Explore Edinburgh and nearby with Outlander
If you’re a fan of the hugely popular Outlander series of books written by Diana Gabaldon, then come and explore the historic Outlander film locations in Edinburgh where some of the best-loved scenes were filmed.
Outlander follows the life of Claire Randall a British army nurse from 1945 who mysteriously travels back in time to the mid eighteenth century, a tumultuous period in Scotland’s history. Here she falls in love with Jamie Fraser a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish Highlander.
The Outlander books which encompass history, romance, science fiction and epic adventure have now been turned into a wildly popular TV production. Many of the Outlander film locations are in Edinburgh and most of those sites including historic castles, palaces and houses are open to the public.
While this article concentrates on the Outlander sites in Edinburgh and the surrounding area, other well-known filming sites are scattered across Scotland. If you’re based in the Scottish capital the others can be reached in a day trip, although it’s definitely worth lingering a little longer in some of places.
Who were the Jacobites?
Outlander’s Jamie Fraser was a Highland warrior and landowner with Jacobite sympathies and much of the plot includes Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite rising of 1745.
Jacobites (Latin, Jacobus, English James) emerged as a movement following the overthrow of Catholic monarch James VII of Scotland and II of England in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. With French support they fought to restore the House of Stuart to the throne.
If you would like to know more about some of the real-life characters and historic sites mentioned in this article, I’ve included links to other feature articles on Truly Edinburgh which have much more information.
The Signet Library
During season 3, the Signet Library, one of the grandest Outlander film locations in Edinburgh, was the setting for Governor Lord John Grey’s Jamaican mansion. In scenes shot in the Upper Library, masquerading as a ballroom, Jamie and Claire shared some intimate moments.
The Signet Library, one of Edinburgh’s finest Georgian buildings is owned by the WS Society (Writers to the Signet) an incorporated body of Scottish lawyers whose name comes from the sovereign’s seal used since the 14th century. The original parts of the building date to 1810.
Among the library’s magnificent collections are the Mary Queen of Scots Collection, Andrew Fletcher Collection and various other documentation, some of which dates to the reign of James VI, son of Mary Queen of Scots. The library (non-public spaces) is open to lawyers and other researchers.
Other areas in the library operate as a rather grand tearoom and event space.
World’s End Pub
A pub called the World’s End was mentioned in season 3. Although there is a famous Edinburgh pub of the same name, a set was used for filming. It’s here that Jamie rescues his associate Mr Willoughby from a brawl.
The real World’s End Pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile sits just inside what little remains of the 16th century Flodden Wall.
There is some debate among scholars over the reason for building the Flodden Wall. Many feared an invasion of Edinburgh following the Scottish defeat to an English army at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. That fear prompted the building of the defensive Flodden Wall. Others believed that the wall was merely a deterrent to smugglers.
Tweeddale Court, another of Edinburgh’s Old Town historic sites, lies on the Royal Mile close to the World’s End Pub. Turned into a busy marketplace for the show, it’s the site where Claire and Fergus reunited in season 3. The nearby Canongate Kirk is the spot where Colum met Jamie, also in season 3.
Within the court, which has a remarkable story to tell, pride of place goes to Tweeddale House which Edinburgh World Heritage describe as, “something of an architectural detective story,” one that changed a number of times over the years.
The Marquess of Tweeddale, an adviser to Charles II bought and redeveloped the building in 1670. Printers Oliver and Boyd bought the building in the first part of the 18th century and their name remains displayed over the front door.
Bakehouse Close, Carfax Close in season 3, was the site of Alexander Malcolm’s print shop and the spot where Claire and Jamie reunite after 20 years apart. It’s handily placed close to the distinctive yellow and red facade of the Museum of Edinburgh, part of Huntly House which also played a starring role.
Bakehouse Close, with its 16th century entrance, runs off the Canongate, part of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Although there is little to see today, turn the clock back and there are historical connections to Robert Louis Stevenson and other notable figures.
The kirkyard is used in Dragonfly in Amber (second book of Outlander series) where Claire and Jamie meet Column MacKenzie for the last time.
Canongate Kirk on the lower end of the Royal Mile was founded in 1688 and completed in 1691, thanks to a bequest from a local merchant (Thomas Moodie), which James VI/I directed should be used to build the kirk.
“In 1688 King James VI ordained that that the Mortification of Thomas Moodie, granted in 1649 to build a church, should be applied to the erection of this structure.”
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Jamie and Claire stayed here with Bonnie Prince Charlie trying to persuade him not to continue his campaign.
Forever associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots, the Palace of Holyroodhouse developed from the 12th century Holyrood Abbey founded by David I. Historic Environment Scotland manage what remains of the abbey, which stands within the palace grounds.
Today the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the home of the British royal family when they visit the Scottish capital. The Royal Collection Trust manage the building which is open to the public. Check their website for details.
In Outlander season 3, All Debts Paid, Craigmillar Castle became Ardsmuir Prison
Jamie and his fellow Jacobite prisoners were incarcerated in Ardsmuir prison following the failed Jacobite rising of 1745 and the terrible defeat at the Battle of Culloden. It’s here that the unlikely friendship with Lord John Grey, who oversees the prison, began. Grey paroles Jamie to work on an English estate
Craigmillar Castle lies just a few miles from Edinburgh Castle. It grew from a simple tower house built in the late 12th century and over the centuries had a number of owners including the powerful Preston family.
Mary Queen of Scots, who enjoyed its peaceful location visited on a number of occasions. It was here that the plot to rid herself of her troublesome husband Lord Darnley was hatched.
Today Historic Environment Scotland manage Craigmillar Castle which is open to the public. Check their website for details.
Hopetown House was the residence of the Duke of Sandringham in season 1. Scenes were shot in the Red Drawing room.
The West Lawn behind the house was the location for the duel between the Duke and the head of the MacDonald clan. Also, a sword fight in season 1 was filmed on the rear steps. The courtyard behind the Stables Kitchen tearoom was transformed into the streets of Paris for season 2.
The exterior of Midhope Castle which stands on the Hopetown Estate was used as the exterior of Lallybroch, Jamie’s family home.
Today Hopetown House and surrounding estate in South Queensferry near Edinburgh, operates as a luxury wedding and events venue.
Linlithgow Palace is the location for Wentworth Prison where Jamie stands trial and is tortured by Black Jack Randall.
This former royal palace, situated around 20 miles from Edinburgh, was in 1542, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.
Today Historic Environment Scotland manage Linlithgow Palace which is open to the public. Check their website for details
Blackness Castle was the site of Jamie’s imprisonment and whipping at the hands of Black Jack Randall, who Jamie later kills at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.
It stands by the Firth of Forth, less than five miles from Linlithgow Palace. Built in the 15th century it was the residence of the Crichtons, one of the country’s most powerful families.
Today Historic Environment Scotland manage Blackness Castle which is open to the public. Check their website for details.
The exterior masqueraded as Governor Tyron’s mansion in North Carolina.
Newhailes House is a magnificent Palladian mansion, sited in Musselburgh, just a few miles from Edinburgh. The house, originally part of the Whitehill estate, was purchased in 1709 by Sir David Dalrymple, an important figure of the Scottish Enlightenment, and the younger brother of Sir John Dalrymple who infamously was one of the organisers of the 1692 Glencoe
Today the National Trust for Scotland manage Newhailes House & Gardens.