Like most people, I have hardly visited the land closest to me. I’ve been to Wales twice, Ireland a couple of times and Scotland…..a few times, But for all three countries that make up Great Britain I’ve barely scratched the surface.
Because nobody told me the Scottish Highlands were SO insanely beautiful…..
But it is SO beautiful you guys. And I can’t recommend it highly enough as a picture perfect long weekend break. If you fancy something in Europe, and you want to get a little off the beaten path – Scotland is for you. I flew on the new British Airways route from London Heathrow to Inverness (a new route). Although my tickets were complimentary, fares are really cheap – starting at £76 return.
Inverness is a great place to start for the trip, being the home of the Highlands. Because we were on a press tip celebrating the upcoming launch of the second series of Outlander, we had a specific goal to achieve……walking in the footsteps of Sassenach Claire. Okay, so if you haven’t seen Outlander….and before this trip, I had caught the merest glimpse of it in preparation (shhhhh) you won’t know what I’m talking about. But listen up because Outlander should be your next binge watch.
Outlander….what is it?
It’s a time travelling show set between the 1940s and Medieval Scotland. Suspend your disbelief, because it’s genuinely amazing. I haven’t seen Game of Thrones, but I imagine that’s similar….at least for the amount of flesh on show 😉 Claire is a British nurse on her honeymoon in Scotland when she travels back in time to 17th century Scotland, and ends up deep in the bosom of a famous Clan. Bonkers right? It’s amazing. Totally addictive and it’s no surprise that so many Outlander themed tours are now popping up to ferry fans on a pilgrimage of the Scottish countryside.
The first season is all filmed in Scotland (and the studio I guess), and even when they go to Versaille in the second season — they are still filming in Scotland! We visited most of the locations, and I quickly saw just how epic Scotland really is.
If you’d like to get your hands on Visit Scotland’s map of the Outlander filming locations, just head on over to this link.
Here are my highlights, all of which you can easily slot into a three-day weekend getaway.
Step back in time in Culross
Culross, in Fife, is the most charming little village you’ll ever see. As soon as we arrived I was ready to up sticks, sell my flat in London and move into one of the gorgeous cottages. Cobbled streets, whitewashed walls and a pretty epic location next to the Firth of Forth Bridge make for an idyllic location to have a brew and some cake.
We ate in a proper old fashioned boozer (haggis lasagne anyone?) and spend some quality time with the alleged ghosts at the Culross Palace — home to much of the filming in season one and a National Trust building.
The grounds are striking, not least of which due to the ochre yellow hue of the palace. The town is basically stuck in a bewitching time-warp, one that is oh-so-inviting. A short hike takes you to the West Kirk (church) a crumbling ruin overtaken by nature.
It was one of my favourite spots of the trip.
Remember the bloody past at Culloden Battlefield
This was our first stop, and boy was it a punchy one! I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything quite so unspoiled, or serene as the moors of the Culloden battlefield.
It was the site of the last hand to hand battle in Britain, and it was particularly devastating for the Scottish Jacobites, who lost. Thereafter, the kilt and Gallic language were banned along with the teaching of Scottish history in schools.
One of the most heartbreaking facts we learned was that many fathers chose to put one child in each camp to protect them. So in reality, a Jacobite brother could have been forced to fight against his Red-Coat brother.
In the aftermath of the battle, the Highland Clans dissipated quickly and you can still see all of their headstones on the battlefield.
Get off the grid in Loch Rannoch
In the first episode, Claire and her husband Frank drive off through the Perthshire countryside to their honeymoon guesthouse. We followed in their footsteps, enjoying epic sunsets and winding roads to the Loch Rannoch and to our hotel.
The Macdonald Loch Rannoch is chock full of old-world charm with some of the most friendly service around. It’s quaint, and oh-so-traditional but all in the best possible way. I was pretty devastated I couldn’t partake in a whiskey by the (real) fire because there is surely nothing more Scottish than that?
I made up for it the next morning devouring a giant bowl of proper porridge with all the trimmings. I’m spoiled for the rest of my porridge eating life now!
A little piece of Versaille at Drummond Gardens
One of our last stops was the stunning Drummond Castle Gardens near-ish Dunblane.
It’s one of the most beautiful gardens in Europe, clearly why it was so easy to use as the filming location for Versaille in season two.
We explored the gardens and the greenhouse where we got to sample homegrown tomatoes, grapes and FIGS…..yep, figs.
Ethereal beauty at Blackness Castle
Visit Scotland certainly saved the best for last when they took us to Blackness Castle – the last stop before we flew back to London from Edinburgh.
It’s only a ten-minute drive from the airport, but driving along the winding road you wouldn’t believe how close you are to something so modern.We were lucky with the weather, which was perfect for taking the most amazing shots of the castle…but even so, it was a stunner.
I left Scotland with a heavy heart and a hankering to come back immediately 🙂
Outlander: Season Two is out on Blu-ray & DVD 31st October
Please note that I was a guest of Visit Scotland & British Airways on this trip. All views are my own regardless.
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Also published on Medium.