Home to dramatic mountains, vast beaches, historic towns and ancient castles, Scotland’s spectacular scenery provides the perfect background for the camera. USA Today actually voted Scotland the Best Cinematic Destination in the World. It isn’t difficult to see why. A favourite with everyone from Sam Mendes to Tom Hanks, you’ll find famous film locations in every corner of the country. Here are seven of our favourite famous movies filmed in Scotland, from iconic art house films to Hollywood blockbusters.
Famous Movies Filmed in Scotland
1. Braveheart (1995)
Best locations: Glen Nevis Valley, Loch Leven, Edinburgh, Mamores Mountains
Braveheart is perhaps the most famous, if inaccurate, re-telling of Scottish history. The story takes place in the Highlands in the late 13th Century. While quite a few of the scenes were filmed in Ireland, there are still plenty of recognisable spots. For example, all of those sweeping, mountainous landscapes were filmed around Loch Leven and Glen Coe. The village of ‘Lanark’, where William Wallace grows up, was constructed in the Glen Nevis Valley at the foot of Ben Nevis. The splendid interior at Mornay’s castle is actually Edinburgh Council Chamber. And, Mel Gibson really did trek along the mountain path at Mamores, the ten mountains that link Loch Leven and Glen Nevis.
2. SkyFall (2012)
Best locations: Glen Coe and Glen Etive
Sam Mendes’ fourth James Bond movie sees 007 return to his Scottish roots. Most of the action takes place at Skyfall Lodge, set against the jaw-dropping landscape of Glen Coe. That infamous car chase was filmed along the 10-mile stretch of road to Glen Etive, against the backdrop of dramatic snow-capped mountains. The traditional shooting lodge at the end is even available to rent.
Apparently, James Bond’s creator Ian Flemming was so taken with Sean Connery’s portrayal of the seductive spy that he decided to give him Scottish heritage. Flemming’s family actually owned a lodge on Glen Etive.
3. Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Best locations: Edinburgh, Clachaig Inn, Steall Falls, Glenfinnan Viaduct
So many scenes from the eight blockbuster Harry Potter movies were filmed in Scotland that it deserves a feature all on its own. From mysterious, misty landscapes across the Highland’s glens and locks to Edinburgh’s winding alleyways, Scotland is packed full of famous wizardry locations.
Head to Clachaig Inn and you’ll find Hagrid’s home from the third movie. At Steall Falls, you can see the cascading waterfall where Harry faced down a Hungarian Horntail Dragon in The Goblet of Fire. And then there’s the famous West Highland Line, which passes over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct — the same route the Hogwarts Express takes.
4. Brave (2012)
Best locations: Dunnottar Castle, Royal Mile, The Calanais Standing Stones, Glen Affric
It may be set in fictional Medieval Scotland, but a lot of scenes from Pixar’s epic movie Brave are based on real places. Take the Dunbroch family castle. The team originally set the family castle in the Highlands, but after a trip to the impressive Dunnottar Castle, they decided to move it to the jutting cliff-side of Stonehaven. Other famous filming locations also include: The Royal Mile, The Calanais Standing Stones and Glen Affric.
5. Macbeth (2015)
Best locations: The Isle of Skye
With its misty skies and ethereal mountains, it’s no surprise that the Isle of Skye made the perfect filming locations for Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy. At Glen Brittle Forest, you can see where Macbeth slays Banquo, overlooking Cuillin Ridge. The formidable Sligachan glen provides the backdrop for the deaths of Lady Macbeth and their children. You can also walk in the footsteps of Macbeth’s army along the dark and unforgiving Quiraing.
6. The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Best locations: Rosslyn Chapel
The Da Vinci Code follows main characters, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu, as they investigate the murder in the Louvre. Along the way, they unravel a deeper and darker secret that leads them to Scotland. Rosslyn Chapel, a 700-year old chapel on the outskirts of London, plays the starring role.
And, if you need any more reason to visit, you should know that Tom Hanks is also a fan! He famously said: “Few locations in film are so delightful and few destinations live up to their billing, but Rosslyn Chapel was all one could imagine or hope for.”
7. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)
Best locations: Ardverikie Estate
True, an awful lot of Salmon Fishing in the Yemen takes place in Yemen. But, the Hollywood hit has Scotland at its heart. The story follows a fisheries expert, played by Ewen McGregor, who lives in the Highlands. Bankrolled by a wealthy Yemeni Sheikh, he travels to Yemen to bring fly-fishing to the desert.
Most of the filming in Scotland took place at Ardverikie Estate, a lochside house near the Cairngorms. The 19th-century baronial house is undeniably popular with TV buffs too, having featured in The Crown, Outlander and Monarch of the Glen too.