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Traveling Back in Time, Castles and Villages of Outlander

Sing me a song of a lass that is gone,

Say, could that lass be I?

Merry of soul she sailed on a day

Over the sea to Skye.

Billow and breeze, islands and seas,

Mountains of rain and sun,

All that was good, all that was fair,

All that was me is gone.

If you read those lines and the gentle sounds of a haunting ballad instantly come to mind, along with images of Scottish coastlines, castles, and kilts, and, most importantly, the seemingly star-crossed lovers, Claire and Jamie Fraser, well, then, you are undoubtedly among the hundreds of thousands of fans of the television show, Outlander.

Photo of castle and courtyard area from high viewpoint.
Blackness Castle, Outlander's Fort William, site of Jamie Fraser's flogging by Black Jack Randall. The wall on left is one Claire and Jamie ran along to escape in a later scene. **

Though, full disclosure, I cannot be counted among those fans, I did find myself, just two weeks ago, walking the grounds of Fort William, exploring the dungeons of Wentworth Prison, and strolling through the cobblestone streets of Inverness and Cranesmuir.

At least, the Outlander versions of those places, as I was on a tour of Outlander filming locales, not all that far from Edinburgh, Scotland.

I would fully understand if you’re more than a might bewildered as to why someone who admits to not being an Outlander fan would, of their own free will, pay for an Outlander tour.

It’s pretty simple, really:

  1. My last name, Campbell, is about as Scottish as they come. Google “Glencoe Massacre” if you need validation, so visiting Scotland was a no brainer.

  2. I am a big lover of history, studied it in college after all. There’s no way I would visit Scotland and pass on seeing some of its historic castles and villages, and this tour fit into my schedule.

  3. I'm a geek for visiting movie and television filming locations, regardless of whether I’m a fan of the particular production or not.

I would do it again in a heartbeat.

(Spoiler Alert - I’m describing show scenes below. Of course, if you’re an Outlander fan, you already know what happens.)

Blackness Castle (Fort William)

Outlander - Blackness Castle was the shooting location for Outlander’s Fort William.

Exterior of Blackness Castle. Wall to left is where Jamie and Claire Fraser jumped into the water to escape Black Jack Randall. **
Exterior of Blackness Castle. Wall to left is where Jamie and Claire Fraser jumped into the water to escape Black Jack Randall. **

The most memorable scene there is Jamie’s public flogging by Black Jack Randall, leaving his back forever scarred, and the subsequent death of Jamie’s father.

The windows were also used as inspiration in the scene where Jamie saves Claire from Randall by jumping out a window, and the high wall is the one they run along before jumping into the sea to escape. There are a couple of other locations there, one near the entrance, used in that same episode.

Real Life - Blackness Castle was built in the 1440s by the Crichtons, one of Scotland's most politically powerful families. England’s King James II captured the castle in 1453, making it a royal fortress and continued its use as a prison.

Cobblestone walkway leads up to castle entrance. Pedestrian entrance is curved with an iron gate.
Blackness Castle's entrance gate (Outlander's Fort William) is seen briefly in an early episode. **

The castle was the site of numerous battles stretching over the next 200 years. It ceased being a prison in 1707 upon the union of Scotland and England, but was used once again in the late 1700s to hold French prisoners of the Napoleonic Wars.

By 1870, Blackness had become Scotland’s central ammunition depot. It continued that role until 1912 when its use in any official manner pretty much came to an end.

Linlithgow Palace (Wentworth Prison)

Outlander - Linlithgow Palace, Outlander’s Wentworth Prison, was the site of one of the series’ most cringeworthy episodes, Randall’s torture and rape of Jamie.

One of passages Claire Fraser runs through, searching for Jamie in Wentworth Prison (Linlithgow Palace).
One of passages Claire Fraser runs through, searching for Jamie in Wentworth Prison (Linlithgow Palace). **

That particular part of the episode, however, was filmed in the studio, not at the palace. Our guide did say scenes of Claire running through the prison searching for Jamie, and of her talking to prisoners behind bars in the dungeons, were shot there.

Real Life - Linlithgow Palace was just that, a palace. Though it lies in ruin today, with reconstruction work only being done to strengthen it from further collapse, it was once the royal residence of the Stewarts and the royal nursery of their children, including Mary, Queen of Scots.

This lasted for more than 150 years until King James VI moved the royal court to London in 1603, after which it quickly began to crumble down. The final blow came in 1746 when a great fire swept through the palace.

Culross (Cranesmuir)

Outlander - Culross is the stand-in for Outlander’s Cranesmuir. The village was used in many different scenes across at least three different seasons, but especially the first.

Mercat Cross in Culross, Outlander's Cranesmuir, where Claire Fraser and Geillis Duncan were tried as witches. **
Mercat Cross in Culross, Outlander's Cranesmuir, where Claire Fraser and Geillis Duncan were tried as witches. **

Mercat Cross, Gaelic for Market Cross, is an easily identifiable location, and is where the pyre was erected for burning of witches in season one. It’s also where, in an earlier episode, Claire and Jamie save a young boy whose ear had been nailed to a pillory for stealing bread.

In episode three of season one, Claire runs down a cobblestone street, up a set of steps, and into a home, to save a boy who had eaten poisonous plants. In the process, she makes an enemy of the town’s priest who was attempting to cast out the evil spirits within the boy. The exterior scenes were shot here, as well as the scenes where Claire and Geillis are led to the witch trial.

Across the street from the stairs is a house used in season four. The exterior of the house in the scene is Laoghaire’s house where Bree is taken after fainting in the cold, and where she is working in the garden with Loaghaire’s daughter, Joanie.

Culross Palace appears in three different Outlander seasons. It’s easily recognizable by its bright burnt yellow color.

High view of Culross, its gardens and historic buildings.
There are so many beautiful spots in Culross (Outlander's Cranesmuir). The wooded area, top left, is where Claire Fraser first meets Geillis Duncan. **

The interior shots of Geillis Duncan’s house and parlor are inside the palace, as well as various scenes with Jamie and Bonnie Prince Charlie, and one of Claire performing dentistry was outside.

In addition, there are several exterior shots from the village in scenes such as where Claire and Geillis first meet, foraging for plants.

Real Life - Strolling through Culross is strolling through a land time forgot. It’s so very easy to see why Outlander chose it for so many of its settings. I would have loved to spent another hour here, just exploring.

The National Trust for Scotland lists it as the country’s most complete example of a 17th and 18th century burgh. Gardens, homes, narrow walkways, cobblestone streets, all look so much as they must have centuries ago.

I enjoyed a very traditional lunch of cauliflower soup and scones at Bessie’s Cafe, where entry is gained via a side door into what feels like what might be the basement level of a building here in the US. Inside you discover a quaint, tiny place, with low ceiling, exposed beams running within easy reach above (at least for those of us at six-feet height) and a staff that is beyond friendly.

The manager is a Campbell, so you know it has to be good.

Photo of courtyard and buildings of Culross Palace.
Culross Palace is instantly recognizable by its burnt yellow color. It was used for many Outlander scenes. **in O

Culross is located on the north shore of the Firth of Forth, a long narrow bay area, almost, but not quite, directly across from Blackness Castle. It was founded during the sixth century and originally served as a port city.

There’s a great founding legend connected to the village about Teneu, the daughter of the King of Lothian, located on the opposite side of the Firth of Forth. Becoming pregnant, before marriage, by rape, her family threw her from a cliff.

Somehow, she survived the fall and was soon met by an unmanned boat. Unable to return home, she climbed in the boat and sailed it to Culross where she was cared for by Scottish Saint Serf, who became foster-father of her son.

Her son went on to found the city of Glasgow and both he, and Teneu, are now saints.

Picture of small set of stairs beside old white home. Cobblestone lane runs beside house.
The steps Claire runs up to save the poisoned boy in Outlander's season one. Also, the building at the bottom is the one Claire and Jamie peak around as Geillis Duncan is carried off to be burned as a witch. **

There is much to see in Culross. In addition to the waterfront and lovely, historical homes, streets and gardens, there is also Culross Palace and Culross Abbey. The palace was closed for maintenance while I was there but you normally can visit inside.

Take a look at this video and you can get a glimpse of how well it played into Outlander, as well as an overview of Culross.

Culross Abbey is about a mile from the village, uphill, along a narrow cobblestone street. It, too, is like walking back in time. Dating back to Culross’s founding, it is one of the oldest Christian sites in Scotland.

Final note, Culross is not pronounced as you may think. It’s closer to kerr-us, with the “L” silent, and the “O” making a lowercase “U” sound.

Falkland (Inverness)

Outlander - Falkland filled in as Inverness for Claire’s and Frank’s second honeymoon near the beginning of the series, when they meet Reverend Wakefield and Mrs. Baird. The B&B they stay in is Falkland’s Covenanter Hotel.

Large stone fountain with steeple structure in center of village streets. Stone building in background.
Tyndall Bruce fountain in Falkland (Outlander's Inverness). The "ghost" of Jamie Fraser hides behind it as he looks up at Claire through the window at her BnB. The stone building in back is the BnB, the Covenanter Hotel in real life. **

The landmark Tyndall Bruce fountain, in the heart of Falkland, is featured in season one when the ghost of Jamie stares up at Claire as she is brushing her hair in her room at the B&B.

Campbell’s Coffee House appears in both seasons one and two, first in the background as a green grocers and later as a 1960s tea shop.

Falkland Town Hall was the Inverness County Records Office where Claire, Brianna and Roger hunt for Jamie and the deed to Lallybroch. And the Falkland Palace apothecary was used as an apothecary in the scene where Claire searches for medical supplies and runs into Mary Hawkins, who is also looking for medicines, for Alex Randall.

Real Life - Spend some time traveling around Scotland and you begin to believe every village and town has a palace or castle. Falkland is no different.

Two large, three story, historic stone buildings. On left is an antique business and right is coffee house.
Campbell's Coffee House in Falkland appears as two different buildings in Outlander. **

Falkland Castle was built in the 1500s by King James IV. The town essentially grew up around it and was dependent upon it for commerce. The castle was often used by the royal court when they came to the area for hunts and Mary, Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor.

The town is a designated conservation village meaning it’s an area of special architectural and historic interest.

By the way, if you’re looking for a good pub to quaff your thirst while there, check out the Stag Inn. With its cozy bar, oversized couches and chairs, and wood burning stove, you can’t beat it.


-- I did watch the first season of Outlander just prior to leaving for my trip and was very glad I did. Most of the locations we visited appeared in that first season and it really helped me put context to what I was seeing.

Large white van parked in front of atwo story stone building.
Our Rabbie's van/bus for the Outlander tour at Blackness Castle. The building in back is a barracks, built in the 1870s after the castle was converted to a munitions depot. **

-- There were nine people on my tour and probably half were Outlander fans and half, like me, were more interested in seeing castles, and everyone was happy. I’ll admit, it was fun talking with a couple of the big fans along the way.

-- The tour was a one-day trip, booked through Rabbie’s. I also booked a one-day distillery tour through them and very much recommend them if you’re headed that way. (I’m not receiving anything from them for this.)

The oversized vans only hold 14 or 15 people, so it’s not one of those big Greyhound bus kind of things with a huge group. The drivers are extremely knowledgeable about their subject. They are not held to a script and are given free rein regarding what they choose to talk, or not talk, about along the way.

-- The original tour was to include Doune Castle (Outlander’s Castle Leoch) and Midhope (Outlander’s Lallybach). I was a little disappointed not to see Doune, not because of the Outlander connection, but because it was also the main castle used in Monty Python’s Holy Grail.

Neither of these were the fault of Rabbie’s and our visit to Falkland was substituted in to make up for it.

Midhope is closed in the winter when I chose to make my trip and Doune was closed for “mysterious reasons.” Translation: Outlander is believed to be filming its final season there and doesn’t want fans to know that is one of the locations in advance.

-- Finally, that song referenced at the beginning of this post, the theme song for Outlander season one, is not about a bonnie lass. It's about Bonnie Prince Charles, the leader of the Jacobite rebellion.

Apparently at one point in time he was forced to flee the country and did so by dressing as a woman and sailing across the sea.


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


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