Scotland is no stranger to the silver screen. Its beautiful beaches, ancient castles, rugged mountains, rolling hills, and picture-postcard towns and villages have starred in a whole host of films over the years. From epic blockbusters like Braveheart to cult classics like Local Hero and even animated gems like Brave, our shores and summits have captivated cinema audiences worldwide – but nothing compares to setting sail, stepping behind the big screen and seeing them for yourself.
Stop off during your next sailing adventure through Scotland’s breathtaking and iconic scenery and immerse yourself in the inspiration for the cinematic worlds of the likes of Highlander and Harry Potter! What are you waiting for?
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Plockton, Highlands (c) Judy Green
As seen in The Wicker Man
Pretty whitewashed houses, stunning sea views, and bonny beaches – it’s hard-to-believe that this picturesque village on the shores of Loch Carron once doubled as the shadowy location where the ill-fated Sergeant Howie came ashore in the 1973 horror hit The Wicker Man. Thankfully, the real life village is far less sinister – but just as beautiful!
The Quiraing, Isle of Skye
As seen in Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman, Macbeth and many more
It’s no surprise that the rugged, knife-edged peaks and deep, dark lochans of Skye’s Quairaing have captivated filmmakers and audiences all over the world. You might have seen it on the big screen as a stark alien vista, a blood-spattered medieval battleground, or a wondrous fantasy scenery, but nothing compares to witnessing The Quiraing’s raw, rough, and brutally beautiful landscapes in person. Although not on the coast, it’s worth exploring slightly inland to see this cinematic icon in all its glory.
Silver Sands of Morar, West Coast
As seen in Local Hero, Rob Roy, Highlander and Breaking the Waves
Some places were just made for the big screen. This stunning string of beautiful sandy beaches peppering the coastline from Arisaig to Morar, just south of Mallaig, is one of them. With its spectacularly blue shallows and sparkling sands, it’s long lured photographers and film-makers. Why not pay it a visit, set foot on its famous sands and recreate the equally-famous scene from Local Hero with a sunset stroll along the shore?
St Andrews, East Coast (c) VisitScotland
As seen in Chariots of Fire
It may be known worldwide as The Home of Golf but, as the 1981 classic Chariots of Fire showed, there’s much more to the beautiful coastal town of St Andrews than just gorgeous greens and fairways. The medieval town’s spectacular beaches played a pivotal role in the Oscar-winning film, with the two rival runners pounding the shores in the iconic scenes that bookend the movie. Setting sail to pay homage? Make sure you have Vangelis’ titular theme song on your iPod!
Loch Craignish, Argyll (c) Moonshadow Yacht Charter
As seen in From Russia with Love
From Skyfall to The World is Not Enough, it’s fair to say that the silver screen incarnation of Ian Fleming’s suave spy is no stranger to Scotland. Bond, James Bond made his first film foray north of the border in 1963’s From Russia with Love, where the dashing double-0 agent took to the scenic waters of Loch Craignish in Argyll for a climactic boat chase. Funnily enough, the scene was originally due to be shot in Turkey but was moved to Scotland due to poor weather conditions. Set sail for the sea loch’s stunning shores and its surrounding islands and you’ll agree that the storm definitely worked in the film’s favour!
The Forth Bridge, Edinburgh (c) VisitScotland
As seen in The 39 Steps
Spanning the 2.5 kilometres between the coasts of Edinburgh and Fife, the Forth Bridge is one of the most dramatic man-made structures in Scotland. The iconic red steel bridge is one of the nation’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and plays a pivotal role in the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock classic The 39 Steps (as well as its remakes). Cornered by police while trying to make his escape by train, hero Richard Hannay jumps from the locomotive and hides on the bridge. Needless to say, sailing beneath the three towers of the cantilever bridge, which soar more than 100 metres into the sky, is a much more enticing option than recreating the famous scene!
Eilean Donan Castle, West Coast (c) Julia Amies-Green
As seen in Highlander, Loch Ness, and The World is Not Enough
One of the most recognised structures in Scotland and a recurring feature on shortbread tins and calendars the world over, Eilean Donan Castle has fared equally well on film. The iconic castle has served as the Scottish HQ of MI6 (where Bond passed up the chance to wield machine gun bagpipes), the ancestral home of the eponymous Highlander Connor MacLeod, and – strangely, given its position on Loch Duich – as the fort that shelters the home of the Loch Ness Monster. It’s easy to see why it continues to lure filmmakers – towering against the landscape on its own island overlooking the Isle of Skye at the point where three great sea-lochs meet and surrounded by the leafy mountains of Kintail, Eilean Donan’s setting is unforgettable.
The Calanais Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis
As seen in Brave
Even animated, Scotland’s scenery can take your breath away. One of Britain’s best-preserved Neolithic monuments and deservedly famous the world over, the Calanais Standing Stones on the Isle of Lewis predate Stonehenge and have entranced visitors and baffled historians for centuries. You might also recognise them as the inspiration for the setting of the climactic scenes of Pixar’s Brave, where the flame-haired Princess Merida fights off the demon bear Mor’Du! While we still don’t know what the purpose of the stones was in real life, one thing’s for sure – you’ll never regret paying a visit and seeing the sunset dance over the ancient rock and the rugged hills beyond.
The Crinan Canal, Argyll (c) Peter Sandground
As seen in The Maggie (Known as High and Dry in the USA)
It’s easy to see why people fall in love with the Crinan Canal. Meandering through the ancient coastal kingdom known as ‘Dalriada’ in the heart of Argyll & Bute, the 200-year-old waterway might be just nine miles long but it features some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in Scotland. A key feature of Neil Munro’s well-loved short stories about the Clyde Puffer the Vital Spark and her crafty skipper Para Handy, it’s no surprise the canal is at the heart of the 1954 Ealing comedy The Maggie – itself inspired by Munro’s tales. Home to some of Scotland’s most iconic wildlife, the chance to undertake adventures on and off the water, and with an array of pretty villages on its banks, a single visit to the Crinan –whether in person or on film – is all it’ll take for you to see why it’s known as ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut.’
As seen in Braveheart, Rob Roy, Skyfall, Monty Python and the Holy Grail and many more
A land of crystal clear rivers, monumental snow-capped mountains, and hidden, hauntingly beautiful glens – Glencoe is a filmmaker’s dream come true. It’s no surprise that its knife-edged peaks, roaring rivers and waterfalls, and starkly stunning moors have featured in a huge number of hits over the years. Filmgoers have glimpsed Mel Gibson’s William Wallace storming through the hills in Braveheart, James Bond making his way to his ancestral Highlands home in Skyfall, and King Arthur momentarily delayed at the Bridge of Death in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but nothing beats setting sail and seeing it for yourself.
There are countless cinematic adventures to be had but bear in mind that larger vessels can have some trouble getting under the bridge at Glencoe. Be sure and check your charts before you head out!
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