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Movies Set in Scotland

Updated on September 6, 2014
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A Selection of Films Set in Scottish Locations

These films and movies set in Scotland all feature the beauty of this country. From the wild and rugged Highlands to the serene beauty of Loch Ness and the charm of a seaside town, discover aspects of Scotland past and present.

This selection of Scottish movies includes some that may be new to you. Movies such as Rob Roy and Braveheart are well-known and loved for their depiction of troubled times in Scottish history. Tourists can still see these landscapes today. However, as someone who lives in Scotland, I am keen to show you that there is more to Scotland than blue-painted warriors. OK, I do include one kilted Highland warrior here, as I know how popular they are!

So the four very different films featured here show four different sides to the Scotland, two from past eras and two from more modern times. There is an action movie, a period drama about royalty, a quiet emotional drama and a modern romantic tale about ordinary people.

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Balmoral, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire: Mrs Brown

Period drama in the later years of Queen Victoria's reign

The Story

Mrs Brown is the story of Queen Victoria's retreat to the royal castle and estate of Balmoral and her regrard for a faithful servant, a Scotsman by the name of John Brown. Her reliance on him as a friend, who was permitted more liberties than many felt appropriate for a man of his status, as much as an attendant led to critics calling the widowed Queen Mrs Brown. Some feared this was indeed literally the case, with whispers of a secret marriage.

It is said that Queen Victoria was truly happy in Scotland, and Brown had been liked and trusted by her late husband Prince Albert. But at a time when social class was everything, the friendship of a Monarch with an ordinary Scotsman who had forgotten his place threatened the established standards. And both political enemies and the media stand to profit from a scandal involving the Queen herself.

Locations in Scotland

The Scottish countryside is at the very heart of this film. It is Brown's own environment, and part of his appeal for Queen Victoria, who clearly felt some kind of respite from the stuffy life of royalty in the hills surrounding Balmoral. Today this most lovely estate is still the jewel in the crown of the British royal family and continues to be a beloved refuge for the current Queen.

Balmoral Castle and Estate is a private residence that is completely closed to the public while the Royal Family is in residence. The gardens are open during the rest of the year and there are guided tours during winter.

The movie itself was filmed on a similar estate, Ardverikie Estate in Inverness-shire. This was also the setting of the TV series Monarch of the Glen.

Discover Mrs Brown on DVD - An Unlikely Friendship between a Queen and her Servant

This film paired English actress Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria with Scottish comedian and actor Billy Connolly as John Brown. Scotsman Gerard Butler also stars as Brown's younger brother Archie. Mrs Brown was released in 1997.

Mrs Brown is worth watching both as a fascinating drama and piece of British history, and for the lovely countryside of this part of Scotland. Although set in the late 1800s, this landscape is virtually unchanged today.

Queen Victoria with John Brown
Queen Victoria with John Brown | Source

East Neuk of Fife: The Winter Guest

A Winter's Tale about relationships and change

The Story

Widow Frances is trying to escape the past, but her mother Elspeth turns up and a rocky reconciliation begins in a bitter cold Scottish winter landscape. At the same time, Frances' teenage son is being pursued by the girl next door; two elderly ladies spend their time going to funerals; and a pair of schoolboys play truant. Each pairing represent a different stage of life, and each of these has its transitions, like the winter that seems eternal with its frozen sea, but will inevitably thaw and give way to spring.

Locations in Scotland

The coastal setting plays a central part in this quiet and intense film. The frozen seaside village is Pittenweem on the east coast of Fife, with beach and seashore scenes filmed at nearby Elie. The snow was fake and no the ocean was not really frozen at the time of filming -- I have this information from a resident! It only goes to show what a great job was done of making this 'Winter' so believable.

Pittenweem, Fife, Scotland

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Discover The Winter Guest on DVD - Emotional drama directed by Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman is the director of The Winter Guest which stars mother and daughter actresses Phyllida Law and Dame Emma Thompson as the central characters.

The film was released in the UK in 1998.

This is a movie for those who love intelligent, introspective human dramas. The Scottish setting has been described as 'hauntingly beautiful' and will be enjoyed by those who have had the pleasure of visiting the stretch of coastline to the south of St Andrews.

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Highlands of Scotland: Highlander

An action fantasy set in 1500s Scotland and modern New York

The Story

This is a fantasy action movie involving an Immortal Warrior who must fight to the death with other Immortals until he is the last one standing. This dark and lonely journey through the ages begins when as a young man Connor MacLeod, a Highlander in Scotland of centuries ago, recovers from fatal injuries he received during clan warfare.

At this time of witchcraft (1536) he is feared and brutally driven from his Highland village into exile, where he falls in love with a young woman and has a chance encounter with a mysterious Spanish swordsman who teaches him to master his great power.

However, the enemy is never far behind and though all Connor loves is mortal, that which he must battle against is not. He is pursued through the ages, the final battle taking place in modern day New York.

Locations in Scotland

The wild and windswept beauty of the Scottish scenes was entirely real. The Scotland part of the movie was filmed on location in places famed for their natural beauty, including Glen Coe (first Scotland battle scene; the tower and cottage), Rannoch Moor, Loch Shiel, Loch Kishorn, and Eilean Donan Castle at Kyle of Lochalsh.

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands of Scotland

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Discover Highlander on DVD - An all-action movie for adults in a stunning Scottish setting

Highlander stars French actor Christopher Lambert (who nonetheless looks every inch a true Highlander) and Scotsman Sean Connery as a Spaniard! Clancy Brown (whose voice may be more famous than his face) is the terrifying opponent.

Highlander was released in 1986 and is a film of its time, with a Queen soundtrack. The Scottish scenes are ageless, however, and capture wonderfully the untamed beauty of this part of Scotland.

Watch Highlander as an 80's classic, for the action, or for the scenery. You will appreciate it most if you enjoy all of these, but avoid if you don't like fantasy violence as this can be quite intense.

Glasgow and Industrial West Coast: Dear Frankie

Heartwarming drama about modern day relationships

The Story

Scottish schoolboy Frankie writes letters to the father he has never met. The trouble is, the letters he gets back, supposedly from his dad away at sea, are written by his well-meaning mum. When the ship finally returns to dock, Frankie's mum Lizzie is obliged to take the deception to a new level to avoid hurting her son.

In hiring a stranger to act as the returning father, Lizzie introduces into their life an unlikely father and husband figure, at the same time keeping the unsuitable biological father of her boy hidden.

Locations in Scotland

Although this is an emotionally moving film, it is not as pristine fairytale, and neither is its Scottish setting. These characters have been knocked about by life and have washed ashore in the working class districts of Glasgow and the nearby industrial coastline of Greenock. If you are looking for modern day urban Scotland, without the drug themes of Trainspotting, this is it.

Glasgow, Scotland

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Discover Dear Frankie on DVD - Love and Family in a Scottish Coastal Town

Dear Frankie was released in 2005. Acclaimed actress Emily Mortimer is the mother battling to keep things together, while Gerard Butler is on his home turf in the role of The Stranger, in which his acting is generally agreed to be magnificent. Jack McElhone also gives a wonderful performance as Frankie.

This is a 'slice of life' that will appeal to those looking for complex human dramas in a realistic setting. Proof, if it were needed, that Scotland is not all stag-hunting and drams of whisky in a castle.

Other Acclaimed Films Set in Scotland - Some Scottish classics

Braveheart

Mel Gibson's classic portrayal of William Wallace in 1995. Filmed partly on location in the Highlands of Scotland including Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, Loch Leven, and Fort William. A number of scenes filmed in Ireland.

Rob Roy

In the other 1995 movie about a Scottish hero, Liam Neeson takes on the role of Rob Roy MacGregor. Filmed entirely on location in the Highlands of Scotland. Locations included Eilean Donan Castle, Drummond Castle, Megginch Castle, Crichton Castle, Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe, Glen Nevis, Glen Tarbert, Loch Leven, Loch Earn, and Loch Morar.

Gregory's Girl

In 1981 a teenage John Gordon Sinclair took on the role of Scottish lad Gregory dealing with adolescent dramas of sport and love. Cast includes Clare Grogan (Red Dwarf). Filmed on location in Cumbernauld (North Lanarkshire) and Glasgow.

Local Hero

Also by Bill Forsyth, the writer-director of Gregory's Girl, the movie Local Hero followed in 1983 starring Burt Lancaster. A drama about a culture clash between American business men and a beachcomber in a small Scottish coastal community. Filmed in locations around the Scottish coast and Highlands including Mallaig, Fort William, Arisaig, Locahber, the Ben Nevis Distillery, and Polnish. The village of Pennan in Aberdeenshire was the fictional village of Ferness.

Trainspotting

Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting (1996) was directed by Danny Boyle and starred a young Ewan McGregor alongside Robert Carlyle. Shows the seedier side of life in Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh. Filiming locations included Princes Street, Calton Road, and Leith. Also includes scenes shot in Glasgow and the Highlands (Corrour Station).


Which of these Movies Set in Scotland do you most want to see? - Any of these Scottish films appeal to you?

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© 2010 Indigo Janson

Have You been to any of these Movie Locations in Scotland? - Would you like to?

Submit a Comment

  • Arachnea profile image

    Tanya Jones 3 years ago from Texas USA

    No, I haven't been to Scotland. Along with visiting Ireland and Wales, someday, I'd like to visit Scotland.

  • profile image

    othellos 4 years ago

    Nice lens. I saw all the movies you have on your report but I didn't know that a few of them were set on Scotland specifically. You just gave a new touch to my collection...

  • profile image

    anonymous 4 years ago

    I just saw a wonderful movie filmed in 1945 called "I Know Where I Am Going". A beautiful black and white romance with beautiful scenery.

  • BritFlorida profile image

    Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

    I haven't been to any but Mrs Brown is an incredible film.

  • Lilie profile image

    Lilie 4 years ago

    I have always wanted to visit Scotland, and this year my wish will come true. Yay! :)

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