics of the overall experience, certain mountain-sea and mountain-loch vistas, an Edinburgh restaurant we loved, a nature poem by beloved Scot, Robert Burns, and the singular, marvelous attraction of a well-preserved castle ruin. Then, between the first few posts in the Outlander tourism series and parts 5 and 6, I shared a timely heads-up to view nature programs like Wild Scotland in the post “Wildlife TV Programs This Week.” That post ends with resources for live Scotland wildlife and nature tourism.
Now I’m so excited to deliver, for this dedicated Outlander tourism series, a final set of experience-based tips, insights, and resources! Long-term project turns fait accompli. The series would not be whole without my top overseas travel tips, a survival guide, reviews of travel apps, insights on where we slept and ate (with photos), my list of touchstone regional Scotland websites, and some closing thoughts to tie it all together. I hope all six parts of this Outlander tourism series prove helpful and that you’re managing Droughtlander like a “sturdy” OL fan.
Disclaimer: My blog series content is based on a family trip to Scotland in September 2016. Remember to verify details to make your travel experience as smooth as possible, especially if you take the DIY approach. I share ideas to get you started, but info, resources, and site access can change or be incomplete. The UK and Scotland’s hospitality sector, including property owners and stewards of film sites, have the final say. Research and confirm with contacts directly in advance.
Top Five Tips for Travel Overseas
Now that you, the Outlander fan, know you really want to go to Scotland, and as you’ve started saving for the trip, it’s time (unless you already went!) to accomplish things that must be in place or in progress before your trip is imminent.
Next are my top tips for the U.S. traveler headed to Scotland, though the ideas apply to all travel abroad. Thoughts and resources for acting on the tips follow the list.
Incidentally, if you haven’t yet read Part 4 of this series, it will take you through our entire planning process, complete with itinerary snapshots comparing plans with actual results, plus reflections on the whole 14-day Scotland travel experience. Take a look!
#1 – The Passport: Before diving into specifics, take the most important step. If you don’t yet have a valid passport or are not sure it’s current, that’s business item number one. If your passport’s expiration date is too close to your dates of travel, even if it comes after them, your passport may not be accepted. Do your homework so you can pass.
#2 – Grab Your Guides: Be sure any travel guide book you consider buying includes some kind of survival guide section or street smarts feature. I’ll unpack the survival guide concept later in this post. Online government sites and articles can also be helpful on topics such as car insurance and car rental abroad (called “car hire” in the UK), travel insurance, rules of the UK road, and passport regulations.
#3 – Do I Really Have To? (Maybe Not): Save yourself some time and money by checking multiple sources before following advice that costs you both. For example, my husband and I discovered only upon arriving at our car hire office that we need not have paid for and gone through the trouble of obtaining international driver’s licenses. This may not be true of all car hire companies, so check before you travel.
#4 – The Travel Agent: Think about your tour priorities and unique circumstances so you can decide whether to go the DIY route or join a group tour for your entire trip. Enlisting the aid of a travel agent may be your best entree, especially for vacation packages. Do-it-yourselfers like me might appreciate the peace of mind of having the right travel agent on your side. I found it invaluable to ask questions and discuss ideas with my agent. He also booked our airfare and lodging package on our behalf, which saved us time, hassle, and money.
#5 – Secure Yourself: Don’t give issues of personal, digital, and overall travel security short shrift. Travel insurance may be a beneficial investment for you. With the right policy, you gain the freedom to focus on the fun, knowing you’re covered in case of X, Y, or Z unpleasantness. Buying Allianz travel insurance was affordable, convenient, and satisfying for us. I recommend Allianz without hesitation, but know your options, too.
Using Your Travel Guide
After you square away the passport, turn your attention to tip 2, the specifics of where you most want to go and what you most want to see and do during your trip. Get out those travel guides, take some notes, and chat it up. Again, see Part 4 under the sections “Where I Started” and “Scotland Guidebooks” for a list of print travel guides I used.
As I suggested previously, you can approach this either by exploring regional info sections of guidebooks or specialized websites, or by searching for certain activities, attractions, and tours, and then fitting those to time and place. The process should get you excited about travel planning and motivate you when the logistical slogging phase arrives—shortly. Here are some reminders of resources I shared earlier.
Along with the following guides, I’ve included a list of links to touchstone regional resources of Scotland. See the bottom section of this post for those regional starting points: “Appendix: Guides to Adventures in Cities and Regions.”
NOTE: Those are good regional starting points, but there’s a lot more where they came from, ready to be shared. Just say the word! Leave a comment or question, and I’ll get back to you with whatever I may have on the topic you raise.
Online Guides to Scotland
Along with specific resources for regions, areas, or individual sites (see the print travel guides or this post’s “Appendix”), it’s a great idea to orient yourself to the comprehensive websites for general Scotland tourism such as VisitScotland.com and Gazetteer for Scotland. Those were my go-to Internet sources for extensive place name lists, maps, and info (both), accurate historical and statistical profiles of regions and cities (Gazetteer), and up-to-date accommodation, attraction, and dining ideas (VisitScotland).
Try out a few of these broad-ranging web resources, and find one or two that you are most comfortable navigating and that consistently deliver the results you seek. Here are some possibilities. Blurbs are from the sources (parentheses mine).
Gazetteer for Scotland: Scottish Towns, Villages, Places, People, Families (scottish-places.info/scotgaz/scotland.html) – A vast encyclopedia of Scottish towns, villages, geographical features, historic sites, family names and famous people.
Gazetteer for Scotland: Map of Scotland (divided into searchable regions)
Rough Guides – The Rough Guide to Scotland (roughguides.com/shop/rough-guide-scotland/) – The new, full-colour Rough Guide to Scotland is the definitive travel guide to this gem of a country. In-depth coverage of its burgeoning food scene, artistic innovations and awe-inspiring wild places. (for purchase)
Undiscovered Scotland: Home Page (undiscoveredscotland.co.uk) – The home page of Undiscovered Scotland, a combination of visitor guide, accommodation listing and business directory; aims to show you what the country is really like. (See also their Councils, Regions, and Counties page, which links to breakdowns of three different types of government divisions of land within the country.)
Scotland – The Guide to Scotland – Travel History and Places (scotland.org.uk/guide/) Travel Scotland: Find the Freedom – Tells the story and inside info on places and history. Independent info about Scotland: travel, tours, accommodation, sightseeing, outdoor activities, castles, genealogy, etc, including the Highlands & Islands.
Scotland Travel Guide by Rick Steves (ricksteves.com/Europe/Scotland/) – Explore Scotland! Get inspired with Rick Steves’ recommended places to go and things to do, with tips, photos, videos, and travel information on Scotland.
Scotland Travel Guide | Fodor’s Travel (fodors.com/world/Europe/Scotland/) – Expert picks for your Scotland vacation, including hotels, restaurants, entertainment, shopping, top attractions, and more.
Fodor’s Scotland (Travel Guide): Fodor’s: 9781101879641: Amazon.com: Books – Fodor’s Scotland (Travel Guide) [Fodor’s] on Amazon.com. FREE shipping on qualifying offers. Scotland offers astonishing variety: its iconic lochs and mountains, as well as lively cities such as Edinburgh and Glasgow
Scotland Travel Guide | Travel + Leisure – (brief, 2 sections: Things Not to Miss in Scotland, When to Go to Scotland)
Scotland the Best: Peter Irvine chooses his top 50 Scottish places to eat, stay and play – Daily Record – THE latest edition of Scottish travel bible Scotland the Best is out and here, author Peter Irvine selects his top 50 places to eat, stay and play.
Nature Scotland – Welcome to Scotland’s forests – Forestry Commission Scotland (scotland.forestry.gov)
National Parks | Visit Britain (visitbritain.com)
Once you have an idea of your preferred main attractions, take a crack at designing your itinerary, matching your moves on the map with the slots in your schedule. Consider your budget, timing, and comfort needs during transit and overnight stays. Strive for a balance between seeing those most important highlights and sparing enough energy to enjoy the experience without coming home flat broke in the end. Below are some tools for making a detailed plan. Just remember, be flexible even after the fancy printout; life happens, and in Scotland so does the weather, even on vacation.
KAYAK.COM – (text mine) I thought their itinerary creation tool was the best and most secure among several I tried—all of those below. Create an account, login, go to Trips, add a trip, and enter your details!
Itinerary Design – How to Create the Perfect Itinerary | IndependentTraveler.com – What’s the secret to creating a great itinerary? Here are trip planning tips and essential Web sites to help you put together the perfect itinerary.
Itinerary Design – TripCase Travel App: Manage Itineraries, Trips & Flights – Connected to powerful technology & travel companies, TripCase delivers the right information at the right time to any device. Sign up for Free today!
Itinerary Design – TripIt – Travel Itinerary – Trip Planner – TripIt organizes your travel plans in one place. Finds alternative flights. Sends real-time alerts. Snags the best seat. We have something for every traveler.
Scotland Itineraries – Fodor’s | Scotland Travel Guide | Fodor’s Travel Guides – Find the perfect Scotland Itinerary for you! … created by the Fodor’s editors.
Reality Check: Travel Agents
Now that you have an exciting rough sketch of your awesome trip, it’s time to consider consulting a travel agent to disabuse you of any extremely unrealistic notions you may have developed by this time. Talk to an agent, or at least an outside party—a friend, online travel planning expert, relative, or just a person who’s been there before—to get some healthy perspective on your plan so far.
While you’re doing this, start getting some of those new questions answered that popped up during your perusal of the so-helpful-but-so-overwhelming travel guides. Ask the travel agent, who may help cut down research time and confusion-related stress. Note that this step combines tips #3 and #4 above.
The travel agent is a resource that, with a little forethought, can help in more ways than implied by the term “travel agent.” Ask about budget, financing, realistic timing, building in down time, ensuring time to eat, ways to streamline or increase the value of your experience, deals and packages, tour group options, and more.
By now, good travel agents should be aware of Outlander’s impact on Scottish tourism. They should have some idea of the rise in numbers of visits to Edinburgh, if not exactly why they’ve risen. If the agent’s missing the “why,” then you’ll have the chance, as I did, to educate them about the greatness that is the world of Outlander.
It’s natural for a U.S. travel agent to be most familiar with Caribbean and European river cruises, but good agents can guide you to wherever in the world you wish to go. At minimum, your travel agency should have some info ready on packages, cruises, guides, and in-depth resources for UK travel, if not Scotland travel. Ensure your agent can promptly pull up options beyond London. If they can’t, find another agent.
The best travel agent is a planning partner, adding value beyond flight/hotel discounts—without adding fees. We were glad to have this with Brian Chima at Chima Travel in Akron, Ohio. Note: I’ve never met Brian in person; we conducted all business by phone and email. So even if you’re not in northeast Ohio, Chima Travel may still be an option.
With safety and security, focus on a few key factors: insurance, personal security, and digital security. Decide how important your investment is to you because that’s what your trip is—an investment in enhancing your life with a one-of-a-kind experience.
You may find it worthwhile, at some level, to protect that investment with travel insurance. There are certain tried and true companies, as well as different levels of protection to purchase. It’s worth a little research and discussion with your travel partner(s) to familiarize yourselves with the options.
Below are travel insurance resources I consulted. Several proved insightful. We went with Allianz for travel insurance; it was a great choice insofar as we didn’t have to use the policy’s benefits. Cross your fingers, say your prayers, but protect yourself, too.
NOTE: Rental car insurance is a separate concern from overall travel insurance. We discovered our AllState auto coverage would not apply overseas. Unless we bought a separate policy, we wouldn’t be covered while driving in Scotland. So we added rental car insurance to our travel insurance policy at a reasonable daily rate. If we’d bought it with Alamo, costs would have risen. See the Car Hire/Rental section of the Survival Guide below for more information.
TripAdvisor: Inside Edinburgh, plus UK Comprehensive Guide – Before you see Edinburgh, see TripAdvisor for the latest info/advice, written for travelers by travelers.
9 Steps To Avoid Getting Scammed On Travel Insurance – Business Insider – Just before you buy your plane ticket…
Travel Insurance Coverage Tips by Rick Steves (ricksteves.com)
Travel Insurance db – Get A Travel Insurance Quote | Compare The Market – Compare travel insurance quotes from leading…providers at Compare the Market.
Travel Insurance Plan Comparison Chart – Travel Insured’s four Worldwide Trip Protector plans compared based on benefit levels and travel assistance services. Additional charts for medical, baggage, and reasons for trip cancellation.
Travel Insurance 101: How Travel Insurance Works | Allianz Global Assistance – More and more travelers are opting to buy travel insurance to provide benefits ranging from peace of mind to financial security.
BETiNS Travel Medical Insurance ,Trip, Holiday, Student, Cheap Travel Insurance – BETiNS – variety of Trip & Travel Insurance for Holiday, Student, Missionary, and Family Travel. Compare the best travel insurance and the cheapest travel insurance
Travel Guard – Cancel for Any Reason Travel Insurance Coverage (travelguard.com) – The Cancel for Any Reason (CFAR) option is available as an upgrade when you purchase the Platinum, Gold, My Travel Guard or Great Outdoors plan and is a great option that allows travelers to cancel their trip for any reason not otherwise covered in their base plan, provided they cancel their trip >48 hours before their departure date.
Ideas for personal and digital security, plus packing efficiency, can start here:
Best Gear for Travel | The Wirecutter – We put in another year and tens of thousands more miles of travel to test the best travel gear—and we stand by last year’s choices alongside a few new picks.
Packing Cubes & Folders – TravelSmith – Shop TravelSmith for packing cubes for travel and packing cubes for suitcases. Visit our site for how to use packing cubes and travel cubes and the best assortment of eagle creek packing cubes and packing sleeves.
Packing Cubes | Pack Smarter – eBags.com – Pack like a neat freak – even if you’re not one. Designed with efficiency in mind, packing cubes allow you to pack more while taking up less space. Shop now.
Although we didn’t go with packing cubes, I did buy some handy vacuum-less compression bags to pack clothes in to reduce their bulk.
It’s also a good idea to buy an RFID protective wallet, to protect your credit cards and passport from digital hacking. Ody and Tarriss both offer good product options.
Of course, be sure to keep updated on the latest airline and airport regulations for managing checked luggage and carry-on bags.
Survival Guide: Travel Logistics & Street Smarts
The following website collection covers a range of information on services for safe and legal travel, banking & currency, communications & media, state systems & practices, infrastructure, transport to & from, and navigation. Book guides should also advise travelers on health, city savvy, and any nation-specific nuances. Again, make sure some of your guide materials go into travel logistics and survival.
Keep in mind: This list represents our own interests during planning, plus specific services we engaged and investigated along the way. It’s not exhaustive, and obviously not everyone will need or want all resources. Consider it a sample starting point. For instance, because we used mass transit in Edinburgh and drove a rental car for more of Glasgow, I list the main Edinburgh bus system but not the Glasgow bus companies. However, we did enjoy touring with the hop-on, hop-off bus one day in metro Glasgow.
Blurb text for each listing is the organization’s unless otherwise noted.
Scotland Government and Politics – Scotland Info Guide – History and present day of the Scottish Government and Parliament in Edinburgh
Parliament, Scottish – Official site with information on MSPs, history, buildings and current business.
Banking & Currency / Savings
XE: (GBP/USD) British Pound to US Dollar Rate (xe.com) – Calculate live US Dollar to British Pound foreign exchange rates with this free currency converter. You can convert currencies and precious metals with this currency calculator.
ATMs (Cash Machines) in Stirling, Central (travelmash.info)
Note: Our bank advised us to convert some of our dollars to pounds before flying so we wouldn’t be scrambling or delayed by trying to find a bank or fee-based machine between landing and taxi hire. Good advice.
HES Explorer Pass – Web Store :: Ticket Selection (tickets.historic-scotland.gov.uk)
National Trust Scotland – Join (nts.org.uk) – Join the Trust online today and save 10% when you pay by direct debit.
Communication & Media
National Library of Scotland – The National Library of Scotland is Scotland’s largest library and the world centre for the study of Scotland and the Scots.
This is a guide section often called “Getting There” and/or “Getting Around.”
Traveline Scotland, including the app available from iTunes and Google Play (a really handy resource throughout our trip).
Traveline Scotland – Public transport information – Timetables and journey planner for all bus, rail, coach, air and ferry services in Scotland. Open 24 hrs on 0871 200 22 33.
Edinburgh Airport maps (edinburghairport.com) (maps of parts of the airport)
Taxi Note: My husband and I found the Edinburgh International Airport taxi service (name unknown) to be very friendly and professional. Availability of taxis was sparse when we first arrived from baggage claim, so efficiency may be a question, but the stewards and driver were helpful and pleasant. The taxi was clean and comfortable.
UK Bus Checker – (text mine) For great help with buses in Edinburgh and Glasgow, a reliable service with a good interface is UK Bus Checker. It provides schedules and alerts for which bus stops are nearest your current location. UK Bus Checker displays live, up-to-the-minute countdowns when the next bus approaches that nearest stop. Maps show bus stops with pegs as on Google maps, and every stop between any two end points lists which bus lines use that stop. Live route maps let you trace where a bus will go on its route while you’re on it, and there’s also a journey planner tool.
Ticket options – Lothian Buses – Local Bus services in and around Edinburgh
Transport for Edinburgh – Android Apps on Google Play – Live departure times and journey planning for Lothian Buses and Edinburgh Trams.
ScotRail trains, tickets & service info in Scotland | ScotRail (scotrail.co.uk) – Buy cheap train tickets & find the best deals on rail fares to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Inverness & the rest of Scotland. ScotRail is operated by Abellio.
ScotRail pass or no? Prebook everything? – United Kingdom Forum – TripAdvisor – Answer 1 of 7: May 14-21 in Scotland…
Rail pass – The Spirit of Scotland Travelpass | ScotRail – Find out more about ScotRail’s great value Spirit of Scotland Travelpass (formerly Freedom of Scotland Travelpass) for unlimited rail travel in Scotland.
There are also rail passes available from BritRail and ACP Rail.
West Coast Railways – West Coast Railways, Carnforth. Independent Train Operating Company – along some of the UKs most…
West Coast Railways is the company through which to book the Glenfinnan Viaduct trip between Fort William and Mallaig on the west coast, the viaduct being a site they used to film Harry Potter. The iconic transport is the Jacobite Steam Train. The Glenfinnan Monument, Glenfinnan, marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised the Scottish standard to start the 1745 Jacobite Rising.
West Highland Rail Guides: One audio guide I found really fun to use during our West Coast Railways trip on 23rd September I found through the West Highland Lines version of the app called View from the Train: route “Fort William – Mallaig.” After you select among three available routes, a map pops up with the stops indicated. There you select the station you’re starting from. The journey begins with a well-performed audio tour accompanied by transcript text you can read as you go. Each page includes play button, transcript, and a picture of the area being discussed. It was a nice supplement, with different insights, to the brochures the rail company provided.
UK_speed_limits.png (highwaycodeuk.co.uk) (A good idea to review since few speed limits are posted en route; you’re simply expected to know based on the type of road you’re on – a tip from a fellow Outlander friend)
Streetmap – Maps and directions for the whole of Great Britain (streetmap.co.uk)
Car Travelling Around Scotland by Car | VisitScotland – Detailed information on Scotland’s road network, driving routes and car, campervan and motorhome hire, for your perfect driving holiday.
Car Travel in Scotland | Fodor’s Travel – Learn more about Car Travel when traveling to Scotland.
Route Planner | Maps, directions & route finder for UK & Europe | RAC – RAC Route Planner, Maps and Traffic News providing you with route finder driving directions for UK and European journeys at street map detail with a walking routes toggle.
Scotland Customized Map | Mapcustomizer.com (mapcustomizer.com/map/Scotland_Trip) (A snapshot of a group of 12 centrally located Outlander filming venues that I flagged and put together. This resource is not quite as sophisticated as the itinerary tools shared earlier, but it’s handy for a relatively quick sketch.)
Scotland Map and Distance Table (rampantscotland.com) Scotland Map & Distance Table
Scotland Distance Calculator, Driving Directions, Distance Between Cities, Distance Chart (UK) – (distancecalculator.globefeed.com) Scotland (UK) Distance Calculator and Driving Directions to calculate distance between any two cities, towns or villages in Scotland (UK) and Mileage Calculator, Distance Chart, Distance Map. May be also used for travel distance calculation for Scotland (UK).
Traffic Scotland (trafficscotland.org home) – Real time and future traffic information for Scotland, a service provided by Transport Scotland.
Cashless mobile parking payment app – a better way to park | PayByPhone – Pay for parking easily with PayByphone – the smart cashless parking app that’ll help you avoid tickets & remind you when it’s time to go – download today.
Petrol Prices Live on Your Android phone | Whatgas.com – The following free Android application can be used to get live petrol pricing data straight to your Android phone…
Note: I used and liked the app Fuelio to search for gas/petrol and compare prices.
At least a few of these guides and articles are worth a look before you start shopping.
British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) car rental guide: Car hire – Your Guide to Renting a Car – from BVRLA – renting-a-car.pdf (bvrla.co.uk/)
Car Hire – How to Rent a Car in Scotland | USA Today (traveltips.usatoday.com) – Many international visitors to Scotland stick to the major cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, but the majority of the country’s castles and large, historic houses are in rural areas, so…
Car hire – Seven Worst Rental-Car Rip-Offs (and How to Beat Them) (huffingtonpost.com) – Just about every segment of the travel industry is rife with rip-offs, but the folks who rent cars have risen gouging to an art form. The worst rip-offs …
Car Hire Reviews – Best Car Rental & Hire Reviews 2016 (moneysavingpro.com) – You can make sure the best car rental is the one you choose, by reviewing car rental companies before taking any further action you can make a sound choice.
Car Rental – How to Save on Car Rentals – Consumer Reports (consumerreports.org) – Want to save money on your next car rental? Get money saving tips from the experts at Consumer Reports.
I was able to do better in my online shopping for good car rental rates than my otherwise very helpful travel agent Brian Chima, so we used my results for that. After searching through and comparing Priceline, Expedia, CarRentals.com, RentalCars.com and others, I used my Alamo Insider status to book through them. Part of the same team are Alamo, Enterprise, and National.
Car Rental Reservations – Alamo Rent A Car (alamo.com) – Start a car rental reservation with Alamo Rent A Car.
Edinburgh – Car Rental at Edinburgh Waverly – Alamo Rent A Car – Rent a car at Edinburgh Waverly from Alamo Rent A Car. Find cheap car rental rates and deals.
NOTE: We followed a tip that car hire at the Annandale St. location would be cheaper than directly from the airport. I can’t recall why we didn’t rent from the Waverly office.
Edinburgh – Car hire | Edinburgh Airport (edinburghairport.com)
Edinburgh – Car hire Edinburgh Airport from Rentalcars.com – Car hire from Edinburgh Airport, in Edinburgh, UK from Car hire 3000. Book your car hire in Edinburgh Airport with no cancellation or amendment fees and worldwide free phone support. Pay less, get more for your Edinburgh Airport car hire
On Street Parking – Glasgow City Council (glasgow.gov.uk)
Parking Glasgow Map (glasgowgis.maps.arcgis.com)
Car license – International Driving Permits (AAA.com) – (text mine) Again, we got these at home, but we ended up not needing them. At least bring your regular driver’s license!
Below are just a few options for boat travel in a coast-rich land of nearly 200 islands.
CalMac | Summer Timetable | Mallaig to Armadale | Skye – CalMac ferries Summer timetables & fare prices for the Skye, Raasay & Small isles route from Mallaig (west coast) to Armadale (Isle of Skye). CalMac sail to 24 destinations.
Ferry To & From Skye | Visit Skye | CalMac (calmac.co.uk) – Calmac sail to Skye and 23 more destinations on Scotland’s West Coast. Find what a visit to Skye can offer and order your ferry tickets online.
Cruise Scotland – Find a Cruise (cruisescotland.com)
Cruises by Jacobite also does Loch Ness cruises, and there are river-to-sea cruises along the Clyde available from Glasgow. For a general search, start at VisitScotland.
Top tip from the same Outlander friend who traveled a few months before us: Wear comfortable shoes, especially in Edinburgh, an old, hilly, cobblestone-heavy city. Shoes with good ankle support and cushioned soles. I concur. Hiking boots for country treks. Due to their bulk, consider wearing them on the plane to save suitcase space.
Tourist Tracks Glasgow Tour Pack – Tourist Tracks – (MP3 audio walking tours) Download (2-hour) Glasgow Tour ₤5; Scotland Tour Pack (Edinburgh, Glasgow) ₤8. Walks include a map in pdf format. Route passes by major highlights of central Glasgow.
Maps – MunroMagic.com (A page from the Loch Tulla area on our way up through Glen Coe, for the munro Beinn Odhar. A Google map.)
Climate & Weather
You’re not likely to avoid at least one of either cold, rain, strong wind, or clouds during a trip of any significant length in Scotland, but if you’re a weather geek like my husband, you might find some of these resources interesting, if not quite reassuring.
Certainly, as you plan your trip, taking averages and tendencies into account isn’t a bad idea, and knowing when the sun rises and sets helps with scheduling. In our September trip, days were getting shorter, and fall color doesn’t peak till a bit later in the year.
Scotland Weather and Climate | Scottish Weather | Scottish Weather Statistics | Rainfall Chart | Weather Forecast – Scotland Info Guide (scotlandinfo.eu) – Weather and Climate in Scotland includes weather extremes, average rainfall and sunshine charts and the five day weather forecast for the highlands
Climate and Weather – Weather in Scotland in September (climateandweather.com) – Is September a good time to visit Scotland? The summer crowds begin to dissipate, the leaves begin to turn yellow and brown, and the weather is mild and pleasant …
Edinburgh weather – September Weather Averages for Edinburgh, United Kingdom (holiday-weather.com) – Holiday (i.e., vacation) Weather – We provide weather averages for Edinburgh United Kingdom in September
Weather in Scotland – September Weather in Scotland: Temperature, Rain, Sun Averages – Current Results (currentresults.com) – Normal September weather in Scotland, with average high and low temperatures, total monthly rainfall and hours of sunshine for eastern, western and northern regions.
Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year (aa.usno.navy.mil)
Scotland in the Fall – tips for seeing our autumn colours. — Must See Scotland (must-see-scotland.com) – Scotland in the Fall, or Scotland in autumn as we call it, is a great time to a visit. But when will the colors or colours will be at their peak?
Autumn Color Best Timing – Scotland | Getaway Tips – azcentral.com (getawaytips.azcentral.com) – Although only a hundredth of the ancient Caledonian Forest remains, almost a 5th of Scotland’s land area is covered in trees, most of it in the Highlands.
A climate tip from our Outlander friend: Wear several light layers whether indoors or out, in addition to a coat outdoors if needed. The Scottish indoors tend to be hot because there is no air conditioning in most older, smaller buildings and rustic inns. Up-scale, urban hotels are usually air-conditioned, but expect most interiors from buses to taxis to museums to pubs to be rather warm in the summer, if not year round.
Travel Essentials: Sleep, Eat, Do
I won’t pretend to be an expert on where to eat and sleep any more than I am on other aspects of overseas journeys. There’s already plenty of expert advice, professional services, and phone apps galore to help with these essentials. I’ll just continue with sample resources based on our personal preferences and decisions.
One of the tools I used and liked was the TripAdvisor app. TripAdvisor Mobile and Tablet Apps | Travel Apps for iPhone, iPad, Android, Blackberry, Nokia and Windows Phone – Get your free TripAdvisor travel app
Scotland accommodation & travel for Scottish holidays – The Internet Guide to Scotland (scotland-info.co.uk) – Independent info about Scotland: travel, tours, accommodation, sightseeing, outdoor activities, castles, genealogy, etc, including the Highlands & Islands. 10 Best Hotels near Edinburgh Airport (EDI) – Hotels.com – Looking to book a cheap hotel near Edinburgh Airport (EDI), Edinburgh? See Hotels.com 10 best local hotels with our lowest price guarantee. Collect 10 nights get 1 free!
Another way in is through municipal guides such as this one for Inverness:
Inverness accommodation – Stay Inverness – The official Inverness City site. A non-commercial city portal guide to the economy, tourism, the environment, leisure facilities, shopping, latest news.
Our Chain Hotels
We got a hotel package through our travel agent for our Edinburgh and Glasgow stays (start and finish of our trip), targeting Marriott properties so we could use my husband’s rewards. That landed us at Residence Inn Edinburgh and Glasgow Marriott, which were both very accommodating accommodations with great staff.
A special shout-out to Ryan at Glasgow Marriott, who corrected a booking date glitch in our reservation and gave us executive lounge access for our trouble.
Residence Inn Edinburgh – Booking.com – The Residence Inn by Marriott Edinburgh has a central Edinburgh location, just a 10-minute walk from the Royal Mile.
Glasgow – Hotels in Glasgow City Centre, Scotland | Glasgow Marriott Hotel – A fabulous city centre location and spacious, light-filled accommodation set the Glasgow Marriott Hotel apart. Visit us, and experience the difference. We also found a parking prices guide in advance for the Glasgow Marriott since we would have our rental car during that part of the trip. Parking Marriott Glasgow P&D_700x900_ v6 Tariff HNG overlay – Car_Parking_Prices.pdf
Our Luxury B&B
I did my own searching and querying to a large number and variety of specialized lodging options throughout central Scotland and Inverness-shire, investigating the Trossachs and Cairngorms National Parks, as well as towns along the Great Glen. My husband and I decided to go budget for one B&B and indulge a little in another.
Daviot Lodge (Inverness, Scotland) – UPDATED 2016 B&B Reviews – TripAdvisor – Book Daviot Lodge, Inverness on TripAdvisor: See traveler reviews, candid photos, and great deals for Daviot Lodge, ranked #19 of 244 B&Bs / inns in Inverness and rated 4.5 of 5 at TripAdvisor.
I joyfully submitted my review of Daviot Lodge (pron. DAY vee et) through the Glasgow-based website http://www.freetobook.com:
“This is what it means to be pampered. Ample parking, cozy sitting room spaces with books and games, breakfast made-to-order, delicious black pudding, fresh fruit, great coffee, beautiful views inside and out. Look out for the adorable little terrier, and for the pheasant! We loved everything about our room, which was eminently comfortable and aesthetically pleasing.
“The Hutchesons were very helpful with travel tips and restaurant bookings, even providing us with a map of the area. Don’t miss the Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre museum! The food at Culloden Moor Inn is great, too. The Clava Cairns are also rather wonderful. Cawdor Castle is very scenic. Beauly Priory is gorgeous.
“Daviot Lodge is a quiet, peaceful country retreat on farm land…, yet only a few minutes from downtown Inverness. With this luxury B&B, you can’t go wrong.”
Our Budget B&B
Seabank B&B | B&B Accommodation in Arrochar, Argyll & Bute, Scotland | HomePage – The Seabank B&B is cosy and comfortable providing the perfect retreat after a day of exploring the local area, or somewhere comfortable to break a longer journey.
Seabank | VisitScotland – All rooms are en-suite with TV/DVD, hairdryer, iron/ironing board, tea/coffee making facilities, towels, Wi-Fi and extra bed linen. Our family room sleeps up to 4 people. We also offer a hearty breakfast using only quality ingredients. (“En suite” refers to where the bathroom facilities are located–in the room. Look for that if you prefer your own private restroom and shower to a communal spot.)
I posted my review of Seabank B&B on TripAdvisor just after Christmas 2016:
“Location: 4, Service/Staff: 5, Cleanliness: 5, Facilities: 3.5. Overall: 4. This economy lodging was very good. Dave and Sandy are thoughtful, efficient, accommodating, and very welcoming. Their friendliness and efforts to tailor breakfast and make our room available early to store bags were above expectations. Food was delicious, the spread of options very satisfactory, and the view (of Loch Long, Arrochar) naturally majestic. Coffee was particularly good.
“In-room materials provided tips and options for restaurants and other needs in well-organized and informative fashion. Communication was thorough, prompt, helpful with special local considerations, and convenient with email for pre-visit preparations and post-visit receipt.
“Facilities were well maintained, cozy and manageable. Some visitors may find the room a bit cramped. The bathroom is very slender and sink rather petite so would not be recommended for those with disabilities. Furthermore, the bed was rather uncomfortable because too hard for me; my husband had no trouble.
“The shower was good. We would gladly have extended our 2-night stay if it had been possible. Recommended for most travelers.”
Other Options We Considered
Castle stays – Stay in a Castle | Castle Hotels & Hire – Page 4 | VisitScotland – Browse self-catering castles, castle hotels & stately homes in Scotland. Find unusual accommodation, including tourist-board accredited properties.
Dalhousie Castle And Spa | VisitScotland – Dalhousie Castle is located in Midlothian Scotland, near the town of Bonnyrigg, just 8 miles from Edinburgh’s city centre.The caste was the seat of the Earls of Dalhousie, the chieftains of Clan Ramsay.
Dalhousie Castle Hotel and Aqueous Spa – A real 13th century Scottish Castle 8 miles from Edinburgh’s city centre, holding the title as ‘Scotland’s Oldest Inhabited Castle’.
Brochs in Scotland | Unusual Accommodation | VisitScotland – Find brochs and blackhouses for a stay in Scotland with a twist. Wide range of unusual accommodation, including tourist board-accredited properties.
As with accommodation, TripAdvisor is as good a place to start as any for eating out.
Taste our Best Edinburgh | Zomato – Taste our Best Edinburgh – Check out the best Menus, Photos, Ratings and Reviews
The following text is all mine.
Our Edinburgh Dining
In Edinburgh, we had particularly excellent dining experiences at Hanam’s (see my post reviewing Hanam’s) on Castle Hill and at Vittoria on the George IV Bridge (comfort Italian with gluten-free pastas available).
Another Edinburgh treasure is Jasmine, the Chinese restaurant across from the Royal Lyceum Theatre. We had just left the Lyceum, having seen John McGrath’s electric, ceilidh-style Scottish history play The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, brilliantly updated and performed by Dundee Rep Theatre. At Jasmine, after a long day of Outlander touring and an evening play, we re-fueled just before Jasmine closed at 11pm. I savored the delicious roast duck with plum sauce. Then, we slept in on Sunday.
I also really liked a cullen skink lunch at The Scottish Café, the National Gallery on The Mound, but service was very slow and threw off afternoon plans for our last day in the city. We had a date with Alamo/Enterprise for our rental car before dinner at Hanam’s.
Our Loch Lomond Dining
For most Loch Lomond-area establishments and any sought-after places, be sure to reserve your space at dinner in advance, early the same day or the day before. Daviot Lodge (Daviot, Inverness-shire) and Seabank (Arrochar, Trossachs, Argyll) both offered assistance with reservations, given proper notice.
Although we got caught in the rain after dark without a reservation on the 21st, a winding drive farther north along Loch Lomond from Seabank B&B allowed us to sample The Drovers Inn, Inverarnan, where we ran into our new friend Ádhamh Ó Broin from the prior day’s Argyll excursions. Happy accidents! Food was served late. Loch Lomond Restaurant at The Drovers Inn gave me a comforting meal of bangers and mash. A charming old stay, established 1705, lodging options start here: Drovers Inn and Lodge.
Our Fort William & Mallaig Dining
Maybe I just chose the wrong menu item, but I had only a so-so chicken dish at The Terrace, West Highland Hotel, Mallaig, halfway through our Jacobite train ride.
A forgettable burger with chips awaited us at a pub in Fort William as we headed down to Glasgow for the final leg of our trip. I don’t even remember the place’s name.
Our Cairngorms Dining
Balavil Hotel Restaurant & Bar in Newtonmore, near the Highland Folk Museum (an OL filming site), is where I enjoyed a dinner of Cairngorm ale battered cod and chips, along with the same variety of Dalwhinnie (local) whisky we had sampled at Doune Castle during our Outlander Tour with Slainte Scotland: balavil menus 2016.cdr – Menu 2016.pdf
Our Inverness Dining
Culloden Moor Inn/ Keppoch Bar – Photos (facebook) – Culloden Moor Inn/ Keppoch Bar, Inverness. Just a stone’s throw from Culloden Battlefield & Visitors’ Centre. I loved the roasted veggie & brie filo parcels, salad & boiled potatoes, which I paired with Glenfiddich whisky. All very good!
We also enjoyed a great dining experience at The Riverside Restaurant (riversiderestaurant.info/ – includes their menus) downtown, not to be confused with River House, which is across the River Ness from Riverside. Both are highly rated options. See also TripAdvisor’s Riverside page.
We crossed the vibrating Greig Street bridge to get to Riverside from our parking spot after we discovered River House was booked full. The bridge didn’t vibrate on the walk back, but for some reason it had freaked me out a bit.
From the Riverside evening à la carte menu, under “Our Menus” at http://www.riversiderestaurant.info, I chose “Pan seared Isle of Lewis Scallops on mini potato rostis served with Stornoway Black Pudding & garden pea puree drizzled with Mackintosh of Glendavney (Aberdeenshire) lemon rapeseed oil”–yes, awesome.
The starters I wanted to sample were dainty and well presented, so I paired the scallops & black pudding with an appetizer of “Munros of Dingwall Haggis bon bons rolled in oatmeal served with a potato croquette, turnip puree & peppercorn sauce with a dash of Highland Single Malt Whisky.” The haggis was better than the potatoes. My husband had the large house salad (pictured above), which he enjoyed along with a main entrée.
Ash_Restaurant_Dinner-menu_Inverness.pdf (http://www.ash-inverness.co.uk/images/AshEvening.pdf) – Adjacent to the Inverness ScotRail Station. Here, I had Glenmorangie chicken & soup with Oban whisky. Loved the food, not so much the whisky.
See the Google map screen capture below for the locations (counter-clockwise from top left/east) of Ash Restaurant, The Riverside Restaurant, River House, the Inverness Museum, and Inverness Castle.
Our Glasgow Area Dining
After a nice lunch at the Kelvingrove Gallery & Art Museum (I had shepherd’s pie), we visited Glasgow Cathedral, followed by a walk through the shopping district. We then decided to take tea (our first UK tea-time experience) at Glasgow icon, The Willow Tea Rooms, 97 Buchanan Street.
Modeled after Kate Cranston’s Ingram Street Tea Rooms designed by famed artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh in the early 1900s, The Willow Tea Rooms present a cheerful, elegant atmosphere with great treats. I had Jasmine tea, my husband took Kenyan, and we enjoyed mini-sandwiches and a gluten-free chocolate brownie with clotted cream.
Like a character out of Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, an inchworm insisted on enjoying the atmosphere with us during tea. Otherwise, we had the 2nd floor nearly to ourselves.
The Cotton House is a hidden jewel of a Chinese and Thai establishment in Longcroft, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire. We ate here after swinging by Outlander studios (LBP Outlander Ltd.) in Cumbernauld on our way back to Glasgow from Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow. I thoroughly enjoyed my pad Thai, and we had a nice chat with our friendly server, who was surprised to see American tourists in this industrial neighborhood. We credited the Outlander phenomenon. It’s a very popular local restaurant, especially at Christmas. It was even hopping during our rainy, late-September lunch hour.
Attractions & Events
Superlatives: Best-of Lists for Scotland
Once you get a broad scan of ideas, you may find yourself link hopping to various best-of lists online. Here are some I found myself exploring, usually at The Daily Record or Scotland Now (also a Daily Record outlet). Lots of pretty pictures.
Scotland the Best: Peter Irvine chooses his top 50 Scottish places to eat, stay and play – Daily Record – THE latest edition of Scottish travel bible Scotland the Best is out and here, author Peter Irvine selects his top 50 places to eat, stay and play.
40 pictures that prove Scotland is more beautiful than you ever believed – Scotland Now – THESE breathtaking pictures of the country’s most enchanting spots will prove that Scotland’s scenery is even more beautiful than you ever believed.
30 places you must visit in Scotland – Daily Record – In Pictures – CHECK out our picture gallery to see some of the most breathtaking places in Scotland.
10 of Scotland’s prettiest towns and villages – Scotland Now – THERE is no question that Scotland has some picturesque villages and towns.
25 Places in Scotland That Are Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel – Who needs Westeros? We’ve got Wester Ross…
14 Scottish Places All “Outlander” Fans Must Visit – Never seen Outlander? You should visit these stunning Scottish locations anyway. Warning: Mild Season 1 spoilers ahead…
Special Events on Select Dates
Various traditions of book, film, music, and other festivals, feast days, the Edinburgh military tattoo, regional Highland Games, Gatherings, and other exciting special events occur on select dates in the Scottish calendar. Most major events are during summer, but Hogmanay (New Year’s) and Burns Night (January 25th) are some of the biggest Scottish holidays. Several smaller festivals favor spring and fall as well.
Keep the seasons in mind as you peruse different parks and gardens to visit so you’ll be sure to see them in all their glory—summer, spring or fall. For instance, rhododendrons are a frequently advertised May spectacle.
Something else that interested me was Doors Open Days, an annual event in September during which participating properties open their doors for just a few days to the public for a rare glimpse into their unique and historic treasures.
Doors Open Days (official) – Get into buildings! (Get into usually inaccessible historic buildings every September during Doors Open Days; searchable database and calendar updated annually, sponsored by Scottish Civic Trust and Historic Environment Scotland).
Edinburgh Concerts, Tickets, Gigs & Tour Dates 2016 – Songkick – (songkick.com) Comprehensive listings and tickets for every upcoming concert, gig and tour date taking place in Edinburgh in 2016. (Also for Glasgow.)
Edinburgh Entertainment – Ents24.com – All Events in Edinburgh – Tickets and information for Edinburgh concerts and more. Also works for searching Glasgow events.
Entertainment Edinburgh – EntaConnect – Ticket/Seat Lyceum The Cheviot, Stag, Oil (bookings.lyceum.org) – The Royal Lyceum Theatre bookings
Edinburgh theatre – What’s On – Traverse Theatre (traverse.co.uk/whats-on)
Opera, Scottish – The Elixir of Love | Scottish Opera (scottishopera.org.uk)
5 best whiskies of 2016 … so far – Scotland Now – WHISKY expert Andy Bell doesn’t want to get political, but finds it interesting that four out of five of his favourite whiskies this year so far are independent.
5 of most beautiful Scottish whisky distilleries – Scotsman Food & Drink – There are over a hundred whisky distilleries in Scotland, here is our selection of the most picturesque.
Speyside whisky – One sip at a time: a guide to whisky tasting in Speyside | DK Eyewitness Travel – Read the One sip at a time: a guide to whisky tasting in Speyside feature, and discover other articles from DK Eyewitness Travel.
Scots-Online – More Links – Links to Scots Language and related websites.
Language – A brief introduction to the Scots language | Resources | Ordnance Survey – Scots is the name for the language of lowland Scotland. Find out more about Scots language and how this is used on placenames in Ordnance Survey maps.
LearnGaelic.net – (A project of Gary Lewis, a.k.a. Colum Mackenzie, and where I learned my rudimentary Scottish Gaelic, 2015-2016.)
Scottish Gaelic language, alphabet and pronunciation – Info about Scottish Gaelic, a Celtic language spoken mainly in Scotland and Nova Scotia, Canada by about 87,000 people.
Scottish Gaelic-Dictionary Online Translation LEXILOGOS >> – Scottish Gaelic-English Dictionary Online Translation, Language, Grammar
Books – Women begin to lead the way in Scottish literature (From Herald Scotland) – That’s not so remarkable in itself until you realise she’s the fifth woman to win this prize in the last six years, joining a mix of fiction and…
Books from Scotland – Home – The largest curated collection of Scottish books online, dedicated to showcasing the very best in Scottish writing & publishing.
McGrath – Theatre Scotland, in Scottish Theatrical History – scholarly article discusses McGrath’s work – IJoST Peer Reviewed Article. Vol.3, no.2 : R.Stevenson – IJoST Peer Reviewed Paper: Title-Scottish Guising: Medieval And Modern Theatre Games, Author-S.Carpenter
See An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 5, “Slainte Scotland Outlander Tour + Outlander Tourism Resources.” To start or review this series from the beginning, see “An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, Part 1.”
Beyond reading the books, watching the series, and reading Diana’s website and blogs like this one, many OL fans have connected, become friends, and formed groups over social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, and others, often inspired by following the projects and charities of central figures like Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and Diana Gabaldon—Herself. Comicons, Gatherings, the Highland Fling, book signings, and other OL-focused or off-shoot events also regularly occur across the U.S. and the globe. Your next travel partner, destination, business partner, or best friend may be waiting in any one of these nooks and crannies of the singularly passionate Outlander universe.
So that’s a wrap! I’ve taken you through highlights of nearly 40 different Outlander filming sites (parts 1, 2, and 3), the nuts and bolts of an Outlander-focused Scotland trip planning and reflection process (part 4), an Outlander tourism extravaganza (part 5), and the connective travel guidance to make that dream trip to Scotland a reality (part 6). Good luck in your planning and travels, feel free to share your questions, comments, or experiences, and slainte mhath!
In future posts, I’ll continue to highlight specific sites visited, services engaged, adventures experienced, and images captured during our trip. Keep coming back to my introductory post “Scotland Ventured, Scotland Gained.” to get the full scope of available bits from just after our trip last fall through the rest of this year.
Until next time, may your anticipation and experience of the Outlander STARZ TV series 3—based on Diana Gabaldon’s 3rd Outlander novel Voyager—be a joyful one. Outlander STARZ returns September 2017, but remember, the books are always available!
Appendix: Guides to Adventures in Cities and Regions
With an emphasis on Outlander and personal experience, the following guides touch on select areas of: Southern Scotland (E. & S. Ayrshire, Dumfries), Edinburgh, Vicinity of Edinburgh, Kingdom of Fife, Lothians, Glasgow, Argyll & Bute and the Isles, Stirlingshire, Perthshire, The Great Glen, Glen Coe & Lochaber, Highlands, Loch Ness, Cairngorms National Park, Inverness-shire, West Highlands, Isle of Skye, and Northwest Scotland.
Not Covered: Southwest & Borders; Eastern Central regions: St. Andrews, Angus, Dundee, Balmoral Castle; Northeast regions: Aberdeenshire, Fraser Castle, Bowfiddle Rock; Far North; Inner & Outer Hebrides; Orkney; Shetland; Isle of St. Kilda.
East Ayrshire Leisure – Find out what’s happening in East Ayrshire’s libraries, museums, sports venues and countryside (including Robert Burns museum and frequented spots).
The Real Mary King’s Close (official)
Edinburgh Castle – Morning (official) – Tailor your visit with suggested itineraries.
National Museum of Scotland (official) – The natural world, world cultures, art & design, science & tech, and Scottish history—all in one amazing building.
Palace of Holyroodhouse (Royal Collection stewardship site) – Find practical info for you visit, including info on security, refreshments and use of cameras.
Edinburgh Museums – The Writers’ Museum – Writers’ Museum
St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh (official home page)
Vicinity of Edinburgh
Cairnpapple Hill (Historic Environment Scotland (HES) site) – Site of an incredible Neolithic henge monument and a number of important Bronze Age burials.
Blackness Castle (HES site) – Brief snapshot of the history of Blackness Castle; find out what to see when you visit ‘the ship that never sailed’.
Hopetoun House & Estate, near Edinburgh, Scotland (official home page) – Hopetoun House & Estate, outskirts of Edinburgh. House, luxury wedding venue, farm shop, clay shooting and property on 6,500 acre Estate. (Includes Midhope Castle.)
Linlithgow (official home page) – Linlithgow, a Great Visit
The Falkirk Wheel | Scottish Canals – The rotating boat lift that connects the Union Canal with the Forth & Clyde. Discover this incredible piece of engineering…!
Kelpies – The Kelpies at The Helix (official home page) – The Helix is Scotland’s newest attraction. Cycle trails, walks, play areas, canals, habitats and artworks await. Also home to The Kelpies, monuments to horse power.
Kingdom of Fife
Culross West Church – Culross, Fife – Places of Worship in Scotland | SCHR – To the NW of Culross in West Kirk Churchyard, surrounded by agricultural land, this is the former parish church of Culross. Scottish Church Heritage Research Ltd (SCHR) maintains a database of over 10,000 places of worship in Scotland.
Aberdour Castle – A snapshot of the history of Aberdour Castle in the Kingdom of Fife; find out what to see when you visit this former home of a Regent of Scotland.
Outlander – Preston Mill’s Outlander | National Trust for Scotland USA – In June 2014, 150 cast and crew members from the hit TV show Outlander set up camp at the NTS Property Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot.
Scottish Seabird Centre | Visit – An interactive wildlife adventure in North Berwick with Discovery Centre, gift shop, cafe and seasonal boat trips. A Scottish five star visitor attraction with something for the whole family, whatever the weather.
Glasgow Guide: Glasgow Places to Visit: Tourist Attractions in Glasgow A to F – The tourist info guide to the city of Glasgow in Scotland includes info for tourists on hotels, shops, pubs, clubs, photographs, visitor attractions, street maps, and more…
Glasgow Cathedral (HES) – Overview of the history of Glasgow Cathedral; find out what to see and do at the most complete medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland.
Glasgow Museums | Glasgow Life (official home) – Kelvingrove, Riverside, Burrell, GoMA, Glasgow Green & People’s Palace, St Mungo, Provand’s Lordship, Scotland Street School Museum, GMRC.
Glasgow School of Art Tours – Walking Tours of the city and interior tours of the world renowned Mackintosh building at The Glasgow School of Art
Argyll & Bute and the Isles
Walking and climbing in Argyll and the Isles – Come to Argyll and the Isles for unbeatable walking and climbing. Enjoy epic long-distance routes, magnificent munros, loch-side strolls and coastal treks – all amid stunning Scottish scenery.
The Trossachs National Park & Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond – Day Trip Loch Lomond Waterfalls – Guided Walking and Sightseeing Highland Day Tours for independent travellers wanting to experience Scotand beyond the major tourist attractions and the confines of a bus.
Farther West: Loch Fyne and the Coast
Inveraray Castle Visitor Information – An iconic Scottish Castle in Argyll, Scotland.
Auchindrain Township, Inveraray. The last surviving example of a Highland farm…
Ádhamh Ó Broin – (11) Gáidhlig Dhail Riada – Gáidhlig Dhail Riada. If you are interested in the rich Gaelic heritage of Dalriada and would like to find out more…
Stirling – Official visitors guide to Stirling – Destination Stirling – Stirling is a vibrant Scottish city, home to many of Scotland’s top attractions including Stirling Castle, Bannockburn and The National Wallace Monument.
Doune Castle – Get an overview of Doune Castle in the Central and West region, including its life as home of Regent Albany, and find out what to see at Doune Castle.
Stirling Castle – Step back into the sumptuous world of Stirling Castle’s Royal Court. A great family day out. Book your tickets online now and beat the queues!
Wallace Monument | Stirling Tourist Attraction | Plan Your Visit (official) National Wallace Monument. A world famous landmark, in a stunning location, come and visit one of Scotland’s most magnificent sights. Meet Scotland’s national hero, William Wallace.
Bannockburn: The Battle of Bannockburn – The 3D Battle of Bannockburn Experience allows visitors to experience medieval combat like never before.
Walking, Cycling, Horse-riding around Perthshire – From Dunalastair Holiday Cottages you can enjoy walking, cycling and horse-riding around Perthshire.
Kinloch Rannoch, Tummel Bridge, Loch Rannoch, walking holidays, wildlife watching, fishing, highland clans – Kinloch Rannoch and Tummel, Perthshire, Scotland – a haven of Scottish native wildlife and unspoilt landscape of mountains, lochs and heather covered hills where walking is pure pleasure
Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust | Pages | Perthshire Big Tree Country – PKCT is a charity that negotiates access to land, builds footpaths, helps care for Scotland’s most spectacular woodlands and works on conservation projects.
Carie (Rannoch Forest) Walk – Highland Perthshire site – Tourist information for Highland Perthshire, Scotland, including Pitlochry, Aberfeldy, Dunkeld, Kinloch Rannoch and Blair Atholl.
The Great Glen
Great Glen Rough Guides Snapshot Scotland | Rough Guides – The Rough Guide Snapshot The Great Glen is the ultimate travel guide to this spectacular part of Scotland. It guides you through the region with reliable
Glen Coe & Lochaber
Glencoe Scotland | Glencoe Scotland – Glencoe Scotland is Clachaig’s guide to Scotland’s most famous glen. Arguably the most historic glen and recently voted the most romantic glen in Scot.
Glen Coe area – Britain’s Only Mountain Gondola | Scotland Cable Car | Nevis Range – Nevis Range is a year round mountain ski resort in the The Highlands of Scotland near Ben Nevis and Fort William. Skiing and snowboarding in winter sightseeing and gondola rides in summer with spectacular views. Mountain biking and world cup held at Nevis
Glencoe & Dalness (NTS)
Fort William & Lochaber Guide, Things To Do, Events, Activities – Fort William and the surrounding Lochaber area is the self-proclaimed capital of outdoor sports.
Rough Guides – The Central Highlands Rough Guides Snapshot Scotland – The Rough Guide Snapshot The Central Highlands is the ultimate travel guide to this dramatic part of Scotland. It guides you through the region with reliable
All Day Highland Tours around Loch Ness and the northern and western Highlands – All Day Highland Tours around Loch Ness and the northern and western Highlands
Highland Wildlife & Birdwatch Safaris | VisitScotland – Guided wildlife excursions, in small, friendly groups with an experienced local nature watcher, in some of the most beautiful scenery in the world.
Urquhart Castle sits on the shores of beautiful Loch Ness | Urquhart Castle – Urquhart Castle is close to Drumnadrochit, on the shores of Loch Ness. Seized after Edward I’s invasion of Scotland, it was reclaimed by Robert the Bruce in the 14th century.
Loch Ness – The best crew and fleet on Loch Ness | Cruise Loch Ness – Our team are passionate and know everything about Loch Ness and the surrounding area. They’ll do all they can to make your cruise or RIB trip memorable.
Cairngorms National Park
Inverness and Environs
Inverness Information Centre | VisitScotland – The Highland capital’s official source for info on everything to do and see in Inverness & the Highlands. Our enthusiastic team can help you book your stay, transport, day trips and cruises on Loch Ness.
Highlanders Museum, Fort George, Scotland – Highland Regiments Archive – The Highlanders Museum, Scotland, Fort George. The Seaforth Highlanders, The Queen’s Own Highlanders and Cameron Highlanders Archive
Clava Cairns – Clava Cairns, one of Scotland’s most evocative prehistoric sites.
Glen Affric: Glen Affric Map – Map of Glen Affric (Highland) from Gazetteer for Scotland
Jacobite Steam Train – Official Site – The World’s Greatest Railway Journey, Fort William to Mallaig – Online Booking Now Available, West Coast Railways Regular Steam Train Trips on The Jacobite – West Coast Railways provide Regular Steam Train trips throughout the UK Online Booking Now Available.
Mallaig Feature Page on Undiscovered Scotland – Information about and images of Mallaig at the end of the Road to the Isles on Undiscovered Scotland.
Otters – Kylerhea Otter Hide Car Park, Glenelg – Kylerhea Otter Hide Car Park located at Glenelg (IV42 8) Tel: 01320 366322 Contact details and map.
Isle of Skye Visitor Attractions (Walkhighlands) – 18 Isle of Skye visitor attractions.
Beauly Visitor Guide, Hotels, Cottages, Things to Do in Scotland – Visitor guide to Beauly in Scotland with advice tourism and travel information, maps, history, transport, popular places, accommodation. Plan your perfect holidays in Scotland
I thought I could fit it all in one final post, but that proved to be a mighty miscalculation. I had far too much to say about the Outlander tour alone–big surprise!–and I still plan to provide an overall series wrap-up. In fact, this post is so substantial, with pictures and tons of Outlander-related resources, I thought it best to include a table of contents. Get ready for everything (else) you need to know to create the best Outlander adventure for you and yours!
The final post is forthcoming. If you missed any of the first 4 parts of the series An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, you can find them in my blog’s Scotland and Outlander sections, linked through Scotland Ventured, Scotland Gained, or in direct links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. The first 3 parts showcase 37 filming & book locations with several photos. Part 4 details my trip planning process with snapshots of our planned vs. actual itineraries and reflections on the quality of our Scotland vacation experience. This post, a.k.a. part 5, includes a succinct list of 40 Outlander filming sites. Read on for more!
Table of Contents
- All Our Outlander Tourist Destinations in Scotland
- Our Outlander Day Tour Experience
- Special Visit to Glencorse Old Kirk
- Other Outlander-Related Sites We Visited
- Our Outlander Tour Company: Slainte Scotland
- Day Tours with Slainte Scotland
- Outlander Tour with Special Guests
- Outlander Tourism Reference – Diana’s Recommendations, Tour Company Pages, Location List, Articles & Resources
- Tour Companies’ Tour Advertisements, including those of Slainte Scotland
- List of 40 Filming (NOT book) Locations
- Articles and Info about Filming Locations
- Specific Filming Locations in Depth
- Info about Outlander Book Locations
- Book and Premise Inspired Outlander Tourism
- Places Mentioned on Series 1 of the Show
- Sam Heughan (Jamie) and Laura Donnelly (Jenny) Studied Theatre Here
- Articles Reflecting Outlander STARZ’s Pop Culture Progress
- And for Good Measure (surviving Droughtlander)
- Tour Companies’ Tour Advertisements, including those of Slainte Scotland
All images © C. L. Tangenberg
All Our Outlander Tourist Destinations in Scotland
Our Outlander Day Tour Experience
I started my tour search by perusing Diana Gabaldon’s recommended Outlander tour companies, discussed on her website. I sought a company that offered tours of more than half a day but less than 3 days so we could balance official Outlander tourism with exploring Scotland more generally. My first choice was Inverness Tours, but by the time the dates of our trip became settled, there were no tours of the right length available among those led by their four tour guides who work year round. Inverness Tours has long been a popular tour company with Outlander fans.
Moving on to Slainte Scotland, I contacted the company through both email and their website’s chat feature to get details about their 1-day Outlander tour. After a few messages back and forth, and a chat with a very helpful representative, I learned the likelihood of visiting West Kirk (the Black Kirk) in Culross and the all-important Midhope Castle (Lallybroch), and I carefully parsed the schedule of stops to ensure we’d have time to make it to our 7:30pm play showing in Edinburgh that evening.
Satisfied with all the circumstances, I decided to take the plunge and booked our tickets for the tour. Slainte Scotland made a great first impression by being prompt, informative, enthusiastic, and professional in their communications. They provided the detail needed to help make our day flow as smoothly as possible.
The day started on our own with a train ride from Edinburgh to Dalmeny Station, our meeting place for the start of the tour. Slainte Scotland day tours allow travellers from both Glasgow and Edinburgh to converge on a central location for sites in the wider area. Dalmeny is located in South Queensferry, a stone’s throw from the Firth of Forth, about 20 minutes by train northward from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station in the valley opposite the Princes Street Gardens between Old Town (south) and New Town (north).
The Slainte Scotland Outlander Day Tour we enjoyed on September 17th was a 9-hour van tour that guided us and about 8 other people in 2 vans through 5 filming locations:
- Midhope Castle (Lallybroch) on the property of Hopetoun Estate, West Lothian,
- the fascinating Blackness Castle (Fort William) perched on the coast of the Firth of Forth, in the council area of Falkirk, then across the Forth Bridge north to
- Falkland, in central Fife (1940s Inverness), including lunch at the Covenanter Hotel (Mrs. Baird’s B&B), then westward to Stirling for the famous
- Doune Castle (Castle Leoch, Monty Python & the Holy Grail castle), including a complimentary Dalwhinnie whisky tasting on the grounds outside the castle, provided by our fun-loving tour guides, and finished as the sun descended,
- in the well-preserved 17th-century style Royal Burgh of Culross, used for Crainsmuir village, Geillis Duncan’s house, and the Castle Leoch herb garden.
Each site’s inherent charms, curiosities, and historical intrigues await your discovery.
Midhope Castle, the exteriors and grounds of which served as the site of the Fraser home of Broch Tuarach, or “north-facing tower” in Gaelic, is known affectionately by those who call it home in the series as Lallybroch. The building itself is hazardous to enter, so the entrance is locked to visitors. The interiors of Lallybroch were constructed and filmed at LBP Outlander, Ltd., the Outlander studios at Wardpark North in Cumbernauld, to the east outside Glasgow.
Visitors may be surprised to find a couple of houses in close proximity to the building, but you might enjoy reading a bit on the way to the castle about the history of the family that used to live in and now cares for the estate. When we visited, it was the last day of public access before a solid month of filming for Outlander series 3 two days later. Preparations were in evidence with the plastic tarp and orange cones covering the threshold, along with equipment set up beside the castle.
Note the electric poles and wires they have to edit out of final shots. Jamie’s ep102 flashback to BJR’s visit to the estate, where it starts on the hill as Jamie sorts the hay, and Jamie’s ep113 confrontation with Tarran McQuarrie’s lackeys of the Watch in the Lallybroch stables were filmed behind the castle and up the hill at this location.
Blackness Castle was one of my favorite attractions in all of Scotland, not just from the Outlander tour. As our tour guide Catriona explained, “Blackness” describes not the mood of the castle but the color of a specific type of land form on which the castle was built, called a “ness,” meaning a “promontory; a cape or headland” (https://glosbe.com/en/gd/ness). With the sun shining down on it, the tide out stranding a smattering of sail and fishing boats, and a view across the shore and the firth, our time at Blackness Castle was nothing but bright and cheerful.
Said to be haunted, the prisoners’ tower I left to my husband’s exploration–I didn’t want to climb all those steps. Our guide Catriona (pictured) showed us where the platform staging Jamie’s flogging by Captain Randall was set up. It was interesting to see how much uplifted rock protruded into the floor of the courtyard of this very intact, ship-shaped castle.
There was much to explore and there were hazards to avoid as we climbed in and out of the corridors and doorways, down steep steps and along the terraces framing the top level. Catriona also showed us the location where Jamie and Murtagh question the English soldier rather rudely as to the whereabouts of the “Englishwoman,” Claire.
Royal Burgh of Falkland, a National Trust Scotland site, offered a little eerie magic at the Bruce Fountain in the town center. Here in ep101, we see the back of Ghost Jamie watching night-gowned Claire through the second-floor window of Mrs. Baird’s B&B as she brushes the tangles out of her hair. Moments later, Frank walks up to him in the rain, and he disappears. I couldn’t resist a little mimicry of the scene.
The lunch at the Covenanter Hotel was simple but acceptable (I had tomato soup and a tuna sandwich), although service was a little slow. They were not particularly expecting us and seemed to accommodate us but grudgingly, based on the comments of our tour guide at the time. This delay may have contributed in part to our skipping West Kirk as the final stop in the tour.
Falkland Palace was visible across the main street from the hotel, and on the opposite end of the town square was the furniture store that served Claire’s window shopping of vases in ep101. Our guide Catriona had the opportunity to be an extra background actor in series 1 and described the freezing cold conditions of working on set that day. We walked a bit through town on our way back to where they had parked the vans after dropping us off in the center of town.
The sunshine enhanced our enjoyment as we passed a tavern where Catriona pointed out a sign outside that Àdhamh Ò Broin had told her misspells a Gaelic word, comically altering the translation from “a thousand welcomes” (ceud mile failte) to “a thousand smells” (ceud mile faile). Whether the proprietors were Scots, English, or other, it proved that even the locals lose themselves in translation sometimes.
Doune Castle first became widely known overseas from its use in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Now, complimentary audio guides at the castle impart insights about filming experiences from both Terry Jones of Monty Python and Sam Heughan, who plays Outlander‘s Jamie Fraser. Castle Leoch’s great hall and some other interiors found form on constructed sets at the studios, but the raw materials at Doune provided the courtyard, steps from the castle, exterior shots of the castle, and scans of the surrounding countryside. Monty Python used the interiors heavily for Holy Grail. Another well-preserved structure, Doune Castle was an impressive element of the tour.
At the close of our Doune visit, Slainte Scotland provided samples of 15-year-old Dalwhinnie (Highland) single-malt Scotch whisky. A little fiery going down, but still smooth and a good introductory single malt, Dalwhinnie became one of two whiskies my husband and I took home with us from duty free.
An unusual aspect of our tour that day was the presence of the tour guides’ three children and their German shepherd puppy (pictured in the Falkland section above). Their arrival in Dalmeny was slightly delayed due to complications in the aftermath of unavailable daycare. The kids were well behaved and charming. One spoke Gaelic from attending a Gaelic school and also sang us a song. It was equally delightful to meet and chat with our fellow Outlander tourists from England, Kentucky, and Germany.
While our van held two of the the three kids and Catriona, the other was driven by her husband with the puppy and the other American group as passengers. While we tasted our whisky, the kids were off running, inducing the dog to whine so as to join in the fun. Overall, from our point of view, the impromptu adjustment worked out well. I’m sure it helped that we love dogs and are perfectly contented with good kids around.
Royal Burgh of Culross. At the witching hour before sunset, we arrived in old Culross, National Trust Scotland site of series filming for exteriors of Crainsmuir village. We drove past the distinctive yellow buildings of the Palace into the square of the mercat cross where the exterior of Geillis Duncan’s house and the pillory were filmed. We stayed only briefly, and driving was particularly tricky in the narrow streets of this well-preserved old village. Cars kept coming down a hill into the village square, forcing our van to back up a couple of different times before successfully making it all the way up the hill. Such is life in old towns with one-track, or one-lane, streets that go both ways.
For Outlander series 1 filming, the Culross Palace Garden doubled as the Castle Leoch herb garden, the Mercat Cross stood in for the village of Cranesmuir, and visual effects fused the Palace Garden with the backdrop of Doune Castle to bring Crainsmuir and Leoch together. The Study building (in white) was Geillis Duncan’s house, and the Culross Palace Withdrawing Room became Geillis’ drawing room. In series 2, the Palace Courtyard provided the main stair where Claire practices dentistry while Jamie meets with Bonnie Prince Charlie, while the Palace High Hall was used for the Jacobite meeting where Jamie swears his oath to the Prince. Then, the Palace’s Kings Room became Jamie and Claire’s bedroom when visiting a village, and the Palace’s Kitchen and Pantry served as the tavern bearing wanted posters, and the Bennet House outside it, in ep211, “Vengeance Is Mine.” See where Jamie & Claire stood: http://www.nts.org.uk/Outlander/Culross-Palace/.
Although I had hoped we would venture nearby to West Kirk (the Black Kirk), time constraints and fading daylight robbed us of the chance, so we worked our way southward again, back across the Firth of Forth, to Dalmeny, South Queensferry, to catch the train back to Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. On our way back to Dalmeny, Catriona played a mix of songs by Scottish artists, old and new, which added to the festive mood.
I took a final opportunity to ask Catriona about Hopetoun House, the estate of which we passed on our return path. She provided the insight that a visit there would require at least 2 hours, whereas one could take in all of Linlithgow Palace in about an hour. These details helped us make decisions about where to go in our trip’s final days.
Summary Review of Outlander Day Tour with Slainte Scotland
This exciting 9-hour tour with Slainte Scotland was led by Owner and Managing Director of Clyde Coast Tourism Ltd., proud Scot, and Outlander STARZ TV series extra–the lively, lovely, and knowledgeable pro tour guide Catriona Stevenson. Assisted by her husband and fellow driver, the small group experience allowed time and attention for individual questions and interests. Although the tour path altered slightly from the order of advertisement, in the end we had no regrets.
Mirroring positive first impressions, the Slainte Scotland experience met and exceeded all expectations. The tour ran smoothly, and they made it insightful and fun. Visiting time at each site was ample and enjoyable, and Catriona was uniquely qualified to provide glimpses of behind-the-scenes facts about the Outlander TV series, including her encounters with its stars and crew. This tour also served as our official primer on Outlander filming locations, which we further pursued on our own afterwards. *
The sun was setting as we alighted on the train platform in Dalmeny. That evening at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, we attended a vibrant performance by the Dundee Rep Theatre of a 20th-century, ceilidh-style historical and political play The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, which kept us awake even after an all-day tour and with jet lag setting in from the day before. Seeing this play early in the trip provided essential perspective on the past 200 years of Scottish-English relations and politics, which we could then reflect on as we traveled the country.
Special Trip to Glencorse Old Kirk
* One particular Outlander visit I arranged directly with the property manager, Sarah Chambers, was to Glencorse Old Kirk, location of Claire and Jamie’s wedding in ep107. Through email and then mobile texting upon arrival on the grounds, we settled on a day and time, around 2:45pm on 21 September, for a brief look through and around the kirk.
We were staying in Arrochar at the time and had just visited the incomparable Stirling Castle that morning. Sarah asked in advance for a donation of 20 pounds, which we gladly provided, and she showed us a scrapbook of filming pictures not seen online. She also pointed out how the grounds and interior were used in the making of ep107, sharing her personal observations of the occasion.
Many visitors and some journalists have mistaken the Glencorse House for the Glencorse Parish Church as the building used for the wedding. The actual site is downhill and behind a gate from the house. It’s a little hidden and difficult to find, even with assistance, and it requires permission to access. But if you’re all about the wedding, Glencorse a great little addition to an itinerary. Incidentally, they also regularly host weddings at the church and receptions at the house. See the Glencorse House facebook page for a flavor of their work.
These were Sarah’s directions, which we had to alter slightly coming from Stirling Castle instead of from Edinburgh:
Directions from Edinburgh: Take A701 toward Penicuik. After you pass the Ikea, continue past the Nissan garage at the traffic lights. Then, there are 2 roundabouts till Gowkleymoss roundabout (very large). Continue on the small dual carriageway w/ Glencorse Golf Club on left, then very shortly Fisher’s Tryst pub on the left. Directly opposite the pub, take the road to the right signposted Glencorse Kirk. The large church on the brow of the hill is NOT us. Continue round the corner, to the bottom of the hill: you’ve arrived! Total of about 2 miles from Ikea.
The property is owned by the McCaig family, and our contact was Sarah Chambers (McCaig), daughter of the owners. Glencorse Old Parish Church, or Glencorse Old Kirk, is located in the foothills of the Pentland Hills south of Edinburgh and north of Penicuik, Midlothian. The address is the town of Milton Bridge, EH26 0NZ. Tel: 01968 676 406. Email: email@example.com. Glencorse House: http://www.glencorsehouse.co.uk/.
After our visit at Glencorse, we enjoyed exploring the iconic Rosslyn Chapel in nearby Roslin, site of key scenes in the filming of The Da Vinci Code.
Other Outlander-Related Sites We Visited
Previous posts have touched on our experiences of Linlithgow Palace (Wentworth Prison) and other Outlander-related sites not included in our guided tour. See the previous parts in the series An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, organized by region, for comments and pictures about the following book and filming locations we sampled:
- in part 1, Edinburgh, Palace at Holyroodhouse, and Glencorse Old Kirk
- in part 2, Glasgow Cathedral, Pollok Country Park, and Outlander studios
- in part 3, Loch Rannoch, Clava Cairns, Culloden, Beauly Priory, and bits about Inverness, the River Ness, and Loch Ness (Highlands)
I also provide insights with photo captions at Scottish Color: A Photo Essay.
Our Outlander Tour Company: Slainte Scotland
Day Tours with Slainte Scotland
Slainte Scotland offers several different kinds of their most popular day tours including the Loch Lomond and Trossachs Day Tour, Whisky Distillery Tour, Glencoe Day Tour, Loch Ness Day Tour, South of Edinburgh Tour, and a selection of Outlander Day Tours. However, they are open to interests in other destinations, and some tours can be personalized. Their website’s site map also has sections for Whisky Tours, a Luxury Tour, a Private Tour, Cruise Ship Shore Excursions, and a tour search page.
On TripAdvisor, the management company for Slainte Scotland, called Clyde Coast Tourism Ltd., features over 100 reviews with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars, and has earned TripAdvisor’s Certificate of Excellence, awarded to attractions that consistently receive great reviews from travelers.
Outlander Day Tours at http://slaintescotland.com/outlander-tours-of-scotland.html describes the packages for the Outlander Day Trip, Outlander 3 Day Tour, Outlander 7 Day Tour, and Outlander 5 Day Tour.
Outlander Tour with Special Guests
In addition, a new offering from Slainte Scotland this year is a special Outlander tour featuring actor Scott Kyle (Outlander‘s Ross) and supporting Highlander actors from the show, as well as Outlander‘s Gaelic Consultant Àdhamh Ò Broin, Fraser Murdoch who works on Outlander‘s visual effects, and Gillebride MacMillan who plays Gwyllyn the Bard in series 1. The tour will launch from the 2017 Starfury Convention in Blackpool, England, at which Sam Heughan will appear on Saturday and Sunday. The subsequent Outlander Tour with Special Guests is scheduled for 28th August to 1st September.
Outlander Tourism Reference – Diana’s Recommendations, Tour Company Pages, Location List, Articles & Resources
Outlander-Based Tours of Scotland – DianaGabaldon.com – Herself explains the purpose of her list, provides disclaimers, and describes how the selected companies made the list.
Tour Companies’ Tour Advertisements (text theirs)
Slainte Scotland (Catriona Stevenson and co.)
Slainte Scotland – Outlander Tours | VisitScotland – Are you a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books and the subsequent hit Starz TV show of the same name? Do you want to enjoy the landscape that inspired the books? Join us on our Outlander Tour, visiting some of the main filming locations.
Outlander Day Tours from Edinburgh and Glasgow – Scottish Tours and Private Hire – Slainte Scotland Tours – Outlander Day Tours from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Includes Castle Leoch and Fort William.
Outlander Tours, Outlander filming location Tour, Outlander Tour Scotland – Scottish Tours and Private Hire – Slainte Scotland Tours – Outlander Tours of Scotland. Be your own Claire Randall searching for your very own Jamie Fraser.
Inverness Tours (Hugh Allison and co.)
Outlander – Inverness Tours – All Day Diana Gabaldon Outlander Special Tour (This was the tour my friend took and greatly enjoyed in July 2016. Stops include Clava Cairns, Culloden, Inverness, as well as Beauly Priory, Castle Leod, Rogie Falls, and Loch Garve.)
Clans & Castles (clansandcastles.com/gabaldon.htm) – Clans & Castles – self-guided itinerary for fans of Diana Gabaldon ‘s novels – Clans & Castles itinerary for fans of Diana Gabaldon’s novels. Will you walk through the split stone?
Borders Journeys (bordersjourneys.co.uk) – Outlander – Preston Mill – Outlander Film Set – Borders Journeys – Tailor made private guided sightseeing and ancestral tours of Scotland. Specialising in Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders.
Borders Journeys has also taken tourists to Glencorse Old Kirk, among other southern and central filming locations.
Outlandish Journeys (outlandishjourneys.com) – Outlander – Tour Options – Outlandish Journeys – Tour Options available with Outlandish Journeys
Outlander – TV Series Tour – Outlander Tour (outlandertour.co.uk) – Outlander TV Series Scottish locations tour from Edinburgh
Discovering Outlander – National Trust Scotland
I checked out at least four other companies online last summer, but there are probably dozens. One of those four was Vacation Scotland, included in Diana’s list. Her description was compelling, but I was put off by their outdated website presentation and place name misspellings. Further perusing signaled to me a company I wouldn’t personally pursue. Although I didn’t include them here, you may find expertise and other facets that make up for the shaky first impression. Another company steered me away by their emphasis on Ireland tours.
I recommend finding a company that has specialized in Outlander tours for several years prior to the show’s premier and those that have a genuine special interest in the series, a unique approach, or a special focus. They’re more likely to deliver a bit of the magic viewers and readers receive from the series. For instance, it was very interesting to me to hear about Catriona’s acting and running into the cast on more than one occasion. She also knows Àdhamh Ò Broin, official Gaelic language consultant for the show, with whom we explored Argyll on 20 September, three days after our Outlander tour.
For other tour possibilities, go to Outlander Tour Search Results – VisitScotland.
List of 40 Filming (NOT book) Locations – in rough counterclockwise geographical order (central to south to north)
- LBP Outlander Ltd. (Outlander studios), Cumbernauld & Kilsyth, North Lanarkshire, east of Glasgow, central Scotland – all STARZ series interior sets
- Torbrex Farm, near Cumbernauld and greater Glasgow – s2 foggy, tent-contained Battle of Prestonpans
- George Square, Glasgow city centre – s1 flashback of Claire and Frank marriage, Westminster register office
- Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow east city centre – s2 l’Hopital des Anges, Paris
- Pollok Country Park, Pollok, south Glasgow – Castle Leod grounds, s2 BJR-Jamie duel
- Hunterston House, West Kilbride, North Ayrshire – Rev. Wakefield house interiors
- Dean Castle, Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire – s2 seat of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, a.k.a. the Old Fox, Beaufort Castle, Beauly, Highlands
- Dunure Harbour, Firth of Clyde, South Ayrshire – s3 filming based on Voyager
- Troon coast, South Ayrshire – s1 end, departing Scotland for France
- Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Mid Nithsdale, Dumfries & Galloway – s2 exteriors, living rooms & bedrooms of Sandringham’s Bellhurst Manor, England
- Glencorse Old Kirk, Milton Bridge, near Penicuik, southern Midlothian – s1 Jamie & Claire wedding
- Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot, East Lothian – s1 Lallybroch broken mill
- Gosford House gardens/woodlands, Gosford Bay, near Longniddry, East Lothian – s2 Stable Building at Palace of Versailles, France
- Old Town, Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh – s3 Jamie-Claire reunion, adventures
- Bo’ness and Kinneil Rail Station, on Firth of Forth, Midlothian – s1 flashback of Frank-Claire WWII good-bye on train platform
- Hopetoun House, near Queensferry, West Lothian – s1 Sandringham residence in Highland, Scotland
- Midhope Castle, Hopetoun Estate, West Lothian – Lallybroch estate & grounds
- Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, West Lothian – s1 Wentworth Prison exteriors and corridors
- Muiravonside Country Park, West Lothian & Falkirk, near Linlithgow – s2 Battle of Prestonpans, British encampment, and English countryside
- Callendar House, Falkirk – s2 used as part of Sandringham’s Bellhurst Manor
- Dunmore Park, Dunmore, Falkirk – s1 Claire and VE-Day, end of WWII
- Blackness Castle, Blackness, on Firth of Forth, Falkirk – s1 Fort William
- Culross, royal burgh of; southwestern Fife – s1 Crainsmuir village, Geillis Duncan’s house, & Castle Leod herb garden; s2 Jacobite camps and buildings
- Aberdour Castle, Firth of Forth, southern Fife – s1 Scottish abbey of Jamie’s convalescence after Wentworth
- Dysart Harbour, Dysart, Firth of Forth, Fife – s2 port of Le Havre, where Jamie, Claire & Murtagh arrive in France, 1740s
- The Reaper Tall Ship, Anstruther Harbour, Anstruther, near East Neuk, coastal Fife – s2 one of the ships seen in the port of Le Havre, France
- Balgonie Castle, near Markinch, central Fife – s1 Eldridge Manor, MacRannoch’s home near Wentworth Prison
- Falkland, royal burgh of; central Fife – Inverness 1940s, 1960s
- Doune Castle, Doune, Stirling, Perthshire border – s1 Castle Leod castle, grounds & surrounding land
- Touch House, NE edge of Touch Hills, Stirling – s2 Culloden House before battle
- Finnich Glen, a.k.a. Devil’s Pulpit, near Drymen, Stirling – s1 St. Ninian’s Spring, a.k.a. the Liar’s Spring, where Dougal Mackenzie tests Claire’s veracity
- Loch Katrine, Trossachs National Park, east of Loch Lomond, Stirling – s2 Roger Wakefield driving Brianna Randall through countryside around Inverness
- Tullibardine Chapel, near Crieff, central Perth & Kinross – s2 Jamie & Claire small group’s hideout chapel after pursuit by Redcoats
- Drummond Castle gardens, near Crieff, central Perth & Kinross – s2 park & orchard of Palace of Versailles, France
- Deanston Distillery, former cotton mill, Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Perth & Kinross – s2 Jared Fraser’s wine warehouse, docks of Le Havre
- Tibbermore Parish Church, Tibbermore, Perth & Kinross – s1 Crainsmuir witch trial church interior
- Dunalastair Estate, Loch Rannoch, Perth & Kinross – Craigh na Dun standing stones circle through which Claire time travels
- Glencoe, Ballachulish, Highland – long shots in credits and transition scenes
- Highland Folk Museum, Newtonmore, Cairngorms National Park, Highland – s1 Clan Mackenzie rents collection, wool waulking
- Tulloch Ghru, near Aviemore, Cairngorms National Park, Highland – s1 Claire & Highlanders travel between Inverness & Castle Leod, & maybe time on road during Clan Mackenzie rents collection
Articles and Info about Filming Locations
Outlander – Filming Locations in Scotland | VisitScotland – includes a link to their pdf (below) with labeled map and site snippets, a section on Outlander book sites including Inverness, highlights of Outlander-related culture and history, and links to other TV, film, and literary tourism opportunities.
Outlander film locations – outlander-film-locations.pdf – a great guide available through the above page at VisitScotland; a full-color map of numbered sites mainly in Scotland’s central belt, each number corresponding to a succinct but helpful blurb about a location accompanied by an identifying picture of the actual site. A total of 29 listed as of this post–vastly updated since summer 2016! Also accessible through Outlander map | VisitScotland
Outlander – 14 Scottish Places All “Outlander” Fans Must Visit (Buzzfeed.com, 2015) – Never seen Outlander? You should visit these stunning Scottish locations anyway. Warning: Mild Season 1 spoilers ahead… (Episode shots alongside tourism photos of each site.)
Outlander’s Cast and Crew’s Favorite Filming Locations | Travel + Leisure (interview, 2016) – The masterminds behind the Starz hit spoke to T+L the best places they went on the job.
Where is Outlander filmed? Top 5 Scottish locations in season 2 (radiotimes.com, 2015) Gary Rose goes for a spin in the Highlands, taking in the Culloden battlefield, the town that doubles as Cranesmuir and a working medieval village
Specific Filming Locations in Depth
Hopetoun locations map
Outlander at Midhope (Lallybroch) – Hopetoun (hopetoun.co.uk – Hopetoun House and estate includes Hopetoun Farm Shop and Midhope Castle among its properties.)
Midhope Castle, Abercorn – Queensferry – West Lothian – Scotland | British Listed Buildings
You searched for Midhope – Hopetoun
Outlander at Hopetoun – Hopetoun
House and Grounds – Hopetoun
Grounds and Wildlife – Hopetoun
Hopetoun Farm Shop – Butchery, Deli, Bakery near Edinburgh
Glencorse House: http://www.glencorsehouse.co.uk/.
Glencorse, Old Glencorse Kirk – Penicuik – Midlothian – Scotland | British Listed Buildings
Glencorse Old Kirk – Outlander Film Set – Borders Journeys – Tailor made private guided sightseeing and ancestral tours of Scotland. Specialising in Dumfries & Galloway and Scottish Borders
Glencorse, Old Parish Church | ScotlandsPlaces
City Tours Edinburgh | VisitScotland
Royal Mile and Grassmarket | VisitScotland
Palace of Holyroodhouse (Edinburgh)
Edinburgh and Stirling castles ranked in UK’s top 10 best-loved castles – Scotland Now
Discover Edinburgh Castle
Parks and gardens – Meadows | The City of Edinburgh Council
Preston Mill & Phantassie Doocot (NTS)
Discovering Outlander – Preston Mill brief profile, National Trust Scotland (NTS)
Outlander – Preston Mill’s Outlander | National Trust for Scotland USA (ntsusa.org detailed article about the scene) – In June 2014, 150 cast and crew members from the hit TV show Outlander set up camp at the NTS Property Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot.
Falkland Palace & Garden – National Trust Scotland (NTS)
Doune Castle (HES)
Perth & Kinross Countryside Trust | Pages | Perthshire Big Tree Country
Walkhighlands: Start of Loch Rannoch Forest walk
Kinloch Rannoch, Tummel Bridge, Loch Rannoch, walking holidays, wildlife watching, fishing, highland clans
Places to Visit from the Dunalastair Estate Holiday Cottages – Central for touring
Dunalastair Highland Estate near Pitlochry in Scotland has holiday cottages for relaxing vacations
Walking, Cycling, Horse-riding around Perthshire
Outlander – Cairngorms – Tulloch Ghru (as Featured in Outlander TV Series) | Stately Home (lovetoescape.com) – Tulloch Ghru (as Featured in Outlander Tv Series) is a Thing to Do in Aviemore, The Highlands, Scotland. Stately Home, Loch, Lake, Waterfall, Nature Reserve, Park, Garden or Woodland . . .
Tulloch-Ghru_old-map-area_from-Wizzley.jpg – sleuthing and description of the area, distinguishing it from a similarly named one nearby
Rothiemurchus Forest landscape profile/description. This area of the Cairngorms National Park is located in its western region on an east-west line between Fort Augustus (at the southern tip of Loch Ness) and Aberdeen (on the North Sea coast).
Detailed map of Rothiemurchus Forest; includes “Tullochgrue” (Upper and Lower), which is located west of Allt Druidhe (waterway) and the forest center, just north of Achnagoichan (close to it), south of Inverdruie (farther from it), and southeast of Aviemore (farthest of these)
Aviemore: Overview of Aviemore (Gazetteer Scotland)
Bed and breakfast Kingussie near Aviemore
Info about Outlander Book Locations
Lochaber, Fort William
Inverness & Inverness-shire
Visit Inverness Loch Ness Tourist Destination Guide
Inverness Information Centre | VisitScotland
Inverness Travel Guide | Travel + Leisure
Inverness – Holidays, Breaks & Travel | VisitScotland
Art Galleries – Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
Events in September in Inverness, Loch Ness & Nairn | Things to do | Page 1 | Welcome to Scotland
Book and Premise Inspired Outlander Tourism
Standing Stones, Stone Circles, Stone Features, and Cairns
Prehistoric Sites in Scotland Examples:
Fowlis Wester Sculptured Stone, Perthshire (Perth and Kinross) – In village church at Fowlis Wester, 6 miles (10km) NE of Crieff, On the A85. Historic Scotland property; tall cross-slab carved with Pictish symbols, figure sculpture and Celtic details.
Cairnpapple Hill, Edinburgh and the Lothians – 3 miles (5km) N of Bathgate, Lothian. Near Torphichen (B792), Narrow, winding road. Tel. 01506 634 622. Open: April-end Sep, 9.30am-5.30pm, daily. Historic Scotland property; one of the most important prehistoric monuments in Scotland; used as burial and ceremonial site BC3000 – AD500; central part of monument under cement dome with ladder leading down to interior; views from the hill. Cairnpapple Hill – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nether Largie Cairns, Argyll and Bute – Between Nether Largie and Kilmartin, Argyll, Off the A816. Historic Scotland property; 2 Bronze Age cairns, 1 Neolithic cairn (3000BC); axe carvings in N cairn.
Temple Wood Stone Circles, Argyll and Bute – .25 miles SW of Nether Largie, South of Kilmartin, Argyll on A816. Open site. Historic Scotland property; circle of upright stones and remains of earlier circle; date approximately 3000BC.
Machrie Moor Stone Circles, Ayrshire and Isle of Arran – 3 miles N of Blackwaterfoot, On W side of Arran, off the A841, 1.5 mile walk to the site. Historic Scotland property; remains of 5 Bronze Age stone circles considered one of most important sites of its kind in all of Britain.
Twelve Apostles Neolithic Stone Circle, Dumfries and Galloway – Off the A76, N of Dumfries and New Bridge, Situated in a field. Of the 11 remaining stones only 5 are standing, the tallest of which is about 3.2 feet high.
Clava Cairns (HES)
The Clava Cairns (also known as Balnuaran of Clava) lie 6 miles E of Inverness. These Bronze Age chambered cairns are each surrounded by a stone circle in a wooded field. A most unusual place. Robert Pollock has a guide to this site. Photos online by Phil Wright and Undiscovered Scotland.
Corrimony chambered cairn is situated in Glen Urquhart (8 miles W of Drumnadrochit) and surrounded by a circle of 11 standing stones. Robert Pollock has a guide to this site. (undiscoveredscotland.co.uk)
Standing stones and ancient monuments – The Internet Guide to Scotland (scotland-inverness.co.uk)
The Old Man of Storr is a strangely shaped rock pillar you can see from as far as Portree and beyond; Portree, Trotternish area, Isle of Skye. (https://www.isleofskye.com/skye-guide/top-ten-skye-walks/old-man-of-storr)
Fairy Hills, Fairies, Witches & Legends
Fairy Hills, Biodiversity & Heritage
Fairies – TOMNAHURICH CEMETERY (Historic Environment Scotland profile)
Inverness Image Library – Tomnahurich (Hill of the Fairies)
The Witch of Inverness and the Fairies of Tomnahurich – Google Books
Fairies – The Faery Folklorist: Robert Kirk – Part 2 – Aberfoyle Church
The Kelpie of Loch Garve | Mysterious Britain & Ireland
Black Isle – RSPB Fairy Glen – Google Maps
Skye – The Fairy Pools, Glen Brittle, Isle of Skye – Google Maps
Brochs, Caves & Other Rock Formations
Brochs in Scotland | Unusual Accommodation | VisitScotland
Caves and karst in Scotland – Scottish Natural Heritage
Cliffs, Canyons & Rock Formations of Scotland, United Kingdom
10 unusual rock formations | Travel | The Guardian
There is also Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa, Bowfiddle Rock on the Moray Firth, and the famous Ring of Brodgar on Orkney, among others.
Waterfalls, Rivers, Caves & Natural Features to Explore in Garve | Things to do | Page 1 | Welcome to Scotland
Loch Garve | Fishing | Caithness, Sutherland & Ross-shire | Welcome to Scotland
12 fairy tale waterfalls in Scotland to see before you die – Daily Record
–> For a guide to nature and wildlife tourism in Scotland, see the end section of my post “Wildlife TV Programs This Week,” which also previewed the Destination Wild show Wild Scotland that aired on NatGeoWild on 2 April 2017.
Map: The 18th century territories of Scotland’s clans – The Scotsman
Map of the Highlands of Scotland denoting the districts or counties inhabited by the Highland Clans. – Maps of Scotland
The Clan Museum – Google Maps
Strathpeffer Visitor Guide, Hotels, Cottages, Things to Do in Scotland
Castle Leod | the Seat of Clan Mackenzie
Castle Leod (Strathpeffer, Scotland): Top Tips Before You Go – TripAdvisor
Castle Fraser | VisitScotland – Aberdeenshire (just north of Royal Deeside)
Lovat Castle (site of) | Castle in Kirkhill, Inverness-shire | Scottish castles | Stravaiging around Scotland
Places Mentioned on Series 1 of the Show
Inverness/Nairn (searching for Claire in Ep108, “Both Sides Now”)
Highland (searching for Jamie in Ep114, “The Search”)
Sam Heughan (Jamie) and Laura Donnelly (Jenny) Studied Theatre Here
Glasgow’s Royal Conservatoire
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: Overview of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland: Photographs of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
: Glasgow City Map / http://www.scottish-places.info/councils/morecpix16.html
Articles Reflecting Outlander STARZ’s Pop Culture Progress
Cumbernauld lands role in production of US TV series (From Herald Scotland) (2013)
Outlander brings Diana Gabaldon fans flocking to Scotland | UK news | The Guardian (2014)
Town movie studio is a star attraction – Cumbernauld News (2014)
Outlander article – Scots tourism feels ‘Outlander effect’ of hit TV show – The Scotsman (2015)
A brief history of Outlander and the Scottish Clans – Scotland Now (2016)
Outlander looking for trainees to work on Season 3 of hit show in Scotland – Scotland Now (2016)
Filming underway for Outlander season three Voyager – Daily Record (2016)
Outlander helps Scotland outshine rest of the UK when it comes to visitor attractions – Daily Record (2017)
And for Good Measure
In the true final post of this series, the official Part 6 to An Outlander Tourist in Scotland, I present Scotland tourism tips and logistical resources, plus share some final thoughts on Outlander tourism in Scotland. Thanks for learning along with me. Slan leat!
Last updated March 17, 2017
My previous posts in this series collected and presented the vast majority, a total of 37, of the options for Outlander tourist attractions in Scotland: book- and film-related sites numbering 15 in Part 1, 11 in Part 2, and 11 in Part 3.
This post tells the story of my planning process for our own Outlander-themed Scotland trip, complete with changes in scope, backtracking, enlisting outside help, comparing and revising itineraries, and reflecting on the choices we made. Next time, I’ll provide a review of our Outlander tour experience and of the tour company we went with for our day tour.
Also in my final post in this travel guide series, I will list and discuss Outlander tour companies and tour options, including additional film locations not covered in my first 3 posts, compile a list of all the resources linked and discussed in the first 4 posts, and run down a list of websites and apps I used and loved but didn’t mention here. I’ll also provide some final thoughts on travel for Outlander, in Scotland, and generally. A sign-off of sorts with directory, closing credits, and bibliography.
Other Scotland trip posts down the road will add to the trail of breadcrumbs I’ve laid down since last October, to highlight specific sites visited, services engaged, adventures experienced, and images captured. Be glad you weren’t subjected to a slide show at my house; you have the privilege to take in these servings in digestible portions. In case you missed the first several, see the list at my introductory post “Scotland Ventured, Scotland Gained.”
It was about this time last year when I began my months’ long planning process for a UK vacation with an Outlander focus. I don’t recommend spending as much time as I did—even if you have it; I simply have an obsessive, high-maintenance approach to project planning. I “just want it the way I want it.”
Still, as with many transcontinental excursions, for travelers from outside the UK going there for the first time, there are some things you should consider and do several months in advance of your departure. The most obvious include booking airfare, lodging, and, of course, your dream Outlander tour. In most cases, it will be wise to book the tour first of all.
Where I Started
My first phase involved researching England and Scotland for places and attractions I would most like seeing. In addition to doing online research, I purchased a set of travel guides and magazines at the bookstore instead of from online, where I previewed them and their reviews, so I could flip through the pages of the options, get a feel for each one’s layout, focus, ease of use, size and weight before buying. These included a combination of books and magazines:
- the pocket guide DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 London 2016, filled with best-of lists
- the full guide books DK Eyewitness Travel Great Britain (2016) and Fodor’s Travel Essential Great Britain with the Best of England, Scotland, and Wales (2015)
- Discover Britain magazine (Apr 2016)
- London 2016 Guide from Britain magazine
- Scottish Life magazine (Winter 2015) focusing on Orkney
- Scotland Magazine (Mar 2016) featuring “Best of Argyll”
I had enjoyed the color illustrations, digestible organization, and other features of DK’s guide to Provence when I traveled for study abroad in college, and I was not disappointed in any of the DK products I bought for this trip. Fodor’s turned out to have a valuable alternative perspective along with stellar regional maps and recommended sites labeled by “Fodor’s Choice” in each region.
Curse of Abundance
In addition to taking notes on the overall highlights of each major city, I compiled lists of attractions from different regions of England and Scotland into groups. After a few weeks of attempting to narrow the list down to a reasonable set of regions and sights, I then used the suggested itineraries in the guide books to draft a few possible trip outlines. The shortest trip I could stand to plan under these constraints was 16 days, and that turned out to be too long for us due to the budget and timing of our trip.
To solve this problem, I took a different tack: First I created a checklist of steps to consider taking to strategize our tourism.
- Hire a travel agent!
- No more than 1 of each of these types of attractions per day in regional, smaller towns and countryside. Countryside:
- castle & historic home
- museum & castle
- home & museum
- < 2 castles
- 2 historic homes & 1 home’s grounds
- < 2 larger museums
- shopping (1 street or 1 famous shop)
- art gallery/antiques/architecture walk
- Travel by train or car only; buses take too long (this would later turn out to be a false assumption). Again, for smaller towns and the countryside, unless otherwise advised.
- Choose 2-3 regions of England plus London, maximum.
- Choose 2-3 regions of Scotland plus Edinburgh (or Glasgow?), maximum.
- Plan a trip that lasts more than 14 days (a fortnight). Otherwise, you won’t even squeeze in 2 regions per country beyond the major city.
- Choose a theme of types of places to focus on, especially in smaller towns & countryside, one theme per region or town. Possible themes:
- history – range of periods for greatest variety
- literature – there are lots of literary tours and trails highlighted in guide books, and I took special interest in crafting some possible versions of literary tours in both England and Scotland, focusing naturally on Shakespeare, as well as Burns, Scott & Stevenson, among others.
- sports/contemporary culture
- nature walks
- Consider avoiding longer ( > 1 day or ½ day) scheduled tours, being locked into those.
From this process, I color coded my previously handwritten notes, highlighting preferences and categorizing attractions by type. Fodor’s and the top 10 guides were particularly helpful to this end in their category pages by type of attraction or experience. These included castles, palaces & historic homes, villages & towns, cities small & large, gardens by season, and things like parks, mountains, lakes, and walks.
To narrow further, I even created a Must-NOT-See list of things to avoid because either I did not care about them, they seemed overrated or tourist trappy, or they might even disgust, offend, or otherwise dampen our adventure.
The Must-Flee List
My must-not-see list included things easily captured in online pictures or video and grandeur for its own sake. Between college visits, study abroad, and post-college travel, I had already been to Paris, Normandy, the Loire Valley, Provence, the Riviera, Venice, Florence, Rome, Vienna, Salzburg, and Holland, as well as Utah, Colorado, New York City, Washington, D.C., Virginia Beach, western Massachusetts, upstate New York, and several parts of California. My husband had already been to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ankara, Istanbul, and Paris.
And together we’d been to Chicago, Wisconsin, Mount Rushmore, Devil’s Tower and the Badlands, the Great Plains, Denver and the Rockies, Northern California, Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard, North and South Carolina, Orlando and the Florida coast, and on a western Caribbean cruise for our honeymoon. With everything we’ve been blessed to see, we didn’t need to be dazzled by immensities.
Other no-nos included shopping meccas (not my thing); Wales which has lots of cool castles (plenty of those in Scotland) but not much else of obvious interest; places too far out of reach, such as the Outer Hebrides, Ireland, Northern Ireland, East Anglia, Cambridge, and the Orkney Islands (though I might make a beeline for Orkney next time for all its uniqueness); gardens best seen in other seasons; famous sites too far off our “circuit” unless personal meaning demands it; too many churches; and too many castles. In London, I discarded Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral, and anything focused solely on the Royals. I just didn’t care.
When all that was said and done, even with all that trimming and relinquishing, I finally realized and admitted to myself that we couldn’t do both England and Scotland in a feasible amount of time without feeling rushed and disappointed by what we would miss. Over the years, my vacation philosophy has evolved to a preference for more in-depth exploration of a smaller territory over the impulse to cover as much mileage as possible before throwing your exhausted carcass back on the plane or in the car home.
At that point, I asked my husband if he would object to visiting only Scotland this time around, and to my surprise, he agreed. I had been laboring under the assumption that he would very much prefer England due to his greater familiarity with it, his frequent exposure to English Premiere League football matches, his Manchester City fandom, and, frankly, his lesser interest in Scotland and Outlander compared to mine.
I was so relieved to gain this freedom of focus, to be able to plan a trip that wouldn’t be the typical whirlwind tour of a vast region that goes by in a blur and becomes more stressful than the everyday work situation your vacation is meant to offset.
Scotland it would be.
To adjust to this change in plans, I purchased the DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Scotland pocket guide and a used 2011 edition of Peter Irvine’s Scotland the Best, touted as the guide preferred most by Scots. The top 10 guide provided the same format of best-of lists in various categories—some regional, some interest based—found in the London version.
I would have purchased a more current edition of Scotland the Best, but the best option would not be released until October, after our trip would have ended. I felt the older edition served its purpose and did not regret buying it. Without illustrations or photos, Irvine’s guide focuses on providing comprehensive best-of lists in a broad range of categories and subcategories.
Certain of Irvine’s preferences I found surprising compared to those in the other guides that seemed more in agreement with each other. As a later purchase following so much in-depth research, Scotland the Best turned out to be less useful than the collected wisdom from the other guides, but I was still glad to compare viewpoints and learn about some attractions beyond the beaten path.
With these new tools, some of my more intensely focused additional considerations consisted of narrowing down options among types of attractions found in abundance, such as castles, to only the very best, those nearest along our natural circuit through the country, or those with special literary, historical interest, or film association. For instance, having traveled in Europe and to several major U.S. cities with rich arts scenes, I already knew which types of art I preferred and what kinds of activities my husband and I leaned towards.
I also felt the need to mix in a variety of activities requiring different levels of energy, foot travel distance, and other demands on the human body or mind, spread across several days with rests or natural lulls built in. Thus, an all-day Jacobite Steam Train ride after several days of hoofing it to cover our bases. Hubby slept a total of at least an hour on that West Highland line while the spectacular countryside meandered by, but he had the very legitimate excuse of having been the designated driver of the previous week, adapting to opposite sides of car and road, as well as single-track, stone-sided, and winding roads, for the first time. I was just the navigator.
As for factoring Outlander in with all of these guidelines, I had already begun screening the other guides for popular Scottish sightseeing and scanning Google maps to locate as many Outlander-related sites as possible. I had also oriented myself to some of the better, recommended Outlander tour companies, using Diana Gabaldon’s website as my starting point.
Newly applying the Scotland focus to the Outlander tour search, I then began narrowing down those options to find one that would be more than a half-day but less than 3 days in length so we wouldn’t overdo Outlander at the expense of classic Scotland and an overall varied set of experiences.
I settled on Inverness Tours early on, but as the timing and focus of our trip evolved and solidified, I lost my window of opportunity to book a day tour during the dates we had selected. My second choice became Slainte Scotland, but I hesitated, corresponding with the company to gather more information to clarify exactly which sites the tour would include.
Although it might not seem like we needed it, I did end up hiring a great travel agent, Chima Travel in Akron, Ohio, which helped with reality checking, pre-packaged tour awareness, and eventually discounted airfare and hotel package booking. However, our agent was impressed by my prior homework, to be sure.
“Five Scottish regional destinations for a 2-week visit, clockwise order from the south-west: Most preferred sights are listed for each area, though we may will not make it to all of them.
Glasgow and environs (4 nights Glasgow) – Glasgow Botanic Gardens, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Park, City Chambers, Glasgow Cathedral/Necropolis, a play, boat ride on the river Clyde; Cumbernauld (Outlander studios drive-by), Falkirk Wheel, Stirling Castle, Doune Castle (Monty Python, Castle Leoch), Wallace Monument
The Trossachs, Argyll, and Central Highlands – Loch Lomond (and maybe Loch Katrine) in Trossachs National Park; Loch Awe, Inveraray Castle; Glencoe
The Great Glen, Highlands, and west coast (2 nights Fort William) – Fort William, Glenfinnan Monument (Jacobite Rebellion launch), Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig, lochs and walks in the Great Glen; Eilean Donan Castle
Inverness and environs (3 nights Inverness) – Inverness Visitors Centre, excursions to Foyers Falls, Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle (maybe a boat ride), Cawdor Castle (Macbeth), Culloden Moor (Jacobite Rebellion), Clava Cairns (standing stones with split rock), Cromarty, Black Isle, Moray Firth
Edinburgh and environs (4-5 nights Edinburgh) – Edinburgh Castle, National Museum of Scotland, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Calton Hill, The Royal Mile main street, which includes Writers’ Museum, Greyfriars Kirk (“Bobby” the Westie), St. Giles’ Cathedral, Scott Monument, and more; Southern Uplands including Rosslyn Chapel and maybe Abbotsford House (Sir Walter Scott) and Melrose Abbey
The above sites are separate from several specific towns and rural locations where the Outlander TV series has been filmed. After some consideration, I’m inclined to skip a packaged Outlander tour in favor of making our own. I know enough about the books, TV series, and show creators that information won’t be lacking, and we need not be further restricted in our movements or schedule. ”
What I ended up doing is splitting the difference and combining self-guided Outlander tourism with a single day’s guided Outlander tour, taking the official tour early on and scooping up the remainder once we obtained our rental car on day 4.
Another part of reaching out came to me around this time. My friend and fellow Outlander fan called to tell me she and her husband would be going to Scotland in July with another couple for 10 days and that they had booked with Inverness Tours. She thought I’d be jealous, but I told her about my planned trip too, and we ended up sharing in each other’s excitement. She agreed to help with recommendations after her trip to inform mine, and she even looked at my itinerary to weigh in on its feasibility. I’ll share their circuit and some of her tips in my final post in this series.
Our Scotland Trip
Next is a look at our two-week trip overview and a comparison between the planned and actual itinerary of the first two days. While day 1 turned out quite different from its plan, day 2’s plan came to fruition, except for the Real Mary King’s Close, which was our last major Edinburgh attraction on the 19th. Note the bit about where we dined and what I ate.
And the rest of our itinerary . . .
We flew in overnight on September 15, arriving September 16 late morning in Edinburgh, and used a taxi from the airport to our hotel, the Residence Inn south of Old Town. After sleeping very little on the plane, we snoozed in the restaurant of our hotel waiting for our room to open up, then slept the rest of the afternoon and had a late dinner at Vittoria, which serves up-scale Italian food.
We then used a combination of buses, trains, a tour van, and our unaccustomed feet to explore the hilly, cobbled Edinburgh and surrounding areas over the next three days.
Outlander Tour of 5 filming sites. A 9-hour tour with Slainte Scotland, led by Managing Director of Clyde Coast Tourism Ltd., proud Scot, and Outlander STARZ TV series extra, the lively, lovely, and knowledgeable pro tour guide Catriona Stevenson: Midhope Castle (Lallybroch), Blackness Castle (Fort William), Falkland (1940s Inverness), Doune Castle (Castle Leoch) including whisky tasting, Culross (Crainsmuir and Castle Leoch herb garden).
That evening at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, we attended a vibrant performance by the Dundee Rep Theatre of the ceilidh-style historical and political play The Cheviot, the Stag, and the Black, Black Oil, which kept us awake even after an all-day tour and with jet lag setting in from the day before. Seeing this play early in the trip provided essential perspective on the past 200 years of Scottish-English relations and politics, which we could then reflect on as we traveled the country.
Sept 18, 19
Edinburgh city tourism, including book sites Palace at Holyroodhouse and walks through Old Town, setting for the printer’s shop and smuggling outfit of A. Malcom, Jamie’s alias in book 3, Voyager. The main focus on these days, though, was catching some of Edinburgh’s major attractions, including Edinburgh Castle, the Writers’ Museum, the Real Mary King’s Close, and Scott Monument on Princes Street—well worth it!
We picked up our car on the evening of September 19, our last night in the capital before heading north to the Trossachs and Argyll early on Tuesday morning.
All-day personalized journey through Argyll & Bute’s vistas and sites of ancient Scots roots and a Gaelic kingdom’s medieval hillfort, with the delightful Àdhamh Ò Broin, Gaelic Language Consultant for the Outlander STARZ show. We hired him for a day of his time to share his love and knowledge of the endangered Dal Riata Gaelic dialect, the wonders of Argyll, the region of his upbringing, and insights into the everyday lives of Scots from the past and today.
We managed to fit in views of island mountains, croft ruins, standing stones, ancient hill fort, cairns, sheep, a few castles and ruins, lochs and hills, bagpipes, singing, cattle, jokes, supernatural stories, local color tales, coffee, lunch, two churches, and a night view over the Kyles of Bute. We even took a close look at a caterpillar (in Àdhamh’s hand on this blog’s recent header image) at the Kilmory Oib Township ruins.
Phew! What a day. By far superior to anything we could have done on our own. As a result, we skipped visiting Inveraray Castle and the Auchindrain Museum village, though we passed by both. The richness of our experiences made those omissions irrelevant.
Sept 21, 28
Combined with unrelated but great attractions in the vicinity, we selected additional Edinburgh-area Outlander options among Glencorse Old Kirk (visited, film), Linlithgow Palace (visited, film), Hopetoun House (skipped, film), and Preston Mill and Phantassie Doocot (skipped, farther east, film). Upon returning to Seabank B&B at the end of day 2 in Argyll, the Trossachs, Stirlingshire, and Midlothian, we encountered our previous day’s guide Àdhamh Ò Broin at the Drover’s Inn, on the north end of Loch Lomond! Well, it is a small country, after all.
Drove through Glen Coe—an absolute must for any first-time visit to Scotland—on our way northward up the Great Glen toward Inverness. Parts of Glen Coe were used for long shots during Outlander‘s credits.
Sept 22, 23
Made sure we passed Loch Ness (book) to and from other adventures, such as our Jacobite Steam Train ride from Fort William (book) to Mallaig on the western coast and back. The train passes and stops at Glenfinnan after crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which was used in the filming of Harry Potter. The Glenfinnan Monument is the site where the standard for the Jacobite Rising of 1745 was raised by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
Drove to Loch Rannoch area, Perthshire, sort of hunting for the site of Craigh na Dun‘s filming, surmising also about the location of the Mackenzie rent party’s rides on the way for Jamie to meet Horrocks through the forest near Aviemore, along the way to and from Rannoch Forest, Loch Rannoch, Rannoch Moor, and Kinloch Rannoch. It was actually somewhere on the nearby Dunalastair Estate where the Craigh na Dun set was created and filmed.
Sept 25, 26
Identified Inverness (book)-area Outlander filming and book sites to choose from, visiting the gorgeous Beauly Priory (book), mysterious Clava Cairns, and humbling Culloden Battlefield (book & film), as well as Cawdor Castle (the Macbeth castle), while skipping Loch Garve (book), Falls of Rogie, and Castle Leod (book) in Strathpeffer.
Sept 27, 28
Scouted and targeted Glasgow city centre and metro-area filming sites, including George Square, Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis, Pollok Country Park, and the Outlander studios in nearby Cumbernauld. On our last day of sightseeing, we visited Linlithgow Palace, used to film the exteriors and corridors of Wentworth Prison in the last episodes of series 1, and finished the day at Hampden Park, home of the Scotland National Football Team, of the Celtic Rangers, and of the Scottish Football Museum. We ate a fabulous lunch at The Cotton House, in Longcroft, Bonnybridge, Stirlingshire (http://cotton-house.co.uk/).
Some days fulfilled the carefully assessed, vetted (by recent Scotland traveler friend), and revised plan, but most deviated quite a bit, and some plans were totally replaced. Overall, we managed to meet our priorities, fit in some spontaneity, and get sufficient rest to keep going.
End of the Tourist Season
One thing that really helped us was favorable weather for outdoor activity during the whole first half of the trip, including our day-long Outlander tour on the 17th. A mixture of sun and clouds with highs in the mid 50s to low 60s held strong through most of each day from September 16 to 23. From all I had heard, this was like winning the lottery. Actually, my research showed September to be generally drier than late summer, but we were lucky, too.
Before making final reservations at B&Bs, and for the Outlander and train tours, and before purchasing tickets for the play, I asked my husband whether he would prefer a train trip or a boat ride on Loch Ness. He chose the train. I originally preferred the boat cruise, but a train excursion turned out to be the wiser choice, as it rained the whole day of the 23rd and the train offered shelter and the occasion to nap, which hubby really needed at that point.
We had a rainy afternoon in Perthshire on the 24th while the west coast got hammered (we were lucky to miss the really bad stuff in Mallaig the day before), but we enjoyed a beautiful sun and clouds Culloden visit that morning. Then, the daylight hours of the last two days in the Highlands—25 and 26 in Inverness, Moray Firth coast, Beauly & the Black Isle—were uniformly gorgeous.
Once we got to Glasgow, our last leg of the trip, the rain mixed with the cloudy skies more often, but shelter was easy to come by and most of the 27th was conducive to picture taking at Glasgow Cathedral and around town. Finally, the 28th provided steady light rain throughout our visits to Linlithgow Palace (castle ruins), Outlander studios (front gate), Pollok Park (driving around), and Hampden Park (indoors).
My experience of this trip was so absolutely positive, I don’t hesitate to call it the best trip of my life, and my husband is nearly in agreement on that score. Thorough, careful planning surely played a key role in increasing the chances of such an outcome, but we must also give proper credit to the place, the sights, and the people.
What we might have done differently if we had a do-over
Top changes I would have made to smooth out the schedule, without looking at weather:
- Limit the 17th to only the 9-hour Outlander tour to reduce exhaustion for subsequent days. If possible, schedule our viewing of the play’s performance for the evening of the 16th instead.
- If possible, avoid scheduling exploration of Inverness-shire for Loch Ness Marathon weekend, for greater flexibility.
- Travel earlier in the tourist season to increase Jacobite Steam Train scheduling options.
- Book lodging at three major bases instead of four, to allow more time to explore and spend less time packing and unpacking, as well as adjusting to a new home base.
- Allocate sufficient time each evening to literally map out the next day’s specifics.
- Skip the interior of the Palace at Holyroodhouse, or reduce the time spent, in keeping with my lesser interest in pomp, circumstance, and royalty. Focus solely on its abbey ruins, and then climb Arthur’s Seat instead.
- Visit a local pub for a pint or a dram and strike up a conversation with a native.
- Walk less and see fewer sights during one of our packed days to make doing #5 and #7 more plausible.
Top changes I would have made if I were in better shape, without looking at weather:
- Add a whisky distillery tour in the Highlands or a whisky tasting experience in Edinburgh.
- Make the effort to climb up Arthur’s Seat near Holyroodhouse and take in the view of Edinburgh and environs.
- Climb all 237 steps to the top of Scott Monument, the tallest monument to a writer in the entire world.
- Visit Calton Hill for more views of the city from the opposite end nearest Edinburgh Castle.
- Do more hill walking among the lochs in the Trossachs, at Schiehallion near Rannoch, or around Loch Ness.
- Walk up and through the Necropolis path (also if I hadn’t been so fixated on capturing every last nook and cranny of the Cathedral) in Glasgow.
Top changes I would have made if we had had more time, without looking at weather:
- Spread out our Edinburgh sightseeing across 4 full days instead of 2.5 (18, 19, and only a bit of 17 and 16). Our last day in Edinburgh was a bit stressful as we tried to cram in all the best of the rest, including The Real Mary King’s Close (accomplished) and the Scottish Whisky Experience (skipped).
- Visit Gladstone’s Land and Georgian House for the Old Town-New Town classes comparison in Edinburgh.
- Make sure to enter a bookshop dedicated to selling books. This notion ended up on the chopping block, but I did purchase a National Trust Scotland book on Culloden, and Historic Environment Scotland books on Cairnpapple Hill near Edinburgh and on Linlithgow Palace.
- Go back to Culross to see West Kirk (the Black Kirk) and visit Hopetoun House (Sandringham) and/or spend more time at each stop of the Outlander tour, including Culross Palace and Falkland Palace.
- Go back to the National Museum of Scotland to take in more of its numerous galleries.
- See more waterfalls, try harder to see wildlife, and make a point of seeing sea wildlife, especially otters.
- Spend some leisure time enjoying the amenities and luxuries of Daviot Lodge, including the garden, the living rooms, and the huge bear-claw tub!
- Take a ferry to the Isle of Skye and explore it for at least a day, including the Fairy Pools and the Cuillin Mountains.
- Make a more concerted effort to find the Craigh na Dun set at Dunalastair Estate, Rannoch.
- See the Burrell Collection and/or Pollok House at Pollok Country Park, Glasgow.
Top changes I would have made to lighten the luggage load and save time, without re-considering weather:
- Pack fewer jeans and more leggings and light-weight, comfortable pants to reduce laundry needs and vacuum bag compressibility.
- Pack fewer toiletries and over-the-counter medical provisions, allowing occasions to purchase them as needed in Glasgow, Edinburgh, or Inverness areas.
- Pack no reading materials for leisure that were not directly related to the current trip; have audio books available instead.
What you can do
While careful, refined planning can have positive outcomes, as you have gathered by now, it’s no quick or easy process. I had to contact multiple service providers directly, exchanging emails with our tour guide at Glencorse Old Kirk and hosts at Daviot Lodge and Seabank B&B, arranging Alamo/Enterprise car hire (I was more successful at finding good rates than my travel agent was!), and booking the Jacobite Steam Train excursion, our viewing of the Lyceum Theatre play, and our Outlander tour directly from across the pond.
All of this was of course predicated on gaining intimate knowledge of distances and durations of travel between key towns and cities and spatial relationships among sites on our must-see list. I spent countless hours just perusing Google maps, creating personalized travel guides including a chart of distances between cities, and bookmarking and starring favorites toward making this a great trip.
Then, I familiarized myself with money-saving strategies such as purchasing Historic Environment Scotland’s Explorer Pass and National Trust Scotland’s membership to reduce costs at individual sites. In the end, it was cost effective to buy the Explorer Pass but not the NTS one in our particular case. I oriented myself to banking, traffic, and other infrastructural systems, often trying out apps for satnav/GPS, bus systems, and rail networks. I even had my husband program our Garmin Nuvi GPS with Scotland maps, which became indispensable when trying to save mobile data with phone satnav.
Glimpsing all the detail, reading, rehashing, clarification, and direct booking that went into my process should tell you one of a few things about your own planning. It may tell you either that:
- You had better get cracking and start planning well in advance if you insist on a DIY experience of some duration and are a first-time traveler to Scotland or the UK.
- This self-tailoring is not for you; your best bet is to trade flexibility for a pre-packaged set of experiences where the details are out of your hands and you can just relax and enjoy. Or,
- If you do like the idea of going it alone for whatever reasons and you’re confident you can take a much simpler approach than I did, perhaps in part because you don’t mind healthy doses of spontaneity, you can separate which factors are deal breakers and which ones you’re happy to leave to chance.
You may discover that you couldn’t care less about Scotland itself (or at least cared less than you thought you did) and are only interested in the Outlander attractions, or heaven forbid, vice versa. If so, more power to you, but if you can stomach the stress of it, I recommend splitting your focus between the two.
The good news is that Outlander‘s growing popularity continues to boost Scotland tourism (confirmed by both my own travel agent and Scottish news sources). As a result, more and more travel companies and touring services have added Outlander to their repertoire in one way or another or enhanced the offerings they already had.
Just remember for me in reading this post, the previous ones or the next, that . . .
(Disclaimer) It’s ultimately up to each of you as trip planners to verify details to make your stay go as smoothly as possible, details such as which sites are open to the public (not all are), how, and when, especially if you intend to take the DIY approach for all or part of your trip. I have and will continue to provide some resources to get you started, but information and access can change, and the location property owners and stewards have the final word, so be sure to do your own verifications.
In the next part of this travel guide series, we’ll focus on Outlander tour companies and tour options, along with film locations not covered in my first 3 posts, and bring together all the shared and unshared resources I used and liked. I’ll close with some thoughts on Outlander, Scotland, and general travel.
But wait! There’s more. In future posts, I’ll continue to highlight specific sites visited, services engaged, adventures experienced, and images captured during our trip. Keep coming back to my introductory post “Scotland Ventured, Scotland Gained.” to get the full scope of available bits from just after our trip last fall through the rest of this year.
I hope all this helps you get through Droughtlander, at the very least. Thanks for reading.